Saturday, 31 March 2012

Now Get Shipboard Credit With Crystal

As if free flights and all-inclusive pricing weren’t enough, Crystal Cruises has announced it will be offering a generous shipboard credit of up to $3,200 per stateroom on selected Mediterranean voyages in 2012, if booked before April 30.

This offer, which is exclusive to the UK and is based on two people sharing a stateroom, is valid on 14 of Crystal Serenity’s Mediterranean itineraries departing between June 19 and November 28. The shipboard credit – ranging from $500 to $3,200 per stateroom depending on voyage booked - can be used to enjoy pampering spa treatments, interesting shore excursions, Connoisseur’s List vintage wines and select single malt whiskeys, exclusive Vintage Room dinners or simply indulgent purchases from the onboard shops, making a cruise with Crystal better value than ever.

Serenity’s 2012 Mediterranean voyages are priced from £2,519 per person (based on the seven-night voyage from Rome to Venice departing August 6) including return scheduled flights, overseas transfers, and seven nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window on an all-inclusive basis, plus a shipboard credit of $500 per stateroom.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Friday, 30 March 2012

SeaDream Unveils 2013 European Schedule

Luxury line SeaDream Yacht Club have released their 2013 programme of European voyages for the UK market, featuring a variety of new destinations and experiences from May to October.

Their two immaculate super-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II will sail to Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro, Malta and Portugal, with new destinations including Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia

Highlights of the grand 2013 European season include:         

Voyage 11323, Jun 5-16: Yachting the best ports of Turkey, Greece and Croatia in 11-nights. Voyage-only fares from $7,599pp, plus govt fees and handling (approx. £5,335pp inc tax).        

Voyage 11333, Aug 17-30: 13-night full circumnavigation of the Black Sea, including Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia and the north coast of Turkey. Voyage-only fares from $9,299pp plus $868pp fees and handling (approx. £6,559pp inc tax.

Voyage 11334, Aug 30-Sep 7: An educational, 8-night voyage visiting ancient Troy and the Gallipoli battlefields in Turkey and Greece’s archaeological site of Mycenae. Voyage-only fares from $5,699pp, plus $488pp fees and handling (approx. £3,990pp inc tax).

Voyage 11335, Sep 7-13: “Mamma Mia” comes to life with calls to Skiathos Island, Volos, Kayala and Thassos in Greece. Voyage-only fares from $4,299pp, plus $441pp fees and handling (approx. £3,055pp inc tax).

Voyage 11338, Oct 2-12: 10-nights, featuring fabulous Greek Islands, Turkey’s stunning Turquoise Coast and a rare call to the island of Cyprus. Voyage-only fares from $6,999pp plus $610pp fees and handling (approx. £4,310pp inc tax).

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Save Big With Four Oceania Voyages

Oceania Cruises has added four new departures to its summer 2012 offers, giving clients savings of up to 63% off published prices and a $500 per stateroom credit to spend in the onboard shops, the spa and bars.

24th May – Barcelona to Copenhagen, 16 nights now from £1,349pp: cruise from Barcelona around the entire coast of Spain and Portugal, calling into Casablanca en-route, and then up the west coast of France and on to Bruges, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. This magnificent sailing on 650-guest Nautica now saves from £1,829-£2,258pp, and guests will also receive a $500 credit. Prices include all meals, complimentary soft drinks and bottled water. Excludes flights.

26th May – Athens to Barcelona, 10 nights now from £999pp: this cruise is offering a saving of more than 50% on brand new luxury ship Riviera. The itinerary takes in the coastlines of southern France, western Italy, with a visit to Taormina (Sicily), Santorini and Kusadasi (Turkey). Prices range from £999 for an inside cabin to £1,799 for a Penthouse suite (saving £2,312), and include a $500 credit per stateroom. Price excludes flights.

13th August – Venice to Rome, 10 nights from £899pp, saving up to £2,485pp: this luxury 'foodie' cruise was originally from £2,223 and offers fine dining at sea at its best as Riviera cruises from Venice via Croatia, Montenegro, Corfu, Sicily, Sardinia, Monte Carlo and Florence to Rome (Civitavecchia). Upgrade to a Penthouse suite for £1,749pp, (was £4,284). Price excludes flights.

31st August – Copenhagen to Dover, 12 nights from £1,099: this sailing from Denmark visits the north and west coast of the UK, visiting the Shetland Islands, Scotland, Ireland and Falmouth (Cornwall) before arriving at Dover. Savings of up to £2,891 are now available off the cost of a Penthouse Suite, or cruise for just £1,099 for an inside stateroom (was £2,789). All cabin categories come with a $500/stateroom onboard credit to spend in the shops, spa, bars and cafes, while the cruise again includes all meals, including fine dining and complimentary soft drinks and bottled water. Excludes flights.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A Fantasy Photo Tour

OK, no words this time, just a handful of our best photos from last week's preview cruise aboard the new Disney Fantasy:

Bahamian idyll - the ship at Disney's private island of Castaway Cay

That Art Nouveau touch - a design style reminiscent of the Golden Age of cruising

You want fun - try the main pool deck, complete with the AquaDuck flume ride

Or for the grown-ups - the tranquility of the adults-only Cove area

Classic look - the proper wrap-around Promenade Deck, complete with steamer chairs

All this and princesses, too - the true Disney family touch with the Atrium meet-and-greets

More soon...!

Big Savings on Nile With Bales

Cruising along the River Nile is still one of travel's great experiences, and, in 2012, there are more ways than ever to give it a try. Check out what the folks from Bales Worldwide have to say about it in their latest press release:


The Nostalgic Nile - Luxor-Aswan
Recapturing the golden age of 19th century cruising, these exclusive journeys sail the waterways between Luxor and Aswan aboard beautifully crafted dahabiyyas, elegant wooden sailing ships that afford the chance to experience the Nile without the usual crowds. With expert guides, small groups and 7 nights aboard to fully appreciate the classic landscapes, this exceptional and best-selling itinerary offers antiquity and ambience in equal measure.
The Nostalgic Nile from £1,545, saving up to £800pp
This 8-day itinerary, with scheduled flights and accommodation on The Amber, a traditional dahabiyya, includes English-speaking guides on board who will also take care of tipping, private air-conditioned vehicle for transfers, a sightseeing itinerary (including entrance fees), and exclusive river cruise. 

Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing on a mixed board basis (including seven breakfasts, six lunches and seven dinners). Price includes all applicable UK and overseas airport taxes and fuel surcharges, which are subject to change. Prices are based on an April 21 departure date.

