Saturday, 30 June 2012

A Grand Voyage To The Fjords

There’s still time to plan a last-minute break to the mighty fjords of Norway and Iceland this summer with Voyages of Discovery, and from just £879 per person.

For those with a sense of adventure, the 'Nordic Natural Wonders' cruise offers a footloose programme designed for seasoned hikers and amateur ramblers alike, giving them the opportunity to get off the beaten track to explore untamed landscapes such as Mount Fløien in Bergen and hike in Flam with the chance to see its famous railways.

The cruise, sailing July 12, starts from £879 per person and the price includes the 14-day voyage departing from Harwich and calling at Bergen and Flam (Norway), then Akureyri, Isafjordur, Grundarfjordur, Reykjavik (all Iceland) and Torshavn (Faroe Islands) before returning to Harwich.

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

Friday, 29 June 2012

Solo Travellers Get Northern Lights Boost

Hurtigruten is offering solo guests the chance to travel on selected departures to Norway to see the Northern Lights this winter with no single supplement. Representing a saving of up to £484pp from the brochure price, this new offer is valid on certain dates from October to December on select itineraries.
 
The offer is applicable on bookings made on the 12-day Classic Round Voyage, 11-day Norwegian Discovery Voyage, seven-day Classic Voyage North and six-day Classic Voyage South. All voyages are on a full board basis.
 
The popular winter months provide excellent opportunities to see the Northern Lights, particularly north of the Arctic Circle where they are more frequently spotted. Following some phenomenal sightings last winter, the solar activity this winter is also expected to be extremely high.

Classic Round Voyage – from £1,363pp: Enjoy a 12-day voyage from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes by the Russian border and back again. Prices lead in at £1,363pp on select departures in November and December and include full board on the ship. Flights are extra.
 
Voyage South – from £744pp: This six-day voyage south starts in Kirkenes, far north by the Russian border and travels down the coast to Bergen in the south. Starting at £744pp on selected departures in November and December, the price includes full board. Again, flights are extra.

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

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Cunard's Sisters in Norway

Norway saw two of Cunard's liners together in the country for the first time this week as both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria sailed through the Fjords, and are pictured here at Flaam, near Sognefjord, where they called for a day. In true Cunard style, the sisters saluted each other several times with the echoes of their whistles reverberating through the mountains for long periods after the initial blasts.

Queen Victoria is currently on a 14-night 'Norwegian Fjords and North Cape Discovery' voyage (which will include a maiden call at Ny-Alesund in Spitsbergen and in Trondheim) while Queen Elizabeth completes her one-week 'Fjords and Waterfalls' voyage by returning to Southampton tomorrow.

For more information about Cunard cruises, follow this link to The Cruise Line the UK's cruising specialists. 







 


Best Of Norway With Hurtigruten

Guests onboard a Hurtigruten ship officially have a head start on anyone trying to complete Lonely Planet’s recent list of the ‘Top 17 Experiences in Norway', as 15 of those 17 experiences are possible to enjoy with the Norwegian cruise specialist. 

Most of the list can be completed while voyaging along the famous Norwegian Coastal Voyage route that Hurtigruten has been operating for nearly 120 years. This includes: the number one experience of Geirangerfjord, A UNESCO World Heritage Site; Number five - exploring the colourful historic buildings of Bergen’s Bryggen; and number 15 – Sami culture, the indigenous people of the far north of Europe. 

Other choices such as Svalbard (number seven) can be experienced on Hurtigruten’s 'Spitsbergen Explorer' sailings with MS Fram during the summer months, or visits to Oslo (number 17) by extending the stay as the city is a major gateway used by the company's guests.

How the list lines up with Hurtigruten’s offerings:

