Friday, 30 January 2015

Seabourn reveals names of new ships

A rendering of the pool deck on-board Seabourn Encore
Small ship cruise line Seabourn have revealed the names of its two new ships that were ordered last year. Seabourn Encore will arrive in late 2016 and Seabourn Ovation will be launched in spring 2018.

Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will maintain the line's high ratio of space per guest offering a highly personalised service. Both ships will be configured with one additional deck, newly expanded public areas, and modern design elements and innovations.

Hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany will design both Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation in their entirety. He will design all indoor and outdoor guest areas as well as the dining venues. The new 40,350 gross ton vessels are expected to carry 604 guests each, based on double occupancy. Every cabin will be a suite and each one will feature a private balcony.

The addition of the two new ships will mean that Seabourn will have the youngest ultra-luxury fleet in the industry.

Richard Meadows, Seabourn President, said "Both words, Encore and Ovation, pay tribute to the tremendous success and outstanding accomplishments our current ships have achieved. They are perfect names to celebrate Seabourn's expanding fleet."

During her maiden season Seabourn Encore will embark on voyages that span Arabia and India, South-east Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Further details about the two vessels can be found on the new dedicated micro-site released by the cruise line.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

RRM acquires Cruise Trade News and Cruise Ports & Destinations.

(London: January 27th 2014): Keith Ellis, owner and publisher of a group of magazines dedicated to the cruise industry, and focussed on readers in the travel trade, has sold his portfolio to the owners of consumer magazine World of Cruising.

He said today: “I am delighted to announce that Cruise Trade News, together with its partner publication Cruise Ports & Destinations, and the annual Cruise Trade News ocean and river preview publications, have been acquired by Real Response Media (RRM).

“There are ambitious plans to develop all the titles, with expanded trade and industry distribution, increased pagination in order to carry more editorial content, and an integrated online presence.”

Additional editorial staff and a strong marketing and sales team are ready to lead the magazines into 2015 and a promising future.

Chris Pitchford, managing director of RRM, added: “I am very excited with this unique opportunity to develop and expand these respected brands. The team is already in place to deliver products that the cruise industry merits at a time of continued growth and exciting developments.

“For the first time, the UK cruise business will be served by a dedicated, integrated media group, in print and online, covering all aspects of cruise topics for the trade, industry, and consumer. And there’s more to come. We plan to announce further developments within the next few weeks.

“I am pleased that Keith has agreed to remain with the business as a consultant and Publisher of both titles and that he will continue to play an integral part in the future of the publications he has created and developed.”

RRM acquired World of Cruising magazine in August 2013 and have since embarked on a comprehensive development programme. The publication’s circulation was certified at 19,147 by the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) in September 2014. It is the only cruise magazine with an audited circulation.

Cunard to carry rare facsimile of the Salisbury Magna Carta

Queen Mary 2
A rare facsimile of the Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in English history, will be going on display on board Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and sister ship Queen Victoria between May and September 2015 to celebrate its 800th anniversary year.

Salisbury Cathedral will be lending a rare facsimile of its Magna Carta (dated 1215) to Cunard and is one of only four of the original documents in existence. The facsimile will be displayed in the Grand Lobby of Queen Mary 2 from early May until September. It will also be briefly carried on-board Queen Victoria in late May.

The cruise line already has experience carrying an original Magna Carta. During World War II, the Lincoln Magna Carta, one of the four originals, was moved to Washington DC for safe-keeping. In January 1946 it began its journey home, first to New York and then on board Queen Elizabeth for the voyage to Southampton.

Chairman of the Salisbury Cathedral 2015 Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Board Robert Key will be escorting the copy of Salisbury's Magna Carta during crossings on-board Queen Mary 2 on voyages departing 10 May and 4 September. He will also be on-board Queen Victoria's voyage departing 22 May.  Key will host two talks on each voyage about the legacy of the Magna Carta and the effect it had in shaping the world as we know it today.

"I, and Salisbury Cathedral, are delighted to be working with Cunard as we celebrate the Magna Carta's 800th anniversary by loaning a very rare facsimile of the document. The impact of the Magna Carta was not only felt ashore, but in these lectures we have a golden opportunity to explain and explore those fundamental freedoms that give Cunard ships the right to sail the seven seas – rights that we won 800 years ago and for which people the world over are still prepared to fight and to die" said Robert Key.

(Photo credit to Cunard Line)

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Disney Cruise Line introduces Frozen themed events

Frozen experiences are to be added to Disney Cruise Line ships this year
Disney Cruise Line is to add new experiences to its ships based on the hit movie Frozen.

A new Frozen themed deck party will debut this summer on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder sailings to Europe and Alaska. The ship will be transformed into a winter wonderland for a day of Frozen themed entertainment.

Character meet-and-greets will be offered with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf. A themed scavenger hunt will be offered, along with a snow and ice activity named "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" after one of the key songs from the film.

Families can learn a traditional Scandinavian dance spinning and braiding giant ribbons on a Maypole and there will also be a Frozen themed dining experience inspired by traditional Nordic cuisine.

A deck party will conclude the day’s events, complete with snowflakes, icicles and snow-covered rocks.

A new production show is also planned for the Disney Magic inspired by the movie. It will feature three songs from the movie - "Let it Go," "For the First Time in Forever" and "In Summer" – along with characters from the film in a new adventure.

