Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Look back at the biggest cruise stories of 2014

Britannia receiving her contemporary Union Jack inspired hull artwork

As it is the last day of the year I thought it would be appropriate to look back at the most popular news articles posted on the Time Spent at Sea blog during 2014. I've looked at the total number of views and have pinpointed the five most popular cruise stories of 2014.

5) Three die in cruise ship engine room fire

At number five is the sad news that three people - two contractors and a crew-member – died in a tragic engine room fire on-board Oceania Cruises' Insignia cruise ship earlier this month. John Honeywell reported that the incident happened in port at Castries, on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.

4) P&O's Britannia is put through her paces for the first time

Next is the news that P&O Cruises' Britannia had been put through per paces in her first sea trials off the coast of Italy. The course tracked by Marine Traffic shows hair-raising turns and loops during her first open water sailing. John Honeywell noted that the path was reminiscent of a particularly drunken version of Join the Dots!

3) P&O Fly The Flag - In Pictures & Video

The third most popular story the year is the unveiling of plans by P&O Cruises to roll out the contemporary Union Jack inspired hull artwork fleet-wide starting at the end of 2014. Simon and Susan Veness explained how the bold new look celebrates the company's heritage and its popularity as Britain’s leading cruise line. Aurora was the first cruise ship in service to receive the new artwork earlier this month.

2) First pictures of P&O's newest cruise ship, Britannia, in her red, white and blue Union Flag livery

In September the first pictures of P&O Cruises' Britannia were released showing the contemporary Union Jack inspired hull artwork for real. Until this point all we had seen were computer-generated graphics of the design. John Honeywell noted that at 94 metres long, it was the world’s largest contemporary version of the Union Flag and that it took 420 litres of paint to complete this artwork.

1) Cruise ship Saga Pearl II sails to the rescue of injured yachtsman in mid-Atlantic 

The biggest news story by far this year was reported by Lesley Bellew and told of the rescue of an injured yachtsman in the mid-Atlantic by crew on-board Saga Pearl II. On route to Cape Verde, Captain Wesley Dunlop of Saga Pearl II answered a call for assistance from the Portuguese marine authorities and made a 90-mile diversion to meet the catamaran Coco Jet III.

(Photo credit to P&O Cruises)

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Cruise Critic 2015 predictions

Cruise Critic, a TripAdvisor brand, has revealed its predictions for the cruise industry for the forthcoming year, both globally and for the UK market.

CC is expecting a rise in supplementary offers, particularly for dining, spa and educational experiences. While full-board cruise tickets will still remain the industry standard, a greater emphasis will likely be placed on passengers spending more money on optional extras to upgrade their cruise holiday experience.

Cruise Critic also predicts an increase in special offers on new bookings, with value-added extras like free parking, on-board credit and cabin upgrades likely to be offered in key promotions throughout the year.

On-board entertainment is likely to go from strength to strength with cruise lines trying to offer the very best possible, such as award-winning artist performances, Broadway and Cirque-style shows, and comedy options geared toward more mature audiences.

As more cruise lines try to attract an increasing number of tech-savvy millennials Cruise Critic look forward to faster and more reliable internet services to be offered on-board. Expect more cruise ship related smartphone apps too.

Solo travellers are being targeted by cruise lines too, which should lead to more solo-specific cabins being offered or other improvements to reduce or eliminate the “single supplement” according to Cruise Critic. Expect more cruise lines to offer specific cruise entertainment programming for solo travellers too.

In terms of the British cruise market, Cruise Critic UK forecasts more choice when it comes to sailing from the UK thanks to P&O CruisesBritannia, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas and Princess CruisesRoyal Princess all being home-ported in Southampton for the summer season next year.

They are also predicting a strong emphasis being placed on celebrity chefs, with Royal Caribbean showcasing Jamie Oliver’s restaurant on-board Anthem of the Seas and P&O Cruises presenting Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochar, Olly Smith, Eric Lanlard and James Martin on-board Britannia.

Family Vacation Critic, another TripAdvisor brand, predicts more child-friendly programs on cruise ships. It believes more children’s facilities will be upgraded during the year, together with the strengthening of branded partnerships including Carnival Cruise Line and Dr. Seuss, Princess Cruises and Discovery Channel, Norwegian Cruise Line and Nickelodeon, MSC Cruises and LEGO, as well as Royal Caribbean and DreamWorks. Family Vacation Critic also believes family suites will become more prevalent and travel in general will become more family-friendly over the course of the year.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Take a look at the new cruise ships arriving in 2015

The forthcoming year looks very promising for the cruise industry as five new vessels are scheduled to launch within the next twelve months.

The first to launch is P&O CruisesBritannia. At 142,000 gross tons the vessel will be the largest the cruise line has ever ordered. The line has opted for a contemporary interior décor design for this family-friendly ship. She boasts 1,837 cabins (including 27 single occupancy cabins), 26 bars, restaurants and cafés and four swimming pools. In a first for the cruise line every outside cabin will have its own private balcony. Britannia’s maiden voyage sets out on 14 March from Southampton.

