Sunday, 30 June 2013

New Rhone-Rhine Itinerary From CroisiEurope

Distinguished French river-cruise operator CroisiEurope has combined two of its most popular routes to create a brand new 10-day cruise along the Rhine and Rhone rivers. The new and original itinerary, which launches next year, will see passengers board in Amsterdam, before setting off along a scenic and culturally enriching route that passes through some of the continent’s most treasured towns and sites in Holland, Germany and France.

While travelling the length of the celebrated Rhone before transferring onto the Rhine – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – passengers will enjoy a range of optional and complementary excursions to some of Europe’s most historical sites. From a guided tour of northern Europe’s most ancient Cathedral in Aachen to a circuit of Lyon’s Old Town and Traboules passageways, to a train journey through the Medieval town of Tournon, in southern France, there is plenty to cater for all interests.

The cruise starts in Amsterdam and visits Xanten, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Konigswinter, Koblenz, Mainz, Worms, Strasbourg, Chalon Sur Saone, Lyon, Tournon and Arles before finishing in Avignon. The 2014 departure dates are April 22, May 17, June 27 and September 28. Cruise-only prices start at €1,303 per person (approximately £1,100) based on two people sharing an air-conditioned twin main deck cabin with a fully equipped en suite bathroom, including all meals and drinks on board (excluding Champagne and wines on the wine list), a wide range of entertainment, a welcome cocktail, coach transfer, a museum visit, Gala dinner entertainment, insurance and port taxes.

For bookings, see; for more river-cruise ideas, follow this link to our sponsors, The Cruise Line, the UK's luxury river-cruising specialists.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Seadream's Spectacular Summer Specials

True luxury all-inclusive line SeaDream Yacht Club has announced the introduction of exceptional new fares applying to a selection of five Mediterranean voyages in July and August – an ideal opportunity for those wishing to try the SeaDream experience for the first time.

The five, 7-night voyages offering these stunning fares - representing up to 65% savings on the standard published fares - are as follows:

  • 27 July: sailing aboard SeaDream II from Venice-Dubrovnik, from only £2,750 per person
  • 3 August: sailing aboard SeaDream I from Athens round-trip, from only £2,419 per person
  • 3 August: sailing aboard SeaDream II from Dubrovnik-Rome, from only £2,750 per person
  • 10 August: sailing aboard SeaDream I from Athens-Istanbul, from only £2,750 per person
  • 10 August: sailing aboard SeaDream II from Rome round-trip, from only £2,750 per person
All the voyage-only fares quoted above are based on 2 people sharing a Yacht Club Deck 2 sea-view stateroom, and include: accommodation, all meals on board, complimentary champagne and open bar, wines with lunch and dinner, together with gratuities, use of recreational and water sports toys (subject to local conditions) and Government, port and handling fees. Must be booked this week.
For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line, the UK's luxury cruising specialist.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Cunard’s New Dining Aboard Queen Victoria

A new alternative dining venue, The Verandah, has opened on Cunard's Queen Victoria, replacing the Todd English restaurant. The new 100-seat option is based on the same concept as the popular and award-wining Verandah on Queen Elizabeth, with a slightly different menu featuring a sophisticated, contemporary and relaxed theme.

Peter Shanks, Cunard President and Managing Director, explained: "Queen Victoria's new restaurant is an exciting addition to the Cunard culinary offering, which now includes some of the most highly-rated dining at sea and no fewer than12  different venues. The passenger feedback we have received for both lunch and dinner in these first days of the Verandah’s operation has been very positive indeed and booking has proved essential for evening dining in particular."
The menu has been created by Jean Marie Zimmermann, who is a Michelin starred chef as well as Cunard’s global culinary ambassador. A particular highlight is Carpaccio of Smoked Beef with Marinated Aubergine, Quail’s Egg and Truffle Mayonnaise, which combines magical pairings of flavours with theatrical touches – the dish is served under a glass cloche filled with scented smoke.

There is a choice of seven entrees, 11 plats principaux and six dessert choices. Plats principaux include Beef and Lobster Flambéed with Cognac and Truffle with Parmesan Fries – the most popular dish to date – and Baked Rack of Lamb in Pastry with Morel Mushrooms and Madeira Reduction.

Todd English, offering a vibrant taste of the Mediterranean, will remain the alternative restaurant on Queen Mary 2 as befits her transatlantic crossings and more even mix of British and American passengers. This first-ever Todd English venue at sea has proved highly successful since its introduction in 2004.

Other evening dining alternatives include the Kings Court (Queen Mary 2) and The Lido (Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria). By night, these areas transform into intimate and casual spaces that offer cuisine from around the world. Queen Elizabeth's other choices including the South American grill Asado; Jasmine, with its menus drawn from across Asia; and Aztec, which adds its own twist to Mexican classics. Queen Victoria’s Lido transforms into Bamboo (Asian flavours), Coriander (Indian cuisine) and Prime (steaks and seafood).

