Queen Victoria Mini-Cruise To Bruges


One does not simply take a cruise with Cunard, one embarks on a wonderful voyage and although my first experience with Cunard may have only been for 3 nights, it was still a voyage that I am not likely to forget in a hurry.

I had been building up to the cruise for quite some time, so when embarkation day finally arrived I could barely contain my excitement: I just wanted to get to Southampton and meet Queen Victoria. Finally, I was at Ocean Terminal and about to board. First stop: my stateroom.

I had a Princess Grill Suite on Deck 4 and it was beautiful. There were 2 beds – both adorned in the signature Cunard gold piped bedding – a sofa area, large balcony, ample storage space and a bathroom with a shower over the bath. There were even 2 TV’s (I’d never watched Pitch Perfect in Spanish before!) It was more than comfortable and the pillow menu – yes, pillow menu – just added to the overall experience.


Once unpacked I made my way towards the Lido for some lunch. There was plenty of variety, but it was the chicken curry that called my name, so I grabbed a spoonful of that and some rice and tucked in. It was very tasty and gave me the fuel I needed to then head off and explore the ship. I must have spent 2 hours going from deck to deck and by the time the muster drill rolled around I think the only place I hadn’t been was the spa.

Finally it was time for us to sail, which also meant it was time to head back to my suite and freshen up for the evening. I also made a point of sorting out my clothes and bag for the following day (a visit to Bruges) as our itinerary changed last minute because of the weather. I like to be organised!

Guests in the Princess Grill and Queens Grill have their own allocated tables in their own allocated restaurants, which means no matter what time you wish to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, your table is always there waiting for you. For me, this was one of the biggest highlights of being in the Princess Grill, it was freedom dining without the hassle of having to wait for a table. Grills guests also have the advantage of their own lounge, Grills Lounge, and that’s where I went for my pre-dinner drink. It was a small and intimate space and it was beautiful. The bar staff were very attentive and each table was served warm canapes every evening. Delicious! I’m not usually a pre-dinner drink person but I really enjoyed going in there for an hour before dining. I’d also like to point out that in order to reach the deck that housed the Grills restaurants you had to put your key card in a slot inside the lift in order to activate the button – I felt like I was VIP.


The Princess Grill Restaurant was beautiful (I could see right through into the Courtyard from my table, another area reserved exclusively for Grills guests) and the menu was extensive. On my first evening I had pumpkin soup and seared beef tenderloin Rossini, both were delicious, but I could hardly breathe by the end of the meal. I was so full. Maybe it was the scallops that pushed me over the edge! They were offered on another dish, so I asked if I could have a few with my steak and my waitress kindly agreed. I sat for a few minutes before heading for the Golden Lion, where I enjoyed a few drinks before playing the quiz and then making my way towards Hemispheres, a club on Deck 10 which would turn out to be the “go to place” of an evening.



The following morning we arrived in Zeebrugge for our tour with Tripashore to Bruges. The weather was awful, the kind of weather where you open the curtains and promptly close them again and go back to bed! I dragged myself up and got ready then made my way towards the port gate to meet my tour guide, Rudi. We drove into Bruges, parked the car and began our tour. I have to say that I’m not a fan of sightseeing in the rain, I don’t think anyone is to be honest, but Rudi made the tour for me, he really did. He knew everything and had a great sense of humour. We walked all over the UNESCO recognised city and admired the Market Square, Old St John’s Hospital, City Hall, Provincial Court and the Princely Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde. The latter was one of the most interesting for me and the grounds were incredibly peaceful, even now men are not supposed to be in the area after 8PM. The Beguines were Christian lay religious orders whose members lived in semi-monastic communities but did not take formal religious vows, although they promised not to marry as long as they lived as Beguines. They were free to leave at any time. Beguines were part of a larger spiritual revival movement of the thirteenth century that stressed imitation of Christ’s life through voluntary poverty, care of the poor and sick, and religious devotion.


Before heading back to the ship we stopped for a hot chocolate (nicest hot chocolate I have ever had by the way) and paid a visit to a local chocolate shop – when in Belgium one must abide by the law of chocolate! This was my first experience with Tripashore and I would highly recommend them to other cruise passengers. The one thing I like most about their tours is that if for whatever reason you were delayed and you missed your ship, they will get you to your next port of call free of charge! Now, tell me which other tour company would do that!



