Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Thursday, 24 December 2009
From the 150,000-ton Norwegian Epic (above, with its Aqua Park) and the 220,000-ton Allure of the Seas (sister to the recent Oasis), to the boutique little Independence of American Cruise Lines (3,000 tons) and the chic Le Boreal of Compagnie du Ponant (10,600 tons), this is a line-up that truly offers something for everyone.
The year starts with the latest vessel for Costa Cruises, the Costa Deliziosa, a sister to the Luminosa and the second in this intermediate class of ship for the Italian-based line. MSC Cruises then add the MSC Magnifica, the fourth in their Musica-class vessel, and their 10th ship in all. Quite an upgrade on their traditional, three-ship fleet of just nine years ago!
Celebrity follow up with Celebrity Eclipse in April, the third in their growing and impressive Solstice-class, and, in the same month, P&O Cruises add their biggest ship to date, the 116,000-ton Azura.
May should be a big month for small-ship lovers, with the arrival of the Independence to boost their unique style of American river and coastal cruising. This will be the third vessel of this style and it is obviously proving a big successful with those who enjoy their cruising small-scale.
Le Boreal is the other attractive smaller option, with a truly sumptuous new look for this chic French line. Well worth considering in 2010.
The pace doesn't slow down in June, though, as we welcome the huge Epic of NCL (their biggest-ever ship) and the Seabourn Sojourn of the Yachts of Seabourn, who made a huge splash (ho, ho!) in 2009 with their Odyssey, a ship hailed as a real 'game-changer' in the deluxe end of the cruise market.
Holland America join the newbuild party in July with their Nieuw Amsterdam, an old name for their latest and possibly their smartest (and the fourth ship actually to bear that name) to date. A sister to the Eurodam, this will be the 81st vessel to enter HAL service. Quite a run!
The autumn sees the arrival of Allure of the Seas, and the second of the mind-boggling Project Genesis series of Royal Caribbean. Our World of Cruising magazine hailed Oasis as 'the world's first space ship' recently, as a tribute to both the space-age look and huge amount of space involved in this vessel, and Allure should provide more of the same. Or, as I said last month - It's a cruise ship, Jim, but not as we know it!
One ship which I will be eagerly awaiting is the new Marina of Oceania Cruises in October, with this smart, upmarket line promising to deliver a mid-range ship full of innovation and style and providing a real challenge to the ultra-deluxe lines but with a slightly lower price tag. Definitely one to watch.
Finally, venerable Cunard will debut their latest offering the new Queen Elizabeth toward the end of the year, a 92,000-ton vessel that will maintain the line's great tradition but build on the modern styling that the Queen Victoria showed us last year, or 'the gracious new Cunarder,' as they like to say.
So, if that little lot isn't enough to get everyone excited about the possibilities for cruising in 2010, I don't know what will.
Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy Cruise New Year!
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
So here's what we can expect, taking the details from Oceania's full press release this week (and, if they are only half as good as they sound, this will among the most premium accommodations anywhere at sea):
For restful nights at sea, the Tocar designers used ivory wainscoting and plush silvery grey carpeting to set the stage for the high-style and luxurious bedrooms of the Owner’s Suites. The walls above the wainscoting are covered in Austyn cashmere and all windows and balcony doors are dressed with ivory wool sheers and silver drapery panels in a shimmering, silk/cotton blend.
The bedroom’s centrepiece is the distinctive, Bel Air bed in a deep, library mahogany – its headboard, footboard and side rails upholstered in steel-blue mohair with polished nickel nail-head accents. To its left and right are City Modern bedside chests with stainless trim and hardware, finished in rosewood mahogany. Night-stands are topped with Faceted Crystal Prism lamps with white silk shades. A custom ceiling fixture in polished nickel with teardrop glass balls provides overhead boudoir lighting.
A Mayfair mirror with a burnished silver-leaf frame and bevelled glass adorns one wall, framed by polished nickel sconces with white-pleated silk shades. Across the room is the Ralph Lauren Highbridge desk featuring stainless steel sawhorse base with glass top and Noble Estate side chair upholstered in camel wool seat base with contrasting ivory ribbed seat back and polished nickel nail heads. A Noble Estate settee upholstered in taupe leather with polished nickel sabos and two Hasley slipper-chairs upholstered in a light gray cashmere wool blend provide additional seating.
Throw pillows upholstered in both silver textured fabric with contrasting ivory cord and ivory brocade pattern with contrasting blue double-fringe trim add to the elegance.