1. Geirangerfjord: top site on most Norway lists, visited on Coastal Voyage, from April to September.
2. Lofoten Islands: historic fishing region, stunning scenery, visited on Coastal Voyage, including Trollfjord experience, year round.
3. Hurtigruten Coastal: “…the iconic Hurtigruten coastal ferry takes you on one of the most spectacular coastal journeys anywhere on earth.” – Lonely Planet.
4. Northern Lights: Hurtigruten has a dedicated programme of Hunting the Light Voyages, Oct-Mar.
5. Bryggen, Bergen: starts or ends the Coastal Voyage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. Hiking the Jotunheimen: an exception – not part of Hurtigruten options.
7. Svalbard: home to 1/6th of the world’s polar bears, offered by Hurtigruten Spitsbergen Explorer Voyages during the summer.
8. Kystriksveien (coastal route): Hurtigruten’s excursion “The Atlantic Road,” winner of 2005 “Engineering Feat of the Century”.
9. Oslo-Bergen Railway: or “Norway in a Nutshell” is a great alternative to flying from Oslo to Bergen.
10. Pulpit Rock: only other exception – not part of Hurtigruten options.
11. Stave Churches: medieval wooden churches surviving only in Norway (except for one), can be seen on excursion “The Atlantic Road” and during the visit of “Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum”.
12. Dog-sledding: available on Coastal Voyage as winter excursion in Tromsø, Kirkenes and Finnsnes.
13. Wildlife-watching: many possibilities aboard and on excursions such as Bird Safari, Sea Eagle Safari, King Crab Fishing.
14. Ålesund: Port call on Coastal Voyage, excursions include Art Nouveau tour, and Aquarium and Mount Aksla.
15. Sami culture: “A Taste of Lapland” excursion takes guests to a Sámi camp and a visit with a local Sámi family.
16. Tromsø: Coastal Voyage port with four-hour stopover; excursions include dog sledding, Polar History Walk, and huskies and pups at Wilderness Center.
17. Oslo: easy layover stop for Hurtigruten guests – one of Norway’s true gems.         
 
Hurtigruten is a world leader in expedition cruising, sailing to the most remote of destinations – including Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic’s Spitsbergen – as well as year-round along Norway's coast and Europe in the spring. The company’s fleet of 13 intimate ships, carrying 100 to 646 guests, allow travellers to enjoy unique destinations in a relaxed atmosphere.

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

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fred Olsen's New Brochure For 2013/14

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has launched its new brochure of ‘Worldwide Cruises’ for 2013/14, on sale from today. The brochure features a comprehensive programme of ex-UK cruises, from early 2013 to Spring 2014, aboard the line’s fleet of four smaller, traditional style ships – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch

The itineraries are truly international, with cruises visiting a total of 240 different ports, in 77 countries and islands worldwide. Of these ports, there are no fewer than 12 brand new or ‘maiden’ ports over the cruise season.

The programme also includes an enormous choice of voyages, ranging from a mini-cruise of just two nights to an epic world ‘Grand Voyage’, the longest-ever undertaken by the line, of 114 nights on Black Watch in 2014.  

Prices start from £199 per person, for a two-night mini-cruise on Boudicca, from Belfast on October 15, 2013, visiting Liverpool and returning to Belfast. The price is based on two adults sharing an inside, twin cabin Grade ‘I’. 

The lead-in price for the longest cruise, Black Watch’s 114-night ‘Australia & South America World Cruise’ (departing Southampton on January 14, 2014), is £9,399 per person, based on two adults sharing an inside, twin cabin Grade ‘I’.
 
Cruise prices include ensuite accommodation, all meals and entertainment on board, and port taxes.

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


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

New-Look Crystal Symphony

Crystal Cruises has just finished a major $25million refurbishment of their Crystal Symphony, completing a five-year redesign plan for their luxury vessel.

The two-week extreme makeover reveals chic new major public spaces, including the Avenue Saloon, Palm Court lounge, Galaxy showroom, Hollywood Theatre, Bridge Lounge, Fantasia and Waves “junior cruisers” areas, plus the Tender Landing/passenger boarding area.  

This latest dry-dock marks the culmination of their $65 million overall project to redesign every room on board. Other new touches include enhancements to all staterooms, paddle tennis court resurfacing, sprucing of tender shuttles, more energy-efficient hull paint, galley updates and general maintenance and detailing of the entire ship. 

“In keeping with our tremendous focus on design, we wanted to create something both highly contemporary and yet extremely accessible,” says President Gregg Michel. “The ultimate result is all our guests’ favourite gathering places now feel even more welcoming, while also offering the sophistication and elegance luxury travellers look for in a holiday setting.”

Three interior design companies created the visions for the new spaces: Adfecto and SMC Design from London and KNA Design from Los Angeles, with inspiration culled from classic icons like New York’s 21 Club, Hollywood’s Coconut Grove and Palm Beach country club. With lighting being such a key creative consideration, Crystal also worked with DPA Lighting Consultants to add to the design’s drama, ambiance and environmental-friendliness.

Elegant Tea, Tunes, Cocktails, and Vistas

KNA’s redesign of signature lounges Avenue Saloon and Palm Court sets the perfect, lively backdrop for enjoying Crystal’s newly all-inclusive fine wines and custom-crafted cocktails. 
 
