Saturday, 31 July 2010

Antarctic Camping and Hiking

By guest blogger Steve Newman

The sight of the mouth of a humpback whale no more than ten feet away from your Zodiac really epitomises what adventure cruising is all about. As this picture proves, it may not happen that often but, when it does, you're not going to forget it in a hurry.

Zodaics of course are an essential part of this genre and One Ocean Expeditions use them to their full extent. With expedition cruises to both the polar regions, you even have the chance to camp overnight on the Antarctic continent! This night ashore under the midnight sun has proved very popular with the lullaby of ice groaning, whales snorting and the waves gentle lapping on the pebbled shore wafting you gently off to sleep.

Sea Kayaking, whale watching and even hiking are also on offer here. Hiking in Antarctica? Well, yes, why not? Designed for the more active traveller, the trips last for about three hours and cover quite difficult terrain.

As far as the Arctic goes, the star looks to be the 12-day High Arctic and Greenland explorer visiting the amazing seabird colonies at Prince Leopold Island and watching out for Arctic foxes, polar bears and that unicorn of the seas, the narwhal. The human side of this ecosystem is viewed, too, with a visit to the Innuit at Nunavat, a people who still cling to their ancient ways of symbiosis and respect for the land.

One excellent idea is the on-board photographer and multi-media studio where you can download your images to hard drives and be shown how to tweak and improve them using photographic manipulation software. Why don't all cruise companies do that?

Either way I'm sold - it's just a question of which one to do first.

Friday, 30 July 2010

More from Aqua Expeditions

Adventure cruising has become very much our theme recently (and certainly this week, thanks to the sterling efforts of guest blogger Steve Newman!), hence the latest news from deluxe Peruvian specialist Aqua Expeditions really strikes a chord with us.

Following on from the success of their first Amazon river-cruise vessel, the MV Aqua, the company will launch an even more luxurious and quality-conscious vessel in 2011, the MV Aria.

Again concentrating on the upper reaches of the river from Iquitos in Peru, the newcomer will help to chart more lesser-known stretches of the mighty Amazon, providing a genuinely fascinating and ultra-personal look at this part of the world, but in great style. Aqua Expeditions were featured in the glossy new Adventure Cruise Collection of the Cruise Line Ltd (the UK's leading luxury adventure cruise specialist) earlier this year, and it seems that is already having an impact on future bookings.

The Aria will feature 16 specially-designed cabins with floor-to-ceiling picture windows (there are just 12 on Aqua, hence this is a slight enlargement), a fully air-conditioned top deck with Observation Lounge as well as Aqua's signature Amazon Grill, with award-winning Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, affectionately known as 'the Jungle Chef' in Peru.

In addition to these amenities, Aria will also boast an exercise room and an outdoor Jacuzzi with Sun Deck, a unique addition to accommodate the discerning and fitness conscious traveller.

"We are thrilled to announce the launch of the world's second five-star luxury vessel to sail the Amazon," says founder and CEO Francesco Galli-Zugaro. "The MV Aria will provide the ever-growing number of travellers who wish to explore one of the world's last great wilderness areas with a one-of-a-kind travel experience."

Count us in, say I.

(Now, how do we work our schedule to ensure we can get on board next year!)

PS: You can also look up more about the new ship on their own blog on this link: Aqua Blog

Spectacular Anchorage

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Well, the Gold Rush may be long over, but there is another stampede starting to happen as more and more dedicated cruisers discover the natural wonders of Alaska.

Imagine standing on your private veranda watching humpbacked whales breaching, eagles soaring above you and then being one of the privileged few on Earth to spend a whole day in Glacier Bay National Park.

All of these - and much more - are now available from Holland America's 2011 Alaska cruise programme. The company have been cruising to Alaska longer than anyone else and also take tours into Canada's Yukon territory.

But it's the way that these comfortable mid-size ships seem dwarfed by snow-capped mountains that literally sit on the shoreline that stays longest in your memory here.

There are a wide range of cruises on offer in this marvellous area of the world, where names like Seattle, Anchorage, British Columbia and Vancouver are all steeped in Northwest history, to become vivid memories along with many of the smaller coastal places such as Kodiak, Skagway and Homer, still clinging to their pioneer heritage.

The scenery on this tour is simply breathtaking, from the stunning glaciers to the sheer beauty of sailing through the Inside Passage - a collection of islands and channels running along the coast (see above).

And, if you want to do your bit for the environment, Holland America have an excellent online check-in system as well to cut out on all that unnecessary paper.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Galapagos Hopper

By guest blogger Steve Newman

If you are thinking of going island hopping, I guess the Galapagos are are pretty good place to do it. Far too much has been written about these amazing islands to repeat it here but what is not so well known is that certain islands are barred from being visited by the larger cruise ships.