For itineraries on-board aboard the Disney Magic to Norway there will be a selection of exclusive shore excursions that link the region to the film.

Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream will also benefit from character meet-and-greets with Anna, Elsa, and Olaf. Disney Cruise Line’s private island Castaway Cay will also experience a Frozen theme with the addition of Olaf's Summertime Freeze bar that will serve non-alcoholic specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups.

During July this year two 12-night voyages on-board Disney Magic will sail from Dover to the Baltic region. On 3 August she will reposition to Barcelona for several seven-night Mediterranean cruises.

(Photo credit to Disney Cruise Line)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Celebrity Cruises unveils Luminae restaurant for suite guests

The new Luminae restaurant exclusively for Suite Class guests
Celebrity Cruises will soon be adding a new restaurant on-board its cruise ships exclusively for Suite Class guests. The new dining venue will be rolled out across the fleet starting in April 2015.

The new restaurant will be called Luminae and will have modern and contemporary décor. The restaurant will offer a unique menu and will be open for suite guests for complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Highlights from the sample menu include “Black And White“ caviar with crème fraîche, creamy truffle risotto with a fricassé of wild mushrooms and Parmesan Reggiano, Maine lobster tagliatelle with roasted artichokes, tomato and lemon confit, and Chocolate Palet served with caramel ice cream and fleur de sel.

The menus will feature locally sourced regional and seasonal ingredients inspired by the destinations Celebrity Cruises sails to around the world.

"Everything about Luminae embodies an inspirational culinary journey for our guests. We want them to savour soulful, technique-driven cuisine, while enjoying warm and personalised service in a relaxed, stylish setting," said John Suley, James Beard-featured Executive Chef for Celebrity Cruises.

Special touches such as table-side preparation of signature dishes and the daily presentation of a new gourmet chocolates and desserts cart will add to the ambience. The menus will offer wine pairing suggestions made by the restaurant’s dedicated head sommelier. The wine list, specially designed for Luminae guests, will feature more than 400 selections.

Passengers fly home as Boudicca remains in Tenerife for repairs


UPDATE: Thursday January 29
Passengers from Fred Olsen’s Boudicca are being flown home from Tenerife today. The company had hoped it could carry out repairs to engines and electrical cables during an extended two-night stay in Santa Cruz, but instead decided to terminate the voyage. The 784 passengers will receive a full refund of their fare, and a 50 per cent discount on their next booking. The ship is expected to be repaired in time to be back in Southampton on February 7, ready for a 14-night trip to the Canaries again.

Cruise ship Boudicca is expected to spend two days in Tenerife while repairs are carried out to the electrical cabling two main engines damaged in a fire in the early hours of Sunday morning.

A visit to Arrecife, on the island of Lanzarote, was cancelled following the blaze, which occurred as the 880-passenger ship was sailing along the Moroccan Coast during an 18-night Cape Verde and the Canaries cruise.

Passenger services were restored shortly after the fire - which was contained within the engine room - although some cabins and public areas were without power for a while. 

A Fred Olsen Cruise Lines spokeswoman said that once Boudicca has reached Tenerife this evening, she will stay for two days for the work to be carried out. Guests will then be notified of the revised itinerary for the remainder of the voyage. Managing director Mike Rodwell and a customer service team from the company’s head office in Ipswich were flying to Tenerife to greet the passengers and address any concerns.

There were no injuries to any of Boudicca’s 784 guests and 356 crew members, and - denying reports on the BBC and in national newspapers -  the ship’s Master confirmed that at no point were guests asked to don their lifejackets and gather at the muster stations.
The company added: “Fred. Olsen would like to thank all its customers for their wishes of support and they are delighted to report future bookings were unaffected yesterday, demonstrating the loyalty of its guests, with one, currently on board Boudicca, actually booking their next holiday for March 2016.”

Monday, 26 January 2015

Queen Victoria Debuts Re-Fit on 2015 World Voyage

Cunard Line's Queen Victoria embarked on the start of her 2015 World Voyage last week following an intensive 20-day refurbishment project.

The refurbishment works were carried out at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. During the works nine new single staterooms were installed, existing furnishings were refreshed and enhancements were made to the outdoor spaces.

2,000 contractors representing thirty different nationalities worked a total of 600,000 man hours around the clock to replace all 215,278 square feet (approximately 20,000 square metres) of carpet in the passenger areas. They also renewed all 3,167 mattresses on board and replaced more than 3.75 miles of pipe work insulation. A total of 2,695 gallons (approximately 12,250 litres) of paint were used inside and out.

“We are really pleased with the results of Queen Victoria’s refit – the ship is looking immaculate. We pride ourselves on listening to what our passengers want, and are delighted to have added the nine single staterooms in response – a similar addition is already proving popular with single travellers on Queen Elizabeth since her refit last year," said marketing director Angus Struthers.

"We have also installed awnings at the back of Queen Victoria’s Lido to provide more comfortable al fresco dining, and on the Upper Grill Terrace, to offer the option of shade for sunbathers – perfect for Queen Victoria’s forthcoming season in the Mediterranean. I’m sure our passengers will notice other the grace-notes around the ship, such as enhancements to the coffee service at breakfast and the new internet stations in the library."

