Sunday, 30 December 2012

Argentina v Falklands - Cruise "Cowards" Row Rumbles On

Since the Daily Telegraph highlighted the decision of more cruise lines to pull out of visits to the Falkland Islands after "intimidation" by Argentina (i.e. by the Argentinean ports saying they cannot guarantee the safety of visiting ships that also visit the Falklands), and our red-hot debate over whether this amounts to cruise cowardice - more news agencies have picked up the story and highlighted the massive iniquity in operation here.

Our columnist Captain Greybeard added a blog about it on his regular posting for the Daily Mirror, pointing out our editor's comments on the situation and highlighting the lines involved.

The Shipping Times also weighed in with more government reaction to the ongoing dispute, which, of course, dates back to Argentina's dispute of the sovereignty of the Islands, claiming them as their own while they have been a British territory since 1833 (with the 1982 War being the most obvious example of that histility).

Another Telegraph story highlights British PM David Cameron's call for the Islanders themselves to send the world a definitive message about their nationality wishes in their March referendum.

Friday's Montreal Gazette also mentioned the issue in their weekly cruise round-up, opining that "Hopefully, Argentina will grow up when it comes to allowing ships that berth in their ports to visit the Falklands." We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

And even USA Today has covered the story, asking if Argentina should be boycotted as a result of their rogue behaviour (another view we would share whole-heartedly).

It will be interesting to see if more mainstream media pick up on this theme in 2013, and if the UK's Passenger Shipping Association has any comment about it.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Check Out Voyages Of Discovery In 2013

Discovery-led cruise line Voyages of Discovery has launched new ‘Saver Fares’ with savings of up to £250 per person on selected itineraries. Theyare ideal for customers looking for a great deal and are available on nine cruises within the Summer and Winter 2013-14 programmes. Saver Fares are limited in availability so guests are encouraged to book early to secure the best fare.

Current Saver Fare itineraries include:

  • The 10-day Heritage of the British Isles cruise from £949 per person (based on two sharing an inside cabin), which works out at less than £95 per person per day. The voyage departs from Portsmouth on June 2 and calls at Holyhead, Belfast, Oban and Port of Tyne.
  • The 18-day Indian, Arabian and African Contrasts cruise from £1,149 per person (based on two sharing an inside cabin), or less than £64 per person, per day. Departing from Mumbai (overnight) on March 21, it calls at Porbandar, Muscat (overnight) and Safaga (overnight).
  • The 14-day Springtime European Voyager cruise from £849 per person (again, based on two sharing an inside cabin), or less than £61 per person, per day. Departing from Civitavecchia (Rome), it calls at San Remo (Italy), Valencia (Spain), Cartagena (Spain) and Leixoes (Portugal). Price is based on a 21 April 2014 UK departure.

Offers are also available on the following itineraries: Celtic Treasures, Mediterranean Medley, Adriatic, Aegean and Corinth Canal, In the Footsteps of St Paul, Windows on the Ancient World and East to Myanmar and the Orient.

Saver Fares include return flights from the UK on fly-cruises, all relevant overseas transfers, meals and entertainment and the Guest Speaker programme on board the ship. 

For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's adventure-cruise specialists.

Friday, 28 December 2012

P&O's 2013 Wave Promotion

P&O Cruises is offering exceptional value cruises during the traditional "wave" peak booking period from December to February, with its best-ever value holidays from only £599 per person for a seven-night Vantage Fare, to include a Price Promise protection and a low deposit of 10% for bookings until February 28.

Designed to give added peace of mind to holidaymakers, especially to those booking early to secure the cruise of their choice, Vantage Fares have a range of benefits, including choice of cabin, flexibility to make amendments to or even change the cruise or cabin up to 90 days prior to departure, and one of the following; onboard spending money, free car parking in Southampton or return coach travel to Southampton.

The Price Promise protection ensures that, should the price of a cruise reduce, passengers will be awarded the difference in price with onboard spending money or a cabin upgrade. If, however, the price of a cruise should rise after the booking has been made, passengers are assured they have received excellent value by booking early.

