Adonia Returns To P&O Cruises Fleet In 2017

adonia-returns-to-po-cruises

P&O Cruises will welcome small ship Adonia back into the fleet in 2017 with a range of attractive cruises taking in off the beaten track ports of call across Europe, the Mediterranean, Iceland, eastern Atlantic Islands and the Caribbean.

Adonia’s first cruise following the return to P&O Cruises will be a seven night round-trip tour of Europe’s west coast on June 16 2017 (Cruise D708P), taking in the pretty ports of Bordeaux, St Peter Port and Honfleur.

Following that, a 14-night Iceland cruise (Cruise D709P), on June 23 will first take in Ireland’s largest fishing port of Killybegs before sailing to Reykjavik and through the Icelandic fjords, with an opportunity to experience ‘The Home of the Viking Kings’ for cruise stops in Isafjordur and Heimaey. The cruise will then sail to Klaksvik in the Faroe Islands; Portree on Skye and Londonderry.

Adonia will then embark on a European summer cruise schedule taking in western Europe, the western Mediterranean, the British Isles, the Iberian Atlantic coast and the Atlantic Islands; before a trans-Atlantic sailing to the Caribbean and a six-month stay for winter cruise itineraries around the Caribbean.

Among the unusual ports of call for Adonia are:

  • A river transit and overnight call at Bordeaux, one of the world’s major wine capitals
  • A river transit into Seville, the capital of Andalusia
  • A call at Portofino, a pretty fishing village on the Italian Riviera known for its pastel-coloured houses and picturesque harbour
  • A maiden call to Puerto Banus near Marbella in Spain, a city awash with super yachts and beautiful beaches
  • A visit to the dramatic island of Heimaey off Iceland’s south coast, which is dominated by the two volcanoes Helgafell and Eldfell

The summer programme will also include a selection of ports with accessible UNESCO sites for guests with an interest in heritage sites which include:

  • Þingvellir National Park in Iceland (from Reykjavik)
  • La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (from Valencia)
  • The remarkable monumental complex in the heart of Seville, the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias (from Seville)

Highlights of the programme include:

  • A 14-night British Isles cruise (Cruise D711P) on July 14 during which Adonia will visit perennial favourites such as Belfast, Greenock, Portree, Liverpool, Dublin and St Peter Port as well as quirkier ports such as Killybegs in County Donegal, Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands and the tiny settlement of Scrabster on Thurso Bay in Caithness.
  • A 15-night Atlantic Coast Iberia cruise (Cruise D717P) on September 17 taking guests to a selection of fabulous Spanish ports such as Seville, Puerto Banus, Valencia, Ciudadela and La Coruna as well as Praia da Rocha on the Algarve and Gibraltar.
  • A selection of 21-night Transatlantic and 14-night Caribbean fly cruises featuring some of the most intriguing islands in the Caribbean. There is also the option to travel beyond the Caribbean and experience the Amazon.
Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise 2016 Part 3

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Our tenth and final port would be Lisbon and the day started without a cloud in the sky. The tour offered was a city tour, which included a visit to the maritime museum. As I’d previously experienced both, I decided to head into town and do my own thing. I’m not a huge fan of Lisbon, but as I hadn’t ventured into town the last time I was there, I thought I’d have a walk and see if I could find some interesting items I could give as gifts for Christmas. I wasn’t ashore long and in the end I didn’t actually do any Xmas shopping, but I did have time to grab a Pastel De Nata each for my friend and I – which is obligatory in any Portuguese port as far as I am concerned. I returned to ship, had lunch and then sat in the sun for a few hours before readying myself for the evenings pre-sailaway surprise; an impressive firework display that went down very well with passengers. It was a lovely way to finish our days of port exploration – we knew by this time that our next destination was likely to be Southampton.

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All the crew on Saga Sapphire were excellent, but those that organised the shore excursions and the debarkation for those excursions, I really take my hat off to you as the organisation was EXCELLENT! People often wonder how tours work on a mystery cruise, so I am going to tell you. On this voyage, we were all offered 1 included tour in every port and it was entirely up to you whether you joined it or not. The tours (aside from the one in Tangier) were staggered either by cabin number or the first letter of your surname, so roughly half of the passengers were leaving at the same time – half in the morning and half in the afternoon. It was so swift and efficient. I think the longest I waited to leave the ship was 15 minutes! In Tangier, the entire ship went on tour at the same time and even this went smoothly. I actually think the 15-minute wait that I spoke about above was that morning. Everything was planned very well and then executed seamlessly. You all did a superb job!

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‘Captain Rentell’s Final Mystery Cruise’ was in fact my first mystery cruise and I would do it again in an instant. There was so much suspense and excitement. Every day was quite literally a surprise, as we had no idea where we were going until we got there. Like any other cruise, we received a daily paper in our cabins each evening for the following day, but even if we were in a port, the paper didn’t tell us which port it was, nor did it disclose what the included tour would be. We didn’t find out anything until we had docked. Even the Captain’s announcements were full of mystery and surprise – and the occasional deliberate interference! I observed Captain Rentell walking around the decks carrying various books, including those about the Caribbean, Canary Islands, Croatia and Pompeii – all were ways of throwing us off our own courses, I’m sure. This lead to all sorts of chatter among the Saganauts with regards to where we thought we could be going. I did hear one lady tell the Captain that “he better not be going north again”, luckily for us all, he went south!