Once back onboard it was time once again to get ready for dinner. I stopped by the Grills Lounge for a pre-dinner drink then made my way to the Princess Grill Restaurant. To start I had broccoli soup, which was delicious, and for main this time I went for Shrimp Provencal. I’d never had it before, had no idea what it was, but the word shrimp had me. When it arrived, it didn’t look like the most appetising dish in the world, but oh how looks can be deceiving! It was absolutely delicious and the prawns were huge. I had to take 3 breaks in order to finish it. I left the restaurant feeling very satisfied and had a slow walk to the Golden Lion. Again, I had a few drinks and played the quiz before making my way to Hemispheres.


Sunday brought a much needed sea day and a chance to visit the Royal Spa, but first it was a visit to the onboard shops (where I overspent on branded clothing) and a quick lunch. I love a good Sunday roast and I was not disappointed with the offering on Queen Victoria. I had a juicy chicken breast with mashed potato, broccoli, savoy cabbage and a Yorkshire Pudding – it was almost as good as homemade (sorry, mam!) and I even managed to avoid pouring the gravy everywhere! One thing I noticed in the Lido is that all the food served is offered in small trays, for example one evening there was grilled minute steak on offer but the chef only laid out 4 or 5 pieces at a time. It was gone instantly which meant everything you touched was incredibly fresh, it hadn’t been sitting there for 45 minutes waiting to be consumed.


I’m not a spa person, but I purchased a day pass for the Royal Bath House and I was quite glad that I did. It allowed use of the Hydro Pool, relaxing loungers, steam rooms and sauna and the Thermal Suite. The pass was $35, which I thought was very reasonable. I literally just chilled out for an hour. I was quite happy just sitting and listening to the sounds within the room, it was very pleasant, if not a bit warm for me, and once a few people left the pool and freed up some space, I took a dip. The water was 36 degrees Celsius and ideal for those looking to ease some tension and aching muscles – I often get pains in my knees and the warm, comforting water was a real treat. I also liked the jets, they felt great on my lower back. I would definitely use the facilities of the Royal Bath House again, but maybe on a port day. They say that they limit the amount of passes given out, which I am sure they do, but it seemed as though everyone with a pass wanted to be in there at the same time and it soon became quite crowded. I had wanted to try the warm, stone beds, but I didn’t get a chance.


I spent my final evening onboard making the same circuit: Restaurant, Golden Lion and then Hemispheres. I was actually surprised how busy Hemispheres was given that it was the night before disembarkation. I enjoyed that evening so much and I met some lovely people. It was as if everyone in that room didn’t have a care in the world, they just wanted to enjoy themselves. It was the absolute perfect end to what had been a fabulous first experience with Cunard.

Before I finish my blog, I want to share with you some pictures of my absolute favourite areas onboard Queen Victoria and they were the Queens Lounge, Royal Theatre and the atrium.




I am now counting down to my transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2 and having now sampled the Cunard experience, I can’t wait! I visited Queen Mary 2 a few years ago and it was love at first boarding, this time I will sail on two of her iconic voyages, from Southampton to New York and back again. Life is a blessing. 240 days to go…






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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca To Undergo Refurbishment


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 880-guest Boudicca will be entering dry dock at the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany in November 2015, in preparation for the forthcoming 2016/17 cruise season.

Boudicca will arrive in Bremerhaven on 18th November 2015 from the Port of Tyne, Newcastle, following a 16-night ‘Mysterious Morocco & Seductive Spain’ cruise, and will undergo various engineering works, general refurbishment and interior / exterior painting.

During the dry dock, Boudicca will also see 28 cabins on Lido Deck 7 fitted with terrace balconies. These new terrace balcony cabins will extend out 1.2 metres from the ship’s bulkhead, and will provide guests with an increased choice of cost-effective balcony cabins, with access to the outside.

Mike Rodwell, Managing Director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:

“We experience extremely high demand for balcony cabins across our fleet, in particular on a smaller-sized ship such as Boudicca, and our new terrace balcony cabins are an innovative response to this.

“We installed the new terrace balcony cabins on sister ship Black Watch during her dry dock last Autumn, and these have proved very popular with our guests.”

Following her dry dock, Boudicca will commence her cruise season from the South Essex port of Tilbury, with a 14-night ‘Landscapes of Morocco, Madeira & the Canaries’ voyage, departing on 30th November 2015.

During the 2016/17 cruise season, Fred. Olsen’s fleet of four ships – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch – will be visiting a record 253 destinations in 84 countries around the globe.