The finishing touch on this grand boudoir is a marble, six-fixture master bathroom with both a separate shower and large soaking tub. The whimsical mahogany double vanity is topped with double portholes and accented with nickel ceiling-mounted round pivoting mirrors and Ralph Lauren’s classic small sconces with silk fabric shades.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Friday, 4 December 2009
Saturday, 28 November 2009
And, while it may be called a cruise ship, there is actually very little connection between 'cruising' and Oasis. High-tech maritime wizardry, yes. Classic, ocean-going voyaging, no. This is something completely new, dramatic and WAY beyond the bounds of normal ships.
The size of the vessel is pretty evident, not so much in her length (only 55 feet longer than QM2, which made its debut in 2004) but her height and width. She towers over everything else in Port Everglades, her new 'home,' and her vast 208-ft beam makes her seem like a truly monstrous proposition (more than twice as wide as a typical 90,000-tonner).
But that is only the start of what is a truly impressive design and engineering achievement. Once aboard, and viewed from most angles either internally or externally, this is even less of a 'cruise' ship and more like something out of Star Trek. The effect of the three main 'neighbourhoods' of the internal Royal Promenade (at 328ft long and 62ft wide, more than 100ft longer and twice as wide as the same feature on Royal Caribbean's Voyager and Freedom-class vessels which first introduced this amazing idea), Central Park and The Boardwalk is absolutely startling, providing the kind of space which is hard to equate with being at sea.
Bold, innovative and eye-catching in equal measure (this is also easily the most photogenic ship anywhere at sea as it is hard to take a bad picture of her - but almost impossible to take one that conveys a proper idea of her size), Oasis provides so much of the 'Wow!' factor that passengers will probably not get their breath back for the full week's cruise!
Just listing some of the inventive and imaginative features on board takes some doing. Take your pick from this little menu:
The Solarium, with its new Bistro feature - perfect for a light lunch or moody dinner.
The split-effect Pool Deck, which offers four main pool areas and a host of clever detail, plus more than dozen Jacuzzis.
The kids' areas - pure heaven for teens, younger children and toddlers alike.
The Zip Line - OK, this may be a touch gimmicky, but it adds an eye-catching 'flying' element over the Boardwalk area.
Flowriders - two this time, doubling the surf-style fun of Royal Caribbean's other ships with this feature.
Izumi Asian Cuisine - a fabulous casual, contemporary Japanese restaurant.
Dazzles nightclub - straight out of the Roaring 1920s, an elegant, two-storey lounge and music venue.
Central Park - this whole 300ft internal 'park' is a dazzler, with its array of fine-dining options, plus the new Park Cafe, which adds a great choice for al fresco dining for breakfast and lunch.
150 Central Park, the new superb dinner choice run by young celebrity Chef Keriann Von Raesfeld, with its 8-course tasting menu.
Entertainment Central - the 'neighbourhood' that featurs many of the nighclubs and other entertainment venues, including the Studio B ice rink with its eye-catching shows.
The Rising Tide Bar - a true original, a bar that 'levitates' on jets of water (a clever optical illusion).
The Aquatheater, which we didn't see in operation but which promises a whole new blend of entertainment and glamorous show-time.
And the (free) Boardwalk Donut Shop (one of my favourites!).
Then there are the 1300-seat Opal Theater, the superb three-storey Opus Dining Room, the 9-hole mini-golf course, the towering signature Viking Crown Lounge, the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center (which even boasts its own health-conscious cuisine) and the jaw-dropping two-storey Loft Suites, which show that even the accommodations aboard can be space-age. And there's more, MUCH more, besides.
It is a total package that should appeal to first-time cruisers like never before and ensure cruising's appeal takes on a whole new dimension.
During their many press conferences on board, Royal Caribbean execs were at pains to point out their 'latest and greatest' is one-third Familiar (like the Windjammer buffet dining area and Chops Grille steakhouse), one-third Evolution (with the introduction of My Time Dining, where guests can choose either traditional, fixed dining or a when-you-please time; and the addition of tapas cuisine to the Vintages wine bar), and one-third Revolution (with new venues like 150 Central Park, The Rising Tide Bar, Zip Line ride and more).
But, really, Oasis of the Seas is 100% about innovation and novelty; an attraction in her own right where the connection with 'cruising' is only minimal at best. Once under way and in places like the Royal Promenade and Central Park, you may never know you're at sea.
