Friday, 29 January 2010

A Truly Adventurous Collection!

I make no excuses for banging this particular drum again this week, but having been working on this for the past month or so (it just seems longer!), I wanted to be sure to get full value for it here at Time Spent At Sea.

The Adventure Cruise Collection is now out; available; freely on the market; ready to be perused; published!

Having struggled mightily with writing large parts of it and helped in the design and general style (for which all of Robin Maclear, Emma Tilbury and Debbie Belcher at The Cruise Line Ltd also deserve heaps of praise), I can vouch at first hand that this is NOT your average cruise brochure. To start with it is highly selective. Only the creme de la creme of genuine, upmarket adventure-cruising operators are featured; 12 distinctive, unique companies that all have that 'something different' appeal and bags of personal charm and style.

It is not intended to be comprehensive but a well-chosen assemblage of one-off destinations that can all lay claim to a peerless operation in their particular sphere on influence, be it in the North-West Passage, Antarctica, the Chilean fjords and Patagonia or the South Pacific.

Indeed, it will probably not appeal to mass-market sensibilities (and budgets!) as it is a genuine tailor-made collection of excursion-style voyages that eschew the large and formulaic in favour of the truly personal experience, all with a luxurious, creature-comfort-laden approach to providing the very best onboard service and attention to detail.

Take your pick from the following:
  • The Galapagos Islands with Ecuador specialists Haugan Cruises
  • The rivers of Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar with Pandaw Cruises
  • Majestic Chilean Patagonia with the unique Nomads of the Seas
  • The wonders of Antarctica with six-star Silversea Cruises
  • A crossing of the North-West Passage with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
  • The Norwegian Arctic in the company of Hurtigruten
  • A journey into the Orinoco with Le Compagnie du Ponant
  • Mysterious Papua New Guinea with Orion Expedition Cruises
  • The Peruvian Upper Amazon with distinctive Aqua Expeditions
  • The South Pacific with epic adventurers Zegrahm Expeditions
  • A true Indian Ocean odyssey aboard the chic Le Diamant
  • And the small-scale Alaska of deluxe American Safari Cruises

It all comes complete with a level of specialist guides and cultural experience that is second to none and adds up to possibly the most complete and eye-opening collection of aspirational travel ever assembled in one easy-to-digest package.

But don't take my word for it. The Adventure Cruise Collection brochure is free and ready to be ordered by click of mouse or by phone. Just call 0800 008 6677 or go to this link!

Then, just sit back, read and enjoy. I guarantee a wonderful time ahead.......!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Set Sail for Adventure

Here at Cruise Central (i.e. anything to do with World of Cruising magazine and The Cruise Line Ltd!), we have set our sights very much on adventure cruising as our 'theme' for 2010, if you like.

And, the more we have looked into it, the more we have discovered a truly rich and rewarding array of possibilities for not only cruise adventures, but life-enriching experiences of ALL kinds.

In compiling our forthcoming new Adventure Cruise Collection (more details in due course!), we have found there is a magnificent variety of voyages to all corners of the earth, each with an upmarket aspect but also with something that marks them out as utterly unique.

Just take a look at any of the following:

Aqua Expeditions on the Upper Amazon in Peru

American Safari Cruises for small-scale experiences in Alaska, the Sea of Cortez and Hawaii

Festiva Sailing Vacations for catamaran sailing in the Caribbean

Sakkara for luxury, personal voyage on the legendary Nile

Quasar Expeditions in the amazing Galapagos Islands

And Sultans of the Seas for yachting in the stunning Maldives

All feature true luxury, genuine, one-off experiences and a level of personal service that the big ships just can't provide. They also have that spirit of adventure which is such an important prospect for many people on vacation these days.

We have also been fortunate to get to know the wonderful Nomads of the Seas operation in Chile, where their purpose-built vessel the MV Atmosphere offers superb sailing and distinctive exursions into the heart of Patagonia, one of the world's true great wilderness areas, and packed with astonishing wildlife, local culture and vast scenic panoramas.

We will be venturing further with Nomads in the near future (including a trip to Chile's capital, Santiago, and their wonderful wine country), so watch out for our full story of their excellent adventure opportunities both here on our Blog and in the Summer edition of World of Cruising (publishing early June).

And keep an eye out for our new Adventure Cruise Collection brochure!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Now It's Epic Fun For Kids!