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Posted in Cruise News, Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2016


If you want a holiday that’s hassle-free, virtually pre-paid, and that lets you see lots of places while only needing to pack and unpack once, then you should try a cruise. The Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships is the cruise industry bible: it gives you all the information you need to choose the right cruise for you.

Meticulously updated every year by cruise expert Douglas Ward, it is divided into two main parts: the first helps you work out what you’re looking for in a cruise holiday and how to find it; the lively text and colour photographs describe every aspect of life on board, including safety, the highs and lows of the cruise experience and how to save money. The second part contains unbiased reviews and fascinating detail of 275 ocean-going cruise vessels, and grades them on service, food, entertainment and facilities, using an internationally recognised ratings system.

I started collecting this guide 4 years ago and now, I would never be without the latest edition. It literally does contain just about everything you need to know. I appreciate that people like to use the internet to hunt down the answers to their questions and to do their research, but it never hurts to have something like this in the house. It comes in useful for finding out about passenger capacity, whether a ship is family-friendly or not and accommodation sizes, without having to trail through the World Wide Web. You can even find out how much each ship cost to build! For some people it has everything they could want to know, for others it contains quirky little facts that you can’t always find online.


Highlights of the Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships Guide 2016

  • Ward’s favourite cruise experiences of the last 31 years.
  • Tips on getting the best value for money.
  • A list of extra-cost items on board to look out for.
  • Impartial information that the brochures just don’t include.
  • A comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of the minor cruise lines.
  • All of the new ships set to debut in 2016.
  • What to expect from on-board entertainment and spas.
  • This year’s star performers and the Top 5 ships in each of 11 ‘Best in Class’ categories.
  • An expanded Frequently Asked Questions section, based on readers’ feedback.
  • A sample itinerary of a typical programme for a day at sea.
  • Information on the latest themed cruises.
  • A ratings and scores index at the back of the book, making it easy to compare ships.

Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2016 Rankings

This is the bit that everyone looks at, the rankings! These were some of the high-flyers for the 2016 edition, but to view the full list you will have to grab a copy of the guide – I can’t list them all.

The Top 5 Large Resort Ships (2,001–6,500 passengers) All 4-star Plus

  • 1st Place: Mein Schiff 4 – 1,698 points
  • 2nd Place: Mein Schiff 3 – 1,697
  • 3rd Place: Queen Mary 2 – 1,675
  • 4th Place: Britannia – 1,656
  • 5th Place: Queen Elizabeth – 1,583

The Top 5 Small Ships (251–750 passengers)

  • 1st Place: Europa 2 (5-star Plus) – 1,860 points
  • 2nd Place: Europa (5-star Plus) – 1,852
  • 3rd Place: Silver Whisper (5-star) – 1,743
  • 4th Place: Silver Shadow (5-star) – 1,741
  • 5th Place: Silver Spirit (5-star) – 1,735

5 Best Cruise Lines for Teenagers – Teenagers like space away from adults to hang out and meet others. Some ships get it, others don’t. These do:

  • Disney Cruise Line (Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy)
  • Norwegian Cruise Line (Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway)
  • MSC Cruises (MSC Divina/MSC Preziosa)
  • Royal Caribbean International (Anthem of the Seas/Quantum of the Seas)
  • TUI Cruises (Mein Schiff 3/ Mein Schiff)

5 Best Cruise Ship Spas – Wellness and pampering on board have become major attractions:

  • AIDA Cruises (AIDAprima)
  • Cunard Line (Queen Mary 2)
  • Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (Europa 2)
  • MSC Cruises (MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida)
  • Viking Cruises (Viking Star)


About the author

Widely regarded as the world’s top authority on cruising and cruise ships, Douglas Ward has completed over 6,000 days at sea, participated in more than 1,000 cruises, 158 transatlantic crossings, and countless Panama Canal transits, shipyard visits, ship-naming ceremonies and maiden voyages. Often described as a maritime Sherlock Holmes, Ward leaves no stone un-turned in his 200 sea days each year, examining everything from the fluffiness of the towels to the quality of the china and silverware, and from the welcome aboard to the disembarkation process.

The Berlitz guide can be purchased online and in stores.


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Posted in General Cruise Articles

Counting Down To My Queen Victoria Mini-Cruise


On Friday, I am joining Cunard’s Queen Victoria for a 3 night mini-cruise to Belgium, this will be my first sailing with Cunard and I am pretty excited to be honest – I’ve been building up to this for quite some time.