Is it a bad thing? Probably not. Is it a new way to look at cruising? Most certainly.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
** Adding Amenities and Enhancements to Fleet **
“The next phase of the ‘Degrees of Difference’ initiative will take the ship to a new degree of excellence,” said Diane Moore, president of Windstar Cruises. “Our guests enjoy fine dining, luxurious accommodations, outstanding service, dream destinations and the feeling that they are sailing on their own private yacht. We have both listened to our guests’ wishes and anticipated their discerning needs. With these latest initiatives, we look forward to delivering an experience that continues to raise the bar.”
These new initiatives to be implemented include:
The Restaurant menus on all three ships will be reinvigorated with innovative new dishes from land and sea, bringing the flavours of the world to guest plates. This unique culinary dining experience will reflect flavours of the destinations that the Windstar fleet visits.
Wind Surf’s alternative restaurant ‘Degrees’ will feature a new rotating menu reflecting the fresh and seasonal preparations of Mediterranean cooking. Other dining enhancements include the addition of a spa dining menu and redesigned menu holders with sleek and elegant lines.
Wind Surf’s Yacht Club will be transformed into a contemporary wine bar, featuring a selection of luscious California, Washington, Oregon, New Zealand and Australian wines by the glass. On each ship, during each sailing, guests will be able to indulge in special wine tastings featuring crystal stemware by Riedel and led by a sommelier.
Spa Suite Accommodations
For those looking for a retreat for the mind, body and soul, Windstar will introduce relaxing spa suites on Wind Surf. Spa suites will feature special bedding and linens, spa amenities, and credits for certified organic spa services and fitness classes in WindSpa provided by The OnboardSpa Company’s O SPA London.
Relaxation and Fitness Enhancements
All guests will be able to enjoy new rejuvenating poolside spa treatments that will take pampering to a whole new level. From December Spa reservations will be bookable in advance online at www.windstarcruises.com.
Wind Surf’s Fitness Centre and Wind Star and Wind Spirit’s Gyms will receive new state-of-the-art fitness equipment.
Water sports enthusiasts appreciate the up-close and personal views of the world’s most dramatic coastlines with Windstar’s complimentary waterskiing, windsurfing, sailing, ski-tubing and kayaking from the ship’s aft Marina Deck. Windstar will also be investing in new watersports equipment on all three ships.
The ships’ library DVD collection of feature films has been expanded along with travel, adventure and discovery favorites for guests to use in their staterooms.
This year Windstar’s Signature Collection Host Series returned by popular demand, allowing guests the opportunity to travel with luminaries in the world of food, wine, photography, art and sports. Windstar will continue to offer the programme in 2010 and beyond and will also add enrichment and port lectures on sailings.
Personalized Shore Excursions
Earlier this year, Windstar launched its exclusive Concierge Collection of Shore Excursions, designed to appeal to guests who were looking for extraordinary experiences in Europe and celebrating these destinations in a special way—limited to small groups of 6 to 25 guests. Expanding on this concept and offering personalized service, Windstar will arrange private shore excursions and customized pre- and post-cruise packages for guests. Windstar will also add personal iPod Discovery Walks in Italy, Croatia, France, Greece, Monaco, Portugal and Spain where guests enjoy a guided tour of the destination on an iPod.
Windstar operates a three-ship fleet of deluxe motor-sail yachts combining the magic of sailing under sail with quiet, state of the art engines. The intimate size of the ships, carrying just 148 – 312 passengers, exudes a private yacht-like atmosphere, with no fixed meal times or dress code and a choice of restaurants – including Candles al fresco grill. The size of the ships also affords access to small bays and ports that larger ships cannot reach, allowing guests to explore more secluded spots.
This is the start of a new Era in polar expedition cruising: the Dutch flagged expedition vessel Plancius, operated by Oceanwide Expeditions from Vlissingen, the Netherlands, is almost ready to set sail to Antarctica, offering the maiden voyage on 8 January 2010. Plancius shall be christened on 14 November and will depart on 5 December for her ocean voyage to Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego , Argentina , the starting point of Antarctic voyages.
Oceanwide Expeditions: the pioneer in the Polar regions
Oceanwide Expeditions: World’s Leading Polar Expedition Operator 2009
MV Plancius: Setting new standards in expedition cruising
Plancius was built in 1975 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and was named Hr. Ms. Tydeman. The ship sailed for the Dutch Navy until June 2004 and was finally purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions in December 2006. The vessel was completely rebuilt and converted to a 110-passenger vessel which complies with the latest SOLAS-regulations (Safety Of Life At Sea) and is classed by Lloyd’s Register in London . The ship sails under the Dutch flag.
