Thursday, 31 May 2012

Experience The Star Clippers 'Small Port' Style

Those tired of arriving in port to find it crammed with giant ships and several thousand cruise passengers swarming all over town should consider cruising on a smaller ship with access to less crowded and more remote destinations.
Tall-ship sailing specialist Star Clippers sails itineraries that feature wonderfully off-the-beaten-track ports and anchorages, some so remote they are visited by no other ships, others accessible only to sailing ships like the company’s three graceful full-rigged tall ships.
Small ports in the Mediterranean
Ponza, Italy: Visited by wealthy Italian weekenders who have homes there but otherwise unspoiled and rarely touched by the larger cruise lines. There are plenty of authentic bars and restaurants in the pretty town. Featured on Royal Clipper’s Rome-Rome itineraries throughout Summer 2012.
Dalyan River, Turkey: An anchorage attracting only the smallest ships. Take a flat-bottomed boat ride along the river, which is lined by reed beds, to see spectacular Lycean tombs cut into the rocks above, while keeping an eye out for the turquoise flash of a kingfisher. The excursion here includes a stop at a natural outdoor thermal pool with therapeutic mud baths. Featured on Star Clipper’s Southern Cyclades itineraries this summer.
Hvar, Croatia: Famous among the yachting fraternity but not visited by many cruise ships, other than very small or very upmarket vessels. Hvar is one of the smartest marinas along the Croatian coast, with a great nightlife scene in summer. Stony beaches mean the water is crystal clear, with some wonderful swimming spots from tiny, pine-fringed beaches. Featured on Royal Clipper’s Venice-Rome itineraries.
Limnos, Greece: As sleepy as a Greek island as you could hope to get, with decent swimming and snorkelling and a laid-back town overlooked by an amazing ruined castle, with extensive battlements snaking over the mountaintop. Featured on Star Clipper’s Yachtsman’s Paradise itineraries on June 23 and August 18.
Monemvasia, Greece: A fortified medieval town clinging to a towering hunk of rock that’s linked to the mainland by a causeway. Cross the causeway and climb the path to the upper town, a maze of narrow, cobbled streets, and the fortress for amazing views. Featured on Star Clipper’s Northern Cylades itineraries this summer.

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

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

St Helena Still On The Rise

The remote South Atlantic island of St Helena continues to prosper, with visitor figures rising by three per cent in 2011, according to latest statistics released by St Helena Tourism. Overall, 2,177 visitors were brought to St Helena’s shores in 2011 by the unique 128-berth passenger/cargo vessel, the RMS St Helena, currently the only regular means of accessing the island.

The UK remains the second largest source of tourists (behind South Africa, the nearest mainland to the island), accounting for 33 per cent of all tourists to the destination. With construction underway for the island’s very first airport, expected to be operational by December 2015, tourism is forecast to grow.

In addition to passengers brought ashore by the RMS St Helena, cruise ship arrivals are also rising. Seven cruise ships called at St Helena in 2011/12 bringing more than 2,800 passengers ashore, compared to 1,600 passengers in 2010/11.

A recent survey conducted by the tourist board reported very positive satisfaction levels among cruise visitors, with over 90% of visitors rating their visit as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ with people describing St Helena as ‘a place to rival Eden’. An encouraging 92% said they would recommend the island to their friends. Highlights mentioned including Jacob’s Ladder, the Napoleonic sites and Plantation House, residence of the island’s Governor and home to Jonathan the tortoise – reputed to be the oldest living animal in the world.

For bookings, be sure to contact The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's leading adventure cruise cruise specialists on 0800 008 6677.

The Glorious Danube - In Transit

Continuing our epic river-cruise along the Danube on the River Duchess of Uniworld, travelling through eastern Europe...

Romania to Serbia, Part 2

That night’s Captain’s Dinner was also memorable, not least for our utterly captivating host, Captain Michael Hoffman, who regaled us with tales of life in Romania, his 5-hectare watermelon plantation – and the fact he ran away from home at 14 to avoid being a farmer!

The food was once again excellent, accompanied by complimentary wines from Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. There may not be a lot of actual entertainment on board (this is small-scale cruising after all) but the evening meal is easily ‘entertainment’ in its own right, taken in suitably leisurely and graceful fashion.

Next morning it was another vista – and another country. This is Serbia, and the city of Belgrade, situated on a smaller tributary of the Danube but wreathed in a gloomy morning overcast and rain, giving little clue to its previous reputation as ‘The White City.’