The Kings Court on Queen Mary 2  offers delicious Italian dishes in La Piazza; traditional British dishes in The Carvery; and flavours from across Asia in Lotus. In addition, the Cunard flagship features the Boardwalk Cafe, offering burgers on deck.

Pictured above: Monkfish and Scallops in Brown Butter, Spinach and Parmesan Ravioli, Smoked Bacon Velouté, from the new Verandah restaurant menu. 

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

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Extra ‘Solar Eclipse’ Cruise with Fred Olsen

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ recently launched Solar Eclipse cruise aboard Boudicca for 2015 has proved so popular it is now fully booked and, due to the enormous interest in this amazing phenomenon, the line is pleased to announce a second cruise aboard Black Watch to allow more of its guests this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A total solar eclipse is one of the most awe-inspiring natural spectacles, and one of the most difficult to view; it occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, entirely obscuring the Sun and blocking all direct sunlight, turning daylight into complete darkness.   

The newly launched cruise will depart from Southampton on March 16, 2015, for 14 nights and will be positioned off the coast of the Faroe Islands on March 20, when the longest duration of totality – the best opportunity to view the eclipse – occurs.  The cruise operates a similar itinerary to the Boudicca cruise, visiting Runavik (Faroe Islands), Leknes (Lofoten islands), Tromsø, Alta, Trondheim and Ǻlesund (all Norway) and returning to Southampton.

Prices for this fascinating ex-UK cruise start from £1,799 per person, based on two adults sharing an inside, twin cabin Grade ‘I’, and include accommodation, all meals and entertainment on board, and port taxes.

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

Why not subscribe to World of Cruising magazine by following this link?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Grand P&O Med Voyage Pt 3

Guest blogger Danielle Fear, aka Cruise Miss, continues her grand Mediterranean voyage with P&O Cruises with a whirl through three ports of call...

At present we are sailing through the Mediterranean en route to our last port of call. There were a few white horses out there last night, nothing too drastic but enough gentle movement to remind you that you are on a ship in the middle of the sea. Wonderful!

Since my last update, we have enjoyed a few days at sea and calls to Civitavecchia, Italy, Ajaccio, Corsica and, yesterday, Gibraltar.

We took the day pretty easy in Civitavecchia, deciding not to make the trip into Rome this time. There’s not a lot in Civitavecchia itself, to be honest, but I love Italy so, for me, just being in an Italian port again is good enough. Ajaccio on the other hand (below, left) was a wonderful treat. It was my first time on the island and what a picturesque one it is. The small beach was a nice surprise, along with the wonderful Sunday market selling all sorts of food delights, including Nougat, cheese, fresh-baked goods, olives and much more. I indulged in a Pain au Chocolat from a lovely elderly lady. It was truly delicious and, as I had skipped breakfast on the ship, it was a welcome indulgence.
Gibraltar, as always, did not disappoint. I found a shop here a few years ago right at the top of Main Street called Pashmina and fell in love with it. They sell all kinds of Indian ornaments, pictures and so on. The gentleman that owns the store is polite and friendly and will always give you some kind of background information on anything you purchase. This time, I bought a wall mask (I collect these from as many ports as possible) and a large canvas painting of an elephant, which turned out to be quite a trial to get back to the ship in the baking heat. I also managed to smash a bottle of Rum I had bought just as I got outside the port entrance. Typical or what?

That’s a brief update on our port adventures but I know you want to know more about the ship. I paid a visit to The Glass House (below, right) yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. The difference from when it was Ramblas seems to be quite subtle but the overall feel of the space now is much lighter and it feels slightly bigger. This may be down to the new colour scheme and numerous wine bottles sitting neatly in racks across the walls. A few people had asked me to photograph the menu but it turned out to be about 100 pages long (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration), so I’ll just tell you it contained a LOT of wine!

As I mentioned, we are en route to our last port of call. It was scheduled to be La Coruna but due to a forecast for bad weather, our captain decided it would not be safe enough for us to try and dock. So, instead, we will be calling into Vigo where, although strong winds are still expected, it will be safer for us to dock.
We only have two days of the cruise left and I can honestly say that, once again, P&O have not disappointed me and the crew are a pleasure to sail with. A few days ago, I bumped into a waiter who was on my first cruise and it was nice catching up with him and finding out how he has progressed with his career over the last several years.

Ventura, as always, has been my home from home. She is in great condition, clearly getting lots of TLC from her crew and her refurbishment has added some lovely little touches to what was already a gem of a ship. There have been several weddings on board, too, and they couldn’t have picked a better way to start married life!