It’s a small ship operation: Plancius can accommodate 110 passengers in 53 passenger cabins with private toilet and shower in 4 triple private cabins, 39 twin private cabins (ca. 15 square meters ) and 10 twin superior cabins (ca. 21 square meters ).
The vessel offers a restaurant/lecture room and a spacious observation lounge (with bar) with large windows, offering full panorama view. Plancius has large open deck spaces with full walk-around possibilities, giving excellent opportunities to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. The vessel is comfortable and nicely decorated, but the ship is not a luxurious vessel. Voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are primarily defined by an exploratory educational travel programme, spending as much time ashore as possible.
The vessel measures 89 meters in length (267ft), has a breadth of 14.5 meters (43ft) and a draft of 4.8 meters (15ft) and is equipped with a diesel-electric propulsion system which reduces the noise and vibration of the engines considerably. The 3 diesel engines generate 1.230 horse-power each, giving the vessel a speed of 10-12 knots. The vessel is ice-strengthened and was specially built for oceanographic voyages.
Plancius is manned by 17 nautical crew, 18 hotel staff (6 chefs, 1 hotel manager, 1 steward-barman and 10 stewards/cabin cleaners), 8 expedition staff (1 expedition leader and 7 guides-lecturers) and 1 doctor.
Monday, 9 November 2009
We already know about the six lanes of 10-pin bowling (split into two different venues), the unique offering from the award-winning Blue Man Group that will be one of the feature shows, the Headliners comedy club featuring the Second City company (from Chicago), Fat Cats jazz and blues club and the visionary Cirque Dreams dinner show.
But the latest instalment of 'news' and revelations gave us even more. And it left me thinking that this has to be the most imaginative line-up of entertainment options and original ideas anywhere at sea.
In addition to all the above, the Epic will also boast the Howl at the Moon dueling pianos rock 'n roll show, and the Legends in Concert music tribute show (with performers still to be decided). The former is a fun, lively and interactive (think raucous sing-along!) music show in a club-style setting, with two baby grand pianos providing a continuous parade of rock tunes from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. There are 14 Howl at the Moon saloon locations throughout the US and they are a tried & trusted formula dating back to 1990.
Legends in Concert is a Vegas-style music tribute act that has 7 locations in America (including Atlantic City, Vegas and Seattle) and bills itself as "the world's greatest live tribute show." Their performers mimic the acts of the likes of Tina Turner, Elvis, the Blues Brothers, Cher and Madonna, and the Epic will feature three different acts that change periodically.
The 'webinar' provided quite a bit of detail (and fun - you can listen to it on the Epic website), but a press release today also adds some more detail:
- Legends in Concert and Howl at the Moon Announced -
Legends in Concert is known as the world’s greatest live tribute show and has been a staple on Las Vegas ’ centre strip for 25 years, being seen by audiences worldwide.
Norwegian Epic also welcomes Howl at the Moon - the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll dueling piano show that encourages audience participation.
“Norwegian Epic has already made headlines with its world-class entertainment offerings, such as Blue Man Group and Cirque Dreams™ and Dinner. Now, with the addition of Legends in Concert and Howl at the Moon, we have raised the bar even higher, taking cruise ship entertainment to a whole new level, on par with major entertainment hubs like Las Vegas and New York,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s chief executive officer.
Sheehan adds, “With their wide range of incredibly talented superstar tribute artists and celebrated entertainers, Legends in Concert will appeal to music fans of all ages, making this a must-see show for our guests. Howl at the Moon gives guests the chance to sing along to music from the ‘70s to today in a highly interactive show.”
Legends In Concert
Legends in Concert on Norwegian Epic will feature three celebrity tribute performers taking the stage in the Epic Theatre for six 45-minute shows over three days during a seven-day cruise. In addition, a cabaret-style show will be performed on three additional nights in the Manhattan Room, the ship’s New York-inspired supper club. The celebrity performers, some of whom come from the UK , will change every four months, keeping the show fresh.
Each Legends in Concert performer looks and sounds like the star they portray. They use their own natural voices, and every detail is taken into consideration from choreography, to hair, make-up and mannerisms.
Howl at the Moon
Performing four times per cruise in Headliners, Epic’s comedy club, Howl at the Moon is a total entertainment experience where the talented piano players not only entertain the guests; the guests become part of the show. The fun is centred around two baby grand pianos and a full out rock show with Howl’s entertainers playing the best music from 70’s rock to hip-hop for four hours per show.
Norwegian Epic arrives in the UK on 22 June, 2010, for a two-night invitation-only inaugural cruise from Southampton . The ship will then cross to the USA where she will sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami from July 2010.