Viking Star is the first ocean cruise ship from Viking Ocean Cruises, sister line to Viking River Cruises. The inaugural cruise commences on 11 April from Istanbul, Turkey on an epic 50-day voyage around the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. At 47,800 gross tons with a capacity of 928 guests, the luxury Viking Star is very much an intimate vessel. Highlights of the vessel include the aft infinity pool, alfresco dining options and the luxurious staterooms, each one with a private balcony.

On 22 April Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas will embark on her maiden voyage from Southampton. This Quantum-class vessel is expected to be almost identical to Quantum of the Seas which was launched in October of this year. The 168,666 gross ton vessel promises to be one of the most technologically-advanced cruise ships afloat. The ship will benefit from a modern contemporary décor and boasts 2,090 cabins (including 28 studio cabins). The Quantum-class ship will offer Dynamic Dining offering five complimentary main restaurants with a further eight additional-fee venues available.

Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions are looking forward to welcoming Le Lyrial to the fleet. The inaugural sailing will see the yacht sailing from Venice on 9 May cruising along the Adriatic and Dalmatian Coast. At a mere 10,944 gross tons, this luxury intimate yacht will offer just 122 staterooms and suites, each with private balconies, and will feature contemporary Mediterranean-inspired interior décor.

Ponant Le Lyrial

Lastly, on 25 October Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape will depart on her maiden voyage from Hamburg, Germany bound for Miami, USA via Southampton. The cruise ship is the first in the “Breakaway Plus”-class and it builds upon the success of the Breakway-class vessels. At 164,600 gross tons she will accommodate up to 4,200 passengers. She will boast the largest ropes course and aqua parks at sea, together with an expanded “The Haven” area and a range of dining venues at “678 Ocean Place”.

(Photo credit to Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions; ©Philip Plisson)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Titan and Uniworld celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music

Elisabeth von Trapp
Titan Travel, in conjunction with Uniworld River Cruises, are marking the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music film on selected river cruises during 2015.

The musical, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, was released in 1965 and the film went on to win a total of five Oscars and two Golden Globe awards.

To celebrate the anniversary, Elisabeth von Trapp, the granddaughter of Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired The Sound of Music, will entertain guests on a choice of 2015 itineraries with departures from May to September. Von Trapp has continued the legacy of the internationally renowned Trapp family singers and passengers on selected river cruises will be able to enjoy performances that highlight her unique and expressive style including iconic Sound of Music melodies.

Guests sailing on selected dates for the 8-day Enchanting Danube itinerary, from Budapest to Passau, will be able to join Ms Von Trapp in Salzburg at the Mirabell Chapel as she performs highlights from The Sound of Music. Another highlight of the cruise will be the chance for guests to participate in a sing-along of “Do-Re-Mi” at the famed Mirabell garden where the original scene was filmed. Von Trapp will also be performing a range of Gregorian chants, 12th-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen tunes, some early American hymns together with her own original compositions.

Guests sailing on the 10-day ‘Delightful Danube & Prague’ and 10-day ‘Danube Discovery and Prague’ itineraries will also be treated to an exclusive on-board performance by Von Trapp.

The 10-day itinerary on-board River Princess starts in Budapest and calls at Vienna, Spitz, Passau, Regensburg, Nuremberg and Prague whilst the 8-day itinerary on-board River Beatrice, which also starts in Budapest, calls at Bratislava, Melk, Vienna, Linz and Passau.

(Photo credit to Elisabeth von Trapp)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Azamara 2017 itineraries announced

Azamara Quest
It may only be 2014 but luxury cruise line Azamara Club Cruises is already looking forward to 2017 and has unveiled its itineraries for the year. During 2017 they will offer a total of 65 voyages to 203 ports spanning 68 countries. New ports of call for the cruise line include Kaikoura, New Zealand; Mahe, Seychelles; Yucatan, Mexico and George Town, Grand Cayman.

The itineraries planned include a selection of brand new voyages such as from Australia to Asia, Southern California to Miami via the Panama Canal, and the "Pearls along the Indian Ocean" voyage from Mumbai. Popular itineraries from previous years are also included such as the Monaco Grand Prix voyage and the Normandy, Holland, and Germany voyage.

The cruise line will also offer longer overnight stays in selected ports during 2017. One example of this is the aforementioned "Pearls along the Indian Ocean" itinerary where Azamara Journey remains docked in Mahe (Victoria) in the Seychelles for three consecutive days. Azamara Club Cruises will be complimenting longer port stays through a selection of evening tours and excursions with their Insider Access and Nights and Cool Places programmes. Examples include guided walks around illuminated landmarks at night, an after-hours museum visit, or access to live performances. Evening tours and excursions will vary from port to port and will be tailored around local cultures and events.