In honour of the company's 175th anniversary, Queen Victoria welcomed her World Voyage passengers aboard with a commemorative flag-raising ceremony which took place at the ship's mast. This was to hoist the signature flag for the first time on board and as is traditional, was performed by the youngest crew member, 20 year-old deck cadet Fraser Browne. The flag will be flown at iconic landmarks across the world during all three of the fleet's World Voyages and will be auctioned at their conclusion with all proceeds going to The Prince's Trust, Cunard's official charity.

The ship's first call was at Ponta Delgada in the Azores on 23 January and she is now under way to the Caribbean before transiting the Panama Canal and heading for Hawaii and Australia.

(Photo credit to Cunard Line)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Power restored after engine room fire cripples Boudicca

Back to normal: Boudicca passengers soak up the sun as the ship sails on

Cruise ship Boudicca was briefly left without power after fire broke out in the engine room this morning while the vessel was sailing off the coast of Casablanca, Morocco.

The 784 passengers were alerted at 4.00 a.m. but Fred Olsen Cruise Lines denied a BBC report that passengers were instructed to gather at their muster stations wearing life-jackets.

The blaze, confined to the engine room, was extinguished. Although some cabins and public areas are without electricity, power has been restored to most of the ship, which is under way running on two main engines and three auxiliary units, according to spokeswoman Rachael Jackson.

She added: "The ship's master has confirmed that at no point were guests asked to don their lifejackets and gather at the muster stations as the situation was contained within the engine room by crew members. Most services are operating normally, and guests are enjoying the usual activities on board, both inside and out on deck.

“Following the loss of propulsion, Boudicca listed for a short period but is now fully stable and there is no danger to guests or the 356 crew. We are reviewing the itinerary and assessing the extent of the damage to the two main engines and electrical cables, and will make any repairs necessary at the next port f call. A revised itinerary will be advised in due course.”

Boudicca is on an 18-night cruise to the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands which departed from Southampton on Tuesday (January 20). The ship left Cadiz, Spain yesterday (Saturday) and is scheduled to arrive in Arrecife, Lanzarote, tomorrow. Built in Finland in 1973 and originally called Royal Viking Sky, it is one of four ships in the Olsen cruise fleet. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Boost for Greenock Cruise Terminal

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 at Greenock Ocean Terminal

Greenock Ocean Terminal is predicted to handle 108,866 passengers during the course of 2015, making it the first Scottish port to handle in excess of 100,000 passengers. This is a dramatic increase from the 20,253 passengers that passed through the port back in 2007.

The port benefits from a convenient location in western Scotland. It offers easy access to Glasgow city centre and can be found on many itineraries calling into ports around the British Isles and Northern Ireland.

A total of 56 cruise ship calls have been scheduled in for the port between May and September 2015. Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Cunard Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Azamara Club Cruises, P&O Cruises, CDF Croisières de France, TUI Cruises, Saga Cruises, AIDA and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines all have vessels scheduled to call into the port during the year.

Notable larger vessels scheduled to visit the port include Royal Princess, Queen Mary 2, Celebrity Silhouette, Britannia and Regal Princess.

It is also set to be a busy year for English ports too with ABP Southampton currently expecting at least 117 cruise ship calls, Liverpool Cruise Terminal expecting 54 cruise ship calls and Portsmouth International Port expecting 38 cruise ship calls throughout the year.

In Wales, Holyhead Port in Anglesey is also expecting a bumper year with 23 cruise ship calls totalling in excess of 14,000 passengers. Celebrity Silhouette will be the largest passenger cruise ship expected in the port this year, standing at 122,210 gross tons.

(Photo credit to Peel Ports)

Vista heralds Carnival's return to Europe, and promises something old, something new, something borrowed and something brew

Carnival Vista
Carrying 4,000 passengers, Carnival Vista will be the line's biggest ship


Carnival Cruise Line promised a spectacular reveal of the features on board their newest and biggest ship, Carnival Vista, launching in May 2016.

But the best news to come out of last night’s event at New York’s Time Warner Centre was that the ship will spend its debut summer season in the Mediterranean.

Carnival has not had a ship in Europe since 2013; it blamed its withdrawal on higher airfares which deterred American customers, and it struggled to create an identity among UK consumers.

The 133,500-ton Vista, which will carry almost 4,000 passengers, is to operate 18 sailings in the Med, beginning with a 13-day cruise from Trieste to Barcelona on May 1, 2016. The remaining voyages, of 8, 10 and 12 days will depart from Barcelona and Athens throughout the summer visiting ports including Dubrovnik, Izmir (Turkey), Corfu, Livorno, Marseille, Messina, Corfu and Malta.

Vista will leave Barcelona on October 21, 2016 for a 13-night Transatlantic crossing to New York, but its final homeport is still to be disclosed.

As for the ship itself, it’s largely a matter of something old, something new, something borrowed, something brew.

Let’s explain that last bit first: Vista is to have its own brewery on board, supplying the Red Frog pub with three different varieties of beer.

Something old? Count in that bar and a number of other food and drink venues that debuted on Carnival Breeze and which have been rolled out across other ships in the fleet as part of the Fun Ship 2.0 programme. Think Guy Fieri burger joint and Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant for starters.

Something new? The first IMAX cinema at sea will be part of Vista’s multiplex, and the three-deck high screen will show first-run movies at the same time as their mainstream release ashore.