For more info and booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury river-cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd, or call on 0800 008 6677.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Unleash Your Inner Artist With Star Clippers

New `learn to’ type cruises are all the rage this year, and tall-ship specialist Star Clippers is definitely one to watch for this style of holiday as they be providing guests with the opportunity to unleash their inner artist on three art-themed sailing voyages in 2012, with the first departure on May 5.

Guests can learn to sketch and paint in the company of successful British artist Richard Nichols against a backdrop of a beautiful tall ship under full sail, in some of the world’s most stunning locations, including the Greek Islands, Spain, Morocco and the Caribbean. The week-long, sailings cost from £1,499pp, including art tuition and equipment, all meals on board, return UK flights and transfers.

Suffolk-born Nichols specialises in seascapes and coastal scenes and will run workshops on each cruise encompassing a variety of media, from sketching to water-colours, aimed at all levels of experience. Included in the price of the cruise is a special artist’s backpack that converts into a seat for sitting and sketching on location. The backpack contains sketchbooks, paper, water-colours, brushes and pencils, so guests do not need to supply any equipment.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A True Cruise Fantasy

We are just back from a 3-day media preview cruise aboard the new Disney Fantasy, the fourth ship in the stylish Disney Cruise Line fleet.

A sister to last year's Disney Dream, the Fantasy is a slightly tweaked version to cater for the fact the newcomer will offer the line's 7-day Caribbean voyages out of their main base in Port Canaveral, Florida (just an hour from Walt Disney World).

There is an extra kids' water-play area, called the AquaLab, a new small-pool in the adults-only Cove area, a bigger version of the superb Skyline bar and a completely re-themed entertainment district, called Europa instead of The District.

The cabins remain larger than average and there are two exclusive new shows in the superb Walt Disney Theater - Dreams (which starts out like High School Musical but morphs into classic Disney musical territory in superb fashion) and Aladdin, a full-scale musical presentation. Both feature the theater's amazing technological variety and staging wizardry and have a young, vigorous cast that deliver with great verve and energy.

Dining quality seems to have been quietly kicked up a notch, too. We ate in each of the Royal Court, Animator's Palate and adults-only Palo and, while the latter remains a stand-out location, the other two were not left in the shade by any means.

(As a quick aside for non-Disney regulars, Disney Cruise Line operates a rotational evening dining system that goes through each of the three main dining rooms in turn, changing the style, mood and menu each time. Hugely imaginative and also great fun, especially for families)

The new show that goes with Animator's Palate is also every bit as impressive as advertised. It starts with every guest being able to 'draw' their own cartoon figure (on a standardized template that makes it easier than it sounds) and these are then incorporated into the dining room's big finale presentation in dramatic, eye-popping style. One of the cruise's 'Don't Miss' moments.

Fantasy is also decorated in 1930s Art Nouveau fashion (as opposed to Art Deco on Dream) and there are some genuinely beautiful and classic design touches throughout which really hark back to that Golden Age of cruising (while providing every mod con possible, like the interactive 'Enchanted Art' throughout the ship, which comes to life when a guest passes by). 

The current Disney mania for interactive games in its Walt Disney World theme parks is now extended to the ship, too, with the Muppets featuring in an adventure quest game using the Enchanted Art pieces in an interactive scavenger hunt/puzzle. Great fun for all ages.

We were also impressed, as we were with Dream, with the adults-only options and areas, which continue to make this a great proposition for couples as well as just families. Disney simply has THE most impressive children's facilities anywhere, but the 'grown-ups' are not left out at all, and, with the exception of the main dining rooms, the overt 'Disney-ness' is not all-pervading or at all off-putting. This is a genuinely sophisticated and engaging cruise experience that - most importantly - still harks back to cruising's maritime traditions, and does it very well for everyone aboard.

Finally - Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island (below) continues to get better and more feature-packed seemingly with every visit. There are SO many activities here now you would probably need a week to try them all, but just chilling out on the well-provisioned beach, surrounded by blissful views and the impossibly azure waters, remains one of THE great experiences in the cruise pantheon.

Three days is definitely too short a time to spend aboard - but the new alternating 7-day east and west Caribbean itineraries are well worth considering.

Be sure to order your Summer edition of World of Cruising magazine as we will have a full review, with extensive photos, from our preview.

For booking options, be sure to check out this link with the UK's leading cruise agent specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.


Celebrity's Galapagos Highlights

Celebrity Cruises have unveiled their list of Galapagos Islands highlights, all available with their unique ship Celebrity Xpedition in this amazing part of the world.
  • Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz - Visit the hypersalinic lagoon and view flamingos, common stilts, pintail ducks and the many nesting iguanas, from which the Hill gets its name.
  • Punta Espinoza, Fernandina - Walk with dragons in the largest colony of endemic Marine Iguanas in the Galapagos.
  • North Seymour, Galapagos - Discover the land where blue-footed boobies nest, sea lions play and the largest colony of frigate birds in the Galapagos congregates.
Sample Itinerary

10-Night Galapagos Fly/Cruise, joining Celebrity Xpedition from £4,584 per person (based on two sharing an oceanview stateroom). Voyage includes return flights from London Heathrow, two nights pre-cruise and one night post-cruise hotel accommodation in Quito (Ecuador), and a seven-night cruise departing Baltra (Galapagos) and calling at Daphne Island (Galapagos), Caleta Tagus (Isabela), Puerto Egas (Santiago, Chile), Rabida (Galapagos), Sullivan Bay (Santiago, Chile), Mangle Point (Fernandina), Las Bachas (Santa Cruz), Bartolome Island (Santiago, Chile), P. Baquerizo (San Cristobal), North Seymour (Galapagos), Cerro Brujo (San Cristobal), Kicker Rock (San Cristobal) and Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) before returning to Baltra; all meals and entertainment onboard and relevant cruise taxes/fees. Price is based on an April 15 departure.

For more info and booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Uniworld Add Italy In 2013

In the spring of 2013, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will add another extraordinary river cruise destination to their collection of itineraries: Italy, taking in the Po River and the Venice Lagoon.

Uniworld say that their new Italy programme "is designed to bring the region’s art, architecture, music, cuisine, landscapes, culture and religious and political history together like pieces of an exquisite puzzle, creating an immersive and enlightening journey for each of our guests."

While guests will get to experience the “must-see” memorable sights in the iconic cities of Rome, Florence and Venice, they will also have the opportunity to venture off the beaten path, travelling to such places as Ravenna, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and enchanting Verona, the home of literature’s most famous lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

Guests will also be introduced to Italy’s distinctive culinary delights, attending a pasta-making workshop in, the culinary capital of northern Italy. Throughout the journey, they will indulge in the culinary flavours of the region, from crispy Roman pizza to creamy Venetian gelato and hearty Chianti.

