Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Cruise Show, Birmingham

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

Get TWO tickets for the price of one with Time Spent At Sea by booking in advance; quote “Time Spent At Sea” and visit www.cruisingshow.co.uk

Also - An exclusive advance ticket competition with Time Spent At Sea
For a chance to WIN one of five pairs of tickets to the Birmingham show, email your name, address and email address to sue@escapeevents.co.uk (not forgetting to mention 'Time Spent At Sea Birmingham' as your reference!).

You can also receive TWO tickets for the price of one to the show when booked in advance. That's two £6 tickets for just £3 each (under 16s are free). Add £1.50 postage and packing per order.

Order online at cruisingshow.co.uk or call 0871 620 4024 and quote
“Time Spent At Sea”.

CRUISE Show Opening Times: Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, 10am-4pm.

Regular Ticket Prices: On the door, £10; Under 16s free

Treasures of the Far East.

By guest blogger Steve Newman

It’s that time of year when the annual intake of new students leave home for university and college. This regular migration often leaves their parents with empty houses, a taste of freedom and some spare time and cash. If you're one of these sudden empty nesters, why not take a cruise and spend some time on yourselves for a change?

From only £1,209, Costa Cruises suggest you take their Treasures of the Far East voyage - the ultimate trip to the Oriental Far East - on a 14-night cruise of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and China.

Enjoy leisurely days at sea onboard the elegant Costa Classica, free of the “are we nearly there yet?” whines and potter to your heart’s content through the streets of Hong Kong or take the world famous Star Ferry over to Kowloon (above). Then wander around the likes of Manila, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City. Other highlights include the tropical island retreat of Hainan – known as China’s Hawaii – and the untamed jungles of Kota Kinabalu and Borneo.

With its two restaurants and seven bars, Classica is one of the best-loved ships in the Costa fleet, perhaps because of its welcoming and surprising personality or the recently refurbished furnishings, or perhaps simply because it is a modern and comfortable ship on which to travel in total relaxation.

A relaxing break or a snack at the Alfresco Café will immediately put you in the holiday mood. Shaded by a large white sail, it provides a magnificent terrace overlooking the sea, where you can eat outdoors and enjoy the unique view afforded by your cruise.

Departing Hong Kong on November 20, 2010, the price is based on a cruise-only basis, including all meals, entertainment and activities. Flights and transfers can be added for an additional charge.

For more information, go to http://www.costacruises.co.uk/

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Rhine and The Danube

By guest blogger Steve Newman

River cruising in Europe is one of the most popular ways to see the great cities of the Rhine and the Danube. It's a simple way to travel, you're in the middle of the action, seeing it close up, plus there's plenty of time to unwind - and, if you can do it for half price, so much the better. Now luxury river cruise operator AMA Waterways is offering free places for clients booking a choice of European river cruises for departure in November 2010.

The 'two for one' offer includes a 7-night cruise from picturesque Vilshofen to Budapest for just £1376 for the first guest, including port taxes, with a second person sharing paying just port taxes of £86, bringing the total price down to £731pp, including wine with dinner, free use of on-board bicycles and wi-fi (based on two sharing a cabin; excludes flights).

The company’s all-inclusive fares include all excursions, Internet/Satellite connection in every cabin and quality wines and beer with every evening meal. Even postcards are provided and posted free of charge!

On the 1st November, try the 'Blue Danube Discovery' - from £785 pp for two sharing. Cruise for half price with free places for companions on departures on 1st and 22nd November from Budapest to Nuremberg, cruising through some of Europe's most spectacular scenery and visiting Vienna, Bratislava, Passau and Regensburg with its 2,000-year-old ambiance of art and culture.

Prices are from £1571 for two, the usual price per person, and equivalent to £785pp, including port taxes, all meals, wine with dinner, excursions, etc, based on two sharing a cabin. Excludes flights.

You can find out more at http://www.amawaterways.co.uk/

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Spa Fit For A Queen

It's the perfect marriage of Spas and Cruising, and Cunard Line’s long-standing tradition of providing luxury experiences at sea will continue, it seems, with the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Spa.

This stunning 13,000sq ft spa space will feature an impressive art deco-style decor with two levels for the array of treatment rooms, fitness and pool facilities.

Like her sisters, Queen Elizabeth’s spa offers a comprehensive health and wellness programme with a spectacular Hydrotherapy Pool and Thermal Suite. Newly created is the Royal Bath House, the centrepiece for the ultimate spa experience. Inspired by relaxing treatments drawn from disciplines around the world, the Royal Spa will offer the most luxurious and exotic treatments available in any spa resort, including being the first spa at sea to provide Remède products and treatments.

The new Royal Bath House is a relaxing, covered space, a social relaxation area that includes both the Thermal Suite and Hydrotherapy pool, all adjacent to the main outdoor pool on Deck 9. Luxurious robes, slippers and other amenities will be provided. Day passes are available for those guests not booking a treatment.

Beyond the aquatics area of the spa, guests can enjoy treatments provided by one of Cunard’s many high-end partners. Queen Elizabeth will be the first spa at sea to offer Remède service, including Customised Facials and Massages, as well as Remède and Elemis spa products. Additionally, other new treatments and partners include:

Royal Spa Self-Scrub: Guests work with the spa’s mixologist to create a customised special blend of exfoliants that buff away dead skin and impurities.

Cellulite Reduction and Revitalizing Leg Therapy by Ionithermie: This detoxifying, firming and toning treatment helps to eliminate toxins. Alleviates water retention and also guarantees inches will be lost after just one treatment.

Peter Shanks, Cunard’s Managing Director and President, says: "As the world awaits Queen Elizabeth, our guests are eager to experience all the lavish amenities featured on board, including the rituals of luxury found in the Royal Spa. From couples’ treatment suites and new treatments to adventurous fitness classes and premium spa product partners, Cunard continues to offer the ultimate in rejuvenation at sea.”

The centre also includes a full-service hair and nail salon using award-winning products and providing the latest services, such as:

Phyto Hair Cocktails: Phyto is a blend of plants and herbs that helps repair the structure of the hair and nourish the scalp.

Award-winning St. Tropez Sunless Tanning for the face and body.
Brazilian Blowout: The Brazilian Blowout leaves hair smooth, healthy and frizz-free for up to 12 weeks without the use of damaging chemicals.