Until next time, cruise lovers…

Take a River Cruise - And Save!

AmaWaterways have a new series of worldwide river-cruise special offers this week, with savings of up to £391 per person for their distinctive voyages in Russia, France, along the Danube and in the Far East.

Here are the full details:

July 26: Cruise Russia’s waterways, saving £271pp 
Discover Russia’s waterways and her vast and spectacular lakes, dine traditional style with a Russian family and discover the cities en-route between St Petersburg and Moscow. This 11-night sailing is now £2,979pp (was £3250pp).

August 9: Cruise through Provence, saving £391pp 
This one-week luxury river cruise from Lyon to Arles along the Rhone takes in famous wine growing regions, historic towns and the spectacular Provencal countryside. The price is now £2,299 per person (was £2,690).

August 16: Vietnam, Cambodia & Riches of the Mekong
Departing on August 16, AMA has a magnificent 7-night cruise along the Mekong between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City, including a 2-night pre-cruise stay in Siem Reap (B&B basis) in Cambodia, for just £2,299pp, saving £239. The cruise is on board the La Marguerite, and visits floating markets, exotic villages, temples, monasteries and historic pagodas along the way.

August 26: Cruise the Danube, save £281pp 
Or how about a week’s Danube cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest, highlighting the very best of this region from Austria to Hungary. The price is now £2,064 per person (was £2,345). 

All prices include return UK flights, transfers, full board, wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, complimentary daily tours and excursions, plus use of onboard bicycles on Provence and Danube routes. 

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

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Hurtigruten's New Summer Excursions

Animal lovers can now enjoy three new excursions introduced by Hurtigruten this summer. Available from now until the end of August, the excursions are centered around horses, reindeer and salmon and offer unique experiences that take guests even closer into the culture and nature of Norway.  All three are available when travelling on the southbound voyage from Kirkenes to Bergen.

New excursions:

LOFOTEN BY HORSE: Explore the breathtaking scenery of the Lofoten islands on horseback. Starting in Svolvear, riders will travel on island horses from the house farm in Gimsøy on the Atlantic coast and head towards Stamsund, riding through white powder sand and gently rolling hills. En route, guests pass historic sites of the Viking era – for example, the island of Gimsøy, home to the highest density of relicts from the saga period. This excursion offers an unparalleled opportunity to discover the area’s natural beauty while also getting a sense of its rich history. It is suitable for guests with little or no riding experience, as island horses are known for their gentle nature. Priced from £102pp.

REINDEER SPOTTING IN THE SUMMER NIGHT: This excursion takes guests overland from Mehamn to Kjøllefjord. Unusually, it takes place at 'night' as this time is perfect for wildlife spotting because the Norwegian summer nights are as bright as day. The route continues inland to Nordkyn, Europe’s northernmost peninsula. The first observation post is some 300m above sea level for great views, offering the chance to watch reindeer at varying distances with binoculars provided as part of the trip. The guide will provide a wealth of information about the Sami culture, their special relationship with the reindeer and life at 71 degrees north. The tour continues on to ‘Camp Summer Night’, which offers magnificent views of the Kjøllefjord and the arrival of the Hurtigruten ship. A traditional meal with reindeer meat, freshly baked bread and cranberry compote will be served and guests have the option of roasting their own meat over the open fire. Priced from £66pp.

VISIT THE SALMON: This excursion to a salmon farm takes place in Brønnøysund. Guests will find out exactly why the Norwegian coastline offers the perfect conditions for sustainable and responsible aquaculture. Norway is one of the world’s largest exporters of fish and seafood, with some 37 million people around the world enjoying Norwegian fish every day. During the salmon farm excursion, guests can watch the salmon being fed, find out all about modern fish farming, try their hand at using an underwater camera and taste the salmon. Priced at £58pp.

In order to accommodation these new excursions, minor changes have been made to the schedule of the southbound route. The layover times in Svolvær and Brønnøysund have been extended slightly, and the ones in Bodø und Sandnessjøen shortened slightly instead. The arrival and departure times in Stamsund were pushed back by half an hour.

Classic Round Voyage this summer – prices in August lead in at £1,515pp for an 11-night voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. Prices include half-board and an unspecified inside cabin. Flights are extra and cost from £450pp.

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

Monday, 24 June 2013

More Cruise Yoga From Star Clippers

Tall ship cruise specialist Star Clippers has added four new dates to its programme of yoga and meditation-themed sailings for this summer, highlighting the popularity of this unique opportunity for cruise well-being.