The most amazing thing, though? All of this dazzling entertainment line-up (with the exception of the Cirque Dreams dinner show, for which there will be a $15/person surcharge) is absolutely FREE.
So take some time to check out the links and view their webcast. Then get ready to book for an Epic experience in 2010! I know I'm ready .......!
Friday, 6 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
To my mind (and eye), the names of Costa Favolosa (2011) and Costa Fascinosa (2012) are just plain awkward and clunky - unless they are intended purely for the Italian market.
Following hard on the heels of Luminosa (May this year) and Deliziosa (January 2010), it is definiutely a trend of Romanesque proportions, and I'm not so sure it is a trend which will sit comfortably with their English-speaking clientele.
Or am I just being Italian-ist?
The grand new Oasis of the Seas is officially launched into Royal Caribbean ownership and makes its way serenely out to sea via the Great Belt bridge in Denmark.
And this is one of the headlines on a so-called News agency:
‘World's largest cruise ship comes within two feet of disaster on its maiden voyage’
Not the fact the ship successfully negotiated a major (and planned for) navigational obstacle and is now ready for a glittering introduction to the cruise community, with the capacity to grab the attention (and interest) of a whole new range of potential future passengers.
No, the ship came within ‘two feet of disaster’. Not just a bit of a funnel-scraping embarrassment but a major, calamitous failure of life and limb. The world’s largest cruise ship was just moments from another Titanic.
What a joke.
Does anyone in this supposed News agency actually bother to read the drivel they pass off as ‘news’ before they put it out there?
Did they bother to think that Royal Caribbean did actually know where the ship was going, what the possible snags might be and how to deal with them capably and without ‘disaster’?
It just goes to show what you have to put up with when you do something epic and ground-breaking. No matter how successful you think you have been, there is always someone willing to insist that you ‘nearly failed.’
NEW - Explore Iran ’s ancient Persepolis
NEW - See the highlights of Oman by 4 x 4
NEW - Hike Sochi ’s Mount Akhun
Cage dive with great whites
NEW - Helicopter above Durban ’s mountainous landscape
Soak up the Seychelles ’ scenery via helicopter
Paraglide above Barcelona ’s landscapes
Regional Culinary Insights…
Visit a villa in Catania for a Sicilian cooking lesson
Create Catalan cuisine at a Barcelona cooking school
Learn culinary secrets at a Michelin-starred Sorrento restaurant
Visit an Abu Dhabi Falcon care and rehabilitation hospital
As well as maiden calls to Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the World Cruise also visits South America, Africa, India and Europe, visiting 41 ports in 37 countries. The cruise is also offered in 12- to 21-night segments.
Prices for the full World Cruise start from £38,955 per person based on two people sharing a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals and soft drinks, port taxes and transfers. Also included are complimentary Club Class flight from London to Miami; complimentary gratuities; seven complimentary shore excursions; two exclusive shoreside events in Abu Dhabi and Ashdod; complimentary bon voyage gala party and $6,000 onboard credit per person.
Friday, 23 October 2009
Their high-class cuisine is prepared by an impressive range of chefs, who include classic dishes and regional specialities, while the full board arrangement includes complimentary regional wine with dinner, taking advantage of the numerous classic varieties to be found close to Europe’s principal rivers.
Friday, 16 October 2009
Monday, 12 October 2009
A new Science & Technology theme joins classic favourites such as Crystal ’s Wine & Food Festival (set for seven cruises, with two back-to-back options), Mind, Body & Spirit, Jazz, Golf, Film & Theatre Festival and Big Band. Additionally, Crystal ’s annual President’s Cruise adds special programming and events in celebration of the line’s 20th anniversary of luxury cruising.
The Experiences of Discovery theme cruises available in 2010 are:
· *NEW* Science & Technology – Guest expert lecturers focus on the world’s latest scientific developments on a winter Caribbean itinerary.
· Emerging Artists – Tomorrow’s stars shine today through Crystal ’s exclusive partnership with The Music Centre Los Angeles, showcasing the brightest talent on two European cruises.
· Wine & Food Festival – World-renowned culinary experts share techniques and specialties on Australia/New Zealand, Mediterranean and Mexican Riviera voyages.
· Mind, Body & Spirit – Wellness experts focus on yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates and general fitness on Asia/Indian Ocean, Mexican Riviera and Transatlantic voyages.
· Golf – PGA pros offer onboard and shoreside tips and play at exclusive courses in New England/Canada.
· Fashion & Style – Personal style consultations with designers and stylists, fashion shows, films and lectures showcase European fashion.