Another first is SkyRide, a pedal-powered roller coaster (above) encircling the ship’s ropes course. The dual track is 800 feet long and 150 feet above the waves.

Senior cruise director and brand ambassador John Heald, from Essex, hosted the reveal, but declined to confirm whether he would be the launch cruise director. “It’s a young man’s game,” said John, who was celebrating his birthday on Thursday.

Mark Tamis, senior vice-president of guest operations, added: “We would love John to do the job, but it’s up to him to decide.”

Tamis said Vista was Carnival’s most innovative ship yet, but many of its features - including the al fresco dining out on a wide promenade deck, and the creation of family staterooms - are ideas borrowed from rival operators such as Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

Vista will have 72 suites, 880 balcony staterooms, 293 cabins with an outside view, and 723 interior cabins.

Its WaterWorks fun zone incorporates a 455-ft tube slide and a 300-ft twidter spiral slide. SkyRide encircles a suspended ropes course.

The main Reflections dining room seats 1,474 passengers, while the Horizons restaurant accommodates 702. Speciality restaurants include Cucina del Capitano, Fahrenheit 55 steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, and the JiJi Asian Kitchen.

The poolside Lido Maketplace incorporates a pizzeria, BlueIguana Cantina, Comfort Kitchen, Carnival Deli, and the Guy Fieri burger joint.

Carnival Vista's Havana Pool area at the stern of the ship

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Koningsdam's summer 2016 itineraries unveiled

A rendering of the Atrium on-board Koningsdam
Holland America Line have released details of the summer 2016 itineraries for new vessel Koningsdam due for delivery on 20 February 2016. Previously only the itineraries up to May had been released. As of 21 May the vessel will be home ported in Amsterdam following a repositioning sailing from the Mediterranean.

"For the first summer sailing season of our beautiful new ship ms Koningsdam, we've crafted some incredible itineraries to Europe's most beautiful ports," said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.

The ship will sail a selection of seven- and 14-day cruises to Norway that showcase the country's scenery and landscapes. A seven-day itinerary planned for May, July and August will call at Flam, Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo, and will offer scenic cruising around Sognefjord and Oslofjord.

Another seven-day itinerary planned for June and July will call at Eidfjord, Alesund, Geiranger and Bergen, and will offer scenic cruising around Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord.

A third seven-day itinerary in August will call at Bergen, Hellesylt, Geiranger, Alesund and Eidfjord, and offer scenic cruising around Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord.

A longer 14-day Norwegian voyage will depart on 29 May and 17 July which will cross the Arctic Circle and will call at eight ports in Norway. Guests also will enjoy memorable scenic cruising around Hardangerfjord, Geirangerfjord, Trondheimsfjord, the North Cape and Sognefjord.

Koningsdam will also briefly visit the British shores. The 14 August itinerary will call at Newcastle upon Tyne, South Queensferry (for Edinburgh) and Invergordon (for Inverness) as well as Reykjavik (overnight), Isafjordur and Akuruyri in Iceland plus Alesund and Bergen in Norway.

Two 14-day Baltic itineraries in June and September are also planned. The ship will call at Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde (Berlin) and Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg (overnight), Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden.

At the end on the season, Koningsdam will sail from Amsterdam to Civitavecchia on a 12-day voyage that calls at England, Gibraltar, Portugal and four ports in Spain. On 24 October  the ship repositions to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (USA) on a 14-day transatlantic voyage with calls planned at Alicante, Malaga (Granada) and Huelva (Seville), Spain; and Funchal, Madeira.

These itineraries will be available to book in early February 2015.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Windstar unveils Star Breeze and Star Legend

A rendering of the Star Bar
Small ship cruise line Windstar Cruises will expand its fleet from four to six ships in May 2015 with the addition of two vessels from Seabourn. Recently Windstar Cruises announced the list of changes it plans to make to the two vessels to align them with their brand.

Windstar will take possession of the first Seabourn ship on 15 April 2015. It will undergo an $8.5 million (£5.6 million) renovation over the course of three weeks in Genoa, Italy before débuting as Star Breeze during a christening ceremony on 6 May in Nice, France.

The second vessel will join the fleet on 4 May 2015, and undergo a similar $8.5 million (£5.6 million) renovation before being christened Star Legend on 25 May in Rome, Italy.

Hans Birkholz, Windstar Cruises’ chief executive officer said “We learned a lot about our guests’ preferences with the début of Star Pride last year. We are taking their feedback and giving them what they want with the launch of these two all suite yachts.”

Both yachts will have a capacity of 212 passengers at double occupancy. Upgrades to the suites, public areas, and dining venues will be made as part of the renovation works.

The public areas will receive updated décor, complete with new and more modern upholstery, lighting, wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, window treatments, and floorings. A contemporary colour palette will be used that will combine sand and marine shades to contrast with the warmth of wood finishes, thereby creating an up-scale, nautical feel.

All restaurants will be transformed as will every one of the 106 suites which will receive a modern colour palette of vibrant blue hues, rich brown tones, and opulent greys.

Windstar is also planning a $3 million (£1.9 million) additional renovation of Star Pride in April 2016. Star Pride joined Windstar’s fleet from Seabourn in May 2014 following renovation works.

(Photo credit to Windstar Cruises)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Norwegian announces additional dining venues for Escape

Bayamo by Jose Garces
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced more dining venues to be added to Norwegian Escape, which is due for delivery in November 2015.