Yoga expert Christel Vollmer will offer free daily yoga and meditation sessions on board the 170-passenger Star Flyer on cruises in the Baltic and the Mediterranean, with all sessions taking place in the open air, under thousands of square feet of billowing sails – the ultimate relaxation for body and soul, enhanced by the fresh sea breezes. 
Each cruise will begin with an Introduction to Yoga class and feature two daily classes thereafter: 60 minutes of power yoga in the morning and a 40-minute wind-down class at sunset, followed by meditation. All classes are completely optional; the ships will continue their normal progamme of activities and ports of call and guests are welcome to do as many or as few classes as they like.

For those who want to follow a healthy or vegetarian diet during the cruise, Star Clippers also offers excellent breakfast buffets, piled with fresh, seasonal fruits, plus magnificent arrays of salads at lunchtime, as well as vegetarian choices at dinner.

Star Flyer’s new yoga cruises for 2013 include:

Stockholm to Travemunde, seven nights, departing July 27 and calling at ports in Finland, Estonia and Denmark; from £1,490 per person, cruise only.

Travemunde to Hamburg, six nights departing August 18, calling at ports in Denmark and Sweden; from £1,280 per person, cruise only.

Two Malaga round-trips, each seven nights, departing October 5 and 12, calling at Casablanca, Tangier, Cadiz, Gibraltar and Motril (for Granada); from £1,435 per person, cruise only

All prices include full board on the cruise, all yoga and lectures and port charges. Flights are extra.

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

For more on cruising and cruise ships, click here to view and subscribe to World of Cruising magazine.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Hebridean's New Cruises For 2014

The world’s smallest luxury cruise line, Hebridean Island Cruises, is offering 10% off new 2014 itineraries when bookings are made before the July 12.The offer coincides with the launch of the line’s new 2014 Cruise Directory which sees Hebridean Princess return to Norwegian waters for the first time in five years. 

Followers of the line can also book one of 12 new Scottish itineraries, including private visits to Ardkinglas House, Dundonald Castle and the private apartments at Inveraray Castle, or sail to the far flung islands of St Kilda, Orkney and Shetland. Hebridean Island is also offering new partnership cruises with NADFAS and the National Trust for 2014, including Houses and Castles of the Clyde and Gaelic Discoverer.

Those in search of a cultural break can join Hebridean Princess as she returns to Norway on board the seven-night Norwegian Symphony cruise. Passengers can opt to join the crossing from Invergordon to Bergen before being treated to a performance from traditional folk dancers in Ulvikfjord and an exclusive evening concert at Ole Bull’s Villa (Lysøen). Prices start from £4,923 per person (based on two sharing a cabin, including 10% early booking offer discount), for the August 4 departure.

History buffs can join the eight-night Island Kingdoms of the Vikings cruise, visiting Orkney, Lewis and the Western Isles, which were all once part of the Norse Kingdom of the Vikings. Passengers will be joined by special Guest Speaker, Dr. Donna Heddle, an expert in Scottish and Northern Isles cultural history and Nordic studies, who will bring each port of call to life with her stories of her work. Prices start from £4,167 per person for the August 28 departure. 

Keen walkers can join one of the five specialist walking itineraries in the 2014 programme, including the new Footloose to the Lochs and Isles. Guests who want to stretch their legs a little further afield can join Footloose in the Fjords to explore destinations like Bergen, Fjærland and Vik by foot, with the help of special walking guides. Highlights include a full day glacier walk, a visit to the Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre (Lærdal) and the Sogn Folkemuseum in Sogndal. Prices start from £5,211pp for the August 11 departure.

Prices for all cruises include transport between Glasgow/Inverness and the ship or free car parking for Scottish departures and return Flights for Norwegian departures, meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, shore excursions, free Wi-Fi, gratuities and all relevant port taxes/fees. All Hebridean Island Cruises bookings also come with the added benefit of free single trip travel and cancellation insurance. 

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

Want to read more? Why not subscribe to World of Cruising magazine - Europe's leading cruise publication.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Summer Edition Now Here!

Our feature-packed Summer issue is now back from the printer's and going to distribution, so our subscribers can afford to sit back and await the arrival of the latest edition of Europe's leading cruise publication.

Providing our Cover Story this summer is a look at the majestic Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam as Lauren Price takes a memorable journey with AMA Waterways.

From there, we go cruising in the luxury style of Regent Seven Seas as Gary Buchanan provides a look inside their Seven Seas Mariner. For more deluxe sailing, we also have the Zodiac Approach from Steve Newman, looking at how the upmarket adventure-cruise lines provide their up-close encounters.

Next there are destination features of Iceland - a cruise spot that is capturing a lot of attention - and Mauritius, while we also head for the Panama Canal, with an in-depth look at a typical round-trip voyage to this amazing engineering feat in Central America.