Our itinerary is simple: a day at sea and then a day in Burges before arriving back in Southampton on Monday morning. I’ve never been to Bruges before so I am looking forward to that (I’m told that I must buy chocolate), but this trip for me is mainly about the ship and I am really, really looking forward to a day at sea! I’ve had a busy few weeks and I am ready to simply enjoy the surroundings and relaxation of a beautiful ship. I may even visit the spa, which is something I have never done!

For this sailing, I have a Princess Grill Suite and aside from being desperate to see what the suite is actually like, I am also excited to dine in the Princess Grill Restaurant. If the food is good then I guess only being on for 3 nights will be a blessing – for the next few weeks I need to make sure that I am leaving space for Christmas provisions. ;)

They don’t make ships like they used to, but the closest we can come to the grandeur of yesteryear in modern times is the Cunard fleet and that aspect, I think, is priceless. What I would give to go back and experience a voyage aboard the original Queen Mary, sadly it is never going to happen, but I am hoping that her young sister, Queen Victoria can at least offer me some glimpse into what it must have been like. I visited Queen Mary 2 a few years ago during her call to Greenock in Scotland and it really was love at first sight. Such a grand vessel and in a class entirely her own, she made me feel like I had entered another world, a world that was sort of caught between two times. She was incredible. I’m really hoping Queen Victoria gives me that same feeling.

This cruise will also mark the first time that my brand new luggage (well, some of it. I don’t quite need all three cases for a 3 night trip) will be going on its first ever cruise. This is the new Art-Deco range from Skyflite London and I absolutely love it! The set is available in green, graphite or the white/gold colour that I chose. They are super lightweight, on 4-wheels (offering perfect 360° motion) and they each have a little organiser section in the middle – great for loose cables, notebooks and tablets. I was desperately missing this on my last suitcase and it drove me mad. Sizes, from small to large, are: 55cm (37L), 66cm (66L) and 76cm (103L). They are made from ABS material, so they are hard on the outside and soft on the inside.


So, with not a lot of time to spare, I guess I should open my suitcase, dive through the wardrobe, plug-in the iron (ugh) and get some packing done!

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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line

My Brief Norwegian Escape


I recently spent 1 night aboard Norwegian Escape and I thought it would be nice to share my experience with you. Obviously I can’t tell you everything. I’m good, but not that good! There’s only so much one can see in 20 hours.

I had a balcony cabin on Deck 9 which was virtually identical to the cabin I had during my time on Norwegian Getaway. The only big difference was that this time I had a shower over a bath instead of a double walk in shower – aside from that and the colour scheme, it was the same accommodation. It also offered the same comfortable bed – I love the beds on Norwegian – and the same double sink in the bathroom. The one thing that I really liked about the cabin wasn’t even in the cabin at all. It was outside – “At Home”.


In some areas Norwegian Escape really felt like Norwegian Getaway to me, but she did have many of her own little charms. The most quirky feature that I found was the Snow Room. I’m not entirely sure what the point of it is, but regardless, I liked it! I was also quite warm when I went inside, so to suddenly feel like I was in a deep freeze was actually quite pleasant. Definitely a tick on my list. I also found Spice H2O, which I had originally fallen in love with on Norwegian Getaway. I enjoy the music and the atmosphere and if I were to spend longer onboard then it would definitely be my evening haunt. There was a “grotto” on the port side, apparently it’s designed for people to cool off when the ship is cruising warmer waters. I could see the idea and I loved it on the inside, but not sure whether it could have been made to look slightly more attractive on the outside –  I would have maybe added some vines or flowers, or something.



Other areas that I liked were Margaritaville, The Haven (this was very impressive and the courtyard aspect spanned 3 decks), Manhattan Dining Room, The District Brew House (they have a photo booth in there that you MUST try!) and The Waterfront.

I am about to reach the best bit…FOOD! Once I had dropped my bags in my cabin, I made my way towards O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill. I had eaten here on Norwegian Getaway and fallen in love with the Mozzarella dippers (as you do), so of course, I was dying to have them again. I sat down, looked at the menu and guess what? NO Mozzarella dippers! I was mortified, but held back my disappointment and carried on browsing the menu. Finally, I ordered nachos and one of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. The nachos were supposed to be a starter, but both dishes turned up at the same time and the portions were huge! I tried the nachos first and then the hot dog – my first ever beef hot dog – and they were both incredibly good! It was possibly one of the best hot dogs I have ever eaten, even the bread was perfect: slightly toasted and just the right size. It more than made up for the lack of Mozzarella dippers that’s for sure.