The panoramic-view Palm Court sparkles as the jewel in the crown on top of the ship, recalling the glamour-filled Coconut Grove of Hollywood’s yesteryear. A more intimate, modern lounge seating in buttery soft leathers surrounds a larger, spiral-design dance floor and slick, stainless and hand-tiled mosaic bar. Together, aqua, chartreuse, ash and cream jewel tones create a “light” California ambiance that helps bring the outside in during daytime tea and view-gazing. New lighting, including stunning, faceted Lucite wall sconces and shimmering Murano glass table lamps, then help to transform the space into a dreamy destination for evening dancing and drinks.  

Avenue Saloon and piano bar retains its 19th-century gentlemen’s club feel, but incorporates updated colours, furnishings, materials and music and seating configuration.  Rich mahogany-panelled walls, leather upholstery, brass nailhead trim, sumptuous velvets and thick, lush inset rugs remind one of a days-gone-by country house. The inviting piano relocation allows for increased seating and conversation area choices, including new brass-tack couches, embossed-leaf barstools or tufted booths. New romantic lighting, sumptuous crown molding, antique-style trunk tables, custom artwork and audio systems add to the salon atmosphere.

Exquisite Theatres

Old Hollywood panache also extends into Crystal’s entertainment showrooms, the Galaxy Lounge and Hollywood Theatre, with an air of British tradition, thanks to the spaces’ two UK designers. 
 
With diamond-patterned glass doors, lustrous gold fabric panels, black Nero Marquina marble flooring and large LCD digital signage screens, a new, contemporary entrance to the ship’s live performance showroom highlights the Galaxy Lounge. Through the entry, crystal lighting features, reminiscent of a dressing room mirror and starburst-designed carpet and wall lights help create a home fitting for Crystal’s star guests and performers. New, modern mohair seating, cocktail tables and under-banquette lighting add comfort and drama. A new stage extension expands performance space by 30 per cent while tech enhancements include a new sound booth, show control systems, high-def projection, infrared video cameras, stage lighting and speaker system.

Classic Art Deco movie palaces inspired Adfecto’s re-do of the Hollywood Theatre, Crystal’s elegant space for feature films and presentations. New smoked wood-grain walls and velvet damson-coloured curtains create a sweeping entry, while decorative and underseat lighting provides a warm ambience and soft glow.  

Family Fun

Whether playing together or alone, Crystal Symphony’s play/games areas for kids, teens and adults have been transformed for family recreation. 
 
The dedicated Junior Cruisers’ areas, Waves (teens) and Fantasia (children), have been re-designed by Adfecto to provide versatility for a wide range of ages and activities. The areas’ divided layout has been reconfigured to create more privacy for teens and more of a welcoming, home den feel for younger children, while also allowing flexibility for the space to be opened up into one. Different sections for group activities/crafts, storytime, relaxation, videogames (Wii, PlayStation, Xbox, Kinect) and screenings (two wide-screen TVs, Blu-ray players and movie projection system) encourage personal expression. New lighting features and Bose speaker system help create different atmospheres and transform the entire space into an exclusive teen hangout at night. 

KNA has also transformed the Bridge Lounge into the classic card room, reminiscent of Palm Beach’s tennis and card clubs during the Gilded Age, with ambient sconces flanking wooden built-ins, frosted mirrors and saffron panel-covered walls.  

Best of the Rest

New electronic “do not disturb” doorbell systems -- a big success after installation on Crystal Serenity last year -- were added to all staterooms, as were new cordless digital phones.  Penthouses also received new glass shower doors. Smaller-level updates included a complete refresh of the paddle tennis court, new stoves and cooking equipment in the main galley, environmental upgrades for lighting and boilers and a new, energy-efficient hydrogel hull paint that mimics the low-friction characteristics of a shark’s skin. An update to stateroom veranda furniture is also scheduled to follow shortly after the dry dock’s end.

And Now...
 
Symphony is now sailing her first of seven all-inclusive Baltic and Northern Europe cruises this summer before sailing across the Atlantic for a New England/Canada season this autumn. Until June 30, Book Now fares for a 2012 voyage start from £2,364 per person (based on a seven-night New England/Canada cruise departing October 14), with seven- to-18-night options also offered in the Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera, South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.

For bookings, be sure to see this link for The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's leading luxury cruise experts. 
 

Nile & Yangtze Savings With Bales Worldwide

Bales Worldwide is offering their eight-day Nostalgic Nile itinerary, which includes scheduled flights and accommodation on The Amber, a traditional ‘dahabiyya’ sailing vessel, at big savings this autumn.

The wonderful trip includes English-speaking guides on board, who also take care of tipping, private air-conditioned vehicle for transfers, a sightseeing itinerary (including entrance fees), and the exclusive ‘dahabiyya’ cruise. 

The new prices are for solo travellers, based on one adult travelling on a mixed board basis (including seven breakfasts, six lunches and seven dinners). The price also includes all applicable UK and overseas airport taxes and fuel surcharges, which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures on September 1 and 15.