Jose Garces, the James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef, will launch two speciality restaurants. The venues will offer Latin-inspired culinary dishes from classic Mexican dishes to Cuban specialities.

Bayamo by Jose Garces will showcase Latin dishes with a heavy Cuban-influence set within a chic dining room. Al fresco dining will also be available on The Waterfront. Dishes will feature the flavours of Latin America with Spanish influences.

Pincho Tapas Bar by Jose Garces will offer traditional Spanish tapas à la carte within a lively casual setting. Plates will be prepared on an authentic La Plancha grill right at the bar in front of guests.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar will complete the space and serve as an entry to Bayamo. Guests who wish to have a cocktail before dinner can enjoy live Latin music whilst selecting from more than ten different mojitos and rum-based cocktails.

Open for lunch through dinner Food Republic will be a modern, up-scale food emporium from The Pubbelly Restaurant Group. Guests will experience a culinary journey via small plates, with flavours ranging from Asia to Central Europe and the Mediterranean, all available à la carte. The Food Republic will offer guests the freedom to choose what they want and when they want it thanks to the venue's iPad ordering system.

As a first-at-sea concept, the District Brew House will be an urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company. This venue will have its own keg room, 24 draft beers on tap and more than 50 different bottled beers on offer. The District Brew House will also offer a menu of gastropub-style plates for snacking.

The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar will offer wine experiences, with a focus on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine, all accompanied by small plates and tapas, available à la carte.

Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of American television shows “Cake Boss” and “Next Great Baker”, will offer confections including cannoli’s, lobster tails, tiramisu, plus a variety of other unique cakes, cupcakes and Italian cookies, all available à la carte.

Norwegian Cruise Line also announced several entertainment additions.

The Escape Theatre will be home to two Broadway musicals – “Million Dollar Quartet” and “After Midnight”.

The Supper Club will offer a dinner show concept. The first show offered will be “For The Record”, a show that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret.

Headliners Comedy Club will also be added to the vessel following its success on Norwegian Getaway. The venue will showcase  comedians chosen through its partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of live comedy.

Escape will visit Southampton in October en route to Miami from the shipyard where it is being built in Germany. Passengers can book a two-night cruise from Hamburg or one night on board on October 27. The ship will host an invitation-only event on October 28.

(Photo credit to Norwegian Cruise Lines)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Cunard celebrates the start of its 175th anniversary year

3 Queens in Southampton
Last weekend saw the start of the celebrations from Cunard to mark their 175th anniversary. Fireworks and marching bands marked the departure of Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth on their World Voyages.

Both Queen Mary 2 and sister ship Queen Elizabeth were in Southampton together on 10 January 2015. British actress Celia Imrie was aboard Queen Mary 2 while Kate Adie, former chief news correspondent for the BBC, was aboard Queen Elizabeth.

Celebrations will continue throughout the year on all three vessels including:
  • Gala dinners with souvenir menus on cruises of more than four nights
  • "Black, Red and Gold" themed Balls in the Queens Room aboard each ship
  • 175th themed commemorative drinks, from special blends of wine to craft beers, plus 175th themed cakes and deserts at afternoon tea and formal dinners.
  • Themed entertainment, including  175th anniversary quizzes and the quirky side of Cunard's history presented by the RADA theatre group travelling aboard Queen Mary 2's transatlantic crossings
  • Specially created 175th merchandise, from  collectible posters to teddy bears and polo shirts to cufflinks and 18 carat Clogue gold jewellery
  • Mail posted on board with be over-stamped with the 175th anniversary logo
  • In cabin stationery – postcards, writing paper and envelopes – will display the 175th anniversary logo
Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria will all reunite in their home port of Southampton on 3 May 2015 for a special sail away of the three Queens. This is expected to draw large crowds as is the gathering of the three vessels in Liverpool during a special three-day event between 24 and 26 May. On 25 May the trio of vessels will appear in formation on the Mersey where they will perform a series of carefully choreographed manoeuvres within sight of the Three Graces on Pier Head waterfront, including the iconic Cunard Building which was the company's headquarters for nearly 50 years.

As part of the celebrations Cunard have also released a short animated video chronicling the line's 175 years of service.

(Photo credit to Cunard Line)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Azamara Club Cruises offers a trio of choices

Azamara Quest
In its latest Choices promotion luxury cruise line Azamara Club Cruises is offering a guests the opportunity to choose one of a trio of extras on selected cruises sailing during 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The cruise line is offering the choice of either $1,000 on-board credit per stateroom, free (or reduced) airfares or a free stateroom category upgrade on applicable sailings on-board Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey.

A selection of promo codes are required to take advantage of these offers. The code CHOICES OBC can be used to qualify for the free on-board credit, CHOICES AIR can be used to benefit from free flights or reduced airfares, and CHOICES UPG will enable the stateroom category upgrade.

The offer is valid on new bookings made before 28 February 2015 and only one offer can be used per booking. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Azamara Club Cruises website here.

(Photo credit to Azamara Club Cruises)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Princess Cruises celebrates 50th anniversary

Regal Princess during her sea trials
Princess Cruises is celebrating 50 years of service with a selection of offers and a competition.