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As we had to be kept in the dark (not literally, of course), we couldn’t even have simple things feature on the daily paper, such as the weather forecast. It may sound silly, but I’m sure if we were told the air temperature every day or the sunrise and sunset times, we would soon work out to some degree which way we were heading. To give you an example, these were just some of the “weather forecasts” that we had during the cruise:

Wind: Blowing South, West, East and North | Sky: Twinkling | Temp: Sizzling

Wind: Gone With The | Sky: Up | Temp: 90C

Wind: Windy | Sky: Present and Correct | Temp: El Scorcho

Wind: Breezy | Sky: Chance of Snow | Temp: 24C

Wind: Blow Dry | Sky: Wet Rain | Temp: Gas Mark 7

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There were various entertainment options available during the 24-nights onboard, including lectures from Terry Waite CBE, International Affairs Speaker; Peter Sissons, News Broadcaster; Captain Tim Orchard, Concorde Pilot; and Lt Ben Moloney, Royal Navy. We also had live music from Harry the Piano, Jazz Legends, The Tiffany String Quartet, and high-energy musicals from the Explosive Productions cast.

One thing I haven’t mentioned in huge detail is the food, and that’s because I am going to do a separate set of blogs that focus solely on the delicious culinary options that are available with Saga Cruises. I will tell you, however, that the food onboard was excellent, as always! The menu had changed slightly in East to West (Saga Sapphire’s specialty restaurant), so it was nice to sample some new and tasty options in there, and the range of dishes available at both lunchtime and in the evening (in Pole to Pole and The Verandah) was varied. I tried a variety of new things during the cruise, including frogs’ legs, Barramundi, and beetroot – the latter of which I am now addicted to. In fact, it became a running joke, with several passengers passing me at various lunchtimes and saying “I thought you were laying off the beetroot today!”. Until my food blog arrives, here’s a Biryani to help the taste buds get ready😉

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The-Verandah-Saga-Sapphire

The cruise was excellent and I am once again having Saga Sapphire post-cruise blues. Her crew and the friends we made during our time onboard really made the cruise something special. I always feel like we are one big family on Saga – there’s a real sense of camaraderie among guests and crew, and it certainly feels like home.

Where will my next Saga adventure take me? Watch this space…

If you have any questions about the mystery cruise, then please drop a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible🙂

Posted in Saga Cruises

Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise 2016 Part 2

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After two exciting days in the Canary Islands, it was time to spend a few days at sea, three to be exact. Day one was beautiful; hot sunshine and barely a breeze, but it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in and blocked the sun from our view. Although it wasn’t as sunny as we’d hoped, it was still very humid and evenings out on deck were very enjoyable. We spent several nights outside playing Cards Against Humanity, a game they say is for “horrible people”, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and eventually our little group grew and everyone wanted to get involved.

Our next port of call was Porto Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde. I’d wanted to visit the Cape Verde islands for quite some time and I couldn’t wait to get off the ship and explore. The weather wasn’t great and it was VERY windy, but I enjoyed our excursion, which was titled ‘The African Roots’. We visited the former capital, Cidade Velha, and had a taste of its history – it was once the centre of the slave trade and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also had a walk along Banana Street which was, for me, quite lovely. You got a feel for the place and what life on the island was like. We did some brief shopping here before heading back towards the port area for a cultural demonstration. By now, the sun had shown itself and the atmosphere was wonderful. There were dancers, groups of men and women playing traditional music, and even a lady offering coconuts from which we could drink the water and then eat the meat. It was a nice way to end the tour.

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The following morning, we docked in Porto Grande, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. My first sighting of Praia the day before hadn’t been quite what I expected from a Cape Verde island, however, Porto Grande was and I was thrilled. The sun was trying to break through the clouds and our view from the ship included a lovely beach, a small marina and a busy dock area where local fishermen were offloading their catch. My friend and I decided that we would simply do our own thing during our time in Porto Grande. The included tour looked good, but sometimes you just need to go and explore on your own. We found a seat on the shuttle bus and had a walk around the town, which was most enjoyable. We explored the vibrant vegetable market, had a walk by the Town Hall and then we found ourselves outside a shop which was aptly named ‘Mindel Gift Shop’. To my delight, the shop was FULL of African art and other treasures. I literally spent all the money I had on me in that gift shop and left with 2 stunning pieces of African art. I had to head back to the ship as I was now with empty pockets and laden down with bounty. Upon arriving at the ship, our Executive Chef and Head Chef were both on the dockside buying fresh fish from the local fisherman. They brought onboard Tuna, Marlin and Swordfish – another reason why I love Saga Cruises! We grabbed some lunch at The Verandah and then had a stroll along to the beach, it took no more than 15 minutes. The water was a beautiful mix of blues and the beach itself was covered in pretty little shells. I’d imagine on a hot and sunny day that it would be packed, but by now the clouds had rolled in and the wind had increased. We stayed at the beach for about 2 hours before making our way back to the ship, we arrived at the gangway just as the heavens opened – someone was clearly looking out for us!

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We waved goodbye to the Cape Verde islands and spent the next 2 days at sea. On one of those days, we had a Jalfrezi demonstration on the open deck. The smell was incredible! I couldn’t wait to tuck in to it. A selection of dishes were cooked in front of us and then served by Executive Chef George. It was delicious. I had the seafood option and it was bursting with flavour. My plate was packed full of prawns – just how I like it! It was quite a windy sea day and we lost quite a few poppadoms!