Yangtze Splendour from £2,995pp, saving up to £150pp

The splendid 15-day Yangtze Splendour itinerary, including scheduled flights and accommodation and sightseeing encompassing Beijing, Xian, Chongquing, Shanghai and the Li River, is also being offered by Bales at new reduced rates. 

There is also the option to extend the holiday and add two extra nights in Hong Kong. Again, the trip includes English-speaking guide, a sightseeing itinerary and modern medium class hotels throughout. Prices are for solo travellers, based on one adult travelling on a mixed board basis, and include all applicable UK and overseas airport taxes and fuel surcharges, which are subject to change. Price also based on a September 22 departure date.

For more information, contact The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's experts in luxury river-cruising, on 0800 008 6677.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Summer Edition Out This Week!

Just a quick reminder, but the summer issue of World of Cruising magazine is out later this week. Please do check your subscription is fully up to date as we have a wonderful array of features and other articles in the latest edition.

Our Cover Story is a trip 'Around the Horn' of South America in the company of Holland America Line while we also travel to the amazing Galapagos Islands for more South American adventure.

We then branch out to destinations far and wide, including the Caribbean, Channel Isles, Miami and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. For ship reviews, we have the new Disney Fantasy, the Celebrity Eclipse and Silver Spirit, while also featuring Carnival's 40th anniversary and a special look at alternative dining at sea. Of course, there are also are regulars, like The Admiral, Captain Greybeard and Peter Rushton's Aft View, while we also welcome aboard Doug Parker - aka Cruise Radio - for a new column in this edition.

Along with our essential World of Spas section, Fashion, Reader Letters, Passenger Pertspectives and Cruise News, it all adds up to the best possible read in the wide world of cruising, so make sure you don't miss it!

See more at our Subscription Page.

Hebridean's Irish Odyssey

Hebridean Island Cruises have a wonderful chance to cruise Ireland in style this summer as their small luxury cruise ship Hebridean Princess offers two full voyages that focus primarily on the Emerald Isle.

Perfect for keen walkers, 'Footloose in Ireland' allows guests to discover the island in the best way possible – on foot. Highlights include a visit to Skellig Michael (above), a remote UNESCO heritage site, and a trip to Cape Clear Island, which boasts more than 5,000 years of history.

The cruise costs from £3,960 per person, departing from Oban in Scotland and calling at Dublin, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Bantry, Valentia Island, Schull and Cobh. The price is based on a July 31 departure.

Alternatively, the 'Gaelic Explorer' starts from £3,960 per person and is ideal for history enthusiasts, with excursions to Dublin Castle and the picturesque town of Kinsale, which was the scene of the end of the Gaelic order.

The voyage departs from Cobh (Cork) and calls at Kinsale and Dublin, Peel (Isle of Man), Strangford Lough, Bangor and Ballycastle (Northern Ireland), Sanda Island, Lochranza and Bute (Scotland) before finishing in Greenock. The price is based on an August 16 departure.

Prices include return flights from a regional UK airport, all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, shore excursions and gratuities and all relevant cruise taxes/fees.

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

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Cunard Feature Madam Butterfly 3-D

As part of its worldwide release schedule, Cunard is proud to announce the first shipboard screenings of the 3D feature film, ‘Madam Butterfly 3D’, in association with the Royal Opera House and RealD, the world’s most widely used digital 3D projection technology. 

Captured during live performances at the Royal Opera House, ‘Madam Butterfly 3D’ will be shown from July 6 aboard Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2. The film opened in the UK to popular and critical acclaim earlier this year and is being released worldwide in almost 40 countries this Autumn.

Cunard began its successful 3D film presentations in 2011, beginning with screenings of the RealD and Royal Opera House co-production, ‘Carmen in 3D’, which proved hugely popular with guests. ‘Madam Butterfly 3D’ is expected to draw equally large and appreciative audiences when it is presented in the ship’s grand 450-seat theatre, Illuminations.
 
This second co-production between RealD and the Royal Opera House gives viewers the best seat in the house at one of the world’s most prestigious venues for one of the world’s best loved operas. Combining the excitement of live staging with the immediacy of a feature film, ‘Madam Butterfly 3D’ is a production designed to appeal to novices and opera buffs alike. 

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

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Glorious Danube - Epilogue

Looking back at a wonderful 11-day voyage along the Danube with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises...

So, we finally had to say farewell to our water-borne 'home' for the best part of the last two weeks. The flight connection from Vienna back to London on the final morning went extremely well and the return home wasn't too severe (it wasn't raining, for a change!).