This is where vessels such as International Expeditions' Evolution (above right) come in to play. The 32-guest ship is one of the few vessels allowed to visit Genovesa Island on her ten-day Galapagos tour. Visiting this island is like popping into a private nature reserve as it has more bird species than any other in the the archipelago.

The point is that on this cruise you'll find yourself just inches away from giant tortoises, penguins, iguanas and many other wild animals. You can even kayak, snorkel and swim with sea lions or take a panga ride to search for endangered turtles and white-tipped reef sharks.

The company's policy of having small numbers on its cruises is rewarded with your onboard naturalists and experts being able to import so much more information to you.

Their Amazon river journey, for example, only has 28 guests and the Papua New Guinea cruise is restricted to 16, and even then you break into smaller groups for a deeper exploration of the rain forests.

International Expeditions also has a strong tradition of conservation, bringing help to both the environments and local eco-systems they visit, as well as the people who live there. There are also extensions to these cruises and, if you want to go even further afield, Antarctica and East Greenland are amongst the other destinations on offer.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Princess Royal

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Well, if it's good enough for Her Majesty the Queen to sail around the Western Isles on, then the Hebridean Princess must be highly worthwhile having a look at.

The point is, though, that a lot of people are under the illusion the waters of western Scotland are the only area the company (Hebridean Island Cruises) features but, in fact, MANY more destinations are on offer for 2011.

These include Scotland's east coast, Northern Ireland, northern France, the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly. Of course, you don't have to stay on board, but be aware it's difficult not to with this lovely five-star, luxury vessel.

As well as ports of call, there is the company's excellent Footloose guided walks programme, which lets you take in some spectacular hill walking, loch and mountain trails and, of course, this wouldn't be Scotland if there wasn't a nip of malt whisky and a hearty meal waiting for you on your return.

Indeed, the inglenook fireplace and the herringbone brick-work at times enhance the Scottish appearance and you could almost be the laird settling down in your big, comfortable armchair at night. It is this ambiance of the Scottish country house and the lack of organised entertainment that makes it impossible not to relax on this vessel.

With just 50 cabins - of which 10 are dedicated for single travellers - and a crew of 38, it's no wonder Hebridean Princess has such loyal repeat business. Most of the cruises of four and ten nights depart from Oban, reaching destinations as far as St Kilda and the Shetlands.

Each all-inclusive cruise is carefully researched and planned by the company to make sure you get the best out of each port of call and its surrounding area. There is a range of privately escorted tours, often visiting places uniquely open for ships guests, and, if that doesn't appeal, why not borrow one of the ship's bicycles or arrange a fishing trip?

The elegant dining room has large windows to watch the scenery as you enjoy your meals - using the freshest local produce where possible, such as cheese from the Isle of Mull and, of course, the wonderful haggis. Whether, like me, you prefer to pour a wee dram over your haggis on the plate is entirely up to you.

But, just like the Hebridean Princess herself, I'd thoroughly recommend it.

Jungle Journey

By guest blogger Steve Newman

When it comes to thinking about high end luxury cruising, it's a safe bet that Azamara Club cruises would be on your list.

The company has a justifiable reputation for an extraordinary level of personal service, plus superb cuisine and accommodation. New destinations have been announced for next year and amongst these new cruises for 2011 is a 14-night river cruise to the Amazon on board the Azamara Journey (above).

What is highly worthwhile about this trip is the fact you get introduced slowly to the world's greatest river. Boarding at Puerto Rico, you get four days in the Caribbean on your way, two days at sea then a week cruising along the Amazon. Yes that's right, a full week! Which just shows you how long this river is before reaching Manaus, with its amazing opera house and other vestiges of jungle colonial life.

In fact, Manaus is roughly half-way across the continent of South America, so this is not so much a river as more of a continental cruise. One of the ports of call is at Boca de Valeria, a remote village with only 75 inhabitants where you really do see a contrast in life.

Apart from two speciality restaurants, concierge amenities and butler service available to all suite guests, Journey has more verandas than most cruise ships. This means you can sit and watch the green jungle slip quietly by, listening to the howler monkeys and parrots doing what they do best (making quite a noise!) or maybe catch glimpses of a herd of capybara, the world's largest rodent (looking like giant bald guinea pigs), grazing on the banks.

Either way, the Amazon rainforest is a definite one-off in life. It's changing fast, as we all know, so perhaps we should go while we still have the chance.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Vintage Cruising

By guest blogger Steve Newman.