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The port of Santa Cruz in Tenerife appeared as the sun began to rise and our included tour here was titled ‘Esperanza Forest, Guimar Pyramids and Candelaria’. We enjoyed a wonderful sunrise before leaving the ship on our included tour, where our first stop was in Candelaria. Here, we could visit a local church and enjoy a walk-through town before making our way to the pyramids. It was early in the morning, so most stores were closed but it was still a pleasant walk and an easy way to start the morning. A short drive then brought us to the Guimar Pyramids. The pyramids were rather impressive, but not quite like the ones that you will find in Egypt – they are ‘step-pyramids’ like those in Peru and Mexico. There are six in total and each one is constructed from angular blocks quarried from lava flows. It is said that the complex is astronomically lined to the summer and winter solstices. It was very interesting and I enjoyed the video demonstration about Thor Heyerdahl – the world-famous adventurer who led the Kon-Tiki and Ra expeditions. It was Heyerdhal who discovered the pyramids on one of his voyages. I certainly recommend a visit here if you are ever in Tenerife, I felt like I learned a great deal about the pyramids, but also about Heyerdhal. I had never heard of him before my visit here and it’s left me intrigued – I’m going to do some studying on him and his expeditions when time allows.

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As we sailed from Tenerife, we were sure that a sea day would follow, but we hadn’t bargained for arriving in Madeira in the early evening and then staying there overnight. Although I have visited Madeira many times, I was quite pleased that we would be spending the evening there – it also meant we were sheltered from any winds and rough seas, so we could enjoy the deck party until late. The following morning, my friend and I decided to head into town. We had a walk through the town and then to the market which was a hive of activity. It’s not the best fruit and veg market in the world, but it was a new experience for us both and we certainly enjoyed our stumble into the fish area where we watched a gentleman clean a Espada fish – a popular local fish (although not very pretty) which our Executive Chef also bought when ashore and added to the menu that evening.

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Where would the rest of the Mystery Cruise take us??…

Posted in Saga Cruises

Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise 2016 Part 1

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I have just returned from a 24-night mystery cruise aboard Saga Sapphire and I’m incredibly excited to tell you all about it. I had wanted to blog live throughout the cruise, but unfortunately the internet just wasn’t on my side – I’m here now, so let’s get started…

We spent the first few days at sea and it was much appreciated – a chance to relax and once again enjoy being aboard this wonderful ship. I took part in a few of the quizzes, although I didn’t do very well, and I enjoyed 2 evenings in Cooper’s listening to Ben playing the piano. I also had the pleasure of bumping in to several crew members and passengers that I met on my previous Saga cruises, so we all had a good catch up and chatted about where we thought we were going on the cruise – speculation was spreading like wild fire.

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Our first port of call was Cadiz in Spain and our included excursion was a visit to the Gonzalez Byass Wine Cellars. I was only in Cadiz a few weeks previous to Sapphire’s visit, so decided I would go with the included tour as I’d never been to Jerez before. I admit, the tour wasn’t something that I would usually choose myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the sherry tasting – I am definitely a ‘sweet’ girl! I also found the tour of the various cellars and function rooms quite interesting, and the story about the mice – they leave a glass of sherry out for the mice and prop a small ladder up against it (so the mice can reach the top of the glass). Turns out mice like sherry just as much as humans do. The visit there ended with a show from some Andalusian horses and a flamenco dancer. It was a nice way to end the tour and I think everyone left feeling like they’d had an authentic taste of Andalusian life – it was a nice start to the mystery cruise.

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jerez-sherry-tasting-saga-cruises

It turned out that we were also in port the following day and this time we had a stop in Motril, Spain. The included tour here was ‘Flamenco and Wine Tasting in Hacienda Senorio de Nevada. As much as I’d enjoyed our tour in Cadiz, I’d had my fair share of Flamenco and alcohol tasting, so I decided to jump on the shuttle bus and head into town. I enjoyed the stroll, but it’s not one of the best places that I have been. I think our stop here was a way of throwing us off balance with regards to where we were going, and briefly, it worked! As we sailed, we were treated to a wonderful BBQ on the open deck. The food was incredibly good and everyone enjoyed dining al-fresco beneath the warm Spanish sky. It’s these little touches that set Saga apart from some other cruise lines.

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Saga-Sapphire-Dining

Our third port of call was Tangier in Morocco and as it was another new port for me, I was raring to get off the ship and explore – I do like Morocco, very much. Our included tour here showcased a Tangier Folkloric show at a local hotel which was good, but it went on far longer than it needed to and eventually the ships tour escort’s made the decision to move us outside for a display of tribal horsemanship. The setting was very impressive and I was eagerly awaiting a fun show, however, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected and I was slightly disheartened by the treatment of the horses. After a few minutes, I left my chair and moved away from the field. I found a black and white kitten that was clearly looking for some attention, so while the other passengers enjoyed the rest of the horse show, I played with the kitten – I was tempted to try and smuggle him onboard, but I didn’t! Once the show was finished, we got back on the coach and enjoyed a drive through the city, up to Cap Spartel (where we met a gorgeous baby donkey) and then had a walk through the Old Medina. The latter part of the tour was wonderful, I absolutely loved the city and would have appreciated more time there. Our guide, Hassan, was fantastic. He knew everything, he waited for everyone and he was simply a pleasure to be with. Thank you, Hassan, I enjoyed my time in Tangier and I can’t wait to return!

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We awoke the following morning to a sea day and as the sun was beating down on us, I spent most of the day on deck, relaxing. Only moving occasionally to forage for food! Sometimes you just need a day of doing absolutely nothing and I’d found myself a book in the onboard library that was holding all of my attention. It suited perfectly.

Our next mystery port was Lanzarote and I thoroughly enjoyed our drive around the island. We briefly went through the Tumanfaya National Park; made a stop at El Monumento al Campesino, where we sampled some rather delicious potatoes that were coated in a garlic oil; and enjoyed stunning views across to the island of Graciosa from the Mirador del Rio view point. I love the volcanic landscape in Lanzarote, it’s certainly unique, but you need to venture away from the port area (as we did) to see it and appreciate it – so do some exploring when you visit. Before this particular trip, I wasn’t a huge fan of Lanzarote at all, but the tour Saga provided really did change my view on the island.