For health-focused guests, Queen Elizabeth’s Fitness Centre includes a fully appointed work-out facility and aerobics studio featuring signature fitness classes including:

Walkvest®: which helps use extra calories while wearing a weighted vest (two – 16 lbs.) while walking

Walking Poles: which turn walking into a total body workout, engaging every muscle with each stride. Classes show how the use of the poles can enhance ‘walking’ experiences to help improve stamina, posture and balance

Aqua Tone: This special class incorporates movements with various types of water equipment, such as dumbbells, floats, aqua gloves and fins. The water resistance helps build muscles without overexertion

To promote overall wellbeing, the spa also offers services using the ancient traditions of Chinese medicines and Ayurvedic techniques. A professionally trained acupuncturist, registered by the British Acupuncture Council, offers six different treatments to assist in alleviating stress, pain, or helping with weight loss.

Ayurveda (Sanskrit for the Science of Life) is an ancient Indian health care system and offers a wellness plan that includes the guests’ preferred type of exercise and dietary choices. A key part of health and wellness is education, and so seminars ranging from managing arthritis to metabolism enhancement will be offered throughout the voyage.

Sound good? I thought so, too. Now, where can I sign up for a treatment....?!

Oh, and don't forget to check out Alastair Greener's Cunard Blog for more info and insight into the Queen Elizabeth arrival.

A Russian Odyssey (plus Scandinavia!)

By guest blogger Steve Newman

After the demise of the Soviet Union there has been a renaissance in the cities of the Baltic and, as such, the area is becoming ever more popular as a cruising destination. From medieval architectural styles to modern, world-renowned museums and theatre to excellent shopping, gentle rolling hills and dramatic towering fjords, an amazing adventure awaits you around every corner.

Now there is the opportunity to see not only these ancient trading cities but explore the famous architecture, winding canals and local Russian culture with Royal Caribbean International’s Jewel of the Seas on a twelve-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise from just £1,326 per person (based on two people sharing an inside cabin).

As a ship, Jewel (above) has a guest capacity of 2, 501 and has a lot going for her. Amongst the spectacular features are the 10-storey Centrum glass lifts facing the sea, and the highest percentage of outside staterooms in the Royal Caribbean fleet.

The cruise begins and ends at Harwich and takes in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.
A full day is in store at St Petersburg, with famous palaces and museums including The Hermitage, one of the world's greatest treasures, which features more than 3 million exhibits. The most European-influenced city in Russia, St Petersburg is also the most spectacular. Finally, the voyage calls at Tallinn, Estonia, and Gothenburg in Sweden.

Price is based on 23 June 2011 departure. For more information or to book, see http://www.royalcaribbean.co.uk/

Royal Caribbean are also exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham in October.

Friday, 27 August 2010

A True Voyage of Discovery

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Cruise passengers are fast becoming ever more adventurous with their destination choices and the latest cruise announced by Voyages of Discovery is in this vein. The 'Norwegian Explorer' cruise will take their boutique little MV Discovery across the whole coast of Norway on a 13-day voyage beginning 30th July 2011.

July is the perfect time to experience the rugged coastal landscapes of Norway at their most tranquil and beautiful. Travelling by sea is also the best way to reach its many remote islands, inlets, coves and giant fjords. And the 650-passenger, 4-star Discovery is the perfect vessel for these waters.

Small enough to reach out-of-the-way ports, yet large enough to make light work of crossing the North Sea, Discovery avoids the hustle and bustle of today’s larger liners. Instead ,she has been expressly conceived for the company’s special brand of discovery cruising to create an atmosphere on board that is friendly and relaxed.

The cruise is also renowned for attracting budding historians, wildlife lovers and walkers who know Voyages of Discovery will take them closer to the incredible landscapes and wildlife that thrives in these challenging but often magical environments, including the breathtaking Geiranger Fiord.

Onboard, there will be two inspirational guest speakers. Greg Neale, the founder of the BBC's History Magazine, will be on hand to discuss the rich heritage of this enchanting region. Alongside him, Dr Mark Baldwin, the UK’s leading speaker on WWII code breaking, will bring a 1944 Enigma – the original code breaking machine - onboard to discuss its dramatic influence on the course of the War.

With convenient road and rail links to the port of Harwich, joining Discovery’s range of no-fly cruises is made even easier. You can find out more at http://www.voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk/

Voyages of Discovery are also among the lines exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham in October.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Sailing with the Pharaohs

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Cruising in style and luxury with the ambience of a bygone age is a delight to be experienced as much as possible. The late 19th century aristocracy of Europe would partake in cruising along the ancient splendours of the Nile Valley in their private ‘Dahabiyyas,’ beautifully crafted wooden sailing vessels that presented the might of the Pharaohs from the vantage point of elegant convenience. Now Bales Worldwide have recreated those halcyon days with their best-selling itinerary.

Travelling with a small select group, you can witness the ancient treasures of Egypt up close and in a manner thought lost forever by discerning travellers. Avoiding the crowds you have the advantage of an expert guide on hand to enlighten you along the way.

Completing the entire journey between Luxor and Aswan (or vice versa) by boat also provides the opportunity to truly relax, with 7 nights onboard to fully appreciate this classic journey. The cruise will operate either from Luxor to Aswan or in the reverse direction. You will be booked on one of the 4 exclusive Dahabiyyas to Bales: Amber, Musk, Nesma and Zahra. All the Dahabiyyas are identical with the exception of the décor.

The company also offers luxury holidays to more than 50 countries, including Canada, China, Egypt, Ecuador & the Galapagos islands, India, Jordan, Peru and Tanzania. These can be a select journey where you have local guides or a tailor-made holiday of your making.

You can find out more at http://www.balesworldwide.com/

Monday, 23 August 2010

Online Celebrity Treatment

By guest blogger Steve Newman

One of the major factors of enjoying a cruise is how much you can get booked up before you go. Pre-cruise booking is becoming one of the most valued elements of any cruise and Celebrity Cruises ‘Designed for you’ platform is a very good example of this. Celebrity say the more they can arrange in advance for their guests, the less they will have to think about once they join the ship.

The company have now designed more than 100 AquaSpa (above, on Celebrity Eclipse), salon and fitness offerings to help their guests enjoy relaxation and renewal. The pre-cruise spa, salon and personal fitness appointment booking options join a series of experiences available for guests to book online in advance of their cruise. These include beverage packages, shore excursions, speciality dining reservations and complimentary “Celebrity Select Dining” main dining room preferences.