Fine wines and elegant dining have always been part of the cruising experience but now Oceania have taken that tradition a step further with their new luxury ship Marina due to launch in January next year.

Teaming up with Wine Spectator magazine the company have incorporated into the design a specially designed wine tasting centre where guests can sample some of the world's finest vintages as chosen by the magazine's connoisseur experts.

Quaffing wines from the region where you are anchored does sound eminently appealing, plus the lectures given on the production, history and ethos of the wines should ensure you enjoy them that much more - and help get the tastebuds into top gear.

It doesn't stop there either as Oceania have set up seven-course (yes, 7!) tasting menus to help you appreciate the wines that much more, while the magazine's editors will also recommend reds and whites to accompany the evening menus.

As with all Oceania's cruises, there are ample choices when it comes to dining areas, - it's something they are renowned for.

So, if sipping one of those unique red wines from Ajaccio, watching the sunset bathe the Corsican hillside in that beautiful orange light, or raising a glass of Bianco D'Alcamo as you sail gently pass Sicily appeals, then why not find out more?

The only trouble I can see is that it's not the cruise line but the waistline that's going to be the problem. Great, isn't it!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Take a GAP Year.

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Expedition cruising is on the up. It's not just the fascination of going to wild and inspirational wildernesses or the risk element involved of visiting some of the most remote places on the planet but more the hopping into zodiacs and skimming across the waves to become part of the local environment.

Sure, you can get the warm, centrally-heated cabin and watch the penguins swim by from your armchair whilst sipping from your gin and tonic, but just an hour ago you were getting sea spray in your face and the cold Antarctic wind was finding every gap in your warm weather clothing.

Gap Adventures takes 153 hardy explorers on the M/S Expedition with 53 crew members and most of the accoutrements one would expect from the modern cruise ship. Like the Arctic Tern, the ship travels in a yearly cycle from the Antarctic to the Arctic with an emphasis on comfort and the high demands of polar travel.

A lavish dining room with spectacular views is complemented by a panoramic viewing observation deck. On a typical nine-day trip, naturalists, biologists and other specialists are on hand to give you lectures, and each day is preceded the night before with a detailed briefing of what you can expect to see and do.

On her way to the poles, the ship stops at Central and South American locations and the company now visits other remote areas of the globe. So, if you fancy getting up close to polar bears in Spitsbergen (not too close mind), wading through the sands in Morocco or merely slogging your way through the jungles of Costa Rica, why not give it a try?

Have a look at

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Monsters and Malts

By guest blogger Steve Newman

There's something rather swish about booking the entire ship for a cruise. You can take your friends and family, celebrate a special occasion or anniversary, plan your own route and excursions or just leave all that to the cruise line.

Based in south-west Scotland, the Majestic Line's two boats sail the waters of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides. With only six en suite cabins for 11 guests, they offer three and six-night itineraries and, with all meals being taken around a single table, you certainly get that family feeling.

As you might expect, the food is sourced locally and includes fish, shellfish, beef and venison whilst, after the meal, there is a comprehensive selection of single Malts to choose from as you watch the red deer come down to the shore or the seals and otters swimming lazily by in the last rays of the evening sun.

The crew of four, including the chef, ensure the very highest levels of service and the smaller size of the vessels mean you can get in really close at night to anchor in some secluded bay or inlet where the only sound is the corncrakes calling or the lapping of the waves.

Of course, you don't HAVE to book the entire ship - you can just take the normal cruises visiting place such as Mull, Skye or Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal. Whether or not you'll see the Monster in Loch Ness rather depends on your whisky intake, but either way you'll be very happy!

More information at

Friday, 23 July 2010

Parlez Vous Paradise?

By guest blogger Steve Newman.

Some times the WOW! factor can be too great to bear. There are many types of cruise ships but there's only one Aranui 3. The lone passenger/sailing ship travelling from Tahiti to the Marquesas, she is the lifeline for this remote 15-island archipelago, the very epitome of French Polynesia situated in the middle of the South Pacific.

You even get two bites of the cherry here as the ship breaks the journey by calling in at the Tuamoto archipelago where you can watch the tropical fish dance in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon whilst you take your lunch on board.

The Aranui carries 2,000 tons of cargo and up to 180 passengers on a 14-day trip picking up copra, dried coconut and noni fruit. Don't think you're going to arrive at some mini Caribbean lookalike, though, as only six of the islands are inhabited, while two can only be reached by boat and don't even have a dock.