A low deposit offer of 10%, down from the usual 15%, also applies to Vantage Fare bookings made by February 28. These offers include:

Best value cruise:
A seven-night European cruise break on Oriana departing April 14. Vantage Fares from £599 per person. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call are Vigo, Lisbon, Oporto and La Coruna.

NEW Classic FM music-themed cruise:
A 14-night Iceland cruise with Classic FM on Aurora departing June 4. Vantage Fares from £1,499 per person. A repertoire of opera, operetta and recitals will be hosted by acclaimed Classic FM presenters, and passengers can enjoy interviews and musical quizzes, along with the usual high-quality mix of entertainment.

NEW food and wine themed cruise:
A 28-night Caribbean cruise with Marco Pierre White (pictured, above) and Eric Lanlard on Adonia departing November 22. Vantage Fares from £2,439 per person. This brand new food-and-wine-themed cruise will be joined by celebrity chef  White and master pâtissier and 'Cake Boy' legend Lanlard. Together they will offer their expertise and provide on board demonstrations, private master-classes, hosted dinners, book signings and Q&A sessions in the theatre. They will also host a range of shore excursions to restaurants and markets.

As ever, for bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's cruising specialists.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

SeaDream's New Brochure Bonus

SeaDream Yacht Club has introduced a newly-designed, full-colour, 80-page brochure reflecting their yachting lifestyle and featuring the 2013/14 voyage programme of their chic, twin vessels SeaDream I and SeaDream II. For the first time, all voyages are shown in pounds sterling.

The highlights are as follows:

The all-new autumn 2013 Costa Rica programme sees SeaDream’s first sailings across the “top” of South America, its first visit to Gatun Lake and Nicaragua, Costa Rica, itself, with inaugural sailings through the great Panama Canal. Typical voyages such as SeaDream I’s 7-night Caldera round-trip 'Costa Rica & Panama Discovery' sailing on November 30 start from £2,266pp, including all fees, handling and port tax.

The brand new autumn/spring 2013/14 Asia programme aboard SeaDream II features 18 different departures, and visits almost every nation with a coast in Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), East Timor, Indonesia, New Guinea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong. Sailings range from 7 to 14 nights and the programme kicks off with an inaugural trans-Suez and a trans-Indian Ocean sailing.

A typical 7-night itinerary such as 'Asian Fantasia' round-trip from Singapore on April 4, 2014, costs from £3,095pp, while a typical longer voyage such as her 14-night 'Voyage of the Warrors' sailing from Cairns to Bali departing on February 1, 2014, costs from £5,995pp.

An exciting highlight of the summer 2014 Northern Europe season sees SeaDream operating its first cruise from Britain, a 14-night Baltic Capitals voyage departing on August 30 round-trip from Dover, with lead-in early booking fares starting from £6,655pp. After the inaugural round-trip UK sailing, SeaDream I heads for Lisbon, then Rome and on to Athens to join her sister ship in the Mediterranean through to the end of the summer.

For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's luxury cruise specialists.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Cruise Cowards?

Silversea Cruises is the latest line to pull out of cruise calls to the Falkland Islands following threats of intimidation at Argentine ports.

They join a list of companies, including Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises and German Aida Cruises who have all cancelled Falklands visits after being told their "safety" couldn't be guaranteed at the likes of Ushuaia and Buenos Aires if they also called at Port Stanley.

Excuse me? The safety of ships visiting Argentinean ports can't be guaranteed, so you cancel calls to the Falklands?

Doesn't that sound totally twisted in terms of logic? Moral cowardice, even?

If Argentina can't guarantee ship safety at their ports (and somehow makes it a Falklands issue), isn't the answer not to go to Argentina? Exactly like P&O Cruises announced, by cancelling their visits to Argentina.

It's perfectly feasible for ships to miss the likes of Ushuaia and Buenos Aires and instead call at Punta Arenas (Chile), Montevideo (Uruguay), South Georgia and Port Stanley. If they want to.

Why in the name of all that's sane would you go to the "unsafe" ports and cut out the ones that still welcome cruise ships and go out of their way to accommodate them? Isn't that just giving in to a bully?