For our usual ship features, we take readers on board the new MSC Preziosa of MSC Cruises and the classic traditional liner Saga Ruby in her farewell season for Saga Cruises.There is also a special feature by Carol Wright on how the different lines look after passengers both Pre- and Post-Cruise, with some great tips for maximising your cruise enjoyment.

Of course, there is our essential World of Spas section, which in this issue takes a look at the fabulous Canyon Ranch Spa Club aboard the Queen Mary 2 of Cunard Line, as well as the latest news from spas worldwide.

And our regular columnists have plenty of say, with Captain Greybeard offering thoughts on Azamara Club Cruises; Cruise Radio looking at the new Norwegian Breakaway; Stewart Chiron, aka The Cruise Guy, examining issues involved with staying connected at sea; and The Admiral getting wistful about travel in a bygone age.

Then there are our usual contributions from our readers on the Letters page, and our unequalled News pages, with stories on all the latest cruise launches from the likes of Viking River Cruises, CroisiEurope, Princess Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd, as well as forthcoming new lines Viking Ocean Cruises and Pearl Seas Cruises.

As ever, it all adds up to the best read on the high seas, for a bargain price and with the best style. And, if you haven't subscribed yet (what's keeping you!), just follow this link.

Happy cruising now...!

Ventura Cruise - Monte Carlo & Eze

Guest blogger Danielle Fear, aka Cruise Miss, continues her Mediterranean voyage aboard the Ventura of P&O Cruises...

Yesterday we spent the day in good old Monaco. This was my fifth visit to Monte Carlo and, before leaving for the cruise, I had decided it would be nice to do a tour here this time and take in a little more of what this beautiful - and rich - port has to offer. During my Caribbean voyage, I booked an excursion with The Shore Excursions Group and had such a wonderful experience I decided to use them in Monaco.

After I booked the trip, I realised we would not get ashore until after the tour meeting time. I informed Shore Ex and they went to every length to alter our meeting time. Perfect! Our guide met us just yards from where the tender boats dropped us off and, by luck, it turned out we were the only people on the tour. Our guide mentioned the sights the tour took in and said we could alter it if we wished as there were just two of us, so we cut one or two bits out and custom-made it to suit us.

Our first stop was the stunning medieval town of Eze. The views were breathtaking and there were gorgeous gardens emitting the most delicious floral scents. I wish I could have bottled it - never have I smelled such fragrances from flowers. The streets were narrow and steep, it was rich in its own little history and the kind of place I love to visit during my travels. It actually reminded me of Savoca in Sicily, without the Godfather connection of course.

From here we worked our way back down into Monaco, again stopping to digest the views from above, and arrived at the Palace just in time for the changing of the guard. There were tourists everywhere and it was quite difficult to get close enough to see what was going on but the atmosphere alone was thrilling. Once the excitement calmed and the crowd dispersed, we grabbed a few pictures of the view across Monte Carlo then made our way down towards the Cathedral
I have visited some stunning churches in my time but this one is extra special. It was pristine
on the outside and, as soon as you stepped through the door, you felt so peaceful. At the back there is the tomb of Princess Grace Kelly. It was touching to see but also very sad. There were fresh flowers laid, along with a few other trinkets. Our guide had left us here to do our own thing for an hour, and, when we were ready to continue, she was there waiting.

Next came the world famous Monte Carlo Casino. To be honest, after visiting here several times already, I am more excited by the seemingly never-ending array of top-of-the-range and custom-designed Bentleys, Rolls Royce Phantoms, Ferraris and other fancy cars. It provides an amazing glimpse of how the other half live!

Our guide was wonderful, with an answer for every question. I was interested to learn more about the Prince and his family, and she told us the Prince was in the palace yesterday because the flag was flying. She told us more about Grace Kelly and her accident and then showed us the properties that belonged to her daughters, even giving us a brief outline of where they are today. From one viewpoint she mentioned we were actually in France; below us was the Principality of Monaco and just a stone’s throw to our left was Italy. She also pointed out that one particular building was an apartment complex where the rent is 120,000 euros - a month. Residents can drive their cars into custom-built elevators to take them directly to the floor on which they live. Can you imagine!

Today we are in one of my favourite countries, Italy, and It is another scorcher of a day!

More soon....

Fred. Olsen Highlights Newcastle Cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has put the spotlight on its new summer cruise series from the port of Newcastle, with a series of special offers for those looking for an ex-UK voyage from the north of England.

Guests taking advantage of these Summer deals from Newcastle can also choose to upgrade with the popular ‘all-inclusive’ drinks package, for a special price of just £10 per person per night, which includes selected wines, spirits beers and soft drinks. What is more, premium branded drinks and cocktails are also available at half price.