In the evening I dined at Food Republic on a table with 4 others and I have to be honest, at first I wasn’t really sold on the idea, but oh how wrong was I. You place your order via iPad and each individual dish is charged to your onboard account. Our waitress recommended that we (myself and David from World of Cruising that was sitting next to me) order 3 dishes each as they are meant to be shared, so that is exactly what we went ahead and did. We had: Maine lobster rolls ($7.50), 21 oz Wagyu bone-in rib-eye ($19.99), chicken teriyaki ($5.00), Japanese squid ($7.50 – my favourite of all the dishes), Shrimp brochettes ($6.50) and salt & pepper calamari (I can’t remember the cost for these).  All I can say is that it was exceptional, it really was. Not only was the food superb, but I also liked the fact that I never knew which dish would appear next. I highly recommend Food Republic and you can’t leave without having dessert. I went with the “coco loco” which was coconut, cream and pineapple. If only I could be there right now.



I thought you might also like to have some fun facts and figures. Here goes:

  • Norwegian Escape has 357 slot machines and 28 gaming tables in her casino, the largest in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet
  • 900 people can fit in the Escape Theatre at any one time
  • The District Brew House offers a variety of 24 craft beers and 50 bottled beers
  • The Mandara Spa aboard Norwegian Escape offers the largest thermal suite in the fleet
  • Tobacco Road was Miami’s oldest bar and it can now be found aboard Norwegian Escape – literally

I enjoyed my time on Norwegian Escape very much, I definitely have a lot of love to give to Norwegian AND their onboard shops (some of the best at sea in my opinion), but now I watch and wait for the arrival of her sister, Norwegian Bliss…




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Posted in Norwegian Cruise Line

MSC Cruises Renaissance Programme Delivers Four Renewed Ships


MSC Cruises has announced that the now completed Renaissance Programme has delivered four renewed ships that will spearhead the Company’s push into new markets and further strengthen its position in those where it is the leader.

MSC Cruises Chief Executive Officer Gianni Onorato told a press conference aboard MSC Lirica – the final ship to complete the Renaissance transformation – that the project reinforced the elements that so distinguish the MSC Cruises experience: tailored amenities and services for families; exquisite, varied dining offerings; outstanding entertainment; a broad choice of relaxation and wellness options and more, all provided with a touch of Mediterranean flair and flavour.


Detailing some of the onboard innovations and enhancements, Mr Onorato said much of the Renaissance was carried out with families in mind, which is why every ship now has five separate clubs for young guests up to 17 years old, including two designed and equipped by leading childhood brands Chicco® and LEGO®.

Dining has been made even more flexible with an extended range of menus and restaurants, while guests can truly cruise at their own pace with buffet options available for a full 20 hours a day.

The entertainment offering has also been further enhanced with a packed, 20-hour programme of day-and-night activities, live music and dance, and themed events across a range of upgraded entertainment venues – including the spectacular theatre – on each ship.

The ships’ beauty and wellness services have had a makeover of their own with more massage suites added to the Aurea Spa, restyled whirlpool baths and a spa doctor on hand for a discreet, highly personalised service.


Talking specifically about MSC Lirica, Mr Onorato said the ship had been fully customised ahead of its May 2016 deployment in Shanghai, China with an array of tailor-made touches just for Chinese consumers. These include the world’s first Cruise Ambassador service, an industry-leading ratio of Mandarin-speaking staff (up to 80%) and a totally new dining offer, comprising refined Asian and international cuisines.

Closing the press conference, Mr Onorato said: “Renaissance is the first pillar of MSC Cruises’ second growth phase, while the four next-generation new builds we’ll launch between 2017 and 2019 are the second. Renaissance has delivered four holistically improved ships that will serve strategic segments of the global cruise market with the standard-setting experiences, amenities and service that are synonymous with MSC Cruises today.”

The Renaissance Programme has been captured in a new photographic book. Produced by the Italian publisher Gribaudo (Feltrinelli Group), “Renaissance” will be available to buy on board the four Renaissance ships and in bookshops internationally from 26 November.


MSC Cruises Renaissance Ships’ Deployment Programme

China – MSC Lirica will homeport in Shanghai from May 2016. The ship has been fully customised to serve Chinese consumers, including a personalised Cruise Ambassadors service. These highly trained hospitality and tourism professionals will ensure MSC Lirica’s guests can fully benefit from the ship’s many relaxation, discovery and entertainment options.