Silversea's UK general manager, Mike Bonner, in the ultimate example of Orwellian double-speak, insisted: "Due to ongoing political uncertainty, Silversea has taken the decision to cancel scheduled calls at Port Stanley for voyages departing in the coming weeks. These voyages will now include alternate ports of call and, where possible, guests will be notified prior to embarkation. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by these schedule changes. The safety of our crew and passengers remains our foremost concern.”

So, "political uncertainty" in Argentina means you still go there? Really? In the same way that, for example, political uncertainty in Egypt means cruise lines cancelling calls to Alexandria. Do you see a difference?

Come on, Mike. That is absolute baloney and you know it. The cruise lines may think they need Argentina, but that is definitely not the case. And, if you tell your customers the real story, I'm sure the majority will back you up.

Boycott Argentina - NOT the Falklands.

Hawaii, Epilogue

Some final thoughts on our big Hawaii cruise-and-stay adventure with Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgin Holidays and Disney's Aulani Resort...

This 12-day trip was an unmitigated success with us, a pure joy to experience and a great advertisement for Hawaii, Norwegian, Virgin Holidays and all the resorts we stayed at (three in four nights).

From arrival at Honolulu to our departure at the same point, everything went off like clockwork and the whole spirit and welcoming vibe of the islands was crystal clear everywhere.

With Norwegian's excellent 7-day itinerary providing 2 days on each of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, it provided an in-depth view of each destination - and the great diversity of each one. And finishing with 3 nights on Oahu was a great choice to ensure we had a fully rounded experience here, too.
So here are a few final thoughts from the whole journey...

It's stating the obvious but Hawaii is one of THE great cruise destinations, like Alaska.

Norwegian's shore excursion experience here (with Roberts Hawaii) is priceless and well worth taking advantage of.

Some of the great little 'extras' include masses of fresh tropical fruit (notably locally grown pineapple, guava, papaya and passionfruit), fabulous coffee (notably on Kauai as well as the Big Island), superb seafood, with several fish we hadn't sampled before, and the blissful climate, which rarely varies from 80-85F and without the enervating humidity we get in Florida for much of the year (and the Caribbean and Mexico).
The climate alone is enough to make the trip worthwhile, and the scenery is rarely short of spectacular, but it is the people who ultimately make Hawaii come alive as a destination. We had so many wonderful encounters with the locals wherever we went, we were always made to feel like 'ohana, or family, not mere visitors. The sights, sounds, tastes and aromas were all distinctive, and they combine to form one overwhelming, long-lasting impression.

Outrageous sunsets are also part of the deal here and the sheer variety of landscape is also breathtaking. We would rate things like Haleakala Crater (Maui), Volcanoes National Park (the Big Island), Waimea Canyon (Kauai), and Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Kualoa Ranch and the North Shore (all on Oahu) absolute must-sees.
It is rare that a seven-day cruise can pack in so many essential destination experiences and, with a pre or post-cruise stay on Oahu, this is very nearly the perfect destination (the fact it is such a long haul for most people is something of a drawback, but then it wouldn't be so enticing if it was nearby!).

It is not a cheap place to visit certainly (many prices for things like car fuel, hotels and even meals are above what you'd pay on the mainland or in the Caribbean) but this is definitely unlike anywhere else, hence it is most assuredly worth it.

We have already resolved to return in future, whether by ship or shore, and that, ultimately is the test of any destination, if it leaves you wanting more. 

So, Aloha Hawaii and a hui hou, or, until we meet again...! 
PS: Don't forget to "read all about it" in our full eight-page Hawaii special in the new Winter edition of World of Cruising magazine (left) - out now! See full subscription details on this link.


Monday, 24 December 2012

Great Offers From Oceania

If you're looking for the perfect New Year cruise bargain, this latest little selection from Oceania Cruises may be just the ticket.