Uniworld will be moving one of their award-winning boutique ships, the River Countess, to Venice and the Po River in 2013. The vessel is being completely remodelled to reflect the spirit and heart of this great destination with all the elegant touches and finesse of a finely painted Italian masterpiece.

The new 13-day ‘Splendours of Italy’ voyage includes: seven nights in a riverview stateroom, two nights in a deluxe hotel in Florence and three nights in a deluxe hotel in Rome; all meals onboard with complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; fully-guided excursions with local experts; and all transfers on arrival and departure days, and throughout the programme.

For booking details, be sure to check with the UK's luxury river-cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd, on 0800 008 6677.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Carnival's Caribbean Cruise Bonus

Cruise the Eastern Caribbean and see some of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world with Carnival Cruise Lines this year. From stunning Grand Turk, the largest of the Turks & Caicos islands to the idyllic sun-drenched island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau, one of the most beautiful and popular ports in the Caribbean, this is a taste of the Caribbean at its most laid-back.

The 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle also features something for everyone. A marvel of modern cruise engineering, most of her staterooms have ocean views and the majority of have private balconies. Highlighted by the 11-story Metropolis atrium with a ruby-red glass ceiling, Miracle also features great dining, including a reservations-recommended steakhouse, plus superb entertainment options and Spa pampering that make for a truly special onboard experience.

This 9-night Eastern Caribbean fly/cruise starts from just £1,189 per person, departing on May 13 and including scheduled flights between London and New York and a 9-night cruise, full board basis per person, based on an inside stateroom.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Friday, 23 March 2012

From Venice to Mantua with European Waterways

Experience ‘the good life’ in style aboard European Waterways’ more contemporary vessel La Bella Vita, cruising for 6 nights along some of Italy’s most charming waterways between historic Venice and the Renaissance city of Mantua. This is truly a magical itinerary, with departures this season between April and October.

Guests can enjoy the diverse landscapes and nature en route, while cruising past the islands of the Venetian Lagoon and on the calm waters of the Po Valley along the Bianco Canal. With all excursions included in the fare, the cruise highlights on this relaxing holiday feature a tour of historic Venice; The Naval Museum and the Pavilion of Gondolas; dinner ashore at the 17th century stately home Villa Ca’Zen; a private visit to the wine cellars of Villa Widmann-Borletti; and a visit to Mantua with its magnificent Ducal Palace. 

And all this while enjoying gourmet cuisine - prepared by a gourmet chef - and fine regional wines. Typical dishes include Fegato alla Veneziana; Risotto al Prezzemolo; Fegato; Lagoon Seafood accompanied by Lagrein Rosso Allegrini; Lugana Col Vetorax; and Prosecco Spago.

The 20-passenger La Bella Vita - as with all European Waterways’ vessels in the fleet - is fully crewed with a captain, gourmet chef, hostesses and a knowledgeable tour guide and offers comfortable accommodation in air-conditioned, en-suite cabins, with a spacious sun deck and loungers. Prices, to include local transfers, meals, fine wines, open bar, escorted excursions and use of the barge facilities lead in at £2,390 per person (based on two people sharing one cabin) and for a whole boat charter from £39,400.

For booking details, be sure to check with the UK's luxury river-cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd, on 0800 008 6677.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Oceania's New Culinary Discovery Tours

With the debut of its new luxury cruise ship Riviera this May, Oceania Cruises is expanding and enhancing its culinary enrichment programme with the introduction of Culinary Discovery Tours to more than 25 ports worldwide.

Uniquely designed for each port, the new tours provide guests with the opportunity to explore local food markets in small groups, alongside an expert chef. Guests will have the opportunity to visit an artisanal cheese maker, a chocolatier, a wine vineyard or a fish market. Tours also incorporate mini-lectures, demonstrations or lunch before returning to the ship’s Bon Appétit Culinary Centre for a hands-on cooking class, drawing inspiration from the local market. The Culinary Centres feature 24 fully-equipped work stations with induction cook-tops and convection ovens to provide participants with the opportunity to gain a hands-on cooking experience. Classes cater to all levels of aptitude, from beginner to master-chef level.

The Culinary Discovery Tours will launch this spring aboard the 1,250-guest sister ships Riviera and Marina and can be booked prior to departure.

The programme will roll out in Asia, South America and the Caribbean in winter 2012-13. Prices start at $175 per person, including the escorted market tour and cooking class. On Oceania's smaller, 650-guest ships – Regatta and Nautica – the new tours will combine excursions to local markets with hands-on cooking experiences at a shore-side cooking school or a well-known restaurant kitchen. In Istanbul, for example, guests will follow their tour with a cooking class at Cooking Alaturka.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A Wine Cruise Debut For AmaDagio

Cruising through the captivating Provencal wine regions, AmaWaterways will debut its luxury river cruiser AmaDagio on the Rhone on March 29, following her relocation from the Rhine and Moselle.

This cruise is also the first wine-themed cruise of the 2012 season on the Rhone, the Rhine and the Danube, featuring onboard wine experts and vintners and including complimentary tours to vineyards and cellars, wine lectures, wine tastings and fine dining with wine pairings. 

The 7-night Rhone voyage includes the Beaujolais wine region, tours of Roman ruins and stops at UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Avignon and Arles, where many artists spent much of their life, including Vincent Van Gogh. Departures are on March 29 and November 8 and 15, with prices from £1,645 per person, including all meals, complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner, daily tours, presentations and wine tastings by wine hosts and free use of onboard bicycles to explore on shore.

The `In Celebration of Wine’ cruises also feature in-depth cruises along the Rhine and Danube in the company of winery hosts, who will present regional wines and host wine-paired dinners, tastings and lectures and accompany guests during excursions. These special sailings feature excursions, such as a traditional “Heuriger” tasting of new wine in the villages of Grinzing and Neustift on the outskirts of Vienna; an introduction to Alsatian wines at the “Wunsch et Mann” winery in Wettolsheim and an “Oktoberfest” in the village of Vilshofen created specifically for AmaWaterways’ guests.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury river-cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Fred. Olsen's Diamond Jubilee Specials

As a British cruise line attracting predominantly British guests, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines plans to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in typical patriotic style, with special ‘red, white and blue’ menus, entertainment, and much more aboard all four ships in its fleet over the Jubilee Weekend, 2nd–5th June.