· Film & Theatre Festival – Guest film experts salute film and theatre on a Pacific Ocean crossing.
· Jazz – Live performances and discussions about musical legends jazz up South America and Mexican Riviera itineraries.
· Big Band – Swing to live daily performances, music lecturers, and extra dance hosts on an Atlantic Ocean crossing.
· President’s Cruise – Crystal ’s President Gregg Michel hosts Special Crystal 20th Anniversary events on board and ashore on a Red Sea journey.
Experiences of Discovery programmes complement Crystal ’s exclusive ongoing Creative Learning Institute, which presents language classes through Berlitz, keyboard instruction through Yamaha, and stimulating guest lecturers from the Crystal Visions Lecture Programme.
2010 prices start from £2,365 per person based on a seven-night Mediterranean voyage from Athens to Rome departing 26th May. Price includes return scheduled flights, transfers, seven nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals and soft drinks, port taxes and basic gratuities.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
AMAWATERWAYS, the fastest growing river cruise line in Europe, is offering a new series of escorted European rail-cruise holidays in partnership with York-based Great Rail Journeys. The five new itineraries take the stress out of flying, combining the excitement and romance of First Class rail travel from St Pancras International with the leisurely pace of a river cruise. Itineraries include:
Rhine Cruise – Nine days cruising the Rhine on Amalyra or Amalegro, passing through the beautiful scenery of the Black Forest, the Neckar Valley and the Rhine Gorge. Ports of call or excursions include Breisach, Strasbourg, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne and Amsterdam. The journey starts at St Pancras International, with Eurostar to Brussels and First Class rail through Luxembourg to Basel, returning from Amsterdam. From £1,735 per person, with departures from April to October.
Europe’s Heartland Cruise – Nine days’ travelling including a river cruise on Amadolce or Amacello from Cologne to Trier, via Nuremberg, Bamburg, Wurzburg, Miltenberg, Mainz, Rudesheim, Cochem and Bernkastel. Rail from St Pancras International to Cologne and from Trier is included. From £1,895 per person with departures from May to October.
Danube Cruise – 10 days from Nuremberg to Budapest on Amacello, Amalegro or Amadagio, calling at Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Melk, Vienna and Budapest. First Class rail is included all the way from St Pancras International to Nuremberg and from Budapest back to the UK. From £2,195 per person with departures from May to October.
Waterways of the Tsars – 16-day rail-cruise including the Jan Kiepura sleeper train to Warsaw and then the overnight Ost-West Express to Moscow, flying back to the UK from St Petersburg after a scenic 12-night cruise on MS Tolstoy across the Russian countryside, with several days in both Moscow and St Petersburg. From £2,975 per person, departures in July and August.
Rhône & Provence Cruise – Eight days in beautiful Provence, with Eurostar and TGV travel to Arles and from Lyon. The cruise, on Swiss Pearl, takes in Avignon (photo, above), Viviers, the stunning Ardeche valley and Vienne. From £1,949 with departures in September.
Each AMAWATERWAYS cruise includes all meals on board (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner), unlimited wine with dinner, a daily sightseeing programme, on board folklore and musical performances, bicycles for use in port and free internet access. First Class rail travel is included wherever possible, as well as four- or five-star hotels en route and the services of a friendly and professional Tour Manager.
Steve Williams, AMAWATERWAYS’ representative in the UK, says: “These exciting rail-cruises are the perfect way to travel for anybody who prefers a slower pace of life, which is what river cruising is all about. The fact they are fully escorted makes them ideal for single travellers, those who are less confident travelling independently or, of course, anybody who prefers not to fly. On all these itineraries, the rail element of the journey is an enjoyable part of the holiday, rather than merely a means of getting there. And what’s best, of course, is that there is no need to budget for any shore excursions, drinks with dinner, transfers or meals. With AMAWATERWAYS and Great Rail Journeys, it’s all included.”
Julian Appleyard, Commercial Manager for Great Rail Journeys echoes this sentiment: “We have seen a rapid expansion in our ‘cruising by rail’ concept and have refined our product over the previous two years. We know our customers like the comfort of First Class rail travel across Europe, and once ‘in resort’ four- and five-star hotels are expected. We are therefore delighted to partner with AMAWATERWAYS, a company that matches our own high standards of service and customer care.”
Monday, 5 October 2009
But the cruise world is changing tack, quite literally, with a whole raft of new ideas, offers and incentives that make sure the early-booker gets the best deals.