In winter and spring 2017, Azamara Quest will sail the West Indies, Panama Canal and Central America. Throughout summer and autumn, the ship will sail across the Mediterranean and Black Sea region. Meanwhile, Azamara Journey will sail around Asia, the Pacific Ocean, Australia and New Zealand during winter and spring 2017. She will then cruise Northern and Western Europe in the summer and autumn seasons.

(Photo credit to Azamara Club Cruises)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Strictly Come Cruising with P&O and latest winner Pasha

All at sea: Strictly winner Caroline Flack with professional partner  Pasha

Strictly Come Dancing professional finalists Karen Hauer, Kevin Clifton and Kristina Rihanoff - and Pasha Kovalev who partnered winner Caroline Flack - will all be travelling on P&O Cruises in 2015. They will be joined on at least two voyages by waspish judge Crain Revel Horwood.

There’s a total of four Strictly-themed cruises for fans to choose from if they want to get close to their idols and to take part in their own dance-offs. As well as giving lessons on the dance floor, the stars will take part in Question & Answer appearances on stage and there will be autograph opportunities for autograph signings and selfie sessions to make it a Strictly experience to remember.

Costumes from the TV series will be on display around the ships, and they will feature in spectacular fashion events.

The 14-night Strictly cruises, which all depart from Southampton,  are:

April 23: On Aurora to Portugal, Gibraltar and Spain with Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec, Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe, plus Craig Revel Horwood. Fares from £1,029 per person.

May 28: On Ventura to Portugal, Monaco and Italy with Iveta Lukosiute and Tristan MacManus, Karen Hauer and Kevin Clifton, plus Craig Revel Horwood. Fares are from £1,129 pp.

June 20: On Azura to the Baltic Sea with Robin Windsor and Kristina Rihanoff, Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis. Fares from £1,229pp.

July 25: On Britannia to the Canary Islands and Iberia with Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec, Karen Hauer and Kevin Clifton, plus guest judge Artem Chigvintsev. Fares from £1,799 pp.

Escape to offer largest ropes course and water park

Norwegian Escape's Sports Complex
Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ship ever, Norwegian Escape, will offer the largest ropes course at sea when she launches in November 2015.

The three-storey course is designed to set hearts racing, with two planks (six-inch wide beams that extend eight feet from the side of the ship) and five Sky Rails (zip tracks) that allow guests to soar through the air. The longest Sky Rail takes guests out over the side of the ship for the ultimate bird’s eye view over the vessel. Three Sky Rails will be installed within the main Ropes Course whilst two more will be added to the Kids’ Ropes Course, which offers child-friendly fun, challenges and feats. 

Norwegian Escape's Aqua Park
Norwegian has have also unveiled the Aqua Park which also will be the largest at sea. It will boast four multi-storey water slides. In addition there will be a dedicated Kids’ Aqua Park, two swimming pools and four hot tubs on offer. The Kid’s Aqua Park will feature a two-storey climbing structure for children to explore along with interactive wet elements such as water cannons and elevated buckets.

In terms of family entertainment, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle miniature golf course is to be added along with ship-wide entertainment from Nickelodeon as well as Norwegian Cruise Line’s first dedicated nursery for children aged two and under.

Norwegian Escape will be the largest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet at 164,600 gross tons and will build upon the features and facilities of their Breakaway-class ships. The ship is currently being constructed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. Norwegian Escape is due to be home-ported in Miami and will offer seven-night itineraries to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Other features previously announced include an expansion of the Haven area on-board, the dining venues to be added and most recently was the addition of Miami’s Tobacco Road bar to the vessel.

(Photo credit to Norwegian Cruise Line)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Save £7 on tickets for January's Telegraph Cruise Show in London

Meet over 80 cruise lines, river specialists and tour operators, enjoy free food and wine tasting sessions from chefs James Martin, Eric Lanlard, Atul Kochhar and Olly Smith courtesy of P&O Cruises Food Heroes, be inspired by TV travel presenter Simon Reeve who will take part in a Q&A session on the Saturday, get the insiders' guide to destinations from Telegraph Travel journalists and cruise experts and much much more.

The show is packed with deals and competitions including £325 off a Fred Olsen cruise booked at the show, £100 off a Saga Cruises cruise, get a bottle of champagne with every £50 deposit placed with Cunard plus multiple competitions to win holidays, Kindle Fires, hampers and other treats.

The show is also running a daily prize draw* to win over £30,000 of holidays including a a 12 night Norwegian fjords voyage, a 7 night Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise and a 3 night break in Dubai.

Special offer: World of Cruising readers can save £7 on tickets!**
Get £13 adult tickets (£20 on the door) by quoting WOC. Book your tickets today here or call 0800 542 5859.

Find out more at

* See full competition details on the Telegraph Cruise Show website. **Applies to adult advance tickets for a limited time only. Booking fee applies.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Two more new ships ordered for Carnival and Holland America

New Carnival president Christine Duffy
The Christmas presents are arriving thick and fast as two more cruise ship newbuilds are announced.