Our day started with a fascinating modern history talk provided by a visiting Serbian professor, who gave us the full local story in perfect English. It was sobering to hear an internal view of the terrible conflict of 1991-95, where the former Yugoslavia practically tore itself apart with civil war between Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, a vicious and bloody struggle that saw many atrocities on each side – plus a heavy bombardment of Serbia by NATO forces.

The shocking sight of a former military ministry building in Belgrade left in its devastated state following direct hits by two Tomahawk Cruise missiles was the most startling view of the day, but the city has suffered mightily over the years (some 44 recorded battles going back to invasions by the Celts, Goths, Ottoman empire and others) and is in amazingly spry form all things considered.

After a coach tour of the main parts of the city – taking in the immense 17th century Kalemegdan Fortress, Marshall Tito’s tomb and the main shopping district – we were able to enjoy some time at leisure on our own and discovered the gardens around Kalemegdan, where the elderly locals gather to dance to accordion music, play chess and enjoy each other’s company – a gathering you suspect that has happened for generations in totally timeless fashion.

That evening, there was another treat in store back on board – a folk music and dance display by 11 members of a major local traditional troupe, all of them young, all of them enthusiastic and passionate about their culture. The violinist alone would entrance a much larger audience than the 80 of us in the Blue Danube lounge, and the 45-minute display was just a taste of their full three-hour 200-performer show (which is, amazingly enough, going on tour in the USA this autumn, including our home of Orlando!).

Dinner that night featured several Serbian specialities to round out an unforgettable and thought-provoking visit to this intriguing country. Next stop, Croatia…!

This ‘Imperial Capitals of Europe’ voyage can be booked at, with Titan Travel (in the UK only) at or, for more on river-cruising in general, seek out the luxury cruise-agent specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd on this link.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Glorious Danube - Travelling The River

Continuing our epic river-cruise along the Danube on the River Duchess of Uniworld, travelling through eastern Europe...
Romania to Serbia, Part 1

Having detailed much so far about life on board, I thought I would take some time to provide a look at the destinations we are travelling through.

This is Uniworld’s ‘Imperial Capitals of Europe’ cruise, an 11-day glide through the heart of eastern Europe, from Romania to Austria, and taking in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia in between, a huge slice of European history, culture, geography and architecture (plus food and wine!).

The basic idea is to use the riverboat as your ‘mobile home’ along the way, providing a comfortable and elegant mode of transport through these many different areas (like the old-fashioned coach tour but much more leisurely and relaxing).

Having flown in to Bucharest (the majority of he rest of the passengers arrived via Istanbul, where Uniworld had arranged a 3-day pre-cruise stay), we were immediately afforded a literal taste of Romanian culture with a healthy lunch at a big local restaurant.

That was followed by a full coach tour of the city, stopping en route to marvel at some of the architectural gems of the city, like Nicola Ceausescu’s massive Parliament building and the central square where the local people finally stood up to the vicious dictator in 1989.

From Buharest, we were whisked south to the town of Girgiu – and the River Duchess, the beautifully remodelled 132-passenger vessel that operates this voyage west to Vienna. Our first view of the mighty Danube – Europe’s second-longest river after the Volga in Russia – was also a memorable occasion, a huge stretch of inexorable east-flowing water, with Bulgaria on the south bank.

Our ‘welcome aboard’ was the first sign that this was to be a truly stylish and memorable journey, with the crew providing fresh fruit juice and cold towels to wash away any traces of the road, and a quick escort to our cabin.

That evening g we ‘set sail’ – all the way across the river to Ruse! OK, so not the biggest journey in the world but an introduction to another new country to us. Dinner that night was a pure delight, a genuine taste of Uniworld’s graceful cuisine, featuring local tastes but delivered in best continental style from an amazingly efficient galley. Portions are (happily) not large, but with a starter, soup course, main course and dessert, it is certainly sufficient for most appetites.

Next morning, it was up bright and early for breakfast and then off on an all-day coach excursion into the hinterland, destination the 16th and 17th century towns of Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi (the latter being a UNESCO World heritage site).

The weather was unremittingly grim, sadly, but the ship provided umbrellas and we were still able to enjoy some eye-catching sight-seeing, a walking tour of Arbanassi (including the 17th century merchant’s villa), a traditional lunch and a little shopping in Veliko Tarnovo with its array of local crafts.

Our longish journey back to the ship (which had moved up-river to Nikopol) took us through some of the poorest countryside in Bulgaria, and it was sobering to see such levels of near poverty  in this big rural area.