And 2010 is now the perfect opportunity to put this to the test, with a combination of mouth-watering packages and even, in some instances, a cut-price guarantee that promises any future savings will be passed on. Here’s what to look for.
Luxury line Silversea Cruises offers up to 60% savings and FREE flights and transfers on select 2010 sailings.
The boutique style of Oceania Cruises is offering up to $1,000 off per person if booked by 31 December.
Book with any of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises or Azamara Cruises for 2010 and save up to £400 per suite, with free car parking AND up to $150 per person onboard credit if booked by 30 November.
More luxury? Crystal Cruises have re-priced select 2010 fares, as well as featuring 20th Anniversary Savings and discounts on Mediterranean and Northern Europe voyages, PLUS up to $2,000 per couple onboard credit.
Cruise with sumptuous Regent Seven Seas and enjoy FREE shore excursions and flights on select 2010 dates if booked by 31 December.
Or try Holland America, and receive their Early Advantage benefits of lower rates, first choice of staterooms, savings on hotels and reduced deposits.
How about a river cruise? APT River Cruises are offering 2010 voyages at 2009 prices on their 15-day Magnificent Europe cruise from March-October or FREE flights on selected cruises if booked by 31 October.
The more adventurous may want to try Swan Hellenic’s Best Price Promise, with many published fares for 2010 lower than corresponding fares in 2009, while Voyages of Discovery insist there will be NO fuel or current surcharges after you book.
Big-ship European line Costa Cruises have PRONTO pricing, which is the lowest possible price available and Fred Olsen feature early saver advance booking prices, giving the widest choice of cabins and preferred sitting for dining and table size. Ocean Members who book at least 6 months in advance will also receive a 5% discount.
Pay early for the sail-cruise style of Windstar and receive a Gratuity Package on all 2010 & 2011 sailings, PLUS $500 per couple shipboard credit if booked by 31 October.
There are even incentives for the deluxe Yachts of Seabourn, with early bookers receiving savings ranging from 10-50% off brochure fares. As the sailing date draws closer, these savings typically decrease or are withdrawn altogether.
Six-star Crystal Cruises have the Crystal Assurance Plan, which means if you book a 2009 or 2010 cruise and the fare is reduced later, you will be protected at the reduced fare (policy may not apply to special promotions).
Silversea will honour lower prices, provided it is their Silver Savings discount system that has changed. Silversea also have a Reassurance Programme, whereby if you cancel for any reason, you receive a 100% Reassurance Cruise Credit (subject to terms and conditions). The fee for this Programme is 3% of the guest’s holiday when purchased with a travel insurance that contains trip cancellation benefit.
Oceania Cruises will also match new rates where main brochure prices are reduced at a later date, as will Regent Seven Seas and the Yachts of Seabourn.
And Swan Hellenic's new Price Promise means if their prices reduce in future, they will automatically refund the difference, plus there are NO fuel or currency surcharges.
It all adds up to the BEST holiday style, at the BEST price and with the BEST discount guarantee. So it HAS to be a cruise in 2010!
Friday, 2 October 2009
Seabourn set new standards with the launch of their Seabourn Odyssey in the summer and the debut of Silversea's Silver Spirit is eagerly anticipating in December. Add in more details of the Oceania Cruises new-build Marina - due in late 2010 - and a second ship in the Odyssey-class, also in 2010, and the deluxe choice continues to get better and better (love the new-look Oceania website by the way - extremely eye-catching).
Regent Seven Seas have been one of the few upscale lines not to have a new ship on the horizon. Instead, they have gone for an extensive fleet refurbishment, and the latest details of what is planned for their Seven Seas Navigator only goes to underline how luxury cruising continues to raise the bar, especially when it comes to dining.
Just consider some of these headline improvements and additions being planned for the 490-passenger Navigator's dry-dock period in the next two months:
"A glamorous and contemporary grill, Prime 7 will feature a stylish décor and an innovative menu of the finest prime-aged steaks and fresh seafood. Rivaling elegant restaurants ashore, a rich palette of green and golden hues will create an ambiance of glamour and intimacy. Supple leather, polished granite and burnished woods will set an impressive stage accented by custom-designed china, flatware and crystal."
This adds to a dining line-up that is already considered by many to be the finest at sea. Then there is this:
"Compass Rose – the ship’s main dining room – will appear dramatically different. New and sumptuous armchairs in rich jewel tones of cranberry and opal atop plush carpets of russet and cocoa will create a regal setting for gourmet dining. New draperies, china, silver and glassware will complete the redesign."