The swimming pool on deck allows you to cool down when you wish and the relaxed dining code lets you enjoy the mixture of French and Polynesian cuisine at your leisure whilst sipping something tropical against the background of mist-topped verdant mountains. All of this and the chance to learn about Marquesan culture, art and history from lecturers whilst the crew are on hand to teach you how to weave hats, learn the local dances and wear the local costume for when you arrive.

Because visitors are so rare in these islands where little has changed and there are few roads and even fewer cars, you receive one of the warmest welcomes on earth from the islanders. Islands where Paul Gauguin painted his last pictures; where horses outnumber people; and where mysterious ruins - the remnants of lost, mysterious civilisations - emerge from the jungle are the norm here.

Port times vary from a few hours to a day or more but on these islands you have the opportunity to explore by jeep, horseback, snorkel or fishing boat or simply take the hiking trail and stroll casually around to enjoy the local lifestyle. When you get back on board, the islands stay with you as the ship seems to be an actual part of the archipelago itself. Go on - you know it's what you want!

Further details are at

Thursday, 22 July 2010

That Viking Spirit

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Hurtigruten. The very name has a viking ring to it and this cruise has been called the most beautiful on earth. Well that may not quite be true but, if it isn't, it comes a very close second. Norway's coastal scenery is simply breathtaking and, what's more, is ever changing as you soak up this marvellous country.

If you're a dedicated cruiser, though, you are going to have to get into a different mindset. This isn't a cruise about destinations, this is a cruise about being absorbed into a way of life. The Hurtigruten is a cruise line with all the modern amenities but, at the same time, it is an expedition ship and local bus service.

Calling at over 30 ports on its seven day journey, the ship becomes a bus and ferry service for the local communities. People hop on and off to see their relations, carry out business trips or visit the dentist. As the result, the ambiance of the ship changes every day to complement the scenery.

At times, the ship goes through some incredibly narrow passages where you can almost touch the walls of the cliffs either side and your journey will take you from the lush woodlands and pastures of the south to the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Indeed, you must expect a visit from King Neptune if you have never crossed the Arctic Circle before and be baptised with ice cubes!

The Hurtigruten is a wonderful experience and, depending on when you go, the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun will stay with you for ever. Anyone who takes the ten mile trip down the Geiranger Fjord, where the cliffs tower thousands of feet above you with waterfalls cascading down the same distance and Sea Eagles wafting nonchalantly by, will tell you they simply can't put it into words.

The company don't just specialise in hugging the fjords, either, as you can visit Antarctica, the amazing wilderness of Spitsbergen and many other places associated with viking adventure. Their website at is mouthwatering and the pre-cruise information you're given is some of the best I have ever received.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Joys of Sail Cruising

By guest blogger Steve Newman

To be on the deck of cruise ship at dawn as the sun paints the sails in a wonderful orange light is one of the joys of cruising. Add to this the sight of dolphins ridng the bow waves as there is no engine noise to frighten them and you really start to peel away the stress of modern living.

Welcome, then, to the world of Star Clippers, a company that takes you back to the golden age of sailing with five-star luxury and modern technology to make your cruise so memorable.

Star Clippers have three ships in the fleet at the moment - they do have engines but they are used only if the captain deems it necessary - and for most of the time you have only the wind singing through the sails and frigate birds calling to distract you.

Their shallow draft allows them to visit islands and ports that the bigger cruise ships simply can't get to and, with a relaxed dress code, an elegant Edwardian decor and a sit-where-you-like dining policy, the atmosphere amongst the passengers is always friendly and cordial.

All the amenities of a modern cruise ship are here but there is no glitzy broadway entertainment; the social life generated by everyone having a good time and the excellent excursions provided by the ship's tenders more than make up for this.

The company sail to the most exotic locations, from the Caribbean to Thailand, from Monaco to Tahiti, and, if you wish, you can even help the crew with setting the sails and other ship's tasks.

More information can be found on

Monday, 19 July 2010

Eco Adventure Cruising

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Wow! I thought that a 12-night west coast of Britain cruise would not be that interesting. How wrong could I be? One of the best cruises I've ever been on, this eco adventure, boutique-style cruising is really the way forward.

Zegrahm Expeditions offer high-end luxury cruising with less than a hundred guests and, with a one-to-one crew/hotel/lecturers/leaders to passenger ratio, they really looked after us. Plus this is true expedition stuff, as we were hopping in and out of Zodiac inflatables all the time, even at ten minutes' notice when something was spotted.