Even before the full details of what is planned for Carnival Vista are revealed at a press conference scheduled for January 22 in New York, a second ship of the same design has been ordered.

Vista 2, measuring 133,500 tons and with capacity for 3,954 passengers, is due to enter service in spring 2018 as the 26th vessel in Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet.

Holland America Line is to get another ship, to the same design as Pinnacle-class Koningsdam, at 99,500 tons and carrying 2,650 passengers. It’s due to debut in autumn 2018. Both orders have gone to Italian shipbuilders Fincantieri, whose order books also include P&O’s Britannia (delivery March 2015), Koningsdam (February 2016), two Seabourn ships (2016 and 2018), Carnival Vista (2016), and a third Royal-class ship for Princess (due in 2017).

The total passenger capacity of the new ships Carnival Corporation has on order with Fincantieri amounts to almost 22,000.

The announcement of Carnival’s Vista 2 follows on the heels of the news that Christine Duffy is to take over as president of Carnival Cruise Line in February.

She replaces Gerry Cahill, who has retired. Duffy is currently president of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and will commence her new role on February 1.

Hurtigruten to offer expeditions to 80° North

Polar bear sighting during a Spitsbergen voyage
Hurtigruten are to become the only company to offer spring expedition cruises as far as 80° North in 2016. Setting sail on 25 April and 4 May 2016, the ten-day ‘Polar pioneers of Svalbard’ itinerary departs Tromsø and calls at the remote island of Bjørnøya, Spitsbergen and the North Cape (the northernmost point of mainland Europe) before heading back.

Despite it being springtime then guests will likely encounter snow and ice at all ports of call, as well as sea ice during the voyage. The wildlife opportunities are bountiful though, with sightings of seals and polar bears a likely possibility.

Prices for this itinerary start from £1,222 per person including early booking savings of more than 25 per cent. 

Hurtigruten are also offering new shore excursions during their Norwegian coastal voyages in 2015.

Experience the traditionally Norwegian activities of cross-country skiing, sledging and tobogganing on a short excursion out of Trondheim. Available as of 1 February this excursions costs £67 per person.

Alternatively you could opt for a sightseeing tour of Trondheim by bicycle. Available from 3 April 2015 at a cost of £43 per person, this tour includes a trip on the world’s only cycle lift and a journey along the new bike bridge crossing the River Nid.

If you are more comfortable on a river than over it, a kayak tour along the River Nid offers a different perspective of the city. Priced at £97 per person this excursion is available in the summer.

Follow in the footsteps of polar explorer Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm by hiking to the top of the mountains of Hammerfest, the most northerly town in the world. Available from 8 January this excursion is priced at £71.

To learn about local culture and fishing heritage a tour of Svolvær, the largest town in the Lofoten islands, is ideal. Available during the winter months this leisurely tour costs £51 per person.

Lastly, for those wanting to get close to killer and humpback whales then this tour in the Andenes area is a perfect choice. The tour is being trialled on selected winter dates at £232 per person and takes place on a nimble rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

(Photo credit to Hurtigruten)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

P&O Cruises defines The Spirit of Modern Britain

When P&O Cruises wanted to find out what modern Britain is all about, they turned to Facebook and other social media for help. From thousands of suggestions, artist Johnny Bull has created two colourful pieces of art that will be displayed prominently on Britannia  which is due to launch in March.

The artist, who is predominantly known for his paintings of jazz musicians, has drawn inspiration from old travel labels on suitcases and has also incorporated the Great British queue into the artwork, full of famous faces. Look closely, and you will spot Dr Who, The Queen, Mary Berry and JK Rowling, who can be seen rubbing shoulders with Noel Gallagher, Monty Panesar, James Dyson and Bradley Wiggins. Other icons include The Shard, Glastonbury, and Banksy.

Bull says: “The theme - “the spirit of modern Britain” - provided us with some fascinating suggestions covering a range of categories. I’ve had great fun working my way through these suggestions and coming up with an eclectic mix of images that truly sums up how the public feels about Britain in the 21st century.”

The artwork forms part of Britain’s largest floating art collection which will be displayed on the ship. Pieces ranging from paintings and bronze sculptures to ceramics and paper wall reliefs have been created by a wide variety of artists – most of them British – with some from as far afield as Japan, Australia and South Africa.

(Photo credit to P&O Cruises)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

P&O launches 'This Is The Life' TV campaign on Christmas Day

Rob Brydon is to be the face of P&O Cruises in a TV advertising campaign launching on Christmas Day. The ad is part of a multi-million pound campaign designed to attract both seasoned cruisers and new-to-cruise travellers alike across a wide age gap.

The commercial, built around the slogan "This Is The Life," looks at a P&O Cruises holiday through the eyes of Brydon.  Through his witty observations he explains the core offerings of the cruise line to viewers, including the British heritage, the choice of dining and entertainment, the hospitality as well as the destinations and pace of life on-board.

The tone of the campaign is simple and down-to-earth. The ad launches on Christmas Day and will be first shown on ITV during Coronation Street.