With the new pre-cruise spa, salon and personal fitness booking option, Celebrity aims to give its guests the peace of mind associated with knowing that their spa, salon and fitness appointment times are secured. The option to pre-book these activities can also help guests avoid disappointment after boarding by discovering that desired times are already taken by other guests.

By mid-November 2010, guests will be able to book spa, salon and fitness appointments prior to their voyage on six of the nine Celebrity ships. The first to offer this option is Solstice. You can get a taste of this service by accessing the ordering system via Celebrity's website, http://www.celebritycruises.com/, in the “Before Your Cruise” section.

Celebrity will also be among the many cruise line exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham in October.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Cruising the Planet

By guest blogger Steve Newman

For those seeking the ultimate in cruising, a world cruise is hard to beat. So if you are thinking along those lines, or maybe considering just sampling one of these grand voyages in sections over a period of time, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has launched a mini-brochure featuring its longer cruises for 2012.

Their Black Watch undertakes a 106-night World Cruise departing from Southampton on 11th January 2012. This cruise travels in an easterly direction, visiting Egypt and the Suez Canal, India, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Australia – including the Great Barrier Reef – the South Pacific - including Vanuatu, Fiji, Bora Bora and Tahiti - South America and the Caribbean.

Prices for this all-encompassing cruise start from £9,499 per person (based on two sharing an inside twin cabin) and include all meals and entertainment on board and port taxes. The world cruise can also be booked in four shorter sectors – Southampton to Singapore; Singapore to Sydney; Sydney to Callao (Peru); and Callao to Southampton.

Balmoral (above) has an epic voyage around South America, departing 5th January 2012 for 89 nights, also from Southampton. She travels via the Canary Islands and Caribbean and takes in some of North America, visiting Key West, New Orleans and Galveston (for Houston) as well as Cozumel in Mexico and transits the Panama Canal before travelling all round the coast of South America.

This itinerary is something of a departure for a South America cruise and combines a wonderful variety of ports. It can also be booked in four shorter sectors – Southampton to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Montego Bay to Valparaiso, Chile; Valparaiso to Rio (Brazil); and Rio to Southampton.
Prices for the full cruise start from £7,999 per person.

You can find out more at Fredolsen.co.uk

Fred Olsen will also be exhibiting at the big Cruise Show at Birmingham in October.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Travel Channel's 'Cruise' Focus

Here's some great news from The Travel Channel, who are about to screen a series of specials this autumn on the UK cruise industry, and everything that goes with it.....


Throughout October and November, the Travel Channel’s hit topical holiday and travel series THE HOLIDAY SHOW is focusing on the fastest growing sector of the travel industry, the world of cruising.

A series of specials fronted by regular presenters Ginny Buckley and Gareth Davis will be exploring the latest developments and trends in cruising, answering viewers’ cruise queries, and reporting from some of the newest cruise ships.

If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about cruising in 2010 and beyond to help you plan your next cruise holiday then make a point of tuning into THE HOLIDAY SHOW Cruise Specials on Friday 22nd October, Friday 5th November and Friday 19th November 2010.

The programmes air at 6am, 8:30am, 12 noon, 4pm and 7:30pm on Travel Channel, Sky EPG 251and are repeated at the same times the following Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A True Mediterranean Odyssey

By guest blogger Steve Newman

The Mediterranean's sunny climate, historic ports and enchanting cities have made it an eternally popular cruise destination. The problem arises when deciding where exactly to go, as there are a plethora of voyages on offer in this extensive region.

One option is join Saga on their Saga Pearl II for a two-week exploration around the Iberian Peninsula and into the Western Mediterranean, departing on 29 April 2011 from Southampton. This ship (above) underwent a £20million three-month refit and now recalls the same stylish surroundings and superb service that cruise-goers have come to expect from the company’s elegant ships.

She has a smaller size than most vessels (just 446 passengers, and with 60 single cabins), and offers a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere to her guests. Deluxe cabins have twin beds, some of which can be converted to a king-size on request. These cabins have a bath, with a shower and wc, and some cabins benefit from a balcony.

The wooden floors and al fresco soft sofas on the Bridge Deck and a library with over 3,000 books give the ship a real private yacht feel, while the open-dining policy of sitting with who you like enhances this feeling.

The voyage visits Lisbon, Gibraltar, Mahon in Menorca (with those wonderful steps that lead you from the harbour up in to the city) and then on to Marseilles, Barcelona, Ibiza Town and Vigo in Northern Spain before returning to Southampton.

All of the ports of call have ample time to thoroughly explore these wonderful maritime and architectural gems. However, what Saga does extremely well is the choice and standard of their excursions and I have to say those being offered on this voyage are very good indeed.

Saga are also exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham in October.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Miami, Honduras & Mexico

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Central America and the Western Caribbean have always had a fascinating appeal to many dedicated cruisers. With that in mind, Norwegian Cruise Line have put together a voyage in the region. Their incredible new ship Norwegian Epic (above) is reinventing cruising once again with new entertainment options and amazing nightlife, including the first true Ice Bar at sea.

Norwegian Epic also has innovative and flexible accommodation, from Studios designed and priced specifically for solo travellers, with exclusive access to their Studio Lounge, to the private Villas on board. Add twenty different dining options, a huge aqua park for all the family and you’ll see why the company say this is Freestyle Cruising on a truly grand scale.

The beauty of cruising is that it encompasses all forms of tastes - whether you prefer adventure voyages and getting up close to nature, red in tooth and claw, or the sort of family, single holiday that’s full of the fun and entertainment that Norwegian are so good at offering.

The company say there’s only one thing to do with rules – scrap them. So that’s what they’ve done. They pick the ports and the rest is down to you. NCL visits destinations from the Caribbean to Hawaii, Alaska to New England, Bermuda to Mexico and Europe.

In her maiden season, Epic has a series of departures up until the end of April 2011 visiting The Western Caribbean. Departing from Miami, she will call at Costa Maya in Mexico, The Roatan Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras and the tiny tropical island of Cozumel, 12 miles off Mexico’s coast before returning to Miami.

Among the highlights is the chance to steer a personal All Terrain Vehicle along the jungle trails on the wild side of Cozumel; take a thrilling ride along zip lines from Roatán’s Creation Rock to a party on Tabyana Beach; and see the Mayan ruins in Tulum, built on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean.