Cruise guests will be invited to get into the Street Party spirit with plenty of Union Flags and bunting, and will have the chance to play traditional games and join in a rousing British sing-along. There will be specially-themed menus, and each ship with serve a Jubilee Cocktail in the bars created by the onboard ‘mixologists’. Entertainment will focus on ‘British Nights’ with variety shows, and quizzes with a British theme. Raffles will also be held on board, to raise money for Fred. Olsen’s charity partner, the RNLI – a charity of which Her Majesty the Queen is Patron. Plans also include a Grand Tea Dance with complimentary sherry and cakes, as well as a prize for the best cake.

Guests visiting the beauty salon can expect to be offered special pampering packages, to make them Feel Like a Queen for the Day. In the public lounges, TV coverage of the Jubilee events will be screened, so those away from home will not miss any of the action. The ships will be at different locations around the world during Jubilee weekend:

Balmoral will be in the Norwegian fjords, on an eight-night cruise departing from Southampton on May 29. The cruise visits Bergen, Flåm, Olden, Eidfjord and Stavanger, and returns to Southampton. Prices start from £949 per person, based on two adults sharing an inside twin cabin, Grade ‘H’.

Boudicca will be on a cruise to the Adriatic, departing from Greenock (Glasgow) on May 20. This 21-night cruise calls at Gibraltar, Valletta (Malta), Sibenik (Croatia), Venice (Italy), Koper (Slovenia), Ancona (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Motril (Spain), and returns to Greenock. The cruise has an additional attraction of a theme of ‘Flavours of the Adriatic’ through the award-winning onboard enrichment programme, Vistas. Prices start from £2,269 per person, based on two adults sharing an outside twin cabin, Grade ‘E’.

Braemar will be in the Baltic during the Jubilee weekend, on a 14-night cruise departing from Dover on May 31. This cruise will call at Ijmuiden (for tours to Amsterdam), Rønne (Bornholm, Denmark), Visby (Gotland, Sweden), St. Petersburg (Russia, overnight), Tallinn (Estonia), Stockholm (also for an overnight stay), and Aalborg (Denmark), before returning to Dover. Prices start from £1,199 per person, based on two adults sharing an inside twin cabin, Grade ’I’.

Finally, Black Watch will spend the Jubilee weekend in the Eastern Mediterranean, on a 23-night cruise from Dover, departing on May 19. This cruise calls at Cadiz (Spain), Gibraltar, Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy), Corfu (Greece), Katakolon (Greece), Alexandria (Egypt), Valletta (Malta), Algiers (Algeria), Tangier (Morocco), Lisbon (Portugal), and returns to Dover. There is a Vistas theme on this cruise of ‘Ancient Mythology’, and prices start from £2,269 per person, based on two adults sharing an outside twin cabin, Grade ‘E’. 

All cruise prices are per person, and include all meals and entertainment on board, including special shows for the Jubilee, and port taxes.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Royal Caribbean's 2013 Southampton Boost

Cruising from Southampton has become a great deal more fun with news that two activity-packed Royal Caribbean ships will set sail from the port during the summer of 2013 for the first time. Bringing more rock climbing, ice skating, surfing and great entertainment than ever before, both Independence of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas (above) will call the UK home from May 2013 until late October.

The 3,634-guest Independence has been based in Southampton since 2008 and continues to receive rave reviews from UK holidaymakers. The 3,114-guest Adventure of the Seas brings yet more cruise holiday options to the popular port.

Cruises go on sale tomorrow (March 20) and there are a host of early booking offers up for grabs, including free car parking in Southampton, free coach travel to UK departure ports, and low prices on regional flights to UK departure ports on all cruises booked of ten nights or more as part of the early booking deal.

Itinerary highlights with the new Adventure of the Seas UK-based season include:
Seven-night France and Spain cruise departing Southampton and calling at Vigo, Gijon and Bilbao in Spain, and Le Havre for Paris in France, available from £599 based on May 24, 2013, departure.

A 12-night Baltic cruise featuring destinations such as Oslo, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki and an overnight stay in St. Petersburg departing Southampton from just £999, based on a May 31, 2013, departure.

A 14-night Mediterranean Cities cruise departing Southampton on July 7 and October 13, 2013, with ports of call in Malaga, Cannes, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Cartegena, Lisbon and Vigo from £1,199.

When Adventure of the Seas arrives in Southampton on May 5, 2013, the ship will offer a series of seven, 12, 13, 14 and 16-night cruises. An early booking offer allowing savings of up to £500 per stateroom will apply to all Adventure cruises booked by May 31, 2012.

On May 2, 2013, Independence of the Seas will arrive in Southampton following a dry dock enhancement and will offer a series of new itineraries including more shorter voyages such as two-night cruises from Le Havre for Paris and three-night cruises to Le Havre for Paris and Zeebrugge for Bruges. Independence will also offer eight-night cruises to Norway, 14-night Norway and Cork cruises, various 14-night Mediterranean cruises, and 12-night Canary Islands cruises.

Further new destinations and cruises for Independence in 2013 include seven and eight-night cruises to various destinations in Norway, and a new call to Ibiza on a 14-night Spanish Mediterranean cruise.

For booking details, be sure to check this link with the UK's cruise agent specialists The Cruise Line Ltd.

New Experiences For Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin Cruises have announced their 2013 sailing schedule, with guests aboard having the chance to experience some exciting itineraries and experiences on the newly-renovated ship.

The highlights include: Island of Whales - following 2012’s inaugural 11-night sailing to the Australs & Society Islands, the Gauguin will return on September 21, 2013, to witness the majestic humpback whales cavorting en masse off the coast of Rurutu.

The Society Islands - throughout 2013, Gauguin will visit the islands of French Polynesia for 7-, 10-, 11- and 14-night sailings. Guests will travel through this spectacular collection of islands with stops including the breathtaking lagoons of Bora Bora and Moorea, plus access to Paul Gauguin Cruises’ private Motu Mahana adjacent to the white-sand beaches of Taha’a. Special Guests: The launch of guest-host sailings proved so popular in 2012 that the line will be continuing this programme on select 2013 sailings.

Fully Renovated Ship: Having completed a $7million renovation, the Gauguin now features new flooring and carpeting, elegant new furniture, new window treatments and decorative wall panels, and new signage, providing a lighter, brighter feel. Additionally, all suites and staterooms have been updated with new teak railings and bathroom floors. 

Guests will also enjoy the newly expanded Le Casino and new built-in banquettes on the Promenade on Deck 5. Paul Gauguin Cruises is also offering extraordinary value in luxury cruising, with savings of 50% off standard cruise fares plus FREE airfare from Los Angeles. The 2013 prices start from £4,094 for a seven-night Tahiti & Society Islands sailing based on departures on March 9 and 16. Prices include return economy flights from the UK, overseas transfers, a night in Los Angeles and use of a day room post cruise. 

