Friday, 31 December 2010

Farewell, 2010!

We're bidding a fond farewell to 2010 today after a year that had many highs (and a few lows) for the cruise industry - and a LOT to remember fondly.

For us at World of Cruising magazine, it was a year of Adventure - or adventure cruising, to be more precise.

We chose this year to highlight a growing and inspiring trend in expedition-style voyaging, with trips to awe-inspiring Chilean Patagonia (above) with Nomads of the Seas, the Norwegian Arctic with Hurtigruten, the islands of the Pacific North-West with Cruise West, the Brahmaputra River in India, offbeat Alaska with American Safari Cruises and the Canadian Arctic with Inuit Indian company Cruise North Expeditions.

Along we way, we have also highlighted the brilliant opportunities for adventure-cruise excursions with Lindblad Expeditions, Zegrahm Expeditions, Orion Expedition Cruises, Aqua Expeditions and Noble Caledonia.

It all adds up to an unequalled array of choice in this niche area of cruising, but one that is likely to grow still further in 2011.

We have also welcomed a superb line-up of new vessels, notably P&O's Azura, the grand Queen Elizabeth of Cunard, Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam, the amazing Allure of the Seas of Royal Caribbean, the chic Le Boreal of Ponant Lines, NCL's immense Norwegian Epic and the Celebrity Eclipse, the latest of Celebrity's Solstice-class vessels which are quickly establishing themselves as the gold standard in the large premium category.

From the personal point of view, it was hard to beat our trip to Chile with Nomads, where we discovered not only a peerless cruise experience, but a stunning part of the world and unfailingly friendly people.

And then, going from one extreme to the other (arguably the smallest ship in the world to the largest), our time aboard the new Allure of the Seas was also eye-opening, with the entertainment on this colossus of the seas raising the bar in this field yet again.

On the negative side, we were dismayed by the example of the Carnival Splendor, which suffered a fire and major power failure on the Mexican Riviera in November, requiring it to be towed back to port with some seriously disgruntled passengers. One subsequent report suggests Carnival have a problem with their safety procedures for dealing with fires at sea, and we sincerely hope that the right lessons are learned from this incident.

Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas then hit seriously rough weather in the Med earlier this month, with the ship suffering minor internal damage and a number of passengers being hurt, several with broken limbs. It was a salutary reminder that the sea still has power to make cruise ships distinctly wary about where, and when, they cruise.

Sadly, we also saw the demise of a long-time specialist operator, as Cruise West went bankrupt as they became a belated victim of the big recession that has affected large parts of the travel industry.

Happily, these remain exceedingly rare examples of the negative side of a business that continues to boom and attract new devotees on a daily basis. For the millions now cruising, it is still a source of almost endless fun and fascination; great value for money; and superb travelling style, with the vast array of ports of call now available.

Or, as we like to say at World of Cruising, it is just one more great adventure!