Cuba – MSC Opera will homeport in Havana from December 2015. MSC Cruises is the first and only global cruise line to provide Caribbean cruises that begin and end in the iconic Cuban capital, where guests will spend two and a half full days basking in the island’s famed culture and cuisine.

Western Mediterranean – MSC Armonia is based in Genoa, sailing a range of itineraries throughout the Western Mediterranean. This ship is ideally suited to the full range of Mediterranean cruise ports, including some less accessible to bigger ships, such as Ibiza and Port Mahon, in Menorca.

South Africa – MSC Sinfonia already homeports in Durban, spearheading MSC Cruises’ established dominance of the South African cruise market by offering sensational sailings to Mozambique, Namibia, Reunion Island and Mauritius. MSC Sinfonia is now better equipped than ever to meet growing regional demand for cruise holidays and provide industry-leading levels of service.

Renaissance Programme background

Work on the €200m Renaissance Programme began in August 2014, marking the first step in the Company’s €5bn fleet expansion plan. In terms of capacity, Renaissance adds 800 elegant new cabins – most with a balcony – increasing the capacity of the MSC Cruises fleet by some 2,000 guests. This plan also includes next-generation ships to be delivered by STX France and Fincantieri between 2017 and 2022. Since 2003, MSC Cruises has grown by more than 800%, to carry 1.67 million guests a year. Moreover, the fleet’s capacity is set to double by 2022, when 3.4 million people will holiday with MSC Cruises every year.

Info courtesy of MSC Cruises.

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Posted in Cruise News, MSC Cruises

175 Years Of Cunard


It’s book review time, again! I have had a copy of “175 Years of Cunard” sitting on my desk for a few weeks, just waiting to be picked up and read and last weekend, I finally got that chance!

I am sailing with Cunard – aboard Queen Victoria – for the very first time on November 13 and although this book is mostly a look back at the lines history, it has put me in Cunard cruise mood. I am very excited to sample this amazing brand and yes, I am counting down the days. I am also counting down the days to my two Transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2 next year, but for now, back to the book…

“Cunard’s first ship, Britannia, set sail across the Atlantic on 4 July 1840, inaugurating a service that has endured for 175 years. Cunard’s success is in part due to its continuous technological advances; from the early years of wooden paddle steamers to steel-hulled leviathans, electric lighting to steam turbine engines. But it is the ships themselves, the shipbuilders, managers, crew and guests that have had the greatest impact on the success of the line, creating unique environments full of personality.

The Cunard fleet answered the call of duty during the two world wars and transported thousands of troops to fight for the Allied forces. Cunard’s QE2 was a much-beloved liner and the most famous ship at sea, participating in the Falkland’s campaign and sailing more than 2.5 million miles during her 40-year career.

Today the three current Queens are a celebration of Cunard’s heritage and are considered to be some of the greatest ships in the world, providing luxurious accommodations, excellent service and lively entertainment whilst their passengers travel the world.”


Lusitania was sunk in May 1915 by a U Boat during World War I – Image credit: Henderson & Cremer

Mauretania Henderson

Mauretania was built at Swan Hunter. Newcastle upon-Tyne – Image credit: Henderson & Cremer

Queen Elizabeth Henderson

Queen Elizabeth held the record as the world’s largest passenger ship until 1996 when she was finally eclipsed by Carnival Destiny – Image credit: Henderson & Cremer

The book also features a selection of “did you know” fact boxes and these are some of my favourites:

  • During her maiden voyage in 1883, Cunard’s Aurania suffered a major incident when her engines exploded. Fortunately, there was no loss of life.
  • Lusitania and Mauretania’s names are longer when compared to earlier liners. This was done as Cunard felt their size and scale deserved an extra syllable.
  • Queen Mary suffered from a significant rolling problem in her early career. It was said that the Queen Mary could ‘roll the milk out of a cup of tea’.
  • When Queen Elizabeth made her first transatlantic crossing, she still had her launching gear attached under the waterline.
  • QE2 remains the longest-serving express liner in history, travelling more than 5.6 million miles over thirty-nine and a half years.
  • Lucania caught fire while in Liverpool in 1909. Despite initial plans to refurbish her, it was decided the damage was too great and the ship was scrapped.