We sailed again that night – a bit further this time! – and awoke next day on one of the most evocative sections of the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria. Two mighty locks needed to be negotiated (the second, a double lock that took a full 90 minutes to pass through), providing plenty of visual stimulation, along with commentary from our Cruise Manager Christine.

The highlight, though, was saved for the final hour before dusk as we navigated the Iron Gates, the immense Danube gorge where the granite river walls soar more than 300ft above each side and narrow to just 160ft at one point. It makes for a stunning visual panorama, with our Duchess the only thing on the river in the fading brooding light and the sheer cliffs soaring on either side.

To be continued...

Get Set For A Caribbean Cruise Bonanza

Royal Caribbean have announced their winter 2013-14 Caribbean cruises on board six innovative ships, including new itineraries from New Orleans

Oasis, Allure, Independence, Freedom, Navigator and Serenade of the Seas will together offer 140 sailings on 31 itineraries that will call at 20 ports of call. Independence, Freedom, Navigator and Serenade of the Seas have all undergone recent enhancements to deliver more dining options, cutting-edge entertainment and modern on board features that first debuted on board the big new duo, Oasis and Allure.

Serenade will offer the new itineraries from New Orleans (Louisiana). Guests can be on board when the ship crosses the Atlantic and arrives in The Big Easy for the first time, on a 15-night itinerary, departing on November 27, 2013 from Barcelona. The first sailing will be a one-time, nine-night Caribbean Adventure, departing December 12, calling at Key West, Nassau, Labadee (Haiti) and Ocho Rios (Jamaica). Serenade will then alternate new seven-night Bahamas and Western Caribbean itineraries. On the Western itinerary, calls will be at Falmouth (Jamaica), Grand Cayman and Cozumel, while the Bahamas itinerary calls at Key West, Nassau and CocoCay.

Oasis and Allure will continue to alternate seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Sailing round-trip from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, the ships will call at Nassau, St Thomas and St. Maarten on the Eastern sailing and at Falmouth, Cozumel and Labadee on the Western route.

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

Monday, 28 May 2012

Crystal's Foot-Tapping Cruises

Whether tapping one’s toes to a soulful beat or enjoying a prima ballerina dance high upon hers, guests on three of Crystal Cruises’ ultra-luxury European voyages this summer will be treated to some of the richest rising young talent from the performing arts world. 

Continuing its esteemed partnership with The Music Centre – Performing Arts Centre of Los Angeles County, the three “Emerging Artists”-themed North Cape and Mediterranean cruises feature winners of the Music Centre’s annual Spotlight Awards. 

Guests can enjoy rousing performances from the programme’s top musicians, singers and dancers, as well as a rare “sneak peek” into master training classes.

Visiting acclaimed destinations throughout Italy, Monaco, Turkey, Ukraine, Denmark, Norway and more, each sailing features a consortium of artists performing around one musical focus:

  • 19th June: 12-night cruise from Venice to Istanbul on Crystal Serenity – ‘Ballet and the Classics’ with Royal Danish Ballet dancers, opera and classical pieces brought alive.
  • 8th July: 15-night cruise from Copenhagen to Stockholm on Crystal Symphony – Jazz-themed repertoire featuring a diversified mix of jazz performers.
  • 13th August: 12-night cruise from Venice to Barcelona on Crystal Serenity – Boasting an international twist, this “world tour” through music and movement features song, guitar and regional folk dancing.

Each voyage also includes Master Classes At Sea®, showcasing the intense mentoring and preparation required for professional career success.

Until June 30, all-inclusive Book Now fares for the Experiences of Discovery voyages start at £3,955 person, based on the 12-night cruise from Venice to Barcelona. Price includes return scheduled flights, overseas transfers and 12 nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals, drinks, gratuities and port taxes.

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

The Glorious Danube - Part 4

Continuing the story of our big Danube River voyage from east to west aboard the classic River Duchess of Uniworld…

A Cruise-Tour

With this cruise, we started in Bucharest and already had one full city tour under our belts before even setting foot on the boat.

That’s because Uniworld like you to really SEE the places you travel through rather than skim over or around them. This is immersion travelling in the best possible sense.

Arriving in the Romanian capital city, behind the old Iron Curtain, we were whisked off for a typical Romanian lunch – including wine – before our feet had barely touched the ground. Then it was off on a fully-guided tour of the city, stopping at key points to get an understanding of the architecture, history – and politics.