It was our first full river-cruise, and it couldn't have been any smoother or more memorable. Uniworld (with arrangements by UK tour experts Titan Travel) were ideal hosts and we were hugely impressed by the gracious onboard style, service and cuisine.

Nothing was ever rushed but everything was accomplished with ease, and the overall feeling of travelling in such elegant fashion with a large number of new-found friends was almost overwhelming. 

And, while the River Duchess didn't boast anything overtly flashy in terms of the onboard entertainment, there was always something to enjoy, from good conversation at the 24-hour coffee station to some amazing musical and folkloric shows in the main lounge.

Every meal was memorable and every crew member seemed to go out of their way to make things as seamless and enjoyable as possible. And, if the weather wasn't quite ideal at this time of year (just a bit too much rain, notably in Bulgaria and on our transit of the Iron Gates), it was certainly never cold and unpleasant (as it was back in the UK!).

If there was one mild criticism, perhaps we did spent a bit too long on the coaches on some days as we toured Bulgaria and Croatia, while more time in the surprise Hungarian city of Pecs would probably have been a good idea.

But, overall, the itinerary was extremely well balanced, superbly organised and highly educational, and we never lacked for information, history or just a good place to stop for a coffee!

Of the countries we visited, we probably saw enough of Romania and Bulgaria, but all of Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia proved surprisingly beguiling and worthy of a return trip at some stage, while the journey through the Iron Gates gorge (below) was a real visual highlight.

Food-wise, we were wowed by the big Captain's Gala dinners at the start and end of the cruise; by the wonderful al fresco dining experience one evening; and by the superb array of fresh, local produce and signature national dishes offered throughout.

Complimentary wine or beer with lunch and dinner is an excellent selling point and we never had to think about what we might like at any given point, as our needs and wishes always seemed to be met as soon as we thought of them - right down to the wonderful late-night snacks that awaited us when we returned from evening excursions.

And, while we were impressed by every aspect of the service on board, we also need to single out several real stars, who all helped to make the whole cruise go with that perfect combination of personable and efficient:

Captain Michael Hofmann: the German master, now resident in Romania (and owner of his own watermelon farm!), was a huge hit with all concerned, especially for his rare sense of humour and ability to convey the real sense of fun in sailing along the Danube. I have rarely encountered a ship's captain with more natural bonhomie.

Cruise Manager Christine Bremberger: every river-cruise clearly needs a Master Planner to make sure all the shoreside arrangement go off without a hitch, as the importance of good daily excursions is paramount here. Christine must be one of the hardest-working people in the company as she was always either organising, conducting, narrating or explaining what we were seeing and doing at any given point. No request was too small or too complicated for her to handle.

Hotel Manager Jaroslav Veselka: our Slovakian cruise host was a master of quiet organisation, smooth efficiency and genuine friendliness. Once again, no request was ever met with a negative and everything seemed right at his fingertips in terms of ensuring the onboard operation ran like amiable clockwork. Our surprise wedding anniversary celebration was a great case in point, but, again, it was handled with effortless aplomb.

Maitre D' Dimitar and his restaurant team were always spot on with their service and ability to provide a great dining experience, and no meal went by without one highlight or another - although the soups were an amazingly consistent highlight and dessert was always a rare pleasure.

All in all, it is hard to imagine what more the Duchess could have done to make our cruise more enjoyable - except, perhaps, to have halted the space-time continuum, allowing us to stay on board for a lot longer. Perhaps next time...!

Oh, and after our wonderful trip to the Croatian school in Laslovo, I need to do a quick shout-out to my youngest 'follower,' Dalton from Plainfield Elementary School, Illinois, and my big Super Bowl pen-pal from earlier this year. Study hard, Dalton!

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

Marina's Russian Debut

Two full days in St Petersburg are included on Oceania Cruises first-ever Baltic voyages on the line’s recently launched new ship, Marina, cruising to Scandinavia and Russia. Limited availability is offered on three 10-day “Baltic Treasures” cruises, with cruise-only rates from £1,219 per person, including $500/stateroom onboard credit, free flights, all meals, complimentary soft drinks and bottled water. Departures are on July 22, August 1 & 11.
The cruise offers the opportunity to take part in Oceania's Culinary Discovery Tours to shore-side markets. The Farm-to-Table excursion visits two family-run farms, one that grows root vegetables, the other raising free-range cattle. After a three-course lunch in Visby, guests meet in the ship’s Bon Appetit Culinary Centre (the only hands-on cookery school at sea) for a “Joy of Grilling” class.
Latvian delicacies are showcased in Riga, where a local chef leads a tour of the Central Market. Back aboard ship, a “Romantic Riga” class completes the immersive experience. While in Helsinki, guests learn to make Finnish sausages and cinnamon rolls, then return to the ship for a class – and tasting – of smoked and cured salmon.
Marina’s other signature features include a Canyon Ranch SpaClub; six gourmet restaurants, including a French bistro by Chef Jacques Pépin; and a wine-tasting facility developed in cooperation with Wine Spectator magazine.
The “Baltic Treasures” itinerary, from Copenhagen to Stockholm, also includes visits to Warnemünde (a gateway to Berlin); Bornholm in Denmark; Gdynia, Poland (the port for Gdansk); and St Petersburg, where an overnight aboard Marina allows guests ample time to discover the magnificent Hermitage and Petrodvorets, Peter the Great’s imperial palace. 