Queen Mary 2 – Image credit: Chris Frame

The book ends with a look at the modern Cunard fleet and it is fair to say the line has certainly evolved its vessels, but I do often wonder what it would be like to really go back to the golden age of cruising: when a ship was a ship and not a floating theme park.

If you are interested in Cunard history or vessels of yesteryear, then this is the ideal book for you. It is available to buy online from Amazon.

All the information within my blog today is taken from 175 Years of Cunard by Chris Frame and Rachelle Cross.

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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line

Five Things To Consider Before Embarking On Your First Cruise


There’s nothing quite like a cruise to help you unwind. The scented ocean breeze, calming open water and the chance to see several destinations in one holiday, they all have a unique appeal and a cruise can make it a reality. If you have never cruised before then some aspects can seem a little daunting, but here are five things to help you on your way and to keep in mind before you embark on your first holiday at sea.

Get there the night before
While this may seem obvious, it’s one of the most important things to bear in mind. The number of people who miss cruises because of traffic, delayed flights and other weather-related travel issues is in the hundreds. The ship will not wait for you because you’re running late. Don’t make your cruise by the skin of your teeth – so if you are travelling independently, leave the stress of the road at home and get to the port the night before.

Don’t forget your medications
There are many things which can go wrong on holiday – the problem with things going wrong on a cruise is that it can prove expensive to visit the ships Doctor. If you have a condition which requires constant medication, make sure you pack enough for your trip. While you’re at it, make sure you pack the essentials like seasickness tablets, paracetamol, sunscreen, after-sun (just in case) and anti-diarrhoeal medication. It also never hurts to have your own little bottle of hand sanitiser.

Take note at lifeboat drills
We have all seen Titanic and nobody wants to be Jack, so when attending your Muster Drill please take note of everything that is said to you. The drills are there to save your life should the worst happen and it is important you know where your designated muster station is and which lifeboat number you are.

Get the right insurance
Travel insurance can be a (financial) life-saver when on holiday abroad. Nobody wants to think about broken bones or severe illnesses while, but these things happen. Foreign hospitals and if worst comes to worst, repatriation, can be extremely expensive, so get your insurance and make sure you have your paperwork to hand. If you’re travelling through any European countries, make sure you have a European health cover service like an EHIC which grant you access to state-funded healthcare in all EU and ECC countries.

Know the dress code
Last but not least, check the dress code before you go. There will always be some cruisers who insist on dressing to the nines, but don’t feel obliged to dress up if you don’t have to. However, some cruises insist on formal attire for their formal nights, so if you want to take part, make sure you look the part. While you’re at it check the cruise’s bathrobe policy. In most cases the bathrobes either supplied or available on request. If you want one and they aren’t supplied, be sure to pack your own. Just be aware that these bathrobes aren’t comped. If you like yours enough that you want to take it home, be prepared to pay for pleasure.

What advice would you give to someone that is about to embark on their first ever cruise holiday?

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Posted in General Cruise Articles

Norwegian Cruise Line Takes Delivery Of Norwegian Escape


Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery today of the line’s largest ship to date, the 164,600 gross ton Norwegian Escape, from MEYER WERFT during a ceremony in Bremerhaven, Germany, after a building period of only 17 months. Norwegian Escape is the first ship in the company’s new Breakaway Plus Class, signifying an evolution of Norwegian Cruise Line and bringing to life the brand’s promise of freedom and flexibility with a premium experience from bow to stern. Following delivery today, the ship sets sail for Hamburg for the start of her European inaugural festivities. After a two-night stop in Southampton, Norwegian Escape will make the crossing to her year-round homeport of Miami on 29 October. The ship will be christened in Miami on 9 November.

To celebrate the arrival of the newest member of the fleet, Norwegian Cruise Line has launched a special offer in the UK as part of the Freestyle Choice Campaign. Guests booking a cruise, of 5 to 16 nights between 22 Oct and 9 Nov 2015 sailing before 30 April 2016, will receive a free internet package and can also choose an additional free extra of those offered within the campaign.

Norwegian Escape, the largest in Norwegian’s fleet of 14 vessels, features an elevated design that makes for a decidedly upscale experience. Quality finishes, curated artwork and the most luxurious The Haven by Norwegian™ exclusive ship–within-a-ship suite complex are just a few of the standout features that put Norwegian Escape in a class of her own.

Norwegian Escape’s Haven is the largest in the fleet and the most luxurious. At the heart of the private enclave on the top of the ship lies a three-story covered courtyard. An expanded forward sundeck with a cantilevered whirlpool, along with a new outdoor dining space in the Haven’s private restaurant make Norwegian Escape’s Haven the ultimate small ship experience, while still providing the freedom to enjoy large ship dining, entertainment and amenities.