Having got a feel for this surprising, vibrant city, it was then time to head for our home base for the next 12 days, the 132-passenger River Duchess, newly refurbished for this particular voyage and a genuine haven of warmth and comfort.

With only 82 in this group, there is plenty of space in which to stretch out, relax and let the onboard service cosset you with friendly, attentive courtesy that is a joy to be around.

A warm ‘welcome aboard’ was swiftly followed by a remarkably humorous reception from Captain Michael Hofmann and his largely east European crew. The feel, though, is more Viennese boutique charm than anything else.

The food also matches it, and our Cruise Manager, Christine, adds to the feeling by ensuring we know everything in store for the next morning’s full-day excursion into the Bulgarian hinterland, to the former capital city of Veliko Tarnovo and the UNESCO World heritage site of Arbanassi village, a 16th century settlement of enormous beauty.

However, there is always an alternative with Uniworld, hence we were also offered a trip to a local nature reserve or the option of simply staying aboard at leisure to enjoy the Duchess’s slow progress along the river, meeting the inland excursion further upstream.

As it turned out, the weather was pretty miserable, it rained much of the day, but Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi were an absolute delight, a glimpse of both modern and historical Bulgarian life that veered from near-poverty levels in the rural areas to breathtaking architecture in the 12th century fortress of Tsarevets.

In arbanassi, we were also treated to a classic Bulgarian meal (see pic above) of Shopska salad (cucumber, tomato, peppers, onion and parsley), vegetable soup and chicken stew, washed down with a rather good Bulgarian merlot that gave everything a certain glow. We could definitely get to like this Uniworld style…!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Cousteau Sets Sail With Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury ship in the South Pacific, the MS Paul Gauguin, has announced that world-renowned oceanographer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau will guest host four sailings in 2013.

Mr Cousteau is a diplomat for the environment, educator, author and film producer communicating his passion and concern for the Earth’s oceans. For more than 60 years, he, his father - the legendary Jacques Cousteau - and his family have been part of the greatest exploration of the oceans in all of history. 

During the four voyages on Paul Gauguin, Mr Cousteau will offer a series of lectures with videos of his work in the world’s oceans and accompany guests on several dives.

2013 Voyages Featuring Guest Host Jean-Michel Cousteau:

  • 2nd February: 14-night Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands Cruise – prices from £5,370 per person
  • 26th June: 10-night Society Islands & Tuamotus Cruise – prices from £4,472 per person
  • 21st September: 11-night Australs & Society Islands Cruise – prices from £4,757 per person
  • 2nd November: 11-night Cook Islands & Society Islands Cruise – prices from £4,757 per person

Prices include return scheduled flights, overseas transfers and accommodation in an ocean-view stateroom with all meals, soft drinks, selected alcoholic beverages and gratuities.

Also available in 2013 is Mr Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Programme, which introduces young travellers (ages 9-17) to the natural wonders of French Polynesia through interactive, hands-on experiences with island ecosystems. 

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

The Glorious Danube - Part 3

Continuing our epic river-cruise along the Danube on the River Duchess of Uniworld, from Romania to Austria...

On Board A Riverboat

Those more familiar with ocean-going cruise-ships than classic European riverboats will surely want to know how they differ – and what the appeal is of a much smaller vessel.

Holding just 132 passengers when full (and only 82 on our cruise), the River Duchess basically consists of just three decks and minimal onboard facilities. There is just ONE lounge, ONE restaurant, ONE bar and ONE shop.

There is NO casino, NO show-lounge, NO swimming pool and NO alternative restaurant (or six). It is a quiet, refined and totally old fashioned atmosphere, leisurely, relaxed and dependent primarily on the crew for smooth service and the passengers for genuine camaraderie.

The three decks consist of two decks of cabins, plus one deck that provides the restaurant, front desk and the bar/lounge. There is then a top/observation deck, largely open to the elements, and replete with sun loungers, tables and chairs, plus a covered area with a sliding glass roof.

The ‘shop’ is basically a corner boutique kiosk, while the ’fitness centre’ offers four main pieces of equipment and a few free weights. There is a small laundry and a library/reading room, but there IS a masseuse aboard for massage and yoga classes.

Those looking for non-stop entertainment and revelry should look elsewhere. Here, instead of a Cruise Director there is a Cruise Manager who organizes the inclusive shore excursions, port talks and river narrative at points of interest. Instead of a theatre group, there are talks from visiting lecturers and folk troupes.

The only other frills are provided by the resident pianist/musician, and that’s the sum total of the entertainment.