The choice aboard their classic cruiser Black Watch is as follows:

July 9: 13-night Estonia & St Petersburg cruise
This voyage calls first at Ålborg, one of Denmark’s busiest trading centres, and home to Ålborghus Castle. Next, Black Watch heads for Warnemünde, the perfect base from which to explore Berlin and Rostock. After stopping at Saaremaa Island, Estonia’s largest island, the cruise continues to Tallinn, where the city’s spires, cobbled streets, castles and medieval and baroque architecture give it a real ‘fairytale’ feel. St. Petersburg is a highlight of any cruise, and guests can enjoy an overnight stop to take in the many sights, such as the Hermitage, Catherine's Palace and the impressive Peterhof grand palaces and fountains. After stopping at Karlskrona in Sweden, Black Watch reaches her final port, the Danish capital, Copenhagen, before returning to Newcastle. Prices start from £767pp.

July 22: 8-night ‘Fjords & Towns of Norway’ cruise
The first port of call is Ålesund, renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture, surrounding fjords and towering peaks of the Sunnmøre Alps. The next stop is Olden, from where guests can visit the mighty Briksdal Glacier, before Black Watch heads for Skjolden and Flåm. The latter is a historic town bursting with natural attractions, from coastal landscape to steep mountains and crashing waterfalls. The final stop is Bergen, with its historic wharf, famous fish market and surrounding fjords and mountains, ideal for exploring Hardangerfjord, Lysøen Island and Ulriken Mountain. Prices start from £632 per person.

July 30: 15-night Canary Islands Cruise
This cruise calls first at charming La Coruna, whose streets and squares house many medieval churches, museums and restaurants. Black Watch then makes her way to the greenest of the Canary Islands, La Palma, which also displays the characteristic lunar-like landscape associated with this volcanic archipelago. Santa Cruz, the island’s capital, is famous for its wooden balconies, cobbled streets, ancient buildings and gorgeous beaches. After stopping at Santa Cruz in Tenerife, the ship moves onto Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, a bustling port with an historic old quarter, Vegueta. Arrecife in Tenerife is the next stop, before Black Watch makes its way to the colourful Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and then makes the return journey to Newcastle.

All prices based on two adults sharing an inside, twin-bedded cabin, Grade ‘I’, and include accommodation, all meals and entertainment on board, and port dues.

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

Friday, 21 June 2013

Seadream Set Sail For Papua New Guinea

Few areas in the world are as exotic and stunning as Papua New Guinea. The land's vibrant culture is still thriving and its natural beauty makes the territory a truly untouched tropical paradise. Departing from Cairns, Queensland, on February 1, SeaDream II of the award-winning SeaDream Yacht Club, will set sail on an exclusive voyage led by a team of expedition experts. Visiting a virtually inaccessible part of the world, guests will travel on far-off traditional cruising routes and venture into areas rarely visited by outsiders.   

Sailing from Australia's north-west coastal city of Cairns, the 14-night voyage will arrive in Bali (Benoa) after visiting include Alotau, Milne Bay; Kitava, Trobriand Islands; Tami Island; Sepik River and Watam Village; Jayapura; Banda Neira; the Moluccas; Larantuka; and Komodo Island.  

Guests will be transported by a fleet of nimble, go-anywhere Zodiacs, landing directly on the beaches of these coastal villages to begin exploration. An added bonus will be professional wildlife photographer Sue Flood being on board, documenting the expedition and sharing tips for taking the perfect photo. 

Highlights and shore excursion options include: 

  • Introduction to Papua New Guinea culture in Alotau in the Milne Bay Province, meeting charming locals and touring the coast. Travellers will have the option to venture into the jungle to revisit a key World War II site. For those interested in natural history, guides will lead guests on hikes and bird watching tours from the beach.
  • Exploring the Trobriand Islands, one of the island's most culturally intact destinations. Guests will experience colourful and powerful performances of young warriors and local maidens dancing directly on the beach before touring the gardens and thatched roof homes of the villagers. The day will conclude with a beachside barbecue in this unspoiled paradise.
  • Discovering the tiny islands of Tami, comprised of uplifted coral atolls less than a kilometre in length. Locals will greet guests with indigenous dances and tours of their villages, observing traditions dating back thousands of years.
  • Visiting the mighty Sepik River, the longest in Papua New Guinea, which is home to the villages of Watam and Kopara. Villagers will display local customs and dances, allowing a direct look back in time to a culture that measures its existence in thousands of years. 

Fully-inclusive, voyage-only yachting fares lead in at £7,272 per person, based on double occupancy. SeaDream II will be sailing a series of 17 voyages in Asia from October to April. Itineraries include Myanmar, Thailand, India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Northern Australia and Malaysia.  

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

Cruising The P&O Way

Guest blogger Danielle Fear, aka Cruise Miss, posts her latest report from her Mediterranean cruise aboard P&O's Ventura...