For bookings, see this link for The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK’s leading luxury cruise specialists.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Crystal's South American Bonanza

First-time visits to the Chilean Fjords and Puerto Chacabuco, plus nearly 100 Crystal Adventures on shore, highlight Crystal Cruises' new itinerary around the tip of South America on Crystal Serenity next winter. 
Sailing from Lima to Buenos Aires for the first time on February 2, 2013, the Crystal World Cruise segment takes guests on an immersive 24-night journey to some of the most awe-inspiring and culturally exciting sites in the Southern Hemisphere, including the breathtaking Seno Eyre Fjords, the dramatic landscapes and wildlife of Patagonia, the sprawling hillsides of Valparaíso (or “Paradise Valley”) and even the birthplace of the tango.
The many adventures include: 

  • A rare visit to Earth’s last great wilderness, Antarctica, with a guided trek on King George Island and zodiac ride to view penguins in their natural habitat.
  • Flying over the mysterious Nazca Lines, ancient geoglyph figures in the desert floor that can only be seen from above.
  • An overnight option to Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Various expeditions offer: 

  • Exploration of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego by horseback.
  • Hiking to the mouth of the magnificent Iguazú Falls.
  • Kayaking through the Strait of Magellan.
  • Pitching in at a working Uruguayan ranch.

The cultural and culinary experiences range from: 

  • Exploring vineyards and tasting wines to visiting beachfront communities of the “jet set.”
  • Perusing local markets and taking cooking lessons with local cuisine experts to browsing the art and homes of renowned Latin American artists such as poet Pablo Neruda.
  • Tracing the footsteps of Argentina’s famed “Evita” and dancing the night away at a Buenos Aires nightclub.
As part of Crystal’s 2013 World Cruise, the voyage features expanded enrichment programming and courses in wellness, language and music. The line’s exclusive Ocean Views series will present expert lecturers discussing the day’s hot topics.
Until June 30, all-inclusive Book Now fares for the “Southern Fjord Exploration” start at £10,071 per person fly/cruise and can be combined with other World Cruise segments for greater savings. Crystal’s 2013 complete 74-night Grand South American Exploration sails round-trip from Miami starting January 16 with a Book Now starting price of £19,197 per person fly/cruise.
For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's specialist luxury cruise experts.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Glorious Danube - Final Day

Our epic 11-day voyage along the Danube River on Uniworld's River Duchess comes to an end in Austria... 

Vienna - Day 2 

We had finally come to our last full day on the Glorious Danube in the company of Uniworld's boutique river voyages and the wonderful River Duchess ship, with all her 82 passengers (normal full complement - 130).

We had passed right through the heart of eastern Europe and finished in The City of Music, a fitting finale to a truly memorable voyage. For my first full river-cruise, it had more than lived up to expectations, and my wife and I are keen to do more in future.

For now, our final day was one completely at leisure, to head back into Vienna and sample some more (literally and metaphorically) of this amazingly scenic city.

With a simple four-stop ride on the U-bahn (underground metro; 2 euros per person, per journey), we were at the Rathaus stop (City Hall, above) and able to enjoy a Sunday stroll of the many sights in almost complete uncrowded comfort on a beautiful Austrian morning.

City Hall itself is a stunning Gothic edifice (built from 1872-83) and is fronted by lovely gardens leading up to the main Austrian Parliament building, a Greek Revival style that took shape at the same time as the Rathaus and is ringed by fabulous statuary.
Across the street, the Volksgarten - previously a private preserve of the Habsburgs - is now the city's famous Rose Garden (right), full of magnificent blooms and more neo-classical architecture. 

It also leads into the full majesty of the Hofburg, the former Imperial Palace, which stretches across this part of the city like a vast Baroque Lego set. From 1438 to 1583 and 1612 to 1806, it was the seat of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and thereafter the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918 (including the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867). Today it is the official seat of the Austrian Federal President but also houses a variety of museums, public offices, the famed National Library (as visited the previous day) and the even-more-famous Spanish Riding School. 