NCL's big advance roll-out of information (and excitement) for the arrival of their Norwegian Epic this summer continued this week with two big 'announcements,' one of which is sure to go down a storm with younger cruisers.

While all the previous info updates on Epic have concentrated on the 'grown-up' aspects of the 150,000-ton ship (the Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams dinner show, Legends in Concert, Howl at the Moon Saloon, etc), this one was purely for the kids (and lovers of all things slimey!).

Nickelodeon have been signed up to provide a signature family programme on NCL's latest and greatest (as well as on Norwegian Jewel out of New York this summer), which means the likes of Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer will be the focal points of the various kids clubs.

The Nick TV entertainment company also have programmes geared for pre-schoolers and teenagers, so no-one should be left out, and the whole family will be able to join in some of the events (like game shows and other presentations that will use the ship's bigger theatre areas), which are guaranteed to come with plenty of signature slime.

There will even be character breakfasts with the Nickelodeon characters (albeit with a separate charge), plus storytime sessions and shows like Slime Time Live (yes, really!).

The innovative move from the innovative line is another shot in the arm (and clever advance marketing) for the year's most groundbreaking newcomer, and it serves to underline the clever, out-of-the-box thinking that is going into every facet of Epic's onboard line-up.

NCL's other announcement also highlights this latter. As well as some new, non-linear designs with their standard cabins, Epic will boast the cruise industry's first purpose-built, new-look cabins for solo travellers. Although fairly small at just 100sq ft (and NCL are right up front about the size), these 128 studio-type rooms will have room for just a bed, separate WC and shower unit and a vanity desk (plus drawer space). They will all be inside (with a view over an internal corridor) and come at a set rate $799/person (i.e with NO single supplement).

There will also be a special communal studio lounge for all guests in these cabins.

Once again, it marks NCL out as a fresh-thinking, go-ahead alternative in the big-ship business, and it continues to enhance the build-up to the biggest ship they have ever built. Roll on June.....!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Designed For Us?

Celebrity Cruises have launched their latest branding exercise worldwide, promising a $200million makeover for their Millennium-class vessels in the style of their highly-successful Solstice-class, and allying it with a new marketing message.

'Designed for you' is the slogan, which "pairs Celebrity's commitment to stunningly-designed ships and innovative onboard experiences with its commitment to impeccable guest service," and it apparently concludes a six-month search "to more deeply understand the needs of discerning cruisers."

Now, putting aside the probable likelihood that discerning cruisers are really only looking for a six-star experience at four-star prices, it is a bold step by Royal Caribbean's supposedly more upmarket brand (one which the Chandris family were creating in a happily unique style before selling out to the big boys).

First of all, in real terms it involves a significant outlay in upgrading the four older ships (Celebrity Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation), which were hardly what anyone would call 'tatty' in the first place, being barely 10 years old. The commitment to 'Solstice-ise' the quartet includes adding:

Tuscan Grille, the Napa-Valley-meets-Italian-steakhouse venue

Bistro on Five, the highly-successful creperie

The signature ice-topped Martini Bar, with its top-tier vodka selection

A replacement for the former Cova Cafe, the Cafe al Bacio & Gelateria

A new Wine Bar that allows guests to select and serve the wines of their choice by the glass

More luxurious suites, designed to compare with modern European hotels, featuring all-new furniture, flatscreen TVs, upholstery, bedding and carpeting

Restyled standard cabins, again including the new carpeting, TVs, upholstery and bedding.

And new decor, carpeting and upholstery in every public venue, from the Celebrity Theater to Seaside Grill.

It is an abitious plan of upgrading, on top of the already near-$4billion investment in the five Solstice-class vessels, and it suggests - on top of the recent rebranding of boutique premium line Azamara Club Cruises - that Royal Caribbean intend to go aggressively after the big-ship premium market in 2010.

The Millennium-class upgrades will begin in April this year and continue through 2012. Meanwhile, the message to the general public will come across in a new Advertising campaign, with dramatic, distinctive images, a modern, contemporary graphic treatment, a copy voice promoting the brand's differentiating elements, and the 'Designed for You' tagline.

Marking a first for Celebrity, a hip new video shot on Celebrity Solstice to capture the essence of the Celebrity cruise experience will run on multiple travel, video, social, lifestyle and news sites. Print ads will appear in trade and consumer magazines and major daily newspapers across North America.

It all adds up to a fairly serious mainstream campaign to make the brand better recognised. And it's all designed for us!