What there IS, though, is great food, the kind of white-glove service usually found only in Europe’s top hotels, and a general sense of bonhomie and well-travelled conviviality. Many people on board are return Uniworld guests with a good knowledge of the area already, savvy people who fit the mood like a well-worn glove.

In short, it is cruising for the more laid-back and cerebral voyager, where the object is to see and learn rather than dash hither and thither in search of instant gratification.

Yes, the age range is 50-plus (60-plus in many cases), but this is also journeying in high style, with a great sense of ‘travelling’ rather than ‘cruising.’ Uniworld also pride themselves on the whole ‘boutique’ experience and, so far, they are 100% on the mark.

In addition, there is a strong element of cruise-touring, leaving the boat behind and venturing off on coach tours that explore the immediate hinterland of the voyage. As we soon discovered….

This ‘Imperial Capitals of Europe’ can be booked at, with Titan Travel (in the UK only) at or, for more on river-cruising in general, seek out the cruise-agent specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd on this link.

PS: I am going to continue without photos for now as the Blogger format won't seem to upload any photos without trying 5 or 6 times!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Glorious Danube - Part 2

Continuing our epic Danube voyage in the company of Uniworld and Titan Travel, from Girgiu in Romania to Vienna in Austria...
Early Impressions – The Cabin

Being more familiar with ocean-going ships than river vessels, I was curious as to how our cabin would compare with the larger-scale version, even with a company as upmarket as Uniworld.

While the River Duchess is a sleek, classic riverboat, it isn’t the largest prospect in the world, hence it was hard to imagine the accommodations being especially spacious. I needn’t have worried.

The standard cabins measure a healthy 151sq ft and only the four suites are significantly different in any material way, providing all guests with a thoroughly cosseted experience.

The two single beds can be combined into a comfortable double, along with continental duvets and a choice of pillows. Individual air-conditioning ensures you can find your optimum temperature, and the compact, marbled bathroom is a mini-haven of creature comforts, with the power-shower a real blessing.

A basket of fresh fruit and bottle of Gleichenstein Spatburgunder awaited our arrival and we were able to toast our good fortune with a glass of Germany’s finest red win as we set sail.

A flatscreen TV, bottle of fresh filtered water, robes, slipper and free in-room wi-fi completed a truly elegant picture and we were instantly transported to a new realm of travelling comfort.

Double cupboards provide ample storage space for 11 days and, after unpacking, we were definitely ready for a new water-borne adventure.

Next stop, Bulgaria…

NB: Uniworld is the American-owned river-boat operator but their cruises are sold in the UK via Titan Travel, so you can look up or

Get Ready For A Grander Grandeur!!

Royal Caribbean is continuing its grand scheme of ship refurbishments and enhancements, using the  line’s most innovative features and popular venues first introduced on Oasis-class ships, with the revitalisation of Grandeur of the Seas this month. With a host of new dining venues, a new baby and toddler nursery plus a giant outdoor cinema screen, there will be a wealth of new features awaiting guests when she emerges from dry dock.

Following the five-week long, $48million refurbishment at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, the 2,446-guest Grandeur will sail an 11-night Mediterranean itinerary round-trip from Barcelona. From there, she will spend the summer offering a variety of Mediterranean voyages from Venice and Provence. In winter 2012/13, Grandeur will offer Southern Caribbean cruises from Colon in Panama and Cartagena, Colombia.
Returning to service on May 31 with new entertainment options, restaurants, children’s programmes, technology advancements and more luxurious accommodation options that were originally introduced on the acclaimed Oasis-class duo, Grandeur should be a wow for guests with her fresh new look and cutting edge facilities.

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

Friday, 25 May 2012

Danube - The Beginning

Beginning  a series of blog posts 'live' from the River Duchess of Uniworld and Titan Travel on a voyage from Romania to Austria

Day One: Arrival and embarkation

After a fairly exhausting near-two days of travel (Florida-London, London-Bucharest, Bucharest-Girgiu), we have arrived on board the beautiful River Duchess at the Danube port of Girgiu, the official start of our journey.

First impressions are of a very elegant, sleek vessel - very different from any of my previous cruises, even the small-ship versions.

This is more like travelling with a group of friends, but in quite elegant style.

The riverboat holds only 130 passengers, and there are only 82 on this voyage, hence it is definitely small-scale, personal and quite laid-back.

Our 'welcome aboard' made us feel like checking in at a top-class boutique European hotel, and the general look and ambience are similar.