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Star Clippers Solo Sailing Boost

Star Clippers, which operates three of the world’s most spectacular tall ships, is offering sailings with no single supplements for select spring 2012 European cruises on board the 170-passenger four-masted Star Clipper and Star Flyer and the 228-passenger five-masted Royal Clipper.

The offer saves up to £682 for sole occupancy of a cabin for two. Star Clippers’ cruises are a great environment for single travellers, with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere on board, open seating dining and a convivial social scene at the al fresco Tropical Bar, the setting for cocktails, talks and evening entertainment. Many single travellers come back time and time again as lasting friendships are formed on board.

The singles savings offer includes a choice of eight sailing dates:

· Athens-Athens on Star Clipper, seven nights, departing May 5 and calling at Kusadasi, Patmos, Amorgos, Mykonos, Monemvasia; now from £1,370pp for sole occupancy of a double cabin, saving £610.

· Southampton-Hamburg on Star Flyer, five nights, departing May 5 and calling at Amsterdam, from £1,035pp for sole occupancy of a double cabin, saving £426.50.

· Hamburg-Oslo on Star Flyer, seven nights departing May 19 and calling at List, Esbjerg, Kristiansand, Arendal and Stromstad; now from £1,490pp for sole occupancy of a double cabin, saving £667.50.

· Oslo-Copenhagen on Star Flyer, seven nights departing May 26 and calling at Marstrand, Goteborg, Halmstad, Kalundborg and Helsingborg; now from £1,490pp for sole occupancy of a double cabin, saving £667.50.

· Malaga-Rome on Royal Clipper, five nights departing April 23 and calling at Palma de Mallorca and Mahon; now from £1,080pp for sole occupancy of a double cabin, saving £487.50.

· Rome-Rome on Royal Clipper, seven nights departing April 28, May 5 and May 12 and calling at Ponza, Sorrento, Amalfi, Taormina, Lipari and Stromboli (scenic cruising); now from £1,515pp for sole occupancy of a double cabin, saving £682.50. All prices include full board on the ship and port taxes. 

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Cruise Shipping Miami - Day Four

Having had our plans on Day 3 go slightly awry, we were determined to make up for things on the final day of the Convention but, email and other concerns again got in the way in the morning, hence we were slightly late in arriving back at the Miami Beach Convention Center (which is not earning many marks from us for its overall conference-staging status - give us Orlando any day of the week!).

The morning sessions had already started, but we had already heard a lot this week about Emerging Markets and the other workshop forums were more technical and sales orientated, hence not of immediate interest to us.Therefore we focused primarily back on the main Exhibition floor and the many destinations who are exhibiting this year (A LOT more than I remember from my last visit, which was, admittedly, 10 or more years ago).

Again, another snag with this convention is that there seems little order or organisation to the floor lay-out and trying to navigate around the many booths is not conducive to time efficiency. The big Meyer-Werft shipyard is front-and-centre in the Destination 'half' of the exhibition while both Germany and Italy are oddly positioned in the heart of the Technical 'half.'

There is very little sign of Brazil, for such a key emerging market, and our attempts to find the port of Sao Paulo ended in abject failure. Some places, notably Turku from Finland, are tucked away at the very back of the hall and impossible to locate.However, we do make considerable progress for the next few hours and turn up some more destination gems that are likely to feature in our pages in the coming months.

First among them is Guatemala (above), where we meet with the head of tourism and a notable tour operator, and learn a LOT about this remarkable Central American country and its features for cruise-ship visitors, especially with their historic Mayan culture and the amazing eco and bio-diversity on offer (and the chance to visit an active volcano - count me in!). This is definitely somewhere we will take a much closer look at from the destination point of view for, while they currently receive only 30 or so cruise ships visits in the winter season, they have both a Caribbean and a Pacific coastline that has all the hallmarks of great cruise tourist potential.

We spend some time catching up with our old friend Tom Bartosek from the Space Coast CVB on the Port Canaveral stand and visit with the Celtic Wave folks, who are building an interesting cruise alliance between the cruise ports of Wales and those on the Irish Sea coast of Ireland (or the 'Celtic Sea' as they insisted!).

Back in the Caribbean, we spoke to the tourist boards for Barbados and the US Virgin Islands, learning the latest developments on these picture-perfect tropical paradises, and also learned how the Turks & Caicos Islands are recovering well from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene last year - with a lot of help from the Carnival Corporation and Carnival Cruise Lines in particular, it was pleasing to hear.

We learnt about Southampton's plans to manage their Big Day on July 3 when they will have all SEVEN P&O Cruises ships in port for the line's 175th anniversary for the very first time and discovered more generally uncharted cruise territory in Newfoundland & Labrador (www.cruisetheedge.com), although they are fast generating a lot of buzz as another great off-the-beaten-track destination.

There was a chance to get up to date on the initial success of Harmony Cruises in Korea (who we flagged up in a destination preview in our Winter edition) and quick visits with each of Oman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to learn about how this region is becoming a major winter cruise area in its own right. Other visits included the South Pacific Cruise Alliance, Japan and Scotland's West Coast (or 'the new Alaska,' as they have dubbed it - a fairly high marker in the cruise world, but one which looks like having a fair amount of success).

I got (briefly) side-tracked by the many wonderful ship models on show at the big stands for ship-building giants Meyer-Werft (Germany), Fincantieri (Italy, above) and STX (France), while we also discovered a neat new product for those travelling with luggage. The Ulli luggage cover is a special cover that stretches over most suitcases and acts both as an instant identifier and as a measure of individual style. You can look them up at www.millerigge.com.

Finally, as we dashed hither and thither in time to catch the afternoon workshop session, I also came across another good friend who I hadn't seen in a while as we cruised past the big Greek booth. Demetrios Kaparis is the former principal ship designer for Celebrity Cruises, who I had got to know on several visits to the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, in the 1990s when the line was building its Century-class vessels.

Now semi-retired, Demetrios still keeps his hand in with various aspects of cruise design and is currently heading up a tourism initiative for his home port of Patras in Greece and a major proposed new terminal development for the island of Zakynthos, which has terrific cruise potential in an over-cruised part of the world. Demetrios has been involved in the ship-building and cruise world since 1960 and his enthusiasm for the business is as keen as ever.

While we didn't spend long in the 'technical' half of the Hall, Susan's big discovery was the Meritech company (below), who supply high-tech new hand-washers to the two recent Disney ships as well as to Holland America. Used in many food-processing and manufacturing plants, these are the very latest word in infection protection and are likely to play a big role in the eradication of the hated Norovirus on board cruise ships.