After three sea-days, we reached our first port. I love sea days; the weather wasn’t too great on the first two but it has become steadily warmer and brighter by the day. Our first port was Valencia and today we have enjoyed Barcelona.

During our time in Valencia we literally just went ashore to stretch our legs. I have been there several times and, to be honest, once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. But it was nice to be on land for a little while and a great chance to grab some sweets for my Godson.

Barcelona was an eye opener for me, though. I have visited several times but have usually just stuck to Las Ramblas. This time, I decided I wanted to do something else. I contemplated a visit to Montserrat but then decided I would do the typical tourist thing and try the hop-on, hop-off city sightseeing bus and I am so glad I did. Those few hours have ignited a new appreciation inside of me for this city and I can’t wait to come back and explore more. 

I opted for the tour that went around the west of the city, taking in sights like the Olympic Stadium, Camp Nou, Jardins De Miramar (which had the most incredible views) and the Gothic Cathedral, just to name a small few. It was definitely worth it and, although I didn’t have time to switch to the east tour, it gives me something to look forward to (like more Gaudi architecture, below).

So what else has been happening? Well, I am once again in love with the Beach House buffet restaurant, especially in the evening. The chicken sizzler is so good I’ve already had it
twice in four days (please, lord, let me stop!) and I was pleased to see they again add courgette (zucchini) to this yummy dish. They took it out for a while and, for me, it just wasn’t the same but it's back and better than ever. 

To start with, I tried the coconut-encrusted tiger prawns, which were incredible (and much better than the previous garlic version). If you like prawns and don’t mind the £4.95 extra charge, you should definitely try them. There have been a few other changes to the Beach House menu. Things like the fish & chips and bacon cheeseburger are gone and, in their place, you can now find a lamb wrap and plaice burger, along with several other new additions. The same goes for the starters, with the addition of nachos.

We had a funny smell in our bathroom for a day or two; it didn’t clear so we informed reception and, within hours, it was resolved and we had a sparkly new shower curtain, too. I was impressed with the speed with which it was addressed and the fact they went a step further with the curtain. So far, I can’t complain about any of the service on board. Everyone has been very and attentive, and there is one young man in particular working on the Terrace Bar who is an absolute ray of sunshine.

I will check in with you all again soon with another update and more info on the ship’s refurbishment. Until then, we wave goodbye to Barcelona and Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam, which joined us in port today

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Great Summer Offers From Oceania

Oceania Cruises are featuring some superb new cruise bargains this summer, including the Panama Canal as well as the Baltic and the Mediterranean.

Choose from:

Aug & Sept: Baltic cruises with free gratuities, from £1,332pp
Receive free gratuities and a $200 onboard credit per stateroom when booking the 10-night `Baltic Odyssey’ cruise from Stockholm to Copenhagen on August 24. On mid-sized luxury  ship Marina, prices offer a massive saving of £1,753pp. The $200 credit is also offered on the September 3 sailing in reverse from Copenhagen to Stockholm, with prices from £1,319pp.

July 13: 12-night cruise, Venice to Istanbul, £1,819pp
This ‘Paths of the Byzantines’ sailing from Venice to Istanbul on board 1,250-guest Riviera calls into Slovenia, Croatia, the Greek Islands and mainland Turkey. The price was was £4,004 and also includes a $200 onboard credit per stateroom.

August 6: 10-night Mediterranean cruise, now £1,319pp
Take the family on an educational cruise during the school summer holidays, spending three full days (2 nights) in Haifa, and an itinerary that starts in Athens and also visits Crete, Limassol, Rhodes, Kusadasi (Ephesus) and Istanbul, for a final day in the city. The ‘Sacred Sanctuaries’ voyage on Riviera was £3,040 and represents a saving of £1721pp, as well as including a $300 per stateroom onboard credit.

August 22: 21-night Ultimate Panama Canal, £3,039pp
Oceania's magnificent 21-night sailing from San Francisco to New York visiting Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, the Caribbean and on to New York now has a £1,724pp saving off the lead-in fare of £3,039pp, plus $300 onboard credit per stateroom and free internet throughout the sailing.

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

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Sample La Belle Vita With European Waterways

We are big fans of European river-cruising for the chance to really get under the skin of the destinations you visit, and here is a great opportunity for a taste of Italy, sailing in style through the Venetian Lagoon and the Po Valley to the Renaissance City of Mantua.