NCL Line are exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Castanets and Calypsos

By guest blogger Steve Newman

As we are only posting for a three days a week at the moment due to much travel, staff holidays, etc, we thought we would pop on two cruises today. Fred Olsen lines have a nine-night cruise to Iberia departing from and ending in Southampton on 27th September 2011.

This cruise first visits Lisbon, the elegant and picturesque Portuguese capital, then La Coruna in Spain, a fascinating mixture of architectural styles, with its quality medieval quarter and contrasting modern buildings. Next port is Bilbao, a vibrant and cosmopolitan town in the north of Spain – and home to the futuristic Guggenheim Museum. Last port, where the ship is at anchor, is Hendaye in France, situated on the frontier with Spain, and hemmed in by the Atlantic and the Pyrenees.

Their second cruise is a grand 28-night Caribbean voyage on Black Watch (above), departing from Southampton on 12th November 2010 and including visits to Tenerife, Barbados, St Georges, St Kitts, Tortola, Antigua and St Maarten before finally arriving back at Southampton via The Azores.

The company will also have a team of experts on hand at this autumn’s Daily Telegraph CRUISE Show in Birmingham, ready to inspire and inform visitors on the right kind of cruise for them. Visitors can take advantage of a variety of Fred. Olsen deals – exclusive to the Show – on selected sailings around the world. Fred. Olsen will be exhibiting on stand E20, with experts available to provide visitors with useful, informed advice on the wide range of cruises and itineraries. As well as a range of special exclusive show offers on many cruises, visitors booking on the day can save up to an additional £325 per person off brochure fares and special offers.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Very often, the best souvenirs are the ones you can't wait to share with friends and family; the keepsakes that are saturated with memories and can sum up an entire trip or voyage on their own. Following this idea, Aqua Expeditions (one of our regular favourites here at Time Spent At Sea when it comes to adventure cruising) and its vessel, the MV Aqua, is now offering guests sophisticated alternatives to the clichéd souvenir.

Committed to providing an authentic wildlife and cultural experience to its guests, Aqua has released a music CD for guests to relive their Amazonian voyage on dry land. The CD is a musical compilation performed by Aqua Expeditions' "house band" - made up of Aqua's crew - and was recorded in Iquitos, Peru, its vessel's home port.

The CD contains a collection of 12 tracks of instrumental and lyrical favorites that include Peruvian classics like "El Condor Pasa," "Besame Mucho" and other internationally known pieces. The album cover boasts artwork by famous Peruvian artist Christian Bendayán and can be purchased onboard in the Aqua's boutique.

In addition to this, Aqua Expeditions' Wildlife Checklist, used during excursions into Pacaya Samiria Reserve, can also be transformed into a stylish keepsake. Listing dozens of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, insects and common plants and trees, the guide keeps track of the many wildlife sightings while exploring the Amazon. It reads like a 'wish list' of the most exotic living things on Earth and includes the elusive Pink Dolphin and the endangered Amazonian Manatee; enough to elicit a little jealousy from even the most seasoned adventurer.

Beijing to Hong Kong via Japan!

By guest blogger Steve Newman.

China is becoming more and more popular these days as a cruise destination and, if you can visit it with one of the most renowned cruise companies around, so much the better. With that in mind, why not have a look at Regent Seven Seas and their 11-night Beijing to Hong Kong voyage departing on October 4th on the lovely Seven Seas Navigator.

Starting at Beijing, excursions showcase The Forbidden City, the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world. Historic Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest city square, and holds about one million people for public gatherings. Around the square, view the Monument of the National Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Further afield, you can discover one of the great ancient engineering marvels still in existence, China’s Great Wall.

The Cruise also calls at Dalian, Shanghai (three nights in this most amazing of cities), Okinawa, Taipei (with the world's tallest building) and finishes at Hong Kong.

Seven Seas Navigator accommodates 490 guests and is an all-suite vessel with a well-deserved reputation for excellent service and a refined, enjoyable cruise experience. In the six-star tradition of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the ship is destined for distinction occupying one of the uppermost niches in cruising, with an unusual level of luxury and some of the highest space and service ratios at sea. From her all-suite, all-oceanview accommodations with their luxurious marble baths, ro her signature cuisine and the superbly attentive staff, she really is an outstanding ship.

To learn more about Regent Seven Seas in person, they are exhibiting at the big Cruise Show in October at Birmingham, and also at London's Olympis next April.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cagliari, Sardinia

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Thanks for all your kind words and support as we gradually build up the blog. Due to family holidays and press trips, the frequency of posts will change for the next couple of weeks. We'll only be posting on Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays. After that we'll be back to our normal daily service with an even wider range of posts.

In the meantime, the picture above is of the arcade some half a mile long on the Via Roma in Cagliari, Sardinia. Originally warehouses, the buildings have been converted into boutique, upmarket shops, cafes, hotels and restaurants. If you fancy a trip there, why not have a look at The Cruise Line site?

Polar Bears and Canaries

By guest blogger Steve Newman

If you think of cruises along the Norwegian coast and the high Arctic, then there’s normally one name that springs to mind first. Now Hurtigruten have announced their new 2011 brochure and the details for their two specialist ships for polar exploration, MS Fram (above) and MS Polar Star.

Polar Star is the first former ice-breaker to be fully converted to expedition cruising, whilst Fram has an ice-classed hull to reduce the risk of grounding and oil spill. The ship has 128 stylish and comfortable cabins and many high standard suites. What you have here is a vessel that was built to handle polar waters but also provides a luxurious cruise holiday environment.

Where Hurtigruten score is the combinations they offer, from classic Norway cruises to 'polar bear discovery' and the breathtaking beauty of Svalbard (where the company actively participates in the eco-friendly ‘Clean Up Svalbard’ campaign).

Spitsbergen, also known as the Svalbard Archipelago (immediately north of Norway) is only 800 miles from the North Pole. The Svalbard wilderness is spectacular, untouched and virginal - almost. Unfortunately, there are beaches which are littered with empty plastic oil drums, fishnets and other waste. Hence guests are invited to take part in volunteer action by collecting rubbish.

New cruises are also on offer to Greenland, Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords and the company have also extended their range closer to home now with voyages in the Baltic, British Isles and even a cruise along the west coast of Europe and North Africa, from Denmark to the Canary Islands, also calling at Casablanca.

Why not find out more at The Cruise Line website?

Istanbul to Athens. The Black Sea and Mykonos

By guest blogger Steve Newman

As a region, the eastern Mediterranean does not appear to be so well explored by dedicated cruisers as other parts of the world. However, in reality, it is one of the most fascinating cruise destinations around.