Emerald Waterways are also launching their latest advert on Christmas Day as part of their biggest ever television ad campaign.

Voiced by India Fisher the advert promotes both the experience on-board Emerald Waterways’ Star-Ships and their January Sale. The sale offers savings of up to £1,000 per couple on selected European river cruises. The river cruise line claims to have sold over 80 per cent of capacity for 2015 and have released additional dates and itineraries.

The Emerald Waterways advert will air on ITV just before the Queen’s speech.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

First pictures of new look for P&O Cruises' Aurora

Aurora with her new livery

P&O CruisesAurora has left Hamburg bound for Southampton following a £32 million refit which included a bold new livery. She is the first ship in the P&O Cruises fleet to receive the contemporary Union Jack-inspired motif to the bow together with a blue funnel and illuminated rising sun design.

The refit works took 20 days to complete and required 1,200 contractors. Besides the new paintwork Aurora also benefits from 28,000 square metres of new carpets and over 3,000 new mattresses.

Among features added during the refurbishment is the Sindhu fine dining restaurant, with an eastern-fusion menu overseen by Michelin-star chef Atul Kochhar. Also new is the Glass House restaurant and bar, with wines selected by TV presenter Olly Smith, which has replaced Cafe Bordeaux. Both venues  are already on Azura and Ventura

Aurora's buffet restaurant and Sidewalk Café have been completely refurbished; they now include a Costa Coffee and "Grab and Go" counter.

The contemporary bow design was first announced for Britannia and will  be rolled out to the remainder of the fleet over the next few months.

Aurora's first voyage with the new livery will be a two night cruise from Southampton on Friday (19 December) calling at Zeebrugge (Bruges) in Belgium.

Front view of Aurora's new livery

(Photo credit to P&O Cruises)

Mystery and murder on the Seven Seas

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Saga Ocean Cruises are both planning murder mystery cruises for 2015 - with the involvement of the Duchess of Northumberland and the help of crime writer Ruth Rendell.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Boudicca

Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Boudicca will embark on a Poison, Murder & Mystery Cruise on 10 July. Setting sail from Rosyth, Scotland, the vessel will call in at ports at Leixoes (for Oporto, Portugal), Funchal (Madeira), Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Lisbon (Portugal) and Newcastle (UK). During the voyage a staged murder will occur and it is down to the passengers to piece together the clues to identify the perpetrator.

The themed cruise is the result of a creative collaboration between Mr Fred Olsen Senior and the Duchess of Northumberland. This event will be the largest participative murder mystery event ever held on a cruise ship, and will be officially witnessed by Guinness World Records.

The cruise will be themed around the subjects of poison and mystery with plays, talks and special tours on offer, besides the murder mystery that starts as soon as guests board the ship and culminates in a ‘Grand Finale’ at Alnwick Castle, home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Guest speakers include Peter Dean, Her Majesty’s Coroner for Essex and a former forensic medical examiner with Scotland Yard; Dr Dan Jones, a poison historian and archaeologist; and Dr Mark Siddall, curator of The Power of Poison’ exhibition at The American Museum of Natural History.

Meanwhile, Saga are also planning a murder mystery on a cruise sailing from Southampton on 6 May.  Saga Sapphire's Baltic Treasures itinerary has the ship call in to ports at Rønne (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), St Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia), Saaremaa (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), Warnemünde (Germany) and Ijmuiden (The Netherlands) together with two transits of the Kiel Canal during the voyage.

On-board will be crime novelist Ruth Rendell who will be hosting a Q&A session. Undercover experts will also be on hand to show guests how to fight real-life villains in the tradition of Rendell's Detective Chief Inspector Wexford. This new-found knowledge will be put to the test with an interactive murder mystery to solve. Each passenger will receive a signed copy of Rendell’s most recent novel The Girl Next Door.

(Photo credit to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines)

Monday, 15 December 2014

£6m investment in Southampton terminal as UK ports prepare for a busy 2015

An artist's impression of the re-designed Mayflower Cruise Terminal
The Mayflower Cruise Terminal in Southampton is to get a £6 million regeneration in preparation for the arrival of P&O Cruises' Britannia and Princess Cruises' Royal Princess next year.

The work includes a complete re-design of the departure, check-in, security and passenger lounges as well as drop-off and pick-up areas.  The construction work will see 100 tonnes of block-work walls and floors removed and 500 tonnes of new steelwork frames installed. A team of 200 will be involved in the project and it is scheduled to be completed in April

Nick Ridehalgh, director of ABP Southampton, said: “The benefits of the improvements will affect a much wider group than just those heading off on cruises. Businesses across the city, such as taxis, hotels and restaurants for examples, all benefit from the cruise industry. We must ensure we continue to work with the cruise lines and their guests to ensure Southampton remains the UK cruise port of choice.” According to ABP each cruise ship turnaround is worth £2 million to the local economy.