The cruise line is offering 50 prizes in a prize draw open to those who book a cruise with the line, order a brochure or sign up to receive their email newsletters before 28 February 2015. The grand prize is a 14-night Mediterranean cruise on-board Caribbean Princess with the following vouchers as runner-up prizes for use on-board a future Princess cruise:
  • 20 Chocolate and wine pairings vouchers
  • Ten spa credit vouchers of $50
  • Ten fine dining for two vouchers worth $50
  • Five on-board credit vouchers of $150
  • Four on-board credit vouchers of $200
Their 50th anniversary offers include a reduced deposit of £50 per person together with free on-board credit worth up to $50 per couple per day. These offers are available for new cruise bookings made before 28 February.

Full terms and conditions can be found on the Princess Cruises website.

(Photo credit to Princess Cruises)

Friday, 16 January 2015

Pullmantur targets British cruise market

Pullmantur Empress
Spanish cruise line Pullmantur Cruises has appointed Fred.\ Holidays as its UK’s General Sales Agent and are now actively seeking British cruise passengers through its dedicated Pullmantur Cruises UK website.

The cruise line offers a Spanish-style cruise experience using five vessels, Empress, Monarch, Sovereign, Horizon and Zenith, which were once operated by Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. Pullmantur Cruises is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited and has a subsidiary company CDF Croisières de France which caters to the French cruise market.

Fred.\ Holidays are offering all-inclusive fly-cruise packages sailing with Pullmantur Cruises which include flights, overseas transfers gratuities, port charges as well as all meals and on-board drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). These holidays are designed to appeal to families, couples, groups of friends and those who have never cruised before.

The itineraries on offer for 2015 span the Baltics, Caribbean and Mediterranean along with the British Isles, Northern Europe, the Black Sea, South America, Africa and the Norwegian Fjords.

Highlights of the 2015 season include the following voyages.

The seven-night Breezes of the Mediterranean itinerary departs from Barcelona (Spain) and calls at La Goulette (Tunisia), Naples (Italy), Civitavecchia for Rome (Italy), La Spezia (Italy) and Villefranche (France). Prices start from £899 per person based on staying in an inside cabin on an all-inclusive basis including flights, transfers, gratuities and port taxes for departures between 28 March and 10 October 2015.

The seven-night Baltics Capitals itinerary departs from Malmö (Sweden) and calls at Warnermunde (Germany), Nynashamn (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), St Petersburg (Russia) before docking in Talinn (Estonia). Prices start from £1,299 per person based staying in an inside cabin on an all-inclusive basis including flights, transfers, gratuities and port taxes for departure on 4 July 2015.

(Photo credit to Pullmantur Cruises)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Fred. Olsen relaxes ID requirements for British Isles cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines has announced it has relaxed its ID requirements for voyages that cruise around the United Kingdom.

The company acknowledges that a proportion of the British population do not hold either a valid passport or photo card driving licence and so it will now accept the following forms of photographic identification for its voyages around the UK:

  • Passport
  • EU national ID card
  • Driving licence
  • Council-issued bus pass / travel card
  • Firearms licence
  • VALIDATE UK card

This measure is only applicable to their “Around UK” range of itineraries and does not apply to voyages calling into Eire (Republic of Ireland).

Addressing security concerns the cruise line has stated that these changes continue to meet its own company policy of being able to verify the identity of each guest, and that the cruise line also fully complies with the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (‘ISPS’) Code.

The selection of “Around UK” voyages, together with the smaller vessels operating these, allows guests to explore England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the convenience and comfort of a cruise ship.

The following highlighted sailings are amongst the first to benefit from the new relaxed rules:

Sailing on 28 April 2015 on-board Boudicca from Dover, guests can enjoy an 11-night voyage calling into Guernsey, Falmouth, Liverpool, Kirkwall, Rosyth and Newcastle on the 'Floral Britannia' itinerary. Prices start from £989 per person, based on an inside twin-bedded cabin, subject to availability.

Sailing on 21 June 2015 on-board Boudicca from Rosyth near Edinburgh, guests can enjoy a 7-night voyage around the Highlands, calling into Kirkwall, Lerwick, Stornoway, Tobermory and Portree on the 'Highlights of the Highlands’ itinerary. Prices start from £800 per person, based on an inside twin-bedded cabin, subject to availability.

Sailing on 23 June 2015 on-board Balmoral from Southampton, guests can enjoy an ten-night voyage calling into Falmouth, Belfast, Stornoway, Lerwick, Invergordon and Newcastle on the 'UK Islands & Landmarks' itinerary. Prices start from £1,034 per person, based on an inside twin-bedded cabin, subject to availability.

(Photo credit to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Further details about Seven Seas Explorer released

A rendering of Seven Seas Explorer
Further details have been released about Seven Seas Explorer, the latest vessel from Regent Seven Seas Cruises due to come into service in summer 2016.

The ship will offer a meticulous level of craftsmanship together with lavish detailing. The main atrium lobby will feature a circular inlaid marble floor and will act as the heart of the ship. Twin etched glass staircases will draw the eye upwards towards a crystal chandelier.

The vessel will see a new category of suite introduced named the Regent Suite. This two-bedroom suite comes complete with an in-room spa retreat - a first at sea with a personal sauna, steam room and treatment area. The suite also features an outdoor, glass-enclosed sitting area known as the Vista Garden. Here guests can enjoy unobstructed 270-degree views over the ship’s bow and toward the horizon.