Finally, we headed back upstairs to the workshops and managed to catch most of an interesting presentation on Enhancing the Links Between Cruising & Aviation, which highlighted the challenges (and benefits) of cruise lines looking at how they source and support their fly-cruise operations with effective air-lift. It raised some unexpected questions, especially about the future use of the huge A380 Airbus and the Boeing Dreamliner, but also served to pinpoint some key areas that most people might not associate with the average cruise, like making sure a port is 'paired' with another airport-city.

Another long-time cruise contact, former Thomson Cruises marketing chief David Selby (now with his own consultancy firm, TravelYields) was one of the expert panel, and it was good to hear his thoughts on the subject, as well as catch up on a range of other cruise topics afterwards.

And so, after four feature-packed, non-stop, all-action days in South Beach, it was time to call time on the 2012 Cruise Shipping Miami convention. We came away weighed down with enough info packs and collateral to start a library but also with plenty of good news stories (make sure to see our forthcoming Spring edition of World of Cruising). We renewed contact with several old friends and made lots of new ones.

Highlights included the State of the Industry session on the Tuesday morning, the many new destinations on show, the grand MSC Cruises lunch and the Hurtigruten reception at the Van Dyke Cafe. Had some great chats with the likes of David Dingle (P&O), Nigel Lingard (AD Cruising) and Charles Robertson (American Cruise Lines), and thoroughly enjoyed all the workshop sessions we attended.

On the debit side, the exhibition could certainly have been better organised, both geographically and in number term (anyone who could work out the crazy system of rows and booths was doing better than I!). There is also a feeling of being in a tired, complacent venue, one that wasn't well geared up for business early on and never really went out of its way to be the dynamic, modern stage that the industry needs. We heard a lot of complaints about the quality of hotels many of the delegates were staying in and getting around South Beach by car continues to be a real slog.

Whether this will change in future, we can only wait to see. Miami Beach certainly needs to raise its game in convention terms but, as Miami remains the nominal 'home' of the cruise world, it is hard to see them going elsewhere. We still got a lot out of the week and, after initial problems with no media WiFi access, were well catered for in press terms. It remains an essential forum for anyone even vaguely associated with cruising and the cruise world, and I'm sure we'll be back.

Avalon's Unique Dual Christening

Launching two new ships at the same time is a first for the river cruise specialist Avalon Waterways and will mark the 12th and 13th new Avalon vessels to enter service in Europe since 2004. The launch will bring the fleet’s total of suite ships to 3, all with two full decks of suites sized from 200-300sq ft each.

The vessels' joint christening ceremony will take place as the duo are moored alongside each other and forms part of a special five-day itinerary for both ships sailing through Holland (9-13 May). 

Avalon Visionary and Avalon Vista will offer the same state-of-the-art sleek design, spacious suites and focus on service as sister ship Avalon Panorama. The ships will feature Panorama suites with wall-to-wall panoramic windows that open to create unique ‘open air balconies’, upgrades and enhancements throughout.

Post-christening, Visionary will introduce Panorama suites to the River Rhine for the first time, sailing the 8-day Romantic Rhine itinerary (from £1,735 per person) as well as several Christmas cruises. The Vista will sail the 11-day Legendary Danube itinerary (from £2,345pp) and 13-day Blue Danube Discovery cruise (from £2,595pp), as well as the 15-day Magnificent Europe (£3,165pp). 

As well as onboard gratuities, a privately chauffeured door-to-door home pick-up service, port charges and all transfers are included.

With a choice of flexible travel arrangements on offer, regional flights or Eurostar options make the journey as easy as possible. Based on full board, the fine dining on board includes a range of international and regional dishes with local wines, beers and soft drinks served on a complimentary basis with dinner. Sightseeing with local guides with individual audio sets means visitors also get the most of shore excursions.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury river-cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Trip To The End of The World With Hurtigruten

Journey to ‘The End of the World’ this year and visit the magnificent North Cape - Hurtigruten’s best-selling excursion. More than 57,000 guests took a trip to the famous rock plateau in 2011, making it one of Norway's most-visited destinations.

Hurtigruten guests flocked to the northernmost point of Europe on both the ‘North Cape’ (from £82pp) and ‘Breakfast at the North Cape’ (from £108pp) excursions, with the natural attraction being the spectacular plateau that rises a dramatic 307 metres straight up from the Arctic Ocean.

Tromsø, Norway’s biggest city north of the Arctic Circle, also proved a major draw for guests, with almost 20,000 attending the ‘Midnight Concert in the Arctic Cathedral' (from 41pp), the second best-selling excursion. In third place was the ‘Arctic Capital Tromsø’ tour (from £45pp), with more than 18,000 participants. The city was recently named as one of the top 10 cruise destinations of 2012 in the Frommer’s Guide.

Guests have a wide and diverse excursion programme to choose from, whatever their itinerary, whenever they sail. A total of 45 different excursions are offered on the 12-day Classic Round Voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. The maximum number and selection depends on the time of year. 

Classic Round Voyage: Take the 12-day Classic Round Voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back, starting at £1,989pp from April 15 to May 31 (price includes full board on the ship; flights are extra).

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's leading adventure-cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.   

Picture Johanes Jens

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Cunard's March Cabin Upgrade Offers

Cunard have a series of offers with outstanding value for money this month to sample their classic ocean liner travel.

Destinations include a short break where you can join Queen Victoria on May 5 or Queen Mary 2 on November 16 for a four-night long weekend for an introduction to Cunard’s legendary lifestyle. Sail from Southampton and call at Zeebrugge (for Bruges) and Le Havre (for Paris) before returning home. On offer are outside stateroom fares at inside prices, starting from just £399 per person for Queen Victoria and £499 on QM2.

Queen Victoria’s Mediterranean 16-night voyage on October 3 starts from and returns back to Southampton visiting Cadiz, Malaga, Split, Corfu, Venice and Dubrovnik. Again, outside stateroom fares at inside prices are on offer from £1,499 per person and Princess Grill fares at deluxe balcony prices from £2,399.

Queen Elizabeth sails from Southampton on July 6 and August 7 for a seven-night voyage along Norway’s scenic coastline, calling at Stavanger, Skjolden, Geiranger and Bergen. A balcony stateroom is the perfect complement to this stunning landscape, with balcony fares now at outside stateroom prices, starting at £1,069 per person.

The Queen Mary 2 then departs Southampton on August 10 for an 11-night voyage to the Baltic cities, including Hamburg, Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Stavanger. Outside stateroom fares for the cost of an inside room are now available in March from £1,549 per person.