Age is no barrier, either; if you're fit enough, go for it. Incredible places, Skellig Michael with its unbelievable 6th Century monastery (above) and St Kilda, with its stunning gannet colonies. Sometimes we were exploring sea lochs at 10 o'clock at night, going 60 yards deep into sea caves and at others literally looking into the eyes of wild animals and birds.

The company doesn't stop here; if it's wild and untamed they go there, from Antarctica to Tahiti and from Madagascar to Baffin Island. Take a look at

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

New Added Value from Orion


Orion Expedition Cruises, the leading operator of five-star expedition cruising in the Australasian region, has launched a range of inclusive value-added accommodation packages aimed at enhancing guest experiences on Orion’s seven-night Australian voyages in November and December 2010. This effectively adds another two or three nights to the holiday experience at no additional cost to the regular Orion expedition fare.

Guests can select from one of the following pre or post voyage accommodation options, staying in some of the finest and most sought after hotel and spa/lodge properties available:

Cairns – Qualia or Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Sydney – Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort or Four Seasons Hotel
Melbourne – Chateau Yering or Crown Metropol Hotel
Hobart – Saffire, Freycinet or Henry Jones Art Hotel

These premium two- and three-night accommodation packages are worth up to AUS$5,000 and include meals, transfers and private tours, representing significant added value for guests.

The added value promotion applies to new bookings only based on Category A staterooms and above. Only one accommodation package can be chosen for each relevant voyage and it must be chosen at the time of booking. Accommodation packages subject to availability. For guests not wishing to take the inclusive accommodation package, savings of up to 15% are available. Some conditions apply.

Prices for the seven-night voyages start from £2,780 per person cruise only, based on twin share. Price includes seven nights onboard accommodation, all meals, entertainment and educational programmes, use of the ship’s sporting equipment and facilities, Zodiac excursions, port and handling charges, tender transfers and government fees and taxes.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Check in for The Cruise Show

We think this is really worth highlighting as the March show in London was an absolute belter (and VERY well attended).

This is the latest step for The Cruise Show organisers and is well worth noting for anyone living in the Midlands (or the north), for whom London is too long a trek. It is a great showcase for the UK cruise business and a lot of fun, whether you're a cruise regular or considering your first voyage.

And don't forget, World of Cruising readers can receive TWO tickets for the price of one to both the Birmingham show in October and the next edition back at London's Olympia in March 2011, when booked in advance. You can receive two £6 tickets for just £3 each (under 16s are free; add £1.50 postage and packing per order). Order online at or call 0871 620 4024 and quote “WOC”.

The Daily Telegraph presents CRUISE October 16-17 2010, NEC, Birmingham

What’s your idea of a perfect cruise?

A fun-in-the-sun holiday in the Caribbean? A tranquil river cruise through forested valleys? An expedition to Antarctica? Sailing in the South Pacific? Being pampered at sea in a luxurious spa?

Whatever appeals, be sure to make a date with The CRUISE Show, the UK’s only travel exhibition dedicated to cruising, which comes to Birmingham’s NEC in October.

Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser looking to plan your next voyage, or want to find out more about holidays at sea, this is the place to discover a world of cruising.

All the major and specialist cruise lines will be there, exhibiting under one roof so you can get around and talk to the experts, seeking inspiration, information and practical advice to help you book your next holiday at sea.

They’ll have news about everything from Mediterranean mini-breaks to four-month voyages around the world, and about cruise ships that promise a fun-filled vacation for all the family and small vessels that offer an ultra-luxury holiday at sea or expedition cruises around the Polar regions.

You can also discover more about the fabulous A to Z of destinations you can visit in a cruise – everything from exotic Amazon to Zanzibar, with the magical Mediterranean and colourful Caribbean in between.

There’ll also be a packed programme of free talks, lectures and Q&A sessions led by industry experts and journalists, and exclusive show offers, discounts and competitions not available on the high street.

It’s a great day out for the family – and bring your non-cruising friends as well so they can discover why so many Brits are now turning on to holidays at sea.

You can’t afford not to be there!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Inside Queen Mary 2

We were thrilled with the latest edition of World of Cruising magazine (our summer issue), which came out superbly well with a good blend of adventure cruising, luxury style and ship reviews, as well as our 'regulars' like The Admiral, Aft View and the essential World of Spas.

But we also had a LOT of the special Queen Mary 2 cuisine feature by photo-journalist Andrew Maclear which we couldn't fit into the 5-page spread, even though the photos we were able to use illustrated the piece beautifully.

However, Andrew has very graciously posted the full photographic study that he put together online, so readers of both World of Cruising and Time Spent At Sea can see the genuine in-depth visual presentation that went with it.

You can look up the full details here: Queen Mary 2 photo-spread