One cruise set to go there shortly will be operated by Silversea Cruises who maintain a deserved reputation for cruises that deliver 6-star luxury. They have an exceptional choice of destinations and a fleet that is as accommodating and as wonderfully elegant as you could imagine.

The company’s Istanbul to Athens 7-night cruise departing on the 10th of September with their newest ship Silver Spirit (above) looks to be a mouth-watering experience for the discerning cruise traveller who seeks that high standard of service and more than a taste of exotic eastern culture and history.

Exploring the coast of the Black Sea, Spirit visits Constanta, Odessa, Yalta and Sevastopol before re-entering the Mediterranean and calling at the magical island of Mykonos.

Mykonos Town is a colourful maze of narrow streets lined by whitewashed houses with bright blue doors and shutters. As an attractive backdrop, those famous windmills are lined up like toy soldiers on the hillside, reminders of a time when wind power was used to grind the island's grain. The many bars and restaurants leading down to the waterside are a great place to relax.

Silver Spirit herself is an evolution in luxury cruising. With one of the highest space-to-guest ratios, she accommodates only 540 in ultimate style and comfort. Her interiors hint at a sophisticated 1930s Art Deco ambiance, with the latest modern innovations and advance maritime technology.

There is also a choice of up to six dining venues, an expanded spa, and the largest suites in the fleet, fully 95% of which feature a private veranda.

Silversea Cruises will be exhibiting at The Cruise Show in Birmingham in October.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Luxury amongst the Fiords

By guest blogger Steve Newman

If you like to think about quality and unashamed luxury when you’re choosing a cruise, then there is one company you simply must look at. With their unmatched sense of style, elegance and grace, The Yachts of Seabourn offer a sophisticated and luxurious journey that’s right up there at the top of the tree.

From the acclaimed culinary delights served up in a choice of dining venues to the wonderfully appointed all-suite accommodation, you will encounter services and luxuries that would normally be experienced only on a private yacht.
The smaller trio of sisters carry just 208 passengers and, at three times the size, the new Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn carry just 450, all five pride themselves on visiting locations inaccessible to larger vessels. The professionally trained staff (at more than one per suite) not only knows you by name, but knows your personal preferences as well.

Of special note, from the 15th of September the brand new Sojourn will be visiting the majesty of the Norwegian Fjords for a 12-night voyage. Starting at Copenhagen, she will visit Bergen, the wonderful port of Alesund with its Art Nouveau architecture and the incredible Geiranger Fjord (above, and this link will take you to a revolving webcam).

If you’ve not visited the Geiranger before, you have a treat in store. When you travel down the 10 miles of the fjord that leads to the World Heritage site of village of Geiranger, you pass cliffs that are thousands of feet high with waterfalls cascading down almost the same distance, glowering over you and dwarfing any ship beneath them. All this against a backdrop of blue sky and white clouds whilst Sea eagles drift nonchalantly past to keep you company. If this wasn’t enough, the voyage also visits Amsterdam before culminating at Dover.

As well as visiting those destinations larger vessels simply cannot reach, each yacht offers all-suite accommodations, Seabourn's signature water-sports Marina, an open-bar policy serving premium wine, champagne and spirits, and menus by renowned celebrity chefs.

Yachts of Seabourn are exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham's NEC in October and you can see some more latest deals for this excellent company here on this link: Late Deals.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Luxury Expedition Cruises to Australasia

By guest blogger Steve Newman

If you’ve been following us here on the blog since January, you’ll know we’ve concentrated quite a lot on expedition and adventure cruising. Qantas Holidays now has introduced a new programme of luxury expedition cruises to explore remote areas of Australasia with one of our favourite operators, Orion Expedition Cruises.

The cruise options include Wild Tasmania, with this cruise starting and ending in Hobart and departing on 1 December 2010, taking in the starkly beautiful Flinders Island along with the dramatic, red granite peaks of stunning Wineglass Bay and apple blossom and vineyards of Port Huon.
Other Orion cruises will take in New Zealand, Borneo, The Mekong Delta and the Gulf of Siam.
Their flagship Orion is a purpose-built vessel designed to access the inaccessible, all in 5-star luxury. The ship combines the best and the latest in design with maritime and environmental technology, comfort and casual elegance. From the ice-strengthened hull to the chilled champagne and superb cuisine, this is expedition cruising at its finest.

Orion II (above), which is due to join in May 2011, is another private yacht-like expedition cruiser and again offers the finest standards in small-ship travel. She, too, has an ice-strengthened hull for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic and is fitted with stabilisers.
The expedition equipment includes Zodiacs and fast tender to deliver the full Orion expedition experience. Combining luxury and service, she will be staffed by 68 officers and crew to serve her capacity of 100 guests.

As we never tire of pointing out, Orion Expedition Cruises is a fantastic way to explore Australasia and Asia, combining high-quality cruising with the chance to get up close and personal with the people, wildlife and cultures. Many parts of the Asia-Pacific region remain largely inaccessible to conventional touring options but, with Orion, travellers can get to remote areas with experienced expedition leaders, hopping onboard Zodiac boats to get into small inlets and islands, returning each night to the comfort of the mother ship.

All prices include: Taxes, fees and port related charges, cruise transportation, all meals onboard, 24-hour room service, entertainment and educational programmes, use of ship’s sporting equipment and facilities and Zodiac excursions and tender transfers.

Canary Islands a lot "Cheeper"?

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Many of us prefer to take a cruise right at the end of summer to try to hold off those winter blues for a bit longer. October is becoming an ever more popular month to take a cruise and, if you can get to somewhere warm and get there quickly, so much the better.

So why not think about joining Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas for a 10-night Canary Islands cruise from just £699 per person (based on two people sharing an inside cabin)? That’s Canary Islands cruising for £69 per person per day!

Royal Caribbean are renowned for their high-quality, ultra-modern vessels and, now you can check in online, it saves time and you don't have to fill in any forms at the pier. When you and your party arrive, all you need is your signed SetSail pass, identification documents, and credit card that you register online.

The price for this voyage includes the full 10-night cruise departing from Southampton and calling at Funchal (Madeira, Portugal), Tenerife, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Lanzarote and Vigo (Spain) before returning to Southampton. Meals and entertainment onboard and all relevant cruise taxes/fees are also fully inclusive.