Feb 26: 16 nights, £3,589, saving £1,975
A $300 per stateroom onboard credit is being offered to guests booking Oceania's `Splendours Down Under’ cruise on the 1,250-guest luxury ship Marina, renowned for its culinary excellence, wine pairing centre and hands-on cookery school. The sailing of New Zealand’s south-eastern coastline concludes in Australia, to call into Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney.
March 28: Caribbean Hideaways, 10 nights, from £1,809, saving £959
Cruise the Caribbean islands of Tortola (above), Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Barts on board new luxury cruise ship Riviera, also with a $300 per stateroom credit to spend in the ship’s bars, spa and boutiques. 
July 3: 10 nights, Rome to Venice, £1,339, saving £1,590 
Oceania has a saving of £1,590pp off its `Italian Escapade’ cruise from Rome to Venice, calling into Livorno, Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Sicily, Corfu, Kotor, Dubrovnik and Venice. The cruise is on the line's latest luxury vessel, the 1,250-guest Riviera

In all cases, the cruise price includes return UK flights, all meals, no supplement for specialty dining, complimentary bottled water and soft drinks.

For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's luxury cruising specialists.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Hawaii, The Disney Way

Completing our big Hawaii cruise-and-stay adventure with Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Holidays, we have finally arrived at Disney's Aulani Resort...

Being big Disney buffs (OK, so we live in Orlando and write guidebooks about Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris!), we were keen to see if we could wangle a stay at their new (in 2011) Aulani Resort to finish off our trip and, thanks to their Orlando-based office, we were offered a two-night stay to complete our trip.

And we're so glad we did. While Waikiki may be fun and Honolulu is a happening city, the west coast is far more relaxed and peaceful, and Disney have refined this idea to the nth degree with this latest example of their Vacation Club timeshare resort, which is also open to the general public on a straightforward hotel basis.
We'd heard that the attention to detail was extravagant and that the combination of Disney design style and Hawaiian tradition was a good match, but it was even better than that. This is a dream resort with bags of local colour and style, and with a big-resort expansiveness that is great for families and couples alike.

Checking in on our first evening, we were directed to the 12th floor and a beautiful Oceanview Parlor Suite - a full-size bedroom and bathroom with a separate living area, kitchenette and W/C. It wasn't a hotel room, it was an apartment, with space to spare on the double-width balcony looking down over the resort amenities and out to the private beach bay that the Resort shares with the Marriott next door.
We were amazed. And the quality of the fixtures and fittings was superb, too. Genuine local furniture, all with an overt Hawaiian touch and feel, but surprisingly little obvious Mickey-ness. If this is a Disney resort, then it's a Disney resort for grown-ups, with the facilities to match (marvellous Spa, choice of bars and restaurants, evening story-telling, freeform pool, lazy river feature, tropical snorkelling reef, and more).

Here was true chill-out territory, with the added bonus of all the up-tempo, upscale facilities you could possibly want, with a golf course next door, a beautiful coastal walk and plenty of beach amenities, including paddle-boarding and kayaking.
We were determined to make the most of our time here - hence we didn't go anywhere else until it was time to go back to the airport! We paddled in the pools, lazed in the double, vanishing-point hot-tubs, had lunch at Off The Hook (the open-air poolside bar and lounge), walked the beach, had cocktails in The 'Olelo Room and marvelled at the amount of clever Hawaii story-telling woven into the design and landscaping.

The Lazy River was truly gorgeous by day and, by night, the whole resort took on an extra dimension of South Seas splendour. Two days? We could easily be here for a month!
On our final night we splashed out in style with dinner at the signature 'AMA'AMA restaurant, featuring contemporary island cuisine. With its own range of cocktails and a refined, beach-side ambience, we enjoyed some fabulous appetisers (their version of corn chowder - quite heavenly - and a tasty proscuitto and olive flatbread) and then weighed in to two of the best main courses we have tried in a while - a Thai seafood curry, cooked in its own bag and served tableside, and the Fresh Sustainable Catch of the Day, a Hawaiian snapper, Opakapaka, with asparagus and peppers in a rich tomato broth.

Dinner for two with pre-dinner cocktails and wine was a princely $190 - but worth every cent. We absolutely adored the friendly-but-upscale feel, a taste of the tropics but without any formality. It seemed to sum up the lavish Aulani style perfectly. Of course, there were still typical Disney character meet-and-greets for those who wanted them, and we throughly enjoyed breakfast at The 'Olelo Room on our final morning watching the many kids (and adults!) queuing up to have their photo taken with Mickey or Minnie.
The real genius, we felt, was the clever intermix of modern design and amenity with traditional Hawaiian ethos; a perfect blend of modern sensibilities and Polynesian friendliness.