Liverpool Cruise Terminal is preparing itself for a busy 2015 with 54 cruise ship visits planned, welcoming in excess of 80,000 international visitors to the city over the year. The port will also host two landmark events to celebrate Cunard Line’s 175th anniversary. All three Cunard Line vessels – Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria – are scheduled to call at Liverpool on 25 May and on 4 July Queen Mary 2 will return to the city to commemorate the transatlantic departure of RMS Britannia from the port exactly 175 years ago.

Portsmouth International Port is also preparing for the new year with 38 ship visits scheduled so far between March and November. The first cruise liner to call into the port next year will be Voyages of Discovery’s Voyager on March 1. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ luxury vessel Europa 2 will also be calling into the port in June. Europa 2 is one of the most modern vessels to dock at the port and at 225 metres is also one of the longest. The visit has been made possible by investment in new berthing facilities.

(Photo credit to Associated British Ports)

Friday, 12 December 2014

The best of the cruise offers this Christmas

Regal Princess at sea
Princess Cruises is running a “Christmas Cracker” promotion which offers both reduced fares and complimentary speciality dining on selected voyages. The offer is available on nearly 50 cruises, sailing between February and August 2015 to destinations including the Mediterranean, Alaska and Asia. The offer is applicable to qualifying itineraries booked between before 17 December . One speciality dining meal, up to the equivalent of up to $50 per couple, is available per stateroom in this promotion.

Meanwhile P&O Cruises is running a “Christmas has come early” promotion offering savings of up to £400 per cabin on selected itineraries. The savings apply to new P&O Cruises Select Price, Early Saver and Saver bookings made between 1 December - 14 December 2014 on selected departures between 6 February and 22 July 2015.

Celebrity Cruises is offering £100 of House of Fraser e-vouchers on new bookings made before 31 December 2014 for selected Caribbean sailings between January and April 2015. Alternatively, their “123 Go” offer runs until 28 February 2015 and offers guests staying in a Concierge grade stateroom or above on selected itineraries a choice of benefits including free drinks, free gratuities or free on-board credit. Book a Concierge Stateroom or above on selected cruise sailings between April 2015 and November 2016 and receive all three benefits. Alternatively book an Ocean-view cabin or above on selected cruise sailings and choose two of these benefits for selected European itineraries or one benefit for selected worldwide itineraries. Voucher codes are required for the 123 Go offer and can be found here and here.

Sister cruise line Royal Caribbean is offering all-inclusive drinks packages on selected sailings during 2015. Alternatively, their “Buy on get one half price” offer on selected Caribbean itineraries might be more tempting. Applicable to new bookings for 2015 Caribbean sailings of six or more nights, the second guest sharing a cabin pays half the cruise-only fare when the first guest pays full price. Both offers run until 31 January 2015.

Terms and conditions apply to all of these offers, and exclusions may also apply. A copy of the applicable terms and conditions for each offer is available on each of the websites linked above.

(Photo credit to Princess Cruises)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Three die in cruise ship engine room fire

oceania insignia

Three people died – two contractors and a crewmember – when fire broke out in the engine room of cruise ship Insignia today.

The incident happened in port at Castries, on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. None of the 656 passengers was hurt, and they have all now been disembarked. The remainder of the ship’s 10-day cruise – which began in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday and was due to end in Miami next Wednesday – has been cancelled.

Insignia owned by Oceania Cruises and is identical to two of the line’s other vessels,  Nautica and Regatta. All three were originally built for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. In March 2012, another identical ship, Azamara Quest, was crippled by an engine room fire which injured five members of crew. 

Oceania spokesman Jason Lasecki said three crewmembers and the two contractors were taken to hospital following the fire, which occurred at about  9.30 am local time. One crewman was later released, and the other was being treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

The passengers are being accommodated in local  hotels until they can be flown to Miami. It is not yet known how many were from the UK.

Oceania Cruises President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Montague, flew to St lucia with a team of guest and crew support and technical personnel. This team is leading the effort to ensure guests and crew are well cared for, as well as working with the ship’s team and authorities to assess the situation. 

Insignia was given a multi-million pound refurbishment earlier this year after returning to Oceania after a two-year charter to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises who operated it as Columbus 2. Together with Regent Seven Seas, Oceania was the subject of a $3 billion takeover by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in September.