Norwegian Escape’s dining options offer guests a mix of complimentary options, signature favourites and new premium speciality outlets. Showcasing all-new upgraded menus across all restaurants, the ship’s 11 complimentary dining offerings and signature specialty restaurants Le Bistro, Cagney’s and La Cucina rival those of luxury lines, with menu highlights including Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, Fresh Maine Lobsters and Steak au Poivre with cognac sauce. Two new speciality restaurants from James Beard Award-Winning Iron Chef Jose Garces include Bayamo, a Latin seafood speciality restaurant, and Pincho Tapas Bar. Also new onboard is the Food Republic, a sophisticated food hall developed by Miami-based The Pubbelly Restaurant Group. The combination of choice and quality in dining options onboard and her upmarket design sets Norwegian Escape apart in the contemporary cruise market.

Continuing with Norwegian’s commitment to excellence in entertainment, Norwegian Escape features two truly spectacular Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals that headline the Escape Theater: After Midnight, the smash-hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington and the best dancing from Broadway; and Million Dollar Quartet, the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined for an unforgettable dinner and show. For The Record: The Brat Pack™ is a critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret.

Nightlife onboard includes outposts of several popular land-based outlets, including the first-ever Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar at sea, a music venue and outdoor bar on The Waterfront that features live nightly performances. The District Brew House, a hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s own Wynwood Brewing Company, will serve up more than 24 draft beers while The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar, features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine. Norwegian Escape will also feature Miami’s oldest and most legendary bar, Tobacco Road.

Norwegian Escape’s recreation spaces are unrivalled, with the largest ropes course at sea leading a wide array of activities. This three-story multiplex of heart-pounding challenges complete with two planks and five Sky Rails, zip tracks that allow guests to soar through the air. On the top of the ship, guests will find a redesigned pool deck area that features an open area for sunbathing, a double-deck bar and two new large format LED screens. Norwegian Escape’s Aqua Park is the largest at sea and includes a new tandem Aqua Racer slide, complete with a clear acrylic section to further enhance the thrill of this adventure ride. Adding to the family fun, Norwegian Escape features an expanded Kids’ Aqua Park with an enclosed slide, rope climb fun zone and spray cannons for kids to splash and play in their own designated space. Along with an expanded Splash Academy youth centre that includes dedicated play spaces for specific age groups, Norwegian Escape also offers the line’s first nursery for cruisers two and under.

In addition to family oceanview staterooms that accommodate up to five guests, Norwegian Escape’s accommodation includes Studios, designed and priced for solo travellers; and many options for families, multi-generational groups, spa enthusiasts and more.

Info courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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Posted in Cruise News, Norwegian Cruise Line

MSC Cruises Offers Loyalty Status Match For UK Guests


MSC Cruises is to roll out its innovative Status Match programme in the UK, giving the nation’s cruise fans – and cruise virgins – even more reason to come aboard.

From Monday October 26 guests with valid loyalty club memberships from other cruise lines, hotel groups and tour operators will be able to join the MSC Voyagers Club loyalty scheme and automatically MATCH their existing level of benefits.

Membership of the MSC Voyagers Club guarantees a 5% discount on cruise prices, with tiered ‘Classic’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Black’ rewards levels offering a spectacular range of onboard privileges. MSC Voyagers Club also offers members access to a range of specially chosen ‘Voyagers Selection’ sailings with additional discounts of up to 15%.

The Status Match programme has already been introduced in a number of markets, including the US, Italy, Germany and France.

To take advantage of the offer, new members just print, complete and sign a registration form which should be scanned and sent by email to statusmatch@msccruises.co.uk along with proof of their existing loyalty club membership from another travel company. This can be a scan of a membership card or screenshot on their membership online.

Guests will then receive an email confirming their successful registration with details of their new MSC Voyagers Club membership number. The tier level they are assigned (‘Classic’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ or ‘Black’) will match as closely as possible with the level of benefits they are receiving from their existing scheme.

Guests can then go on to book their preferred cruise itinerary direct with MSC Cruises or via their favourite travel agent.

Status Match application forms can be downloaded from the MSC Cruises website (www.msccruises.co.uk) or picked up from travel agents.

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE this!

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Posted in Cruise News, MSC Cruises
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