For booking details, be sure to check out this link with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Cruise Shipping Miami - Day Three

The best laid plans of mice and men…(are all filed away somewhere, as some wag once added). Yes, that preamble should alert readers to the fact that things didn’t quite work out as planned on the third day of the big annual cruise shindig here in Miami.

With an extra-early start thanks to the 8.30am press conference with Norwegian Cruise Line, our alarm went off not long after 6 and we were en route to Miami Beach Convention Center by 7.30. But it was worth it.

Norwegian were in fine form, led by their distinctive CEO Kevin Sheehan – who could not be less CEO-like if he tried, with his tie-less dress style and disarmingly direct approach – as they went through a range of exciting new design details of their forthcoming Norwegian Breakaway ship for 2013 (and sister Norwegian Getaway a year later).

Having already revealed several key features of the new vessel (notably the accommodations and enhancements to The Haven area), this was the turn of some key design innovations.

As a quick aside, this has now become the norm with cruise lines and their big, new ships – a constant drip-feed process of news and tidbits that is at once tantalizing and infuriating! It would be nice to get things in one, complete picture sometimes (albeit, that could induce indigestion in the case of the biggest ships as there is just SO much to discuss).

But back to Breakaway, which will also sail innovatively year-round from New York when she arrives.

The really fascinating aspect of this 140,000-ton vessel will be what they call 678 Ocean Drive, a complete makeover of the public decks 6, 7 and 8 to incorporate a major re-focus to connect passengers with the sea itself (the one thing which we felt was lacking on our recent Norwegian Epic cruise).

Instead of keeping those three decks focused entirely inwardly, Deck 8 will now have a complete inside/outside character, with the outside forming a new concept called The Waterfront (below) that provides a proper exterior promenade that links the interior features (bars, restaurants and lounges) with the outside deck.

This way, the likes of Maltings bar, the Cagney’s and Moderno restaurants, Shaker’s lounge and a new Gelato bar will all have an outside facet to their interior look, along with a brand new seafood-oriented restaurant, Ocean Blu, which will also have a Raw Bar and Sushi Bar.

As well as creating cruising’s first genuine exterior promenade for many years, this should give Breakaway an enhanced flow and energy, as well as a direct connection with the sea that many new-builds sorely lack. It is a bold and imaginative design, and it will need good weather to make it properly viable, but it should give Norwegian another unique feature to their big-ship style.

At the same time, this 678 Ocean Drive area will be a more coherent interior entertainment and relaxation space, featuring a unified vertical and horizontal design approach over the three decks.

The Manhattan Room – one of the two main dining rooms on Epic – will be a two-storey affair on Breakaway, while the Taste dining room will be split into two contrasting sections, Taste and Savor, with the new Mix Bar in the middle.

Knowing how vibrant and dramatic this space already is on Epic, it will definitely be exciting to see it enhanced in this way for the new vessel.

It was a good start to the day. We went straight from the press conference to a meeting with Nigel Lingard, the former Fred Olsen marketing supremo who is now a private consultant and working part-time for AD Cruising, specifically to help with the launch of their new MV Voyager for their Voyages of Discovery brand later this year.

The wonderfully personable long-time British cruise proponent was retired for all of three minutes (we reckon) before the entrepreneurial Roger Allard tempted him aboard, and he is also putting in a weekly shift for the Reader Offers group, ensuring his wealth of knowledge in the cruise business is not lost just yet.

Nigel admits he doesn’t miss the day-to-day stresses of booking loads and personnel worries (which are being made ever more burdensome by EU diktats), but is happy to still be involved with projects like bringing the newer sister ship to the MV Discovery into the market and giving the niche cruise line a significant boost in capacity.

The new Voyager will  give Voyages of Discovery a ship with single-seating dining for the first time and a slightly newer feel (she is currently the Alexander von Humbolt) and will give them chance to put Discovery in for a full dry-dock this winter.

Having caught up with a wealth of AD Cruising news (we also talked about the newly-refurbished Minerva of Swan Hellenic, with initial customer feedback “off the charts,” according to Nigel, and the unique Hebridean Princess), we suddenly found it was gone 10am, which meant we had missed the start of the day’s workshop forum on Luxury Cruising.

Bearing in mind we had been without internet the previous evening and this morning at our hotel, we deemed it prudent to get online for a little while and catch up with the inevitable email and Twitter work, which always seems to pile up at the drop of a hat.

We had hoped to be much more active on Twitter during the Conference, and we still hadn’t uploaded Day 2 of the blog, so we spent the next hour or so hammering away at our laptops (Cruise Shipping Miami is a two-person job, by the way, with so much to cover in just 4 days), and ensuring our online profiles were suitably updated.

By then it was almost mid-day and time for the latest round of press conferences. Susan was off to meet with Venice, the Falklands and Taiwan, while I had a rather promising – and rather exclusive – lunch date with Pierfrancesco Vago and the US sales team for MSC Cruises at the nearby Casa Tua restaurant.

The swanky setting of a genuine – and upscale – Italian restaurant was ideal for almost two hours of amicable banter with the MSC CEO and his team, including Rick Sasso, the former Celebrity Cruises marketing chief, who I hadn’t met for about 15 years!

It was also a great opportunity to get some more detail on this week’s news about the order for a fourth ship in their Fantasia class, which had originally been ordered from STX in France by a Libyan concern but had fallen into a buyer’s abyss only to be picked up (at a real bargain price) by MSC on Monday.

With MSC Divina due out in May, this will give the go-ahead line a remarkably modern and capacious fleet, and four vessels all with the distinctive MSC Yacht Club ship-within-a-ship design. We hope to see more of this in due course. Vago also let the cat out of the bag (slightly) by saying that one of the Fantasia class will be positioned to Florida for winter 2013. We can’t wait!

We also discussed how the booming Brazilian market is attracting more and more cruise traffic (including no less than five ships from MSC), how some proposed European tax regulations are a major red flag to all cruise operators – and how New Yorker Sasso is actually more Italian than his Italian colleagues with his ability to talk so passionately and enthusiastically about his subject.

By now it was almost 3pm (those Italians do know how to how a good lunch!) and Susan was seriously wondering where I had got to as she patrolled the exhibition floor. Thankfully, we hooked up straight away and made a concerted charge on a number of exhibitors, including the wonderful discovery of the Canadian port of Gaspe.

This small former fishing town at the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway is rapidly becoming the ‘not-so-secret’ destination for autumn cruises in Canada/New England as it offers a convenient stopping point between Quebec City and Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is impossibly scenic and charmingly small-scale but offers great wildlife, scenery and activities, and, at long last, an alternative to the dull two-day cruising between Quebec and Halifax. Expect to read more in the magazine soon.