This special cruise route can be found with European Waterways’ 20-passenger La Bella Vita, giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy the diverse cultures and landscapes en route, from picturesque lagoon islands with their colourful houses, to wild beach dunes and pine woods with an abundance of birdlife; and from the charming Venetian port of Chioggia via the River Po and Bianco Canal to the captivating lakeside setting of the Renaissance city of Mantua.
Cruise highlights include:
  • Guided tour of historic Venice – hidden gardens, Pavilion of the Gondolas, Naval Museum
  • Cruise the Canal of the Orphans past picturesque lagoon islands
  • Tour of the colourful port of Chioggia and its famous red fish market
  • Private wine tastings at Villa Widmann-Borletti
  • Visit to the 17th Century private stately home, Villa Ca’Zen
  • Tours of historic Mantua and Ferrara

Like all the hotel barges in the European Waterways fleet, La Bella Vita will be fully crewed with a captain, gourmet chef, hostesses and a tour guide. Every 6-night cruise includes comfortable accommodation in air-conditioned, en suite cabins, gourmet meals, open bar, fine wines, daily escorted excursions, entrance fees, local transfers and the use of barge facilities such as bicycles to explore the towpaths and a large sundeck to relax on from which to enjoy the Venetian Lagoon and River Po.

This summer, booking by 19 July, a 6-night all-inclusive Venice and Po Valley cruise aboard La Bella Vita departing on August 25, starts from just £1,890pp, including a £500 per person discount (based on double occupancy).

For bookings visit, or see more ideas on this link to The Cruise Line, the UK's luxury river-cruise specialists.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Finding The Perfect Luxury Cruise

Finding a cruise these days isn't difficult. There are adverts and commercials for cruise lines almost everywhere you look, and special offers abound online. Type in 'Cruise Sale' in Google and you will get roughly a bazillion responses (OK, so it was only 173,000,000, but what's a gazillion or two between friends?).

So it's certainly not a question of not being able to find anything these days.

The question of finding the RIGHT cruise for you is far more relevant, though, especially as cruise ships now number more than 200, and lines vary from the 5,000-passenger behemoths of Royal Caribbean to the boutique vessels of the likes of Hebridean Island Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club and UnCruise Adventures carrying a mere handful (as few as 30 or 40 in some cases).

In particular, the word 'luxury' is bandied around with utter abandon by just about everyone, including media sources that should know better.

The likes of Carnival and P&O Cruises may offer a great-value product, but they are far from a deluxe experience in most cases. And even some of the high-quality mid-range lines, like Princess, Holland America and Celebrity, while featuring some genuinely upscale touches, are still not the full six-star item.

It's like having a great stay at a Marriott Hotel and insisting it is on a par with Four Seasons or the Waldorf-Astoria. It's good, but it just isn't the pinnacle of holiday luxury.

Happily, there are still a handful of specialist agents that DO make a habit of featuring only the best and most luxurious cruise options and it is worth seeking these out for advice, customer service and - very often - the best deals on the 5 and 6-star lines.

It's interesting to see a company like The Cruise Line, based in Sussex and a company we know well, going one further and introducing their new Luxury Cruise Quiz.

As well as being good online fun, it provides some great insight into the true deluxe companies and genuinely produces the ideal matches for those who take the time to take it seriously and search through the various combinations and choices.

I've been playing around with it quite a bit this week, looking at the various permutations and seeing at how accurately it matches me with my various cruise 'wish list' ideas, and I'm impressed at how well it produces a valid end result. It offers a serious of images that you pick from in eight categories and it builds up to an 'ideal' match, as well as several alternatives.

It's fun and informative, so why not give it a try on this link:

Save On A Winter Arctic Adventure

Hurtigruten is offering free flights from London Gatwick, plus a free excursion to the North Cape, for anyone booking their Norwegian coastal voyage this winter, a total saving of up to £548pp. 

The offer is available on 20 selected dates this October/November for the 12-day Classic Round Voyage travelling from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the far north and back again. And, with this winter tipped as the best in a decade for viewing the Northern Lights, there really has never been a better time to go. Book by July 31 to take advantage of all the savings.

The Classic Round Voyage is also the best way to discover the very best of the Norwegian coastline. The ship visits more than 30 ports of call as she travels north and then turns to make her return journey. Those ports visited at night on the way up are visited during the day on the southbound journey and, in the larger towns and cities, there is plenty of time to go ashore and join in a wide variety of excursions.

Visiting North Cape, the northernmost point of mainland Europe, is a ‘must do’ for many people taking a voyage along the coast. And, as part of this offer, Hurtigruten is giving away an excursion to this popular rock plateau, worth £98 per person. Year on year, visiting North Cape, which rises a dramatic 307 metres straight up from the Arctic Ocean, has been Hurtigurten’s top-selling excursion.

Details: Classic Voyage North from £1,177pp (selected dates in November), including 12-day round-trip voyage from Bergen, full board on the ship, return flights from London Gatwick, transfers and free excursion to North Cape. Prices in October are from £1,398pp.

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

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