And as a final taste of the islands, it was simply off-the-charts wonderful. There was even a Christmas Hula show when we got back to the airport for our flight home (via Los Angeles), as if to remind us of what we'd be missing on departure.

But, if there is one thing that Hawaii does do, in spades, it is get under your skin and demand a repeat visit at some stage. We WILL be back...and hopefully you will, too. If nothing else, this blog series should have shown just how much you can do with this fabulous cruise-and-stay option - and just how much there is to enjoy!

Alaska Unleashed With InnerSea Discoveries

Hiking in Alaskan backcountry, a glacier trek and extended kayaking in ice-filled fjords and wilderness bays are on the menu for outdoor enthusiasts eager to discover south-east Alaska’s remote beauty on an adventure cruise with InnerSea Discoveries. On three 'Alaska Unleashed' departures in summer 2013, the Wilderness Adventurer (above) guest capacity is slashed from 60 to 36 guests for an amped up week of high adventure, and guests booked by January 11 will receive a $100 shipboard credit per person.

Meant for active travellers who are happiest spending all day outside on full-day adventures, the line recommends that guests choosing an Unleashed departure engage in regular weekly physical activities equal to 25-mile bike rides or 5-mile runs/hikes.Sailing between Juneau and Ketchikan, and the reverse, week-long Alaska Unleashed Adventures depart on June 8, July 13 and August 10, with each departure featuring a regional expert on board for special presentations: 

  • June 8: Amy Gulick, an award-winning nature photographer and writer, a founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and author of Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest.
  • July 13: John and Jan Straley, Alaska residents; John is an author and Jan is a marine biologist. 
  •  August 10: Joe Upton, who spent 20 years exploring Alaska and the north-west coast, catching fish, making maps, taking photos, and collecting his award-winning stories; also author of Bering Sea Blues, a memoir of winter crab fishing in the Bering Sea. 

Cruise fares start at $5,595 per person based on double occupancy. Cruise rates include transfers and all activities except optional excursions. Port fees of $175 per person per week, spirits and gratuities are extra.

To book, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's adventure cruise specialists.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Swan Hellenic’s Big Saver Fares For 2013

Book with Swan Hellenic before the December 31 and save up to £300 per person with their special Saver Fares on selected cruises to a variety of worldwide destinations with, including Sri Lanka, Jordan, Italy, Norway and remote Spitsbergen.

The 15-day To Sri Lanka Shores cruise (Feb 13), available from £1,850 per person (based on two sharing an inside cabin), highlights the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the remote Andaman Islands and the UNESCO heritage site of Galle in Sri Lanka. The itinerary departs from Singapore and calls at Port Klang (Malaysia), Penang (Malaysia), Langkawi (Malaysia), Port Blair (Andaman Islands), Chennai (India), Trincomalee (Sri Lanka), Galle and Colombo (Sri Lanka).

The 15-day Above the Arctic Circle cruise (complete with Polar Bear - above!), available from £2,895 per person (based on two sharing an inside cabin, sailing July 4), includes a fascinating call to Spitsbergen, where four unforgettable days will reveal immense glaciers, magnificent fjords and isolated communities. The itinerary departs from Portsmouth and calls at Florø, Bodø, Tromsø, Spitsbergen, Leknes, the Lofoten Islands, Brønnøysund and Bergen before returning to Portsmouth.

Offers are also available on the following cruises: By Sea to Petra, Palaces & Gardens and Oslo & the Fjords.

Cabins will not be allocated at time of booking and Saver Fares cannot be combined with any other promotional offer. Applies to bookings made by December 31 on selected 2013 cruises only. Prices include relevant transfers, a tailor-made programme of shore excursions, talks by eminent Guest Speakers, meals and entertainment on board, all gratuities and all relevant cruise taxes/fees (a supplement for some shore excursions may apply).  

For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's adventure-cruising specialists.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Hawaii Ground Cruise - Day 2

Continuing our 12-day 'grand voyage' of Hawaii with Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Holidays, we have a second day to explore Oahu...