Independence of the Seas is also brimming with 15 decks of activities, including a Flowrider surf park at sea, an onboard ice-skating rink, rock climbing wall, a children’s water park, a teen-only nightclub, mother-and-daughter/father-and-son spa facilities, basketball and volleyball courts, miniature golf course and shopping.

Price is based on 29 October 2010 departure.

Royal Caribbean are also exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham this October.

Hong Kong for Beginners.

By guest blogger Steve Newman.

Hong Kong
is one of the world’s great cruising destinations. At the moment, Ocean Terminal is the port's sole cruise terminal and accommodates many luxurious and elegant vessels. Placed on the south of Kowloon, you get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island with its skyscrapers and mountains across the harbour.

From Ocean Terminal it is just a short walk to a network of excellent public transport, including buses, taxis, the MTR (underground mass transit railway), rail and the Star Ferry, which all take you across to the Island. If you do this at night, it’s an amazing sight and you can get a taxi back via the road tunnel that connects the island with Kowloon.

Kowloon is just as vibrant as the island; indeed, the flower market (above) is fascinating, as is Temple Street night market where you can buy just about anything. The watch I’m wearing whilst I write this cost £2 there and is still going strong!

One thing you must do in Hong Kong is go to the terrace beside the Star Ferry terminal at 8pm each night to watch the Symphony of Lights. This spectacular multimedia display, already named the "World's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" by the Guinness Book of World Records, includes 44 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour.

The show creates an all-round vision of coloured lights, laser beams and searchlights synchronised to music and narration that celebrates the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong. It is simply stunning - but remember to look at the buildings behind you as well as those across the harbour!

The only problem with Hong Kong is that there is SO much to see and do. I would strongly advise that if you have limited time here, plan your itinerary before you go, otherwise you will simply get sidetracked.

All the major cruise lines come here, so why not got to the Cruise Line Ltd website for the latest offers or make sure to visit the Singapore stand at the next Cruise Show to see what’s on offer?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Global Adventure, All the Stars of The Zodiac

By guest blogger Steve Newman

One of the fastest growing areas of cruising is the eco-adventure sector, with some companies offering you the chance to be literally the first human to land on particular places for possibly hundreds of years.

So, if you like adventure, untouched wilderness, expertly operated tours, and lecturers and leaders rich in field experience, then do have a look at Zegrahm. From small-ship expedition cruises through the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica to tropical adventures in the South Pacific, this company offers what comes close to the ultimate expedition travel experience.

You’ll need to be reasonably fit but age is no barrier. Their policy is that if they see something of interest, they will actually stop the ship and give you the chance to hop into the zodiacs and go and see it up close.

Onboard amenities include spacious lounges, fine dining and ocean-view cabins, ranging from 16- to 110-passenger capacities. The other good thing about these trips is you can eat as much as you like in the five-star vessels as you know you’re going to burn it off anyway!

The company has a great mix of natural history and cultural destinations for 2011. Their ships will be covering destinations around the Pacific and exploring new ports in the Arabian, Mediterranean, and North Seas.

They are are also introducing several new expeditions, including circumnavigations of islands such as Sicily’s archaeological wonders and famed cuisine, and Sumatra’s abundant wildlife and diverse landscape.

Zegrahm’s expeditions to Antarctica offer the opportunity of treading where no one may have been before as they ride Zodiacs through waters populated by whales and seals to land amid the cacophony of penguins or albatross colonies, or negotiating pack ice and tabular icebergs aboard an icebreaker.

With this company you can find yourself in Zodiacs in the islands of the South Pacific or the North Atlantic (above).

Expeditions range from two to three weeks in length, ensuring an in-depth look at the regions. Keeping the number of travellers on each expedition small also allows members personal contact with the leaders and naturalist experts.

Zegrahm will also be exhibiting at the Cruise Show at London's Olympia in April, so you can find out more about them in person.

In the meantime, for more info go to http://www.zeco.com/

Saturday, 7 August 2010

A Spirited Adventure off the West African Coast.

By guest blogger Steve Newman

If you’re one of those who feels they don’t want to go to the bigger companies for a cruise of a lifetime, then take a look at Spirit of Adventure, which has just one small ship – MV Spirit of Adventure (above). Due to her small size, it means the ship can get in to exciting off-the-beaten track ports that the larger cruise ships can’t reach.

Therefore, the company’s itineraries always include fascinating destinations. For example, in February next year Spirit will set out from Cape Town on a 17-day cruise calling at such small ports as Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia and Douala in Cameroon. Spirit of Adventure voyages include excursions in the price as well, so it’s ideal for those who want to get off and explore.

The ship has a capacity of 350 and a crew of 170 and novel features include films being shown in the open air on Sun Deck (weather permitting). The light and airy Verandah restuarant provides informal dining with buffet meals and the opportunity to dine al fresco when the weather is fine.

There is one sitting in the nautically themed dining room and the open dining policy allows you to sit where you like.

All in all, the ship will visit seven countries along the lesser-known west coast of Africa. You will be able to enjoy stunning landscapes and wildlife-watching trips and get closer to the cultural traditions as you discover the villages and bustling cities of this enigmatic region.

Highlights include looking out for the dolphins and seals of Walvis Bay and calls to lesser-visited ports, including Luanda in Angola and Cotonou in Benin

Price includes return scheduled flights, all gratuities on board, excursions and travel to and from your UK departure points.

Spirit of Adventure will also be exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham NEC in October.

For further details, please visit http://www.spiritofadventure.co.uk/

Friday, 6 August 2010

Iceland, Dublin, Faroe Isles and St Kilda

By guest blogger Steve Newman

To many of us, a cruise is made by the amount of wildlife we see from the deck or on land when taking organised excursions. To this end, Swan Hellenic has partnered with Marinelife, the marine conservation research charity, to bring a daily wildlife image blog to cruise passengers and the public alike.

The Marinelife team has been recording all sightings and engaging with passengers on board the Minerva throughout her visit to Iceland with a programme of presentations and deck watches. Marinelife’s team is writing a daily blog on the Swan Hellenic website to keep the general public up to date with a range of spectacular encounters, which include many hundreds of dolphins of multiple species, a Humpback Whale mother-and-calf pair and sightings of the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

Minerva will be returning to Iceland sailing on a round trip from Portsmouth from 21 July - 05 August 2011. She will be visiting four ports on the “Land of Fire,” including the capital Reykjavik. Iceland is place renowned for its ice fields, volcanic springs and thundering waterfalls. The ship will also call at Dublin and Torshavn in the Faroe Isles.