Sound good? There's more:
"La Veranda, offering indoor and outdoor seating, will replace the current Portofino’s restaurant. New furniture, carpeting and window treatments will be complemented by signature table settings. The new restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch in a casually elegant atmosphere and, in the evening, feature regionally themed specialty dinners."
As if all that updating isn't enough, Regent will also be adding yet another new option:
"High atop the ship on Deck 10, a new Pool Grill featuring a barbeque grill, hot and cold buffet, panini sandwich station and coffee and dessert area creates a casual, al fresco dining option that is open throughout the day. The ship’s bars and lounges will also receive masterful transformations. A mix of traditional and contemporary furnishings with complementary upholstery, carpeting and curtains will give Stars Lounge an eclectic ambiance reminiscent of a chic designer estate home."
The refurb doesn't stop there, however. Oh no, there is still more in store:
"Galileo’s will sport bold new interiors of burgundy and gold offset with accents of soft lavender, sky and moss while a sleek new bar area is awash with rich, tufted textiles and polished stone flooring. A new al fresco lounge has been created on the terrace and features comfortable seating areas with plump sofas and chaises overlooking the sea. The Navigator Lounge will also feature a new décor with rich hues of cappuccino, camel and navy accented by bold apple-green and lemon to create a vibrant, urbane feel. The ship’s card room and library will be redecorated as well and all public spaces throughout the ship are being refreshed."
Finally, almost as an afterthought, Regent announce that Canyon Ranch will be creating a whole new area aboard the ship, in keeping with their luxury tie-up on the other two vessels:
"The Canyon Ranch SpaClub will feature a state-of-the-art spa, wellness and fitness facility, plus a luxurious full-service beauty salon. SpaClub will offer the most desirable spa amenities available: massage, body and skin-care treatment rooms, a gym and weight room with cardio and weight training equipment, a juice bar, men's and women's locker rooms, thalassotherapy, sauna and steam rooms. The facility will offer array of rejuvenating spa treatments, some created specifically for RSSC guests, include massages and therapeutic bodywork, mud, aromatherapy, ayuvedic and seaweed treatments, facials and masks featuring Canyon Ranch’s award winning Your Transformation skincare products, conditioning body scrubs and therapeutic body cocoons."
And they also add that the ship will feature a range of new itineraries as well, making her appeal absolutely full of possibilities:
"Seven Seas Navigator will operate 7 to 11 night cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America this winter, followed by a summer season of seven-night Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Anchorage. Following her Alaska season, Seven Seas Navigator embarks on her lengthiest and most exotic voyage to date with a 96-night Grand Asia Pacific cruise sailing from Anchorage, Alaska to San Francisco, California."
All in all, it is the stuff of luxury dreams, but it comes at an ever-more-affordable price in 2010. The big watchword of the luxury end of the cruise market is 'Book Early' (OK, that's more than one word, but you get my drift!), and you will find this mantra repeated at every opportunity as the six-star lines look to make themselves more attractive, especially for those who can book well in advance.
OK, now what's stopping you........?!
Friday, 25 September 2009
The steady drip-feed of info has been approaching torrent level in the last month or so, and there is still a month to go before her maiden voyage.
However, the big media previews are now set (all three of them!) from November 20-27, which means that several thousand worldwide journalists will get the chance to put this sea-going leviathan under the microscope.
At World of Cruising, we have been providing a regular news service, detailing the developments and counting down to the launch, including a full 4-page preview in the new Autumn edition. This amazing technological marvel (all 220,000 tons of it) has SO many different elements and facets, it is practically impossible to detail them all (without using up a full month's worth of blogs!).
Yet Royal Caribbean have skilfully and carefully put together a truly amazing publicity campaign from all these elements, providing a fairly comprehensive overview of what Oasis is all about without actually providing TOO much detail.
We have a pretty reasonable idea of the main features and attractions that this city of a ship will offer, but it's still only educated guesswork as to what the finished article will actually be like. It's hard to get an idea of the overall dimensions, but we can be sure they will be impressive (if not overwhelming!).
And now, in just a month's time (in fact, from Nov 22-24), I will be getting my first look and initial impression of Oasis of the Seas.
And, as Royal Caribbean probably hope and imagine, I can't wait!
Thursday, 24 September 2009
The new (Autumn) edition of World of Cruising magazine is now out, and is also available for viewing online.
So be sure to check it out for a fabulous in-depth look at the Panama Canal, River Cruising on the Douro River in Portugal and Spain, a preview of the mighty Oasis of the Seas of Royal Caribbean, a farewell to Fred. Olsen's old faithful Black Prince and much, much more besides.