After our full day on our return to Honolulu, we wanted to make the most of another chance to explore as much of the island as possible with our hire car, so we were (again) up early to get started - both because our first appointment was on the other side of Oahu but also because the Kahala Resort was having to deal with a slightly tricky organisational issue - the Honolulu Marathon, which had effectively cut it off from the rest of Waikiki!
To get to our car, which had been moved overnight to the nearby shopping mall, we had to get a taxi shuttle to the end of the Kahala resort property, walk across the line of the Marathon (dodging runners on the way!), then get another taxi shuttle (all laid on by the Resort) to the Mall, where we again had to dodge Marathon competitors (although these were more at walking pace!) to get across the road to the parking area. Phew!

Amazingly, everything was so well organised we were still on our way on to the Highway within 10 minutes of leaving the hotel and soon winging our way across the island, as most of the traffic seemed to be heading IN to Honolulu rather than the way we wanted to go.

Our first destination today was the Kualoa Ranch on the north-east coast, and it required taking Highway 1 and then Highway 3, the equivalent of interstate highways in Hawaii, albeit with speed limits as low as 45mph in places. Highway 3 was apparently one of the most expensive pieces of road ever built in the US as it required cutting a tunnel through the Ko'Olau Mountains and avoiding a number of Hawaiian archaeological sites that turned up along the route.
Still, it was worth the drive as the passage over and through the Mountains was immense and the scenery on both sides just jaw-droppingly beautiful. As we reached the coast and turned north-west, the mountains kept us company on our left, with the ocean on the right, and Oahu was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. With the scenery continuing to be just as spectacular, we reached the Ranch and were wowed all over again.

Kualoa had been strongly recommended for us by our friend Stewart Chiron (The Cruise Guy), and it was easy to see why. Set into the slopes of the mountains, and along the stunning Ka'a'awa Valley, it is a breathtaking location for nature and terrain tours, and it is clearly picture perfect as a film location - which is exactly why scenes from Jurassic Park, Godzilla, George of the Jungle, Windtalkers, 50 First Dates and the TV series Lost (among many others) were all shot here.
The Ranch offers a number of different tours, including horse-riding, hiking, its own beach and even Hula lessons - as well as being a great venue for weddings - and we were able to sample three in our few hours here. First we tried the standard Movie Sites & Ranch Tour, a bus ride around the main part of the 4,000-acre working ranch and into the Ka'a'awa Valley, where so many of the movies were filmed. Then we were able to try something a little more adventurous with the Jungle Expedition Tour in a 6-wheel Pinzgauer jeep, which took us deeper into the rainforest and for a little hike up a ridge that provided a brilliant look down the full length of the Valley.
Finally, we got to try their 1-hour ATV Tour, a chance to ride these great all-terrain vehicles around much of the Ranch, going back into the Valley and getting a better close-up of some of the film sites (we did stop for the inevitable Jurassic Park shot!). The people there couldn't have been any friendlier and we left only reluctantly, as we wanted to try to get to the North Shore to see some serious surfing before heading back to Honolulu. The Ranch also boasted a great cafe and gift shop and we were able to get a good (late) breakfast and a few souvenirs before leaving.

We had initially planned on taking the 45-minute drive north to Sunset Bay where some of the biggest waves are reputed to be, and the surfing is truly mega, then return to the well-known Crouching Lion restaurant for a late lunch. But, after reaching the Bay and seeing some serious waves (WAY too rough for swimming, but apparently surfing was OK!), we were told there was actually a surf competition further along the coast, so we jumped back in the car and headed along.
Sure enough, at the appropriately-named Banzai Pipeline there was a MAJOR event going as as the roads were packed and the beach was swarming with thousands of spectators for the Pipemasters event. We saw only the last 15-20 minutes or so but it was enough to prove competitive surfers are truly mental as the idea of being out in those kinds of waters, let alone trying to 'ride' them (or surf through the pipe, as they were doing - spot the surfer in the pic above!), is hideously ridiculous. Suffice it to say it made for great viewing and we left feeling like we had walked into a movie set.