Apart from elation at the coastal scenery and the wildlife, there is sadness on this trip, too. It rather depends on how it affects you, but I defy anyone not to be moved when you’re on St Kilda. Fifty miles out from the Western Isles, even as you start to approach you wonder how people could have lived here. This feeling is enhanced when you pass where the young men climbed the cliffs to collect seabird eggs in swells they would have regarded as nothing but have many visitors clinging to the rail.

Surviving until the 1930s, when they asked to be evacuated, you wander among their stone houses (above) now numbered and marked with the occupants' names, trying to imagine how they eked out a living here and marvelling at their dry-stone walling skills. The sadness comes when you discover that in just one egg collecting trip, almost half the young men of the island were lost in heavy seas.

Having visited both here and Iceland, I can assure you you’ll be left with memories that will stay with you for ever.

For those wishing to know more, Swan Hellenic will be exhibiting at the Cruise Show in Birmingham in October.

For more info in the meantime, go to http://www.swanhellenic.com

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Learning the Ropes in the South Pacific

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Ever thought about discovering the hidden Pacific on an adventure of a lifetime on a tall ship voyage through the tropical islands of Polynesia and Melanesia?

Well, you can now sign on for an island cruising or ocean sailing experience and see places beyond the reach of conventional travel aboard the magnificently restored square rigger Soren Larsen.

The ship works from her home base in Auckland, New Zealand, during the southern hemisphere summer and explores the tropical waters of the South Pacific from March to November.

Built in Denmark in 1948, she offers guests a chance to reach places far beyond the reach of conventional tourism, experiencing the real Pacific and seeing local village life in places such as The Cook Islands, far removed from the usual tourist resort environment.

Soren Larsen sails with a permanent crew of 12 and a paying Voyage Crew of up to 22. People of all ages from all over the world join the ship for voyages of three weeks or more to experience the authentic tropical South Seas – arriving by tall ship to destinations such as Tonga (above) and Samoa as Captain Cook and the early European explorers would have done.

The New Zealand-based brigantine specialises in coastal and ocean voyaging through the South Pacific offering authentic crewing opportunities for people of all ages. In choosing a holiday that is an adventure and signing on as voyage crew, people of all ages and backgrounds have a rare opportunity to participate in authentic square rig seamanship.

Guests acting as crew on board are accommodated in 2 and 4-berth cabins, all of which open out into the large, comfortable saloon and library.

You can take a turn on the helm, learn how to navigate and how to set the sails. For sailors and non-sailors alike, this is part of the experience on board the square rigger, and most want to really get involved, although it isn’t compulsory.

When at anchor at places such as Fiji, you are free to explore, go on shore excursions, walking the beaches and snorkelling or just swim and enjoy the cultural activities.

For more information, contact www.sorenlarsen.co.nz.

River Cruising in Europe and Asia

By guest blogger Steve Newman

In the last five years, River Cruising has increased in popularity tremendously. So much so that is now the automatic choice for many people planning a luxury European holiday. And, if you think about it you can completely understand why.

Combining the history and culture of rivers, towns and cities with practically the ultimate in relaxation, they offer a sedate and enjoyable way to explore an area whilst on holiday. Leading the way and recognised as one of the top players in this market is AMA Waterways.

The company’s fares include all meals, excursions, Internet/Satellite connection in every cabin, and quality wines and beer with every Dinner. Add open seating amidst elegant yet comfortable surroundings, a Grand Panorama Lounge with bar and dance floor, and aft lounge for up to 50 passengers, and you can see why people come back time and time again.

AMA's ships really are something else and it’s quite true to say you would be forgiven for thinking the interiors had been plucked from some grand hotel. You even have the chance to use their complimentary bicycles to explore the towns and cities on your own.

Opportunities exist to travel along the famous rivers of Europe, such as the Rhine and Danube, and also to explore the countryside of Portugal and Provence as you gently drift by. Cities like Lyons, Budapest, Vienna and Amsterdam are all able to be visited. To the north, why not take in a cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg and explore that city’s canals and the wonder that is The Hermitage?

Due to the company expanding its routes, you also now have the chance to explore the mighty Mekong as it flows through Vietnam and Cambodia. Ancient temples, villages and floating markets are all untouched by time on this fascinating journey.

Sixteen and eight-day options are available, both finishing at Ho Chi Minh City. Either way, what you have here is a company offering river-cruise opulence, the highest levels of service and wonderful memories that will stay with you forever.

For more details, contact http://www.amawaterways.co.uk/

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands

By guest blogger Steve Newman

If you’re new to cruising or are simply looking for one of the best cruise-holiday package deals around, then why not have a look at MSC Cruises?

During their South Africa cruise for example, their classic ship MSC Melody (above) will stop off at Port Louis, the capital and main port on the island of Mauritius. Offering an interesting and relaxing day trip on shore, Port Louis is just one of the exciting and varied destinations that you’ll find along the company’s South African cruise itinerary.

Glimpsed from the ship, this island in the Indian Ocean rises out of a shimmering sea, displaying its famous ring of mountains that shelter the bustling harbour and port, a centre of commerce and trade for the island. Historically in Dutch and French ownership, the two cultures have left their mark on this charming city.

Port Louis has conserved many historic and colonial buildings through the years and elegant, well-preserved French buildings from the 17th century are a treat for architecture buffs. Those in the mood for a spot of shopping will find plenty of enticing items, either in the covered markets, the amazing Port Louis Bazaar or along the well-appointed main streets lined with palm trees.

The cruise starts and ends at Durban in South Africa and includes ports of call at Point Des Galets on the fabulous French speaking, wildly tropical island of Reunion with its spectacular scenery and volcano, and Fort Dauphin on Madagascar, one of the world’s most incredible islands with its forests and Lemurs.

MSC also offer mini-cruises in South Africa on MSC Sinfonia. If you need to find out more, have a look at http://www.msccruises.co.uk/

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Cruise Show NEC, October

Well, things are really hotting up for the very first Cruise Show in Birmingham in October. The March show in London was superb and VERY well attended.

This is the latest step for The Cruise Show organisers and is well worth attending for anyone living in the Midlands, the North, Ulster or the Borders. 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.

Remember, too, that 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 http://www.cruisingshow.co.uk/ or call 0871 620 4024 and quote “WOC”.
Here's their latest media info:

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!