Celebrities at sea: Cunard unveil famous guest speaker line-up for 2015

Cunard Line have unveiled their roster of high-calibre guest speakers for selected 2015 voyages on board Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. 2015 marks the cruise line’s 175th anniversary and the line-up is a fitting one for such a landmark year.
Sir Jackie Stewart OBE
On 30 January, three-times F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart OBE will board Queen Mary 2 for a 22-night sailing from Dubai to Hong Kong. Awarded an OBE in 1972 and knighted by the Queen in 2001, Sir Jackie will be hosting a talk and Q&A session about his illustrious career.
Shirley Jones
Academy Award winning actress Shirley Jones - David Cassidy's "mother" in The Partridge Family – will board Queen Victoria for a 15-night voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles on 2 February. She will be accompanied by her husband, actor and comedian Marty Ingels. Passengers  will have the opportunity to meet the actress at a book signing, as well at two Q&A sessions and screenings of her films.
Nicholas Owen
On 10 May BBC news presenter, Nicholas Owen will board Queen Mary 2 for a seven-night Eastbound Transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton. He will host two talks, with the first discussing how the monarchy works in the modern world and the second discussing whether newspapers have a role in modern society.
Peter Snow CBE
Journalist and broadcaster Peter Snow CBE will be on board Queen Victoria for a special 6-night 175th anniversary voyage from Southampton on 22 May.
The Right Honourable Professor Lord Robert Winston
On 16 June The Right Honourable Professor Lord Robert Winston will board Queen Elizabeth for a 14-night cruise to Spain and Italy from Southampton. Lord Winston will present three talks whilst on-board including, ‘How did Renaissance painters portray disease?’, ‘The burgeoning threat of technology’ and ‘The extinction of the human being’.
The Right Honourable David Blunkett MP
The Right Honourable David Blunkett MP will board Queen Victoria for a 14-night voyage from Rome to Venice on 12 September. As the first person with sight loss to hold senior office in government in modern times Blunkett will deliver two talks during the cruise including, ‘Reflections on growing up without sight’ and ‘Life in the bear pit’.
Pam Ayres MBE
Last but by no means least, writer and presenter Pam Ayres MBE will sail on the 17-night voyage on-board Queen Elizabeth to Venice and the Adriatic from Southampton on 21 October.

(Photographs courtesy of Cunard Line)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

CMV to offer a better deal to solo cruise passengers on Magellan

Cruise and Maritime Voyages' Magellan

Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) have made a commitment to offer more cabins for single travellers on-board Magellan during 2015, and at more affordable prices.

The cruise line has set aside 150 superior inner and ocean view twin cabins exclusively for single occupancy. These are priced with just a 25 per cent single supplement on their Superior Category 3 and 9 twin prices.

Mike Hall, Head of Marketing at CMV said “We recognise the growing need for single cabins. By introducing Magellan to our fleet we have been able to address the demand. In many cases, cruise lines will charge anything up to twice the per person price on the basis that the same cabin could be sold to two people. CMV plan to make more cabins available and at better prices in 2015 for single travellers on board Magellan.”

Furthermore, the company will also introduce a programme of events for solo travellers including a welcome aboard cocktail party and get-togethers. These events will enable solo travellers to meet like-minded individuals and help to foster new friendships on-board.

Steve Newman reported last month on the addition of Magellan (formerly known as Grand Holiday) to the CMV fleet. The 46,052 gross tonne vessel has a capacity of around 1,250 passengers and will become the flagship of the CMV fleet, sailing alongside Marco Polo, Astor and Azores. The vessel, built in 1985, is owned by Carnival Corporation and will be operated by CMV from 2015. For the last five years the ship had been operated by the now defunct Iberocruceros.

Magellan will sail out of London Tilbury, Newcastle and Dundee. Her maiden voyage under the CMV brand will be from London Tilbury on 15 March 2015 to witness the Solar Eclipse on 20 March. Other itineraries on offer include sailings to the Norwegian Fjords, The Netherlands, Iceland, around the British Isles as well as to Scandinavia and The Baltics.

(Photo credit to Cruise and Maritime Voyages)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Carnival and Fincantieri explore building cruise ships in China

American based Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company, and Fincantieri, an Italian company with the accolade of the world’s largest shipbuilder, have been reported to be considering building cruise ships in China for the Chinese and Asian cruise markets.

A Carnival Cruise Line vessel sailing the ocean

Both companies have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support cruise industry growth in China.

The intention of this Memorandum is to explore opportunities for the two companies to explore the construction of cruise ships especially for the booming Chinese market.

Carnival Corporation had previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China's largest shipyard, China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), in mid-October 2014 to work together on a potential collaborative joint venture focused in shipbuilding in China.

Both of these Memorandums point to Carnival Corporation investigating building cruise ships in Cina for the Chinese market. The American-Italian-Chinese collaboration could see China’s first world-class cruise ships constructed in the country.

It is understood that Carnival Corporation are calling on the expertise of China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Fincantieri for ship-building design and expertise to create the vision, definition and overall specifications. After all, this project is about building a Chinese cruise ship for the booming Chinese cruise market. Whilst China State Shipbuilding Corporation has a reputation for delivering quality industrial vessels Fincantieri’s role is to help adjust their practices and processes to deliver quality passenger cruise ships.

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation is quoted as saying "This new agreement with Fincantieri gives us the opportunity to work with our long-time partner to further explore a formal joint venture that could forever change the landscape of shipbuilding in China".

It doesn’t take much to see why this is a sensible strategic move by Carnival Corporation. The Chinese Ministry of Transport projects China to be the second largest global cruise market after the United States of America in the next several years based on economic growth, increased spending power of Chinese consumers and growing demand for cruise vacations.