By now, lunchtime was a LONG way in the rear-view mirror and there seemed to be nothing in the vicinity of the beach restaurant-wise, so we were trapped into moving (slowly) along with the traffic in the vague direction of Honolulu
Thankfully, we were able to turn off into the town of Haleiwa, where Jameson's By The Sea was the perfect place for an early dinner. With the sun setting over the distant hills and views into the bay where paddle-boarders and more surfers were still out playing, it was a fabulous vista to finish the day, while our fish dishes were quite excellent (Mahi-Mahi and Ulua, a new fish to us but a real winner in taste terms).

Finally, with the sun now long set, we drove back into Honolulu to pick up our baggage from the Kahala Resort (thinking it not wise to leave it in the car at all during the day). Then we drove back OUT of Honolulu to the west coast this time for a brand new adventure, where we would spend our final two nights (but more of that in the next episode, as I know we have a number of keen Disney fans eager to hear more...!).

Next up - Disney's Aulani Resort. 

Free Flight Incentive For Galapagos With G Adventures

G Adventures has announced it will cover one-way flight costs between Lima and Quito for any of its travellers combining an itinerary in Peru with a trip to the Galapagos archipelago in 2013. The offer is valid for all trips departing in 2013 and gives travellers a great opportunity to get the most out of their South American experience, while saving money at the same time. 

The company runs a number of tours in both Peru and in the Galapagos Islands, and by offering a free flight between the two, travellers can see both of these amazing destinations in one hit without breaking the bank. 

One-way tickets are available between Lima and Quito (in Ecuador) for up to 30 days between the two tour dates, allowing travellers the flexibility to spend a few extra days seeing the highlights of the area either at the end or start of either of their trips. 

For more details, see or contact the adventure-cruise specialists of the Cruise Line Ltd on 0800 008 6677.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Singles Save With Star Clippers

Tall-ship sailing specialist Star Clippers is offering savings of up to £500 per person for solo travellers booking a double cabin (for single occupancy) on a choice of two escorted art-themed cruises in the Mediterranean in 2013. Guests on the two sailings can enjoy art tuition and the company of like-minded aspiring artists in some of the most beautiful settings of the Mediterranean: the French and Italian Rivieras in April or the coast of Croatia in September.

A cruise on Star Clippers’ graceful tall ships is the perfect holiday for single travellers, due to the friendly, relaxed atmosphere on board. The al fresco Tropical Bar is the ideal place to chat to fellow guests while watching the scenery drift by. Meals are informal, with open seating and the opportunity to sit with other guests, so nobody has to dine alone unless they want to.

On the Art Afloat voyages, the group will have the opportunity to attend daily workshops and spend time sketching and painting ashore together, creating an ideal environment for spending time with people with a shared interest.

Each cruise is escorted by Suffolk-born Richard Nichols, a successful artist who specialises in seascapes and coastal scenes. Richard will run workshops covering everything from sketching to watercolours, aimed at all levels of experience and helping artists to capture the dazzling turquoise of the sea along the Croatian coast, the texture of a cream sail filled with wind, or the ochres and terracottas of the houses lining the chic little bay of Portofino.

Included in the cruise price is a special lightweight artist’s backpack that converts into a seat for sitting and sketching on location. The backpack contains sketchbooks, paper, watercolours, brushes and pencils, so guests do not need to supply any equipment.

The ‘Art Afloat’ cruises are:

Monaco round-trip on Star Clipper, seven nights, departing April 27, and calling at Calvi, Bonifacio, Costa Smeralda, Portoferraio, Lerici and Santa Margarita (for Portofino). From £2,199 per person including flights to Nice, transfers, full board on the ship, sole occupancy of a double cabin, all art equipment, daily tuition and welcome cocktail party. Saving: £170 per person.

Venice round-trip on Royal Clipper, eight nights, departing September 27, and calling at Kotor, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Rovinj and Piran, with a night in Venice before the cruise. From £2,399 per person including flights to Venice, transfers, one night’s B&B accommodation in Venice, full board on the ship, sole occupancy of a double cabin, all art equipment, daily tuition and welcome cocktail party. Saving: £500 per person.

For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's luxury cruising specialists.

The Aloha Cruise - On Dry Land

Continuing our grand Hawaii cruise adventure with Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Holidays. The 7-day cruise is over, but there's more in store...!