We are getting ready for our first dinner aboard and also setting sail this evening - for the Bulgarian port across the river!

More soon...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

New-Look Duo Set Sail For Alaska

Sporting new hull colours, interior spaces, furnishings and amenities, the 86-guest Safari Endeavour and 76-guest Wilderness Explorer emerged from major renovation projects this month for a dual-boat christening event in Seattle and a summer season of un-cruise adventures in Alaska. InnerSea Discoveries/American Safari Cruises operates three expedition vessels and three yachts in scenic destinations including Alaska, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Pacific Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
The 86-guest Safari Endeavour (above) joins American Safari's upscale fleet of yachts, all with navy blue hulls and exceptional comfort and refined atmosphere on board. The 76-guest Wilderness Explorer, now painted with InnerSea Discoveries’ signature forest green hull, joins the active adventure fleet in Alaska this summer.

Endeavour will sail week-long, inclusive luxury adventure cruises in Alaska round-trip from Juneau from June to August. Guests enjoy the luxury of two days exploring inside Glacier Bay National Park with opportunities to hike and kayak with park rangers. Seven theme cruises feature guest presenters or performers and a $518 per couple travel credit commemorating the christening of the vessel on May 18. From November through April, Endeavour sails week-long Baja’s Bounty adventures in Mexico’s Sea of Cortés.

Wilderness Explorer sails week-long active adventure cruises in Alaska between Juneau and Sitka (and reverse) from June through August. The itinerary includes three full days exploring inside Glacier Bay National Park, including the lesser visited but equally spectacular East Arm with McBride Glacier and Muir Glacier. Yachts and expedition vessels can be booked as a private charter or by individual stateroom.

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

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Storybook Cruising With European Waterways

In its first Summer season of operation, European Waterways' new 12 passenger, 128ft Dutch hotel barge Panache will embark from June to October on 6-night, all-inclusive voyages along the beautiful Canal de la Marne au Rhin, between Strasbourg and Mittersheim in beautiful Alsace-Lorraine.

Alsace-Lorraine is a unique corner of Eastern France - a land of storybook castles and rolling vineyards as well as Baroque, Gothic and Romanesque architecture. For centuries, the great empires of Europe confronted one another at this strategic and military crossroads. The area’s blend of French and German influences are strongly evident in its customs, cuisine, wines, architecture and language.

Exploring this area of the world is a truly magical and varied experience and the voyage can begin in the city of Strasbourg – so easily accessible by air from the UK – with its renowned 12th century, Gothic pink sandstone cathedral. Cruising to its final destination in Mittersheim, highlights of the week will include:
  • Visiting picturesque Saverne and the majestic 11th century Chateau du Haut Barr
  • A scenic drive through the Vosges Hills along the Route des Grands Crus, with a private tasting of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Riesling wines
  • An effortless, mountain-side ascent on the unique Arzviller boat elevator – thus avoiding 17 traditional locks
  • Candlelit lunch aboard as the barge passes through the two Arzviller tunnels
  • At Wingen-sur-Moder, visiting the outstanding René Lalique museum collection of jewellery and glassware - also the battleground where American infantry confronted some of Germany’s most seasoned veterans
  • A final-day visit to Nancy, the ancient capital of Lorraine, with its Baroque Place Stanislas, one of the grandest in France

Guests can enjoy chauffeur-driven private excursions in an air-conditioned minibus, as well as explore for themselves on one of the 12 bikes on board.

The prices lead in at £2,790 per person in a twin/double junior suite and include: local transfers to and from the barge; a champagne welcome, accommodation in air-conditioned, en-suite cabins, all gourmet meals aboard and ashore, fine wines, an all-day open bar, use of bicycles and spa pool, all excursions and admittance fees and the services of the experienced crew.

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

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Rare Chance For Penthouse Savings With Crystal

View of Venice from your private balcony? Check. Butler inside your chic suite pouring chilled champagne? Check. Saving money on the whole extravaganza? You bet, thanks to a rare Penthouse sale from Crystal Cruises offering big savings on their ultimate luxury Mediterranean sailings this autumn. 

Couples can save up to £1,140 on select voyages if reserving one of Crystal Serenity’s recently-redesigned, multi-award-winning Penthouses or Penthouse Suites by June 30.

From mid-August through November, savvy travellers have a rich choice of Mediterranean cruises exploring coveted cities and lesser known jewels in Italy, the French Riviera, Spain, the Greek Isles, Croatia, Turkey and Montenegro, as well as the Black Sea (including Russia and the Ukraine), Holy Land and Canary Islands/Iberia.