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Once back onboard, my friend and I went along to the ‘Catch the Killer’ murder mystery that was being held in the Britannia Lounge. I enjoyed these during a Baltic cruise on Saga Sapphire last May, but I’m not very good at putting the clues together – I never get the killer right! We had several more throughout the cruise, including one where crew were the suspects. It was hilarious! Captain Rentell and his lovely wife also joined in and I must say that for me, the star of the show was Mrs Rentell. My sides ached by the end of her performance, she had the entire room in fits of laughter. She owned her part. We sailed from Lanzarote quite late and before doing so enjoyed a fantastic Mediterranean BBQ on the open deck – actually, it was more like a royal banquet than a BBQ and everyone relished in it.

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catch-the-killer-saga-sapphire-captain-rentell

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We stayed in the Canary Islands and found ourselves in Fuerteventura the following morning – another new port for me. Our included tour was titled ‘Uncover Fuerteventura’ and our first stop was at an Aloe Vera farm. We all know how good for the body aloe vera is, both inside and out, but it was also interesting to learn what to NOT buy when it comes to aloe products. The lady at the farm told us that if your aloe vera product is blue or green in colour, then it has lost a lot of its properties as additives have been included, the best aloe products to get are either clear or white. You also want to try and get a product that has more aloe vera in it than anything else and some of their products are an impressive 98% pure. The wonderful potions on sale were quite pricey, 20 euros for 1 bottle of aloe gel, but it was so worth it – you could instantly feel that your skin was moisturised. We also made a stop in the village of La Oliva which was nice, and then a stop in the fishing village of El Cotillo which was even better. El Cotillo was beautiful and it allowed us the opportunity to explore on our own and grab some refreshments. Fuerteventura grabbed my inner travel lover with both hands, I was transfixed by the ever-changing scenery and the desert like landscape. It certainly found its way onto my ‘must visit again’ list.

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The Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise will continue with part 2 very soon……

Posted in Saga Cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral Food Blog

My first Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines food blog was a big hit, so I thought it only right I do another one, this time showcasing the food from two of my sailings aboard Balmoral: one in May 2016 to the Norwegian Fjords and the other in October 2016 to Spain and Morocco. All of the dishes were delicious, I’m yet to have a bad meal on any Fred. Olsen ship, and my vegetarian friend who joined me in October said the options available for her were the best she had ever had at sea! My Braemar food blog was the first in my Fred. Olsen food series and I am sure you will enjoy this one just as much!

I’ve noted down with each image where onboard the food was served, so you can get an idea of what is available in all areas and not just in the Main Dining Rooms (Avon, Spey and Ballindalloch). I do still like the fact that the MDRs also offer a buffet option, you get twice as much variety.

Classica Prawn Cocktail with a twist - Main Dining Room

Classic Prawn Cocktail with a twist – Main Dining Room

Tzatziki dip with extra pitta bread - Main Dining Room

Tzatziki dip with extra pitta bread – Main Dining Room

Bauletti pasta filled with Lobster - The Grill

Bauletti pasta filled with lobster – The Grill

Prawn and Avocado salad - Main Dining Room

Prawn and avocado salad – Main Dining Room

Tomato, mozzarella and onion salad - Main Dining Room

Tomato, mozzarella and onion salad – Main Dining Room

Roasted garlic soup with a cheese crostini

Roasted garlic soup with a cheese crostini

Seafood Paella - The Palms (buffet)

Seafood Paella – The Palms (buffet) it was very impressive in appearance and taste!

Mahi-Mahi fillet on sweet potato mash

Mahi-Mahi fillet on sweet potato mash – Main Dining Room

8oz fillet steak with shrip - The Grill

8oz fillet steak with shrimp – The Grill #Delicious!

Spinach and ricotta pasta with pine nuts - Main Dining Room

Spinach and ricotta pasta with pine nuts – Main Dining Room

Tournedo of beef black and white - Main Dining Room

Tournedo of beef black and white – Main Dining Room

Chicken Tikka Masala - Main Dining Room

Chicken Tikka Masala – Main Dining Room

Fried chicken with buttered spaghetti and tomato sauce - The Palms (buffet) - so simple, but it was SO good!

Fried chicken with buttered spaghetti and tomato sauce – The Palms (buffet) – so simple, but SO good!

Garlic and herb roasted chicken with roast potatoes - Main Dining Room

Garlic and herb roasted chicken with roast potatoes – Main Dining Room

Fettucini pasta in a creamy sauce - Main Dining Room

Fettucini pasta in a creamy white wine sauce – Main Dining Room

Filo basked filled with mushroom ragout - Main Dining Room

Filo basked filled with mushroom ragout – Main Dining Room

Collops of beef with mashed potato and green vegetables - Main Dining Room

Collops of beef with mashed potato and green vegetables – Main Dining Room

Pork Cordon Bleu - Main Dining Room

Pork Cordon Bleu – Main Dining Room

Sun dried tomato and Parmesan Carbonara - Main Dining Room

Sun dried tomato and Parmesan Carbonara – Main Dining Room

Chocolate fondant with salted butter caramel sauce - The Grill

Chocolate fondant with salted butter caramel sauce – The Grill

Chocolate cake (the best at sea!) - The Palms (buffet)

Chocolate cake (the best at sea!) – The Palms (buffet)

Applie pie and ice cream - Main Dining Room

Apple pie and ice cream – Main Dining Room

Fresh fruit served on the open deck to cool us down - I thought this was a nice touch.

Fresh fruit served on the open deck to cool us down – I thought this was a nice touch.

I’m sure you are pretty hungry now, so don’t let me keep you a moment longer…go, eat!🙂

Read more about my Fred. Olsen ‘Balmoral’ cruise by clicking here.