While we had planned for the full seven-day cruise aboard Pride of America, with that much-needed overnight stay at the Modern Honolulu Hotel the day before, we were asked by Virgin Holidays - who had helped with our flights from Florida - if we could stay on for an extra couple of days to see something of their resort choice on Oahu as well.

With their help - and a very generous offer from the Walt Disney company - we were able to extend our stay to three extra nights, starting with a night at the exclusive Kahala Resort on our return to Honolulu. And we were SO glad we had the additional time, both to truly see some of this island and also to relax a little (because, for all the fact it had been a wonderful cruise, we had packed a LOT into the 7 days).

Our first item of business was to pick up a hire car from the Airport (a 15-minute shuttle ride from the port - and just $7 per person with Roberts Hawaii), and then we were finally off under our steam.

With all our luggage in the car, we were advised it was extremely unwise to park in any of the tourist spots on the island as car theft (when obvious items are in view) is somewhat prevalent. Therefore, we headed straight to the Kahala so we could leave our baggage there, even though it meant driving to the far side of Waikiki and then returning to Pearl Harbor, our main target for the day.

We were actually glad we did as the Resort took a bit of finding in daylight, and we were able to navigate back later on with no trouble. It is also quite stunning, with a beautiful entrance reception area that we took to terming New World Chic for its airy, contemporary styling. It was also in the middle of one of its trademark Dolphin Shows at the big seaside lagoon that sits at the back of the resort (a more personal Dolphin Quest adventure is also available but we were happy just to watch the Christmas-themed show).

Once unloaded, we stopped off at the Diamond Head crater, the iconic volcanic outcrop at the end of Waikiki Beach. Here you can drive (or hike) in and then follow the winding path  and 175 steps to the crater summit for a wonderful overview of Waikiki. Due to the fact we didn't have two hours to spare (or any water on a pretty hot day), we opted for a look around inside the crater (including the history of the Crater as a WWII army base) and just a gentle wander along the path to get the general idea. We will be back to tackle the summit another time, though!

Next, we headed for the site of the infamous Japanese attack that brought America into WWII. Pearl Harbor is still a working military base, but there is also the main Visitor Center, with 5 distinct historic sites to peruse and learn about this tragic day for the US Navy, when some 3,500 lost their lives to the sneak attack.

The free-admission USS Arizona Memorial offers a film about the main attack on the island and the ship that took the biggest hits on that fateful day, with a boat ride over to the site of the ship itself, with a hugely poignant display and tribute to the 1,177 men who perished aboard. 

For an additional fee, we went over to the USS Missouri, or the Mighty Mo, one of the WWII battleships that 'bookended' the War by being the place where Japan officially surrendered on September 2, 1945. The Missouri also served in the Korean and Gulf Wars before being retired here in 1999. A full tour of the battleship would take several hours but we managed to do it in about 90 minutes, ending quite in awe of how much of the ship's interior you can actually see.

Other exhibits included the submarine USS Bowfin, which offered more interior touring and the story of the Pacific's under-sea war, and the Museum and Park, with its moving memorial to the 52 US submarines lost in the course of duty. We would have loved to include the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Oklahoma Memorial (the other big battleship lost during the raid, along with 429 crewmen), but it was already gone 4pm and things were closing, and we also had one other stop we wanted to make on our way back to the Kahala.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located in the Punchbowl Crater overlooking Waikiki and is otherwise known as the Arlington of the West. Another volcanic crater - albeit not as big as Diamond Head, the Punchbowl is a dramatic and fitting tribute to the many US servicemen and women who have died in the various Pacific theatres of war. Superbly laid out, with dramatic views from the crater rim, this is a somber but impressive memorial to those who died in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam, as well as being the resting place for servicefolk and their families in between.

 Our day was completed back at the Kahala Resort, luxuriating in a walk along the beach at dusk and then retiring to the Verandah Lounge for drinks and a light meal (in our case, a superb burger and some sushi) while we contemplated the enormity of our Hawaii journey so far. We were still waking up FAR too early in the morning but, all in all, it was worth it, as we were covering a lot of ground...

Next up - Kualoa Ranch and the North Shore