By 2020 the Chinese Ministry of Transport projects the country could see 4.5 million cruise passengers and ultimately it could quickly become the world's largest cruise market. Many existing cruise lines will want to be a part of this boom as early as possible.

(Photo credit to Carnival Cruise Line)

Monday, 8 December 2014

Celebrity Cruises to base a ship in Abu Dhabi for winter 2016

Celebrity Cruises have demonstrated their commitment to the Emirates by basing one of their cruise ships out of Abu Dhabi for winter 2016/17. The cruise line has also announced its new sailings from India, Asia and South Pacific for 2016 and 2017, perfect for those that like to plan ahead!

An aerial photograph of Celebrity Celebrity Constellatio

Celebrity Constellation will be based in Abu Dhabi during the winter of 2016-17, offering a choice of sailings ranging from nine to 15 nights.

The highlights of the new schedule are the 12-night Arabian Sea and India itinerary or the 15 night Suez Canal itinerary.

The 12-night Arabian Sea and India itinerary, sailing from Abu Dhabi (UAE) on 28 November 2016 will call into Dubai (UAE) for an overnight stay before sailing to New Mangalore (India), Goa (India), Mumbai (India) and Khasab (Oman) before returning back to Abu Dhabi.

The 15-night epic departs on 17 April 2017 and calls into ports at Muscat (Oman), Aqaba (Jordan), Athens and Katakolon in Greece and Rome (Italy). It transits the Suez Canal passage which is an incredible experience.

Meanwhile, Celebrity Millennium will be sailing throughout Asia with a variety of itineraries on offer between 11 and 16-nights in length. The 12-night Southeast Asia Immersion cruise, departing on the 12 January 2017 on-board Celebrity Millennium starts with an overnight stop in Singapore. From here the ship calls into Bangkok (Laemchabang), Thailand (two overnight stays); Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam; Hue/Danang (Chan May), Vietnam and finally Hong Kong, China for another overnight stay. Cruise passengers have long been calling for more overnight stops to be made available and this itinerary crams as many in as is possible.

A new itinerary for 2016/7 will be one that encompasses China and Japan. Departing on 8 April 2017 the 14-night cruise begins with an overnight stay in Hong Kong (China) before sailing onto Taipei (Keelung), an overnight stay in Taiwan (China), Okinawa (Japan), Shanghai (China), Nagasaki (Japan), Kobe (Japan) and Mount Fuji (Japan) before arriving into at Tokyo (Japan).

These new 2016/7 itineraries for Abu Dhabi, India, Asia and South Pacific will go on sale on 12 December 2014.

(Photo credit to Celebrity Cruises)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

P&O's Britannia is put through her paces for the first time

It might look like a particularly drunken version of Join the Dots, or perhaps it reminds you of the tangle that came out of the box when you started to put up the Christmas tree lights. But this is P&O’s newest ship being put through her paces. The images show the track of Britannia in the Gulf of Trieste - in the north-east corner of the Adriatic - where she is on her first sea trials. A captain  from the shipbuilders, Fincantieri, is at the controls while Captain Paul Brown, the P&O skipper who will take command when the vessel is handed over, is keeping a watching brief. He’s probably hoping they’ll give him a little go before the ship is returned to port. For now, Britannia is having her engines, propulsion system, steering and stability tested for the first time in a tortuous series of twists and turns. I hope the officers on the bridge keep an eye on their rear view mirrors. [Image captures from]

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Why Indy was down on power for three years

Independence of the Seas' three azipod propulsion units
Cruise ship Independence of the Seas was powered by only two of its three propellers for much of the time the ship was sailing from Southampton, it has been revealed.

A bearing failure on one of its three azipod propulsion units left the 3,600-passenger vessel dependent on the remaining two pods – electric motors attached to the outside of the hull replacing conventional shaft-driven propellers. Its top speed was restricted to 19.5 knots instead of the design maximum of 21.6 knots.

The unit’s failure came to light in a posting on the Facebook Cruise Lovers’ page. A contributor said the unit’s propellers were removed to prevent vibration, and that they were eventually replaced in visit to dry dock. The post added: “Three years of going forward and back over the Bay of Biscay with only two azipods is quite a feat.”

Royal Caribbean marketing and PR director Jo Briody confirmed the failure. She said: “Independence of the Seas has two azipods and one fixipod. Due to bearing failure, the blades of the fixipod were removed as a temporary measure to prevent further damage. The only resulting outcome was that the vessel was not able to reach its top speed.

“This does not provide any limitations as the ship sails in the Bay of Biscay. In fact, speeds of 19.5 knots were still attainable. The removal did not cause any delays or missed ports during Independence of the Seas' cruises.”

She added that full power was restored during a dry dock overhaul in April 2013.

Independence of the Seas left Southampton for the last time on November 1 and will spend the winter sailing in the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From April 2015, it will be replaced on ex-UK sailings by brand new ship Anthem of the Seas.