 

Posted in Food and Drink, Fred Olsen Cruise Line

My Next Cruise: It’s A Mystery!

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2016 has been full of adventure for me, but my final cruise of the year is just 6 days away and it is one that I have been anticipating for over a year: Saga Sapphire’s Mystery Cruise!

Usually, I would put a pre-cruise blog together like this one and offer you some insight into the ports that I would be visiting, but I can’t do that this time as I literally have no idea where I am going. All I do know is that the ship leaves Southampton on November 7 and arrives back into Southampton on December 1. I’d like to think that Captain Rentell will be sailing us to warmer climates, as it is his final Mystery Cruise after all, but who knows where we will end up! We do, however, sail from Southampton the day before Saga Pearl II, and she will be heading west across the Atlantic for the Caribbean – could we be following in her wake (or rather her ours) for a sisterly island hop? I certainly hope so, but we could be going anywhere!

The only people onboard that will know where we are going are the Captain, Chief Purser and the watch keepers, for everyone else, it will be a complete mystery. All electronic charts will be turned off, so there won’t even be a hint of which way we are going – maybe I need to befriend someone who is good at following the stars!😉

I am a HUGE fan of Saga Cruises and when the opportunity came along to join Saga Sapphire on her 24-night Mystery Cruise this November I just couldn’t say no. This will be my third cruise aboard Sapphy and one of the things I am most looking forward to is the food. As far as I am concerned, Saga offer some of the best food at sea and my mouth is watering just thinking about the culinary delights that will be on offer in East to West – Saga Sapphire’s specialty restaurant that is offered completely FREE of charge – as well as her other dining venues. I’m also looking forward to the onboard atmosphere. I’ve never done a mystery cruise before, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but I am confident that the ship will be full of chatter and friendly debates. It is going to feel very odd though: not having any idea where we are going, packing for all seasons, not carrying any foreign currency, not having any nautical updates or info on our ports of call – what an adventure this is REALLY going to be!

One thing I am sure you are thinking is what on earth will I pack? Well, I am taking a little bit of everything, apart from thermals. I don’t think they would send us north into the Arctic, so I’m going for spring, summer and autumn temperatures and hoping for the best.

Being back onboard Saga Sapphire will be a special treat, I have a massive soft spot for the ship and I think Saga Cruises’ offerings are virtually a 10/10 – they really look after their passengers and nothing is ever too much trouble. They seem to have everything just right, even down to the finest detail. The accommodation options are very good indeed; the food is the best I have ever eaten at sea; the crew are wonderful; the onboard public areas are well-maintained and have always been spotless during my voyages; and the choice of destinations and excursions is fantastic. I especially like it when they offer tours that no other cruise line offers, or very rarely offers, such as my tour to Oreshek Fortress in Russia and my visit to Patarei Prison in Estonia. Speaking of shore excursions, I’m told that 1 mystery excursion will be offered in every port and there is enough allocation for every passenger onboard to join, should they wish to do so.

OK, I’ll stop rambling now, I must attempt to organise my luggage – if that is even possible! I’ll be posting live updates during the voyage to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so feel free to follow me and join in on the adventure…and guessing games!🙂

Posted in Saga Cruises

Norwegian Bliss Hull Artwork Revealed

 

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Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed the signature art designed by one of the world’s premier marine life artists, Wyland, for its upcoming new ship Norwegian Bliss.

Entitled “Cruising with the Whales,” the engaging and beautiful art prominently features a stunning image of a mother humpback whale and her calf as the centrepiece of the design, signifying the beauty of Alaska and the importance of conservation. Known for his iconic whale murals, marine life paintings and sculptures, Wyland has inspired generations to be passionate about preserving the oceans and the incredible wildlife that calls it home.

The enormous extent of Wyland’s public artworks, his award-winning art galleries and his non-profit foundation’s community service projects have made him one of the world’s most recognised and beloved artists. An artist inspired by different canvases, Wyland has been diving the world’s oceans for the past 30 years and these wildlife encounters have inspired him to paint the animals life size, on more than 100 ocean murals throughout the US and 18 countries around the world. Wyland has taken advantage of Norwegian Bliss’ unique canvas to create a life size portrait of the planet’s most spectacular marine life, including giant manta rays, dolphins, sea lions and sea turtles, to give the viewer a sense of being part of the ocean’s realm. The beauty in Alaska and along the Pacific coast has inspired many of Wyland’s paintings and sculptures and contributed to his inspiration for Norwegian Bliss’ hull artwork.

The third ship in the line’s Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Bliss will be the first cruise ship custom-built with features and amenities for the ultimate Alaska cruise experience and the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship to make its debut in Seattle. The ship will also come outfitted with exhaust gas scrubbers, which significantly decrease air emissions including the reduction up to 99 percent of sulphur into the atmosphere, furthering Norwegian’s commitment to protecting the unique ecosystems found throughout Alaska and across the world.

At approximately 167,800 gross tons and accommodating 4,000 guests, Norwegian Bliss will be constructed at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany and scheduled for delivery in spring 2018. She will sail weekly seven-night Alaska cruises each Saturday from Pier 66 in Seattle, offering guests the premier way to see America’s last frontier, while also providing all of the innovative features, entertainment, signature dining and on-board experiences that Norwegian Cruise Line is known for around the globe. The ship’s itinerary will feature calls in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia, along with scenic glacier cruising. Additional details on the ship’s accommodations, dining and on-board offerings will be shared in the coming months. Norwegian Bliss will be available for reservations beginning January 2017.