It was warm enough to require a pre-lunch cafe stop, for which the outdoor terrace of the Hofburg's own Kaffeehaus was ideal (below) before we headed back into the city for another wander along the pedestrianised confines of Stephensplatz, including a stop at St Peter's Church and then lunch at the Wiener Stadtbrau Restaurant for some classic Viennese fare (and another beer!).
The afternoon wandering was beginning to look slightly less promising with more cloud cover, but we pressed on, determined to see as much as we could on foot. An array of street artists enlivened the weekend proceedings (helping to counter the fact that many shops were closed), and, everywhere we went, the mixture of modern and classical architecture provided seemingly endless perspectives.

Eventually, we wandered out to the Ring Road (the extent of the former city walls) and ambled along the Stadtpark, the main City Park, and home to several more eye-catching monuments, including the 1921 Johan Strauss II bronze statue, Franz Schubert Statue and Bust of Robert Stolz.

Here, we also discovered the 19th century Kursalon, the fabulous former Spa pavilion in which 'healing mindreal waters' used to be sold but is now home to a stylish restaurant, garden terrace cafe and music hall. Johan Strauss II gave his first concert here in 1868 but, this afternoon, we were more interested in sampling the local coffee and world-famous Sachertorte (below), which were, truly, world class.

After some more meandering around the Gardens, we decided the weather was beginning to look distinctly more threatening and, with the Captain's Farewell Dinner this evening back on board the Duchess, we decided it was time to head back.

Again, the U-Bahn was quick and easy to navigate and we had plenty of time to get ready for dinner, which was preceded by another typically fun and entertaining reception with Captain Michael Hofmann, Cruise Manager Christine and Hotel Manager Jaroslav.

The set menu was another memorable dinner adventure, a largely set-meal affair crowned by the typical cruise tradition of Baked Alaska on Parade for dessert. The real highlight, though, was dining with six new-found friends from our cruise, with Maitre D' Dimitar organising our eight-seater table in advance and ensuring the final evening went with a swing.

It brought down the curtain on an unforgettable cruise experience that was everything we had hoped it would be, and a lot more besides. The wonderful style of travel, the great cultural experience, the fabulous camaraderie enjoyed on board and the firm friendships that were forged were all firm highlights, but it would be hard to single any one thing out as the over-riding memory.


Suffice it to say, this River Duchess was an absolute royal treat and we can't wait to repeat the experience at some stage in future. 

Next - Danube Epilogue. 

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

Star Clippers Announces 2013/14 Schedules

Tall ship specialist Star Clippers has announced its 2013/14 sailing schedules, showcasing romantic voyages on the line’s three head-turning sailing ships, Star Clipper, Star Flyer and Royal Clipper.

During the summer of 2013, all three ships will sail in Europe: The flagship Royal Clipper will be in the western and eastern Mediterranean; Star Clipper in the western Med and Aegean; and Star Flyer in the Baltic and southern Spain

For winter 2013, all three follow the sun, with Royal and Star Clipper sailing the Caribbean, while Star Flyer explores the lush, forested coastlines of Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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

Norwegian's Private Island Cabanas

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that “Cabanas on the Cay,” exclusive private cabanas with VIP service and amenities, are now available on Great Stirrup Cay, the line’s 250-acre private island in the Bahamas.  

Available for $249 per day, each Cabana accommodates up to six guests and is fully furnished with lounge chairs, tables, cooler, beach towels and a shower. Cabana rental also includes a $50 food and beverage credit; up to six all-day passes to the Hippo Waterslide (a $120 value); and one large float, a $25 value. 

Each of the 10 Cabanas on the Cay are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and can be pre-booked as a shore excursion

Norwegian Sky makes year-round stops at Great Stirrup Cay on her three and four-night cruises from Miami. Norwegian Gem visits during her seven-night Bahamas & Florida itinerary from New York. Beginning in October, Norwegian Jewel will also call in on her seven-night Bahamas & Florida cruises from New York while Norwegian Pearl will visit this winter on her seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary from Miami. Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian’s newest ship launching next spring, will visit Great Stirrup Cay on seven-night cruises from New York beginning in mid-October 2013.

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

Noble Caledonia's Small-Scale Baltic

Bordered by diverse kingdoms and republics in a relatively contained area, the Baltic is perfect for exploration by ship. The history of the region is fascinating, with countries vying for commercial and political influence for over a thousand years or more. Summer is the perfect time to explore its historic shores and look back over its colourful past, from the Vikings and the Hanseatic era to more modern day events.