All Penthouse stateroom categories boast a personal butler for complimentary packing and unpacking, pressing and shoe shine service, daily hors d’oeuvres, fully stocked champagne, wine and spirits bar, personalised stationery, walk-in closet, larger balcony and speciality room service from the likes of the superb Nobu restaurant (designed by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa), plus many more complimentary amenities.

Each port-packed cruise offers 11 or 12 nights of all-inclusive luxury, with “Book Now” fares starting from £4,375 per person, based on two sharing a Penthouse with Veranda on an 11-night voyage from Barcelona to Lisbon departing November 17.

Crystal’s passion for taking care of guests in an inviting environment of extraordinary space, quality and choices has earned the company more “World’s Best” awards than any other cruise line, resort or hotel in history.  

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

Monday, 21 May 2012

Save The Albatross With Hurtigruten

Norwegian and Polar cruise specialist Hurtigruten has been an active participant in many of the remote areas it visits on its expedition voyages and often raises money for needy causes. And, from this summer, new fund-raising activities will take place on MS Fram’s Arctic and Antarctic voyages that focus on helping to raise money for the ‘Save the Albatross’ project run by the Bird Life International Foundation. The albatross, which visitors to Antarctica often see flying past from the deck of their ship, faces extinction mainly due to industrial long-line fishing.

So, to help in publicising its plight, Hurtigruten will raise funds by auctioning off items at the end of each Explorer voyage. Among the items being auctioned are the unique nautical chart of the respective voyage, signed by the captain, a Hurtigruten flag signed by all crew members, and expedition team jackets. 

Each destination MS Fram visits raises money on board for campaigns run by a range of organisations. For example, in Antarctica, funds raised go to the Save The Albatross and Antarctica South Heritage Trust. In Greenland, funds collected go to the “Association of Greenlandic Children.” Since the auctions were first launched in 2007, €140,000 has already been raised.

Hurtigruten sails to some of the most remote of destinations including Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic’s Spitsbergen, as well as year-round along Norway's coast and Europe in the spring.

For bookings, follow this link to our sponsors and the UK's leading adventure-cruise specialists, the Cruise Line Ltd.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Follow Us Along the Danube!

Our editor will be making a rare river-cruise foray later this month with Titan Travel and Uniworld,  and aims to be blogging 'live' from what promises to be a stunning voyage along the Danube from Giurgiu in Romania to Vienna in Austria.

Travelling in the recently remodelled (and highly rated) River Duchess (above), the cruise will experience a broad 'slice' of Eastern Europe, taking in seven countries in 11 days and major capitals like Belgrade, Budapest and Bratislava.

While many European river-cruises focus on the Rhine and the Danube from Germany to Hungary, this version goes deep behind the former 'Iron Curtain' and highlights the treasures of Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary before concluding in the City of Music.

It is a truly exciting itinerary and one that also includes many cultural points of interest, as Uniworld and Titan specialise in providing a real up-close-and-personal experience in the countries they visit, including local encounters throughout the route - like a school visit and a home-hosted meal in Croatia.

Other points of interest will be the spectacular Iron Gates gorge section of the river, the Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade, the picturesque village of Arbanassi in Bulgaria and Pecs in Hungary, a former European City of Culture.

With overnight stops in Budapest and Vienna, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the inclusive guided tours which are a key part of the Titan/Uniworld operation as well as explore at leisure.

All in all, it adds up to a tantalising prospect for in-depth cruising, in high style and with a true appreciation of the countryside en route.

Stay tuned for more from Time Spent At Sea, and don't miss the full feature in our Autumn edition!

To subscribe, be sure to check out this link for World of Cruising magazine.

Free Business Upgrade With Bales Nile Voyages

Book an 8-day Nostalgic Nile tour, Cultural Morocco tour or a tailor-made tour with flights to Egypt or Morocco by May 31 and Bales Worldwide will upgrade economy bmi flights to business class for FREE. In business class, guests can expect an additional 18 inches of seat pitch, taking it up to 50", with 2-2 cradle seats. Travellers also receive a complimentary selection of hot food and drink, selection of newspapers and magazines and in-flight entertainment on board.

The Nostalgic Nile costs from £1,795 – Saving up to £750pp

This itinerary with Bales includes scheduled flights and accommodation on The Amber, a traditional ‘dahabiyya’. It also includes English-speaking guides on board, who will also take care of tipping, private air-conditioned vehicle for transfers, a sightseeing itinerary (including entrance fees), and exclusive ‘dahabiyya’ cruise. 
Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing on a mixed board basis (including seven breakfasts, six lunches and seven dinners). Price includes all applicable UK and overseas airport taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on select departures from May 9-December 8.