Posted in Cruise News, Norwegian Cruise Line

New Innovations At Sea Aboard P&O Cruises NEWEST Ship

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A major new entertainment hub called The Dome will be among the star attractions to feature on the biggest cruise ship built for Britain.

Featuring an impressive clear sky dome, a pool with a retractable stage, water feature and whirlpools, The Dome will act as an all-weather venue for all day entertainment and informal dining.

At night The Dome – one of four primary entertainment spaces on P&O Cruises new 180,000 ton ship – will come alive with aerial performances, projection onto the roof and immersive shows.

An uninterrupted half-mile Promenade around the ship on Deck 8 provides easy access to al fresco dining at a range of restaurants and relaxation areas under shaded pavilion awnings.

Glass walls spanning three decks will flow natural light into P&O Cruises signature Atrium, the central heartbeat and focal point of the 5,200-guest ship, complete with a grand staircase, gallery and overhead walkways.

Cutting-edge designers and architects will work on creating the next generation ship, the first new-build in five years when it enters service in early summer 2020.

Initial concepts for differentiated cabins will be created by Acumen (London), a contemporary design practice behind British Airways’ first-ever lie-flat beds, Air France first class and The Residence, Etihad Airways’ opulent three-room suites in the sky.

The ship will be the most environmentally efficient in P&O Cruises history with “green cruising” design using liquefied natural gas (LNG) to generate the primary source of power both in port and on the open sea. This will significantly reduce exhaust emissions to help protect the environment in support of the company’s sustainability goals.

Guests will be spoilt for choice for dining, entertainment, socialising and relaxation options:

  • 17 places to eat
  • 7 speciality restaurants
  • 12 places to enjoy a drink and see the sea
  • 13 entertainment venues from the theatre to adult only venues
  • Three pop-up entertainment spaces/venues
  • 16 whirlpools
  • 4 swimming pools (three outside, one inside)
  • 9 places to have breakfast
  • 5 places to enjoy afternoon tea
  • 7 places to have coffee

Built by Meyer Werft at its shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, cruises on the new ship will go on sale in autumn 2018.

P&O Cruises has been partnering with some of the world’s leading hospitality, interior design, maritime and aeronautical architectural experts, as well as leading cruise ship designers and builders including:

  • Meyer Werft (Papenburg): world-leading builder of luxury passenger ships. They have built ships for AIDA, RCI, Disney, HAL, NCL, Celebrity, Saga & Dream
  • Jestico & Whiles (London): award-winning residential & commercial architects. Their work includes Aquashard (London), the Yas Hotel, Abu Dhabi, Andel’s Lodz Hotel, Poland, The Chinese Embassy (London), Hakkasan, the W Hotel (London)
  • Richmond International (London): hotel architecture and interior experts. Previously partnered with on Britannia. Their work includes The Langham Hotel, London & Chicago, P&O Cruises Britannia, The Four Seasons Moscow, Boca Beach Club Restaurant (Waldorf Astoria), Sandy Lane Hotel (Barbados)
  • Acumen (London): multidisciplinary design and product practice, engaged to consult on initial concepts for differentiated cabins. Their work includes British Airways (the first ever lie-flat bed), Etihad Airways ‘apartment’, Ora, Britax and Lewmar deck gear (sailing) and Air France first class
  • Partner Ship Design (Hamburg): experienced in maritime architecture and specialists in on board guest experience / flow. AIDA, Costa, P&O Cruises, Carnival
Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

Spain And Morocco With Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

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In May 2016, I spent 5-nights aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral sailing from Port of Tyne and exploring the Norwegian Fjords, and it was a fantastic cruise. The ship herself ticked all the right boxes for me and I couldn’t wait to sail away on her again, so within a few weeks of returning home, I started looking at other itineraries aboard the same ship and I came up with ‘Mysterious Morocco and Seductive Spain’ which departed from Southampton on October 7.

It was a 14-night itinerary that offered calls in Cadiz, Cartagena, Malaga, Gibraltar, Melilla, Casablanca and Lisbon. I had visited all the ports previously, except for Melilla, and I knew there was one person who would love to join me on the adventure, my American friend TravelShopGirl.

I arrived at the port at around 5pm. I’d travelled down with Eavesway but we had left later than usual to compensate for Balmoral’s later arrival into Southampton that day. When I got to the port TravelShopGirl was waiting for me, and as we still had at least 3 hours before check-in would begin, we left our luggage at the port, jumped in a cab and spent a few hours in Southampton before returning later in the evening and checking in.

Eavesway-Cruise-Link

We had an outside cabin on Deck 5 which was almost identical to the cabin I’d had on Deck 6 in May – the only difference being that this cabin did not have a bath. I always find the accommodation on Fred. Olsen ships very comfortable and the cabins are always far bigger than I expect them to be, which is always nice! I tend to pack more than I need for every cruise, so that extra space is always appreciated.

Balmoral-Outside-Cabin-Deck-5

Our first few days onboard were spent at sea and it gave us the perfect opportunity to explore and meet new people. I always meet people when I travel, I’m quite the social butterfly and this cruise brought along new friends instantly, every single day was a laugh a minute. There are many things that make a good cruise and the people I meet are a big part of that for me – passengers and crew.

balmoral-promenade-deck

Just as we were getting into a sea day rhythm, our port days arrived and it was time to start exploring. Our first call was to Cadiz, a place I have visited many times, and we enjoyed a simple stroll through the city and a walk through the fish market. I always enjoy Cadiz and it’s narrow streets, it’s got so much character and charm, and some nice shopping! If you are feeling adventurous, you can always do a tour to Seville from Cadiz, which I would certainly recommend if you have never been before as Seville is a beautiful place. As we sailed from the port, we had a little water show from a local tug boat, which was quite nice! I’d also like to point out that we had the best berth that day, too.