If you are contemplating a trip to the Baltic, you may have noticed here are a number of cruises on offer aboard ships of varying sizes. You can travel with many hundreds or join a Noble Caledonia party of just 100 aboard the MS Island Sky. You join one of the finest small ships in the world, where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. 

In addition to these benefits of small-ship cruising in the Baltic, the comprehensive itinerary has the added advantage of spending three full days in St Petersburg. Most cruises spend one day or perhaps two, but it simply is not possible to see all this marvellous city and surrounding countryside have to offer in such a short time.

What makes cruises aboard Island Sky unique is the experience of travelling with so few like-minded passengers. This means disembarking with ease at each port of call, just a few buses rather than a whole fleet that will be waiting for the big cruise liners, and quality.

You will not find endless entertainment and impersonal service; instead, you can enjoy some light music in the bar after dinner and informative briefings and talks by the Cruise Director and Guest Speaker.

Excellent contacts in each port also mean that, for 2012, Noble Caledonia has been able to arrange some special opening/closing times on visits to Catherine’s Palace, Peterhof Palace and the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Quietvox earphones are also available for all shore excursions.

This special voyage departs on July 1 for 13 nights and prices start from £4,295. Book by June 30 and save £400 per person.

For more information and bookings, consult The Cruise Line Ltd, the UK's leading luxury cruise specialists, on this link.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Hurtigruten's Line-Up For 2013/14

 
Fancy sailing around the British Isles from Greenwich on board a Hurtigruten ship? Or spending Christmas Day on South Georgia with the penguins and celebrating 100 years to the day since the Whalers Church was consecrated? All this and much more is now possible with Hurtigruten's latest programme of ‘Explorer’ voyages, with their trips to Spitsbergen, Greenland, Antarctica and Europe in 2013/14 featuring new itineraries and additional departure dates due to ever-increasing demand for these remote places in the world.

New itineraries include:
ANTARCTICA: SOUTH GEORGIA ANNIVERSARY VOYAGE, from £6,549pp

This Christmas voyage will have an extended stay in South Georgia including Christmas Day, which in 2013 marks 100 years since the Whalers Church was consecrated in Grytviken, the island's main town. This church was pre-built in separate parts in Norway and brought to South Georgia. This epic journey to Antarctica is via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Orkneys. Departing on December 19, the 17-day itinerary includes the voyage on a full board basis, flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia and transfers in Ushuaia. Based on two sharing.

EUROPE: HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS – Norwegian Fjords and Scotland, from £1,724pp

This new itinerary travels from Bergen to Greenwich with many stops along the way. Before leaving Norway, the ship will explore Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord then cross the North Sea to Lerwick on the Shetland Islands and the northernmost town in Scotland. Then it’s on to Kirkwall on the Orkneys Islands before heading south to Greenwich with stops at Leith (Edinburgh) and Newcastle. This 10-day itinerary departs on April 22 and includes full board. Based on two sharing.

- WESTERN EUROPE, BRITISH ISLES EXPLORER: offered for the first time, this itinerary starts from Greenwich and takes in some of the very best of the UK. After sailing down the Thames, the ship visits Portsmouth and then the Isles of Scilly with their miles of white sandy beaches. Cobh and Dublin are called at in Ireland before heading to Douglas on the Isle of Man, Iona and Staffa in the Hebrides, Portree on the Isle of Skye, Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands, Leith (Edinburgh) and finally across the North Sea to Hamburg. This 12-day itinerary costs from £2,498pp including full board. Based on two sharing.

- SOUTHERN EUROPE, EASTER VOYAGE: next Easter, MS Fram will sail from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria to Lisbon in Portugal. It will visit Lanzarote on Good Friday, Agadir on Easter Saturday and Casablanca on Easter Sunday before heading off to Gibraltar, Portimao and finally Lisbon. Departing on March 28, this week-long trip costs from £832pp, including full board. Based on two sharing.

GREENLAND: An additional departure date has been added for the ‘Southern Fjords and Disko Bay – Glaciers and Ice’ itinerary that departs Reykjavik and travels the southwest tip of Greenland. The trip is now available on May 31 and July 7, 2013, and costs from £3,662pp including the voyage on a FB basis and flights between Copenhagen and Kangerlussuaq or vice versa.

SPITSBERGEN: Due to its popularity, an additional departure has been added for the Spitsbergen Circumnavigation itinerary – ‘In the realm of the Polar Bear,’ which offers the chance to travel the entire archipelago. Three nine-day trips are now available departing August 14, 21 and 28, 2013, with prices from £3,117pp, including full board. Based on two sharing.-

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