Migration Mini Cruises

By guest blogger Steve Newman.

There is a misconception amongst much of the public that all cruises have to be at least seven nights long. Now, however, thanks to DFDS Seaways, you can discover the wildlife and beautiful landscapes of the island of Fanø on a superb fully guided break, with three nights onboard, including one night in port and a day and a half on this beautiful Danish island.

This perfect break for families and eco-interested travellers is sailing from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark in September and October and is a fantastic opportunity to take in the marine wildlife and learn from a team of highly qualified experts. Once onboard, guests step out on deck in search of seals, porpoises and migrating birds with the expert wildlife spotters. Then afterwards why not relax and enjoy the interactive wildlife presentations?

Arriving in Esbjerg the next day, you head to Fanø, an internationally important breeding ground for migrating birds, as well as having some beautiful beaches and dunes. You can now watch thousands of birds in action, wheeling into incredible patterns in the sky as they make their fuel-stops en route between their wintering and breeding grounds.

Denmark’s largest colony of Common and Grey Seals is also on the agenda, plus there is time to explore old Scandinavian villages.

Prices are from just £140pp and include 3 nights on board, (2 sailing, 1 in port in Esbjerg), 1½ days of guided bird and wildlife watching on Fanø including ferry and local transport, plus presentations and fun activities on board. Or, including breakfasts and evening meals on board, prices are from £208pp.

To find out more, go to www.dfds.co.uk.

From the Nile to Damascus

By guest blogger Steve Newman

The Middle East has long been a magnet for those who wish to combine cruising with the study of ancient civilisations. Take this tradition with a combined land-and-cruise journey and you really have the chance to get under the skin of these places and their cultures, both past and present.

In March next year, discerning travellers have the chance to take a six-night cruise in the Red Sea combined with land elements to visit some of the most impressive ancient ruins on Earth for an amazing 17-day journey.

Organised in typical exemplary style by Noble Caledonia, the trip starts with three nights in Cairo with trips to the Pyramids and other famous historical sites before you board the MS Island Sky for the cruise from Suez to Aqaba. The ship underwent a complete refurbishment in May and I can thoroughly recommend her as a superb vessel for this type of cruise having sailed on her myself recently.

Calling in at Safaga, a journey through the desert brings you to Luxor for a two-day excursion that also includes the Valley of the Kings. Amazingly, the best is yet to come as, after disembarking at Aqaba, the wonder of the orange and red sands of the desert of Wadi Rum are visited in Jordan, followed by a two-night stay at Petra (above) the "Rose red city, older than time."

Floating in the Dead Sea at its marvellous resort that drips luxury and exclusiveness, walking through Amman and sitting in wonder on the steps of the theatres in the ancient Roman city of Jerash are all followed by the fascination of the Mosques and Orthodox churches of Damascus.

How's that for true Middle Eastern magnificence?

For more information, look up http://www.noble-caledonia.co.uk/

Monday, 2 August 2010

River Discount

By guest blogger Steve Newman

To experience any country only by car is to miss out large amounts of its history, culture and heritage. Gently following the course of the world's major rivers has always been a pleasant way to while away the day and is one of the most popular forms of cruising and one of the most educational.

Passing and visiting castles, vineyards and cities such as Cologne without the worry and stress of being behind the wheel is simply just the perfect way to do it. Combine that with fine wines, excellent cuisine and all-round luxury (plus a major discount in this case), and you have a wining formula on your hands.

The elegant, high-end boutique hotel like ships of Uniworld River Cruises such as The River Princess (above) now have just such an incentive. Pay in full before October 31 and you can get a massive £1,200 discount for a couple travelling in their Category One staterooms and suites.

With an average capacity of 130 guests and crew ratio of one to each three guests, plus locally sourced gourmet foods and quality wines, you can see why Uniworld have a reputation for style.

And, with more than 500 departures on 35 itineraries, their ships can be found on 9 rivers in 16 countries in Europe and Egypt. Many of them have full open-air private balconies that, with a touch of a switch, will raise the glass to create a private conservatory in cooler weather.

Beats the car any day of the week!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sails in St Tropez

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Ever felt like being part of the jet-set, even if only for a short while? Perhaps after playing a few chukkas in Berkshire, why not nip down to St Tropez for a bit of lazy beach wallowing, followed by watching some top-notch sailing sipping a gin and tonic on your own deck?

Well, thanks to Star Clippers now you can mingle with the A-List by picking up your ship at Monte Carlo and sailing on her to do some serious celebrity watching in St Tropez.
One of the classic events in the international racing calender, Les Voiles de St Tropez, hosts some of the most beautiful yachts in the world and can be seen this year from the deck of your own sailing ship the chic Star Flyer (above). If you're so inclined, you can even help the crew with the rigging.

The 170-passenger square rigger has teak decks, a swimming pool, informal dining and a convivial tropical bar. What you get here is 19th century tall-ship sailing with 21st century luxury.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that if you take the inclusive flight, there's a Eurostar option too, while from the UK you get a helicopter transfer to Monaco (Star Clippers call in here when the Grand Prix is on as well).

The ship sails from Monte Carlo on September 29, calling at L'Ile Rousse in Corsica and returning to Cannes (for more people watching - or maybe they're watching you by now?) on October 2.

For more information, go to http://www.starclippers.co.uk/

Be a Celebrity Down Under

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Marking their return to the region after an absence two years, Celebrity Cruises have announced their new Australia and New Zealand 2011 cruises aboard Celebrity Century, visiting 36 ports. Apart from viewing the lands of the wallaby and the kiwi, guests will also be able to call in at French Polynesia, Indonesia, the U.S. and Mexico.

Some of the fascinating places being visited include Honolulu, Auckland, Sydney and Ensenada in Mexico. The company have also included a string of places being visited for the first time, such as Bali, Darwin, Cairns, and Burnie, Tasmania.

New four and five-night pre- or post-cruise land tours are also available, which include two nights in Sydney and a full day at the Great Barrier Reef. In line with the ship circumnavigating Australia, a similar four or five-night pre- or post-cruise land tour is operating out of Perth. Both tours include a stay at Uluru (Ayer's rock) with a desert tour and full night-time dining experience.

All tours are accompanied by expert guides and lecturers and ample time has been provided for shopping! Savings are offered on back-to-back sailings and on cruises booked between 29th July and 31st September this year.

For more information, look up http://www.celebritycruises.co.uk/