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Next, we arrived in Malaga and to say the weather was miserable is an understatement, it rained virtually all day – but we were blessed with a gorgeous sunrise. We left Balmoral for our tour to Marbella and Puerto Banus, but it wasn’t the most enjoyable day. Most places were closed because it was a holiday, which wouldn’t have been a problem had the weather been better, but it meant that we could find very few places to take shelter – even many bars and restaurants were closed. We were very lucky, however, and did manage to find a bar in both places (one which was tiny) where we could shield ourselves from the downpour and enjoy a San Miguel beer. I’d like to go back to Marbella as I was looking forward to that half-day tour, but I don’t feel like I got to see much because of the poor weather.

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balmoral-malaga

Melilla was the one port that I had never visited before and I was excited to get ashore. The weather wasn’t great to begin with, but the sun soon broke through the clouds, chased away the rain and it became the perfect day for sightseeing. We strolled through the main city centre and done some shopping before walking through Parque Hernandez, which is right in the middle of the city. A walk through the park is an absolute must, it’s a wonderful slice of tranquil paradise in the middle of a very grey city. Before heading back to the ship, we also explored the Historic Centre which was very impressive and again, something you must experience. The views across the rocky bay below from the top of the 14th century fort were like something you would see in a holiday brochure. I expect that in the summer months it is a wonderful place to take a dip in the water. I really did enjoy Melilla and although small, it offered a little bit of everything, I especially liked how the Spanish and Arabic influences blended together so well – you felt like you got a glimpse into two lands and not just one.

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melilla-spain

historic-centre-melilla

As we sailed from Melilla, we enjoyed dinner in The Grill, Fred. Olsen’s specialty steak and seafood restaurant. TravelShopGirl is vegetarian, so she ordered her starter and main course from the Ballindalloch Restaurant menu and, except for my starter, I ordered just about everything on The Grill menu. I had an 8oz fillet steak with a small lobster tail, chunky chips and asparagus, and it was to die for. The meat was perfectly cooked and the presentation of the dish was superb. This was my second time in The Grill and the only thing that made it better than my first visit was the incredible sunset that we were treated to while we ate. The cost for The Grill is £25 per person and if you enjoy your steak and seafood then it really is a no-brainer – book yourself a table!

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Cartagena would be an easy day of people watching from one of the bars at the beautiful marina. Sometimes you just need a day that doesn’t require too much effort or thought, and as the sun was surrounding us, it was the perfect place to enjoy the warmth and atmosphere before we sailed for Gibraltar. Cartagena does have a lot to offer, including the Roman Theatre Museum, so if you want to combine some history and shopping then you can easily do so, but it’s also a nice place to simply sit and watch the world go by.

balmoral-cartagena

I do love Gibraltar, even though I do the same thing virtually every time I go: SHOP! TravelShopGirl had never visited before, so she went on a Rock tour and I met her at the entrance to Main Street once the tour had ended. I can’t tell you what I bought as they are Christmas gifts for my family, but if you like jewellery, watches and alcohol, then Gibraltar is a great place to buy all three. We returned to the ship mid-afternoon and enjoyed the sail-away on deck with our new friends, it was the ideal way to wind down as we had a busy day ahead of us both in Morocco.

balmoral-fred-olsen-gibraltar

TravelShopGirl had booked the tour to Marrakech, which was an all-day adventure, but I had opted for a Casablanca city tour and a visit to the Hassan II Mosque. This was my second time in Casablanca, but I didn’t feel like I got to see a great deal of the place the first time I was there, hence I opted for a city tour. The Hassan II Mosque was incredible, I’d only seen the exterior on my previous visit, but this time I went inside and I was literally speechless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so beautiful. It cost $3 billion to build, was completed in 1993 and offers space for up to 105,000 people to pray at any one time: 25,000 inside the Mosque and 80,000 in the Mosque’s outside grounds. It also has the tallest minaret in the world and is the 13th largest Mosque in the world. The Mosque was the highlight of the entire tour for me, but I did also enjoy our very brief walk through the Habous quarter. At the end of the tour, we were taken to a store in the United Nations Square where we could do some shopping, and in hindsight, this probably was the best option as Casablanca is a very, very busy place, but I had expected free time for us to do as we pleased. As that didn’t happen, I changed my clothes once back to the ship, grabbed a shuttle bus ticket from reception and made my way back into the city to explore the Old Medina. I do like Casablanca, but if you are going to explore on your own then please be very careful, especially in the Medina as it can become quite overwhelming and it is incredibly busy.

hassan-ii-mosque-casablanca

hassan-ii-mosque-inside

wudhu-ablution-hassan-ii-mosque

A much-needed sea day followed our time in Casablanca, but it was also a reminder that the end of the cruise was near, as we only had one port left: Lisbon. I’m not a huge fan of Lisbon, so I booked a tour to Sintra and Cascais. The tour was very pleasant indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sintra is a very small mountain-side village and although our stop there was only brief, it was long enough to snap some pictures, venture up some narrow streets and enjoy an obligatory Pastel De Nata. Cascais is a charming seaside town and I enjoyed our stop here, too. I would have appreciated a little longer here if I’m honest as there were so many lovely restaurants and hidden view points across the ocean, I could have lapped it up for at least another hour.

sintra-portugal

beach-portugal

We sailed from Lisbon beneath a sweltering sun, we had been incredibly lucky that day, and our sail away party went on for well over an hour. Everyone was out on deck dancing, singing and having a good time. It was virtually perfect!

lisbon-sail-away-fred-olsen-cruise-lines

The last 2 sea days allowed for packing and one final evening of drinks and laughs with our new-found friends at the Lido Bar. We had taken the all-inclusive package on this cruise – something I always purchase before my Fred. Olsen voyages if it is offered – so we saved a small fortune on drinks. There is a specific all-inclusive menu, but those who purchase the package can also take advantage of half price cocktails (excluding champagne cocktails) and premium spirits. It really is a great package and as I tend to drink pineapple juice by the pint, I was happy that was also included!