Several dining venues are planned for the vessel. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ signature steakhouse Prime 7 will be added and will host a new décor of dark purple hues silver accents and plush leather seating, reminiscent of a London private member club.

Compass Rose, the main dining room, will receive a new contemporary and sophisticated look complimented with a cascading aqua-blue chandelier.

Chic Italian Riviera-inspired La Veranda on deck 11 will offer casual indoor and al-fresco dining whilst  La Veranda, the buffet restaurant on-board, will offer 270-degree ocean views. This venue will transform in the evening into Sette Mari at La Veranda, an elegant fine dining restaurant for dinner.

The two-tiered Constellation Theatre with a 694-seat capacity will offer a variety of cabaret-style seating together with cocktail tables.

The Observation Lounge will be inspired by the opulence and indulgences of the Roaring Twenties and will feature a colour palette of rich silver, gold, black and white hues. The lounge will benefit from floor-to-ceiling windows and will feature a crystal chandelier above the dance floor.

Explorer Lounge will offer more of a country club vibe with rich mahogany wood columns, comfortable leather chairs, deep blue fabrics and sumptuous flooring. 

Graham Sadler, managing director for Regent Seven Seas Cruises UK, said “We’ve set a high benchmark for Seven Seas Explorer, not only to build a ship that far outshines the current standard in luxury cruising, but to design a ship that will be recognized industry-wide as the most luxurious ship ever.”

The 56,000 gross ton Seven Seas Explorer will have a capacity of just 750 guests and will set sail on its inaugural voyage on 20 July 2016 from Monte Carlo. Reservations for Seven Seas Explorer’s maiden voyage and inaugural season open 19 January 2015 exclusively for Seven Seas Society members and will become widely available starting 4 February.

Back in December 2014 renderings of the new ship together with a teaser video were released.

Renderings of what the ship is expected to look like both inside and out can be found over at World of Cruising.

(Photo credit to Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Zegrahm Expeditions offers 25th anniversary journeys

Caledonian Sky
Zegrahm Expeditions, specialists in small-ship cruising, are to celebrate their 25th anniversary with two expeditions that will be hosted by four of the original co-founders to commemorate this milestone in its history.

Departing on 28 April 2015 is their The Azores & Canary Islands expedition. This 17-day journey on-board the 110 passenger capacity Sea Adventurer offers a mix of quaint villages, birdwatching, hiking, wine tasting, and visits to colourful markets. Guests will explore the eastern Atlantic’s volcanic islands including Sao Miguel, Graciosa, Pico, Faial, Terceira, and Santa Maria, as well as the Canary Islands and Madeira. Guests will also spend a full day exploring Seville and can enjoy an optional excursion to Marrakech. This expedition is priced from $9,980 per person.

The second expedition, Tahiti to Easter Island, departs on 29 October and is a 21-day voyage on-board Caledonian Sky. With a passenger capacity of just one hundred guests, this intimate cruise will explore the Marquesas, Tuamotu, and Pitcairn Islands. The itinerary has been designed to offer a mix of natural history and culture with plenty of atolls, lagoons, and beaches to take in. Guests can enjoy snorkelling and diving nearly every day where they can discover healthy reefs teeming with tropical fish. This expedition ends at Easter Island, where guests will see giant volcanic stone statues known locally as moai. This expedition is priced from $18,480 per person.

Each of these voyages will be joined by an expedition team of naturalists, ornithologists, and marine biologists, along with Zegrahm co-founders Mike Messick, Jack Grove, Peter Harrison, and Shirley Metz.

Zegrahm President Edwin Blythe said “These expeditions are the true essence of Zegrahm, and we’re excited to celebrate our 25th year of travel with these signature voyages. Not only will our travellers be visiting remote corners of the world, they’ll also participate in special celebrations, receive exclusive commemorative gifts throughout each trip, and be part of a special donation made to a charity in each of the areas we visit.”

(Photo credit to Zegrahm Expeditions)

Monday, 12 January 2015

TV chef Phil Vickery ‘comes home’ to Saga

TV chef Phil Vickery
TV chef Phil Vickery can’t wait to sail on Saga Sapphire in the summer – and he has a special reason why.

Phil started his career as a commis chef at the Burlington Hotel, in Folkestone, where the Saga story began.

He said: “I feel like everything has gone full circle. My first job was working in Saga’s hotel, learning my trade in that kitchen.”

Phil, 53, also had a glimpse of life on Saga Ruby in 2012 while on a cookery assignment in Gibraltar. He said: “I did a day’s filming and I was really impressed by the service on the ship.

“It was a really nice experience, the service was amazing – a real eye-opener and I thought ‘I would like to do some work with these guys some time’.

“So when Saga approached me to be their guest chef on the Adriatic Explorer cruise in June I was very excited!”

Phil has travelled the globe but this will be his first ocean cruise. He said: “Although I have visited and cooked in most parts of world, from Alaska to Vietnam, Brazil and the southern states of the US, I have never been on ‘a proper cruise’.

“During that brief visit on Saga Ruby I loved the tranquillity and the relaxed atmosphere on the ship. I can’t wait to step on Sapphire.”

Phil will be presenting three cookery demonstrations and talks on the 700-passenger ship. He will also discuss his work on devising gluten-free recipes and cookery options for people with other dietary requirements, including coeliac.