Other ‘destinations of interest’ included St Kitts, the Turks & Caicos Islands, Korea, Alaska and Malta/Valletta, and we plan more destination visits tomorrow.

Stay tuned now….










Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cruise Shipping Miami - Day 2

After the strong but relatively sedate opening day to the world’s largest annual cruise convention, the second day is typically a much more dynamic, almost frenzied, affair as the main Exhibition opens, multiple press conferences take place (often at the same time!), and we have the State of the Industry address.

This latter is eagerly awaited by everyone in the industry and never more so than in the wake of the terrible Costa Concordia accident on January 13. It is a chance to hear from the key cruise chief executives and learn how they see the past, present and future of the business, often in fairly lively fashion.

Sometimes, they can be a bit snippy towards each other; often there is some robust jousting as all try to make a point or two at the expense of their rivals; but mostly it is an upbeat and almost rabble-rousing cry to the rest of the industry – the agents, suppliers, builders, port authorities and destinations – to be positive and forward-thinking in the months ahead.

Usually, they have a lot to be bullish about, with just about unbroken passenger growth across the board in the past 10 years and lots of nice, shiny new ships to be proud of.

But this year they had to deal with the 600lb gorilla in the room – the terrible circumstances of January 13 and the ongoing negative image of cruise safety has been raised in some areas of the media, with subsequent drop-offs in cruise bookings and the loss of all that heady positive momentum.

And deal with it they certainly did, starting with the first three speakers, who all mentioned Concordia in some way, most notably Carnival Corporation vice-chairman and chief operating officer Howard Frank (below), who not only made the proper acknowledgement of the profound impact of the incident but then went off-script to deliver a heartfelt defence of the Costa brand and its many loyal staff. The crew of Concordia, he insisted, were the “true heroes of this tragedy, and, as time unfolds, all their stories will be told.” Robust, feisty stuff.

Where that leaves the villain of the piece, Italian Captain Francesco Schettino – or Captain Gutless as many media have dubbed him – is anybody’s guess. But Frank did also go on to give a big shout-out to the people and country of Italy for their strong support in the wake of the incident.

Moderator Christine Duffy (above), the head of Cruise Lines International Association, also addressed the issue head on, but by pointing out cruising’s excellent safety record prior to Concordia and highlighting the industry’s strong growth since 2000 – when numbers have doubled worldwide – and the prospect of some 231 ships under the CLIA banner by 2015, representing 360,000 beds.

That led in to the main round-table (actually, a U-shaped table) discussion moderated by Duffy and featuring six senior cruise line heads, Gerry Cahill (Carnival Cruise Lines), Adam Goldstein (Royal Caribbean), Dan Hanrahan (Celebrity), Kevin Sheehan (Norwegian Cruise Line), Stein Kruse (Holland America) and Pierfrancesco Vago (MSC).

Each was given an opportunity to talk on the subjects raised by Duffy (probably carefully crafted beforehand, but still deftly handled by the CLIA chief, after only a year in the job) and each one made some significant, positive points.

The first three topics all covered health and safety issues either directly or indirectly related to Concordia, but then things gradually transformed into discussions on the new Environmental protection Agency Regulations that begin in August (and are dramatically reinforced in 2015), requiring ships to use low-sulfur fuels close to the mainland in the USA, Canada and Europe. Then it was on to new ships, the ever-popular subject of globalization, the travel agent community, destinations and reasons for optimism.

The two-hour session (below) flew by, and then it was on to a round of press conferences and interviews during the ‘lunch’ break (if swallowing half a sandwich and a coffee at lightning speed can be considered ‘lunch’!) .

We had the opportunity to talk to David Dingle, the chairman of Carnival UK (all the 5 main Carnival brands sourcing passengers out of Britain – P&O, princess, Holland America, Carnival and Cunard), on the subject of recent events and the effects on the UK market, and he was convinced cruising is already bouncing back and will get a major boost from two events this summer – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June, which will feature a Cunard tribute, and P&O’s 175th anniversary event in Southampton on July 3, which will feature all SEVEN of the line’s ships for the very first time.

A dizzying round of press conferences then followed, from Princess Cruises (announcing more details of next year’s new ship, Royal Princess), Hong Kong (mainly about their amazing new passenger cruise terminal due to open next year), Singapore and Indonesia (about cruise growth in south-east Asia and Singapore’s new terminal opening later this year) and then Copenhagen.

We also had a wonderful meeting with American Cruise Lines chairman Charles Robertson, who is eagerly promoting the advent of the new Queen of the Mississippi on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers this August and told us of the company’s growing interest from the UK and Australia. This dramatic classic paddle-steamer will bring traditional upscale river-cruising back to the Mississippi but also offer the most luxurious accommodations and style of any American river-cruiser.

It is a superb and should appeal to lovers of all things stylish in the river-cruise field, especially as the line has just placed an order for ANOTHER paddle-steamer as a result of the demand they are seeing for the Queen of the Mississippi.

The afternoon session saw us listening to David Dingle again, as part of the Opportunities In A Changing Europe workshop session, looking at the many reasons for continued growth in European cruising – and the challenges, like the EPA and some potentially serious taxation issues from the lame-brain mandarins of the European Community in Brussels who, if they have their way, will tax every cruise line out of European waters.

Short-sighted doesn’t even begin to describe it, but suffice it to say these unelected buffoons think cruising should be subject to VAT and other sales taxes for things like drinks on board, and cruise lines should also pay EXTRA taxes on things like the shore excursions they sell and casinos they run.

How do you spell barmy? How about B-R-U-S-S-E-L-S.

Another two hours went by quickly and then it was time for us to take a quick look at the exhibition floor, notably some of the destinations with high-profile booths, notably Hong Kong, Alaska and Chile. There is a LOT to take in here and we will be back on Thursday for a more in-depth look.
 
Finally, we had been invited to a press reception at the Van Dyke Café on nearby Lincoln Road with Norwegian specialist cruise line Hurtigruten, one of our big favourites here at World of Cruising. It was mainly their US office but it was good to hear that this innovative adventuring company with the authentic Norwegian style has a strong following on both sides of the Atlantic and they continue to see good growth especially for their Arctic and Antarctic voyages.

Then it was time to grab a quick bit of dinner and head back to our hotel (the wonderful Grove Isle Resort & Spa in Coconut Grove) and get some work done before turning in for the night. Tomorrow, we start at 8.30 with a Norwegian Cruise Line press conference before heading into a morning session on Luxury Cruising.

Definitely two to look forward to…