To bookings and other Nile cruise ideas, follow this link to The Cruise LineLtd, the UK's luxury river cruise specialists.

Friday, 18 May 2012

AMA's New Culinary Delights Of Europe

AmaWaterways, one of Europe’s leading luxury river cruise operator, is introducing 'Culinary Delights - Sights and Bites’, new cooking classes, walking tours and food and wine tastings on select European river cruise itineraries in 2012. 

The culinary experiences will be introduced during the course of this year and include the entire experience, from choosing local produce to preparing regional specialties such as the Bulgarian dish ‘banista’ and smoked salmon rolled with ‘cervelle de canuts’.

With an intimate group of 20 people per tour, passengers are able to explore another side of the city, visiting cooking schools, distilleries and local markets. The tours include visits to culinary specialty shops, chocolatiers and charcuteries. Select tours include a visit to Studio of Cabestan in Avignon, France. Chefs take passengers to Les Halles market to select the freshest ingredients before donning aprons and hats for a hands-on cooking demonstration in Provencal cuisine. In Amsterdam, travellers are provided a panoramic city tour topped off with a tasting of Jenever, Dutch liquor. The tour sweetens when passengers visit the Belgian city of Antwerp for a waffles-and-chocolate tasting session.

Additional options on the European river cruises include a hands-on demonstration to prepare Lyonniase cuisine and Banistra pastry; a presentation on how to pair chocolates and wine; a demonstration of mustard production; a tasting tour of traditional Dutch foods like Frietzak (Dutch fires with mayonnaise), poffertjes (pancakes) and rollmops (pickled herring); and the opportunity to prepare, cook and taste Goulash in the historical city of Budapest.

As the only river cruise line inducted into La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organisations, AmaWaterways continues to lead the industry in innovative experiences both on-board and on-shore. The Culinary Delights – Bites & Sights tour is a facet of the river cruise line’s prestigious food and beverage offerings.

For bookings, follow this link to the Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's leading river-cruise specialist agents.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Fascinosa Looks Fab

At last, some good news for beleaguered Costa Cruises - the Costa Fascinosa, the largest Italian-flagged cruise ship, has entered service for the big Italian-based line in Venice to a significant fanfare and positive reviews.

Costa's new flagship weighs in at 114,500 tons and carries 3,800 guests and was delivered by the big Fincantieri shipyard in Venice on May 5. She is the joint-largest Italian-flagged cruise ship, together with her sister Costa Favolosa.

The company, which is still dealing with the loss of Costa Concordia in February, has invested a total of €510 million in the newcomer, with the construction process in Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard involving the labour of around 3,000 yard workers plus a further 7,000 contractors.

After a successful maiden voyage, Fascinosa will spend the rest of the 2012 summer season (until the end of November) operating on seven-day cruises from Venice and Bari to Greece and Croatia. In winter, she will transfer transatlantic for South America cruises to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Then, in summer 2013, she will be back in the Eastern Mediterranean on one-week holidays to Greece and Turkey, with departures from Venice and Bari. 

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

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Fred Olsen Goes Bowling!

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ship Braemar will be carrying a special group of guests on her nine-night ’Around the UK and Ireland’ cruise later this month - indoor bowls fans and World No. 1 Greg Harlow (above).

Harlow, who has seven World Indoor Tour titles to his name and is the only player ever to win the International Open three times in a row, is the special guest speaker aboard the cruise, which departs Dover on May 22.

The voyage is part of a very successful partnership with Potters Leisure Resort in Norfolk, who play host to the annual World Indoor Bowls Championships, which Fred. Olsen sponsored for the first time this year.

The groups who have booked the bowls package on this cruise will be able to enjoy all the usual pleasures of a Fred. Olsen cruise, as well as benefiting from special ‘added extras’ related to their chosen sport. They will be able to play bowls ashore in four ports of call: Dublin, Belfast, Kirkwall and Invergordon, and, because of the generous baggage allowance on an ex-UK cruise, up to 90kgs per guest, they can take their own equipment. 

As well as playing bowls during the cruise, the group will also enjoy an exclusive drinks party on board and will get the chance to listen to Greg's talks on his fascinating and hugely successful bowls career.

For  bookings, follow this link to our sponsors The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's top cruise-agent specialists.