On our final day, we enjoyed a traditional Afternoon Tea in the Observatory Lounge. I do like afternoon tea on Fred. Olsen! The cost is £7.95 per person and it offers a little extra special touch to the voyage. Who doesn’t like a warm scone with fresh cream and jam? Oh, and cakes and sandwiches! If you have any specific dietary requirements, just let Guest Services know when you make your reservation. TravelShopGirl is vegetarian, so we made the ship aware and she was served a small plate of sandwiches that contained nothing but veggie goodness.

observatory-lounge-balmoral

Afternoon-Tea-Fred-Olsen

Balmoral is a wonderful ship. She offers a wide variety of accommodation options, the food onboard was superb, as it always is with Fred. Olsen, and the crew were brilliant. I must say that I do believe Fred. Olsen has some of the best crew members at sea and I want to give a BIG shout out to the crew at the Lido Bar on Deck 8 – we miss you all and your smiles!!

I was asked several times while onboard which of the Fred. Olsen fleet was my favourite and I said Braemar, but I think I’d like to change my answer. Balmoral is the one for me. I can’t wait for my next Fred. adventure!

A similar cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will be a 14-night ‘Mysterious Morocco & Seductive Spain’ departure on board Balmoral (L1704), sailing from Southampton on 22nd March 2017.   Ports of call include:  Lisbon, Agadir, Casablanca, Gibraltar, Almeria, Malaga, Cadiz and La Coruna, returning to Southampton on 5th April 2017.

I’ll leave you with what was my final sunset onboard…

Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Black Watch To Undergo Multi-Million Pound Refurbishment

black-watch-refurbishment-2016

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 804-guest Black Watch will be entering dry dock at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany in November 2016, in preparation for the forthcoming 2017/18 cruise season. The ship will undergo various engineering works, general maintenance and refurbishment during the dry dock, as well as the creation of several new public areas and guest facilities, as part of a multi-million Pound investment.

A key focus of Black Watch’s refurbishment will be the 423 cabins across the ship, on Marquee Deck 9, Bridge Deck 8, Lido Deck 7, Main Deck 5, Atlantic Deck 4, and Marina Deck 3. A new interactive in-cabin TV system will be installed across the ship, equipped with all the latest features and connectivity. Bathrooms will be refurbished, and all cabins will feature safes and mini-bars, as standard.

During the dry dock, Black Watch’s Braemar Garden Café, on Lounge Deck 6, will be converted into a new restaurant, to be called ‘Brigadoon’, in keeping with Fred. Olsen’s close Scottish connections. The new restaurant will feature modern new décor and will offer a stylish, intimate dining experience, for up to 54 guests – continuing to serve the wide range of British and international cuisine for which Fred. Olsen is renowned.

The Braemar Courtyard, on Lounge Deck 6, will be converted into a separate speciality dining area, called ‘The Black Watch Room’, offering an à la carte dining experience, including expertly-prepared steaks cooked to order, with seating for up to 46 guests. A new dedicated Galley will be created to service this new dining facility. The existing Grill restaurant, situated on Lounge Deck 6 aft, by the main pool area, will be rebranded and redesigned, to offer a new Mediterranean-themed dining experience.

Black Watch’s main 340-guest restaurant, The Glentanar, on Lounge Deck 6, will undergo extensive refurbishment, with a spacious new layout and ‘new look’, featuring new furniture, carpet and curtains.

Considerable attention will also be given to the various bar areas on board Black Watch during the dry dock. The Observatory Lounge, on Marquee Deck 9, will receive a refresh to the décor and fittings, and the Lido Lounge, on Lido Deck 7, will receive an extensive overhaul, with new furniture, fabrics and carpets being fitted throughout, as well as the installation of a full-width sliding door to the aft.

The Morning Light Pub – an iconic feature across the whole Fred. Olsen fleet – will be moved to the area currently occupied by the Braemar Lounge, on Lounge Deck 6, replacing the existing Pub next to the Neptune Show Lounge. New furniture and fabrics will be a key feature of the larger, more spacious Pub, along with a new bar. The area vacated by the existing Morning Light Pub will be renamed the ‘Neptune Bar’.

To enhance the onboard experience for guests, the Marina Cinema on Marina Deck 3 will be upgraded with the latest ‘3D’ technology, enabling the Black Watch team to show 3D films and other programmes.

Black Watch’s Guest Services area, on Main Deck 5 – the focal point and ‘hub’ of the ship – will also be renewed, making it more inviting and user-friendly for guests.

Similar refurbishments and upgrades are expected to the rest of the Fred. Olsen fleet – Balmoral, Braemar and Boudicca – in the coming years.

Following Black Watch’s dry dock, the ship will recommence her cruise season from Tilbury, UK, with a seven-night ‘German & Danish Christmas Markets’ cruise, departing on 15th December 2016.

During the 2017/18 cruise season, Fred. Olsen’s fleet of four smaller, more intimate ships will be visiting no fewer than 220 destinations in 70 countries around the globe.

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Posted in Cruise News, Fred Olsen Cruise Line
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Little donkey....and her #mom in #tangier #morocco. She was so sweet! #live #life #love #travel It was a stunning #sunset in #colour, but it also looks impressive in #greyandwhite - don't you think? @fred.olsencruiselines Balmoral as she sailed from #Melilla in #Spanish #Morocco #live #life #love #travel

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