Phil is the National Food Ambassador for Coeliac UK and he said: “This part of my work is really important to me so I am keen to show guests the ‘science’ of how to successfully cook meals and choose ingredients.”

Michelin-starred Phil is one of Britain’s favourite celebrity chefs and his TV career started after he filled in for Keith Floyd on the Breakfast programme. He has appeared on the BBC’s Holiday Programme, Ready Steady Cook, Phil Vickery’s Pudding Club and he has been the resident chef on ITV’s This Morning for 15 years. He has cooked for Margaret Thatcher and John Major and had the honour of being chosen to bake the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday cake.

Between TV work and writing 14 books, Phil breeds pigs on his farm in Buckinghamshire where he lives with his wife TV presenter Fern Britton. The couple have one daughter Winnie, and three children from Fern’s first marriage; Grace, Jack and Harry.

In his ‘spare time’ sports-loving Phil follows Tottenham Hotspur FC and supports England. With so many interests and plenty of energy Phil thinks he will love his time on Sapphire, from jogging round the ship in the mornings to exploring the fine dining options.

He said: “I will no doubt find being on Sapphire a fun and relaxing experience and it will be so good, sitting on the deck talking to guests - and I also understand draught Spitfire beer is served on board. That’s my favourite pint, so it just gets better!”

25 nights from £5,054 departing from Dover on May 30, 2015. Price includes Price includes UK travel package to and from Dover, all meals and entertainment, afternoon tea, 24-hour room service, welcome cocktail party, unlimited tea and coffee in selected venues, free Wi-Fi internet, all on-board gratuities, porterage, free shuttle bus to nearest town centre (whenever possible and when the ship is berthed more than 500 yards away), travel insurance and additional cancellation cover.

(Photo credit to Phil Vickery/Saga Travel)

Britannia to offer 20 artisan gins on-board

P&O Cruises' Britannia during her sea trials
When P&O CruisesBritannia launches in March she is expected to be the embodiment of the spirit of modern Britain. Recently we learned that this includes offering a Great British Gin Menu in The Crows Nest lounge. Here you will be able to enjoy customised gin cocktails, gin tasting sessions, or a classic Gin and Tonic with ice and a slice.

Twenty artisanal gins will be on offer including The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (Argyll), Tarquin`s Dry Gin (Cornwall), Darnley`s View (Edinburgh), Silent Pool Gin (Surrey), and Ely Dark Chocolate Gin (Cambridgeshire) as well as big names such as Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray and Hendrick’s.

A selection of tonic waters will complement these gins with brands offered including Fevertree, Fentiman’s and Bottlegreen developed to satisfy the most discerning of palates.

P&O Cruises marketing director Christopher Edgington said: “The recent surge in the popularity of gin has seen a huge rise in the number of craft gin makers setting up business. The Great British Gin Menu onboard Britannia reflects the increasing popularity of this quintessentially British drink and celebrates the success of these artisan distillers.”

This follows news that English sparkling wine from the Wiston Estate Winery in West Sussex will be used at the christening ceremony.

Britannia is nearing completion ready for her maiden cruise voyage from Southampton on 14 March 2015. Last month she was caught on camera embarking on her first sea trials.

A seven-night cruise on-board Britannia starts from £769 per person for a departure date of 5 September 2015 on a voyage to France, Spain & Guernsey. This price is based on two adults sharing an inside cabin on the Select Price fare.

(Photo credit to P&O Cruises)

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Saga wins best specialist small cruise line at British Travel Awards - and here's why

Saga Pearl II
Saga has scooped the British Travel Award title for the Best Specialist Small Ship Cruise Line. Saga Cruises left other companies in the shadows because with Saga everything is taken care - from the minute guests leave their front door.

The Saga cruise price includes a myriad of extras that often come at an additional price on other cruise lines, so it’s no wonder 98% of Saga passengers describe their cruise as 'good' or 'excellent'.

Elegant 700-passenger Saga Sapphire and 400-passenger Saga Pearl II are small, friendly and intimate ships yet boast spacious and comfortable lounges, bars and dining areas. The ships also get into the heart of destinations that many other ships cannot reach, including Venice.

Here’s 20 reasons to demonstrate that, while Saga ships may be small, they are big on value and why 75% of customers choose to sail with us time and time again:
  1. Door-to-door chauffeur service to the port and return, up to 250 miles each way
  2. Free shuttle bus from the ship’s port to the nearest town, if the distance is more than 500 yards
  3. Travel insurance and additional cancellation cover
  4. 24-hour room service
  5. Ratio of two crew to three passengers
  6. All onboard gratuities included
  7. Free wifi
  8. Free fitness classes and use of fully equipped gym
  9. Daily classes, quizzes and activities
  10. Free sauna and solarium
  11. Inside and outside pools
  12. Porterage of luggage
  13. Full evening entertainment programme including guest musicians and comedians
  14. Free lectures by A-list authors, historians, celebrity gardeners & wildlife experts
  15. Bridge visits to meet the captain, plus captain’s welcome cocktail party
  16. Themed cruises – including food, wine, music, literary, arts, gardens, architecture & history
  17. Fine dining – choose from buffet or waiter service, plus barbecues when weather permits
  18. Full afternoon tea each day
  19. Thermos-cooled water in each cabin and bottled water on all shore excursions
  20. 24-hour quality tea and freshly ground-bean coffee