Central America And The Mardi Gras With Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Part 3

After leaving Antigua, we spent a day at sea before arriving off the coast of Trujillo in Honduras. It was warm and sunny, but the sea state wasn’t ideal and our tenders struggled to get alongside in the small harbour. After several attempts, Captain Stoica announced that he had made the decision to abandon the port and off we sailed for Belize in Central America. I was incredibly disappointed. I’ve always wanted to visit mainland Honduras, but these things happen and we still had many other exciting ports to look forward to. Onwards and upwards, as they say! I think by this point in the cruise, we had all worked out whether the Captain’s announcement was going to be good or bad. I thought his voice sounded lower when something negative was coming our way – we braced ourselves for impact every day at noon. 😉

Instead of looking for starfish on a tropical beach, I spent the day lounging in the sun on Deck 7. Not quite the same as my original plan, but it was still far better than being in England in February and the smell from the BBQ at lunchtime was very welcome.

The following morning, we arrived in a very hot Belize City. The humidity level really was through the roof. We boarded the tender and made our way ashore, ready for our boat ride up the New River and a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins at Lamanai – which translates to Submerged Crocodile in Yucatec Maya. It was a long but exciting day and probably one of my favourite excursions of the entire cruise. We left the port in a coach and drove to Lamanai Landings – a restaurant and bar that sat on the New River and also turned out to be where we would board our boat.

The journey along the New River was thrilling, I enjoyed every moment of it and we managed to spot a wide variety of birds, although we didn’t see any crocodiles. I think we all need a hit of adrenaline every now and then, and zooming up the New River certainly got the blood pumping. After a journey of approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes we arrived at Lamanai, to the sight and sound of Howler Monkeys. The noise they make is unique and our guide mentioned that their howls were recorded at Lamanai and used as sound effects for some of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies. I had worn my Jurassic Park t-shirt that day, but I had no idea of the connection. You can’t see them in the below video (you can in the picture below that), but I’d put my phone into video mode so I could record their howls for you – pretty impressive, I think you’ll agree.

The ruins are well-preserved and the site itself is vast. Lamanai was once a major city of the Maya civilization, so that might give you some idea of its size. I was surprised to learn that most of the site actually remained unexcavated until the mid-1970’s, so Lamanai is a relatively new addition to Belize’s tourism offerings. Since excavation began, archaeological work has mainly concentrated on the investigation and restoration of the larger structures, such as the High Temple, Mask Temple and Jaguar Temple. All of which are individual and highly dominating of the landscape around them. A large portion of the Temple of the Jaguar remains covered by grassy earth and dense jungle growth, but if it were fully excavated, it would be far taller than the High Temple – you need to see the High Temple with your own eyes in order to get an idea of how large that would then make the Jaguar Temple. The Mask Temple was my favourite. The masks are on two levels on the south side of a central stairway and date back to the late fifth to early sixth century. The masks on the lower level are more than 15 feet high and represent a humanized face which is bordered with decorative designs.

Mask Temple

High Temple

Jaguar Temple

We left Lamanai and boarded our boat for the hour-long journey back to Lamanai Landings. We were all hungry, hot and thirsty by this point, so it was a bonus that there was a buffet waiting for us back at the restaurant. It was quite busy by the time we got there, but we joined the queue and were served delicious curried chicken with Belize rice and beans. It was exactly what we needed. The fruit punch slid down nicely, too! Once fed and watered, we boarded our coach for the road journey back to the ship. I’d had a great day in Belize and if I ever visit again, I’d really like to explore one of the other Mayan sites, such as Altun Ha or Xunantunich.

Cozumel was our next stop and I couldn’t wait to get ashore and onto the Cozumel Bar Hop. My friend and I enjoyed this tour last year and decided that we had to do it again – we’re now officially fo-ho’s (former hoppers). The Cozumel Bar Hop takes you to the east side of the island, off the tourist trail to 30 stunning miles of uninhabited coastline, and to four distinctly different bars: Coconuts Bar and Grill, Punta Morena, Playa Bonita and Rasta’s. I like all the bars on the tour, especially Coconuts and Rasta’s, but this time I really appreciated the appeal of Playa Bonita. It is literally holding itself together with salt from the sea and something about that really grabbed my attention. If it were a beach bar in England, it would probably be demolished, but in Cozmuel, it’s a bar with life and energy, and this time I got it, I really did.

The bar hop was just as much fun this year as it had been last year and the weather was perfect! You get 1 free welcome shot at each stop (my favourite is the Mayan Sacrifice at Punta Morena), all other drinks and food you must pay for yourself. There’s no electricity on the east side, however, so if you go on the tour, make sure you have enough cash to cover your bar bill (cards not accepted) and any souvenirs you might wish to buy. If you want to grab a bite to eat during the hop, then I suggest you try the food at Coconuts Bar & Grill – the shrimp quesadillas are delicious – and although I’ve never tried it myself, the conch soup comes highly recommended at Punta Morena. I wish I was back on the bar hop right now! It’s SO much fun and it’s available to everyone, not just cruise ship passengers!

Fast fact: did you know that the island of Cozumel didn’t have peanut butter until 2003?! Useless, I know, but if that question ever came up in a quiz, you now know the answer! 😉

Balmoral and her passengers enjoyed a sea day following Cozumel, giving us all just enough time to relax and recharge our batteries before we arrived in New Orleans for Mardi Gras!

New Orleans is one of my favourite places and I couldn’t wait to be back. I visited around the same time last year and was completely smitten with the vibrancy and atmosphere of the city, but this time, we had Mardi Gras, so I knew we were all in for a real treat, and aching feet…

Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Central America And The Mardi Gras With Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Part 2

Barbados was very hot and humid, but that was good – sun and heat always work well when there are beaches involved! Barbados was also where Balmoral would meet her sister, Braemar, for a few hours. Braemar was the first Fred. Olsen ship I cruised on (back in 2014) and we’d only ever passed each other from a distance since. It was nice to be within arms length this time, even if I couldn’t get onboard and reminisce for an hour or two.

Before leaving on the cruise, I had pre-booked an evening excursion which included dinner and a show on a local beach, but because our itinerary had changed, the tour was subsequently cancelled. As soon as we found out that the tour had been cancelled, we made our way towards the onboard tours desk and booked something else: the newly added beach hop option. I didn’t get to see a great deal of Barbados the last time I was there, so at least this way I could sample a few tropical beaches and enjoy the scenery on the journey between them!

We left the port on the Bajan bus – an open-air jitney bus that was used on the sugar plantations in bygone days – and what a way to start the day it was! We drove through historic Bridgetown before heading for 3 different beaches: Accra Beach, Dover Beach and Pebbles Beach. I think Pebbles Beach was my favourite. The tour changed my perception of Barbados and I’m incredibly glad that it did! If you like the idea of beaches, rum punch and a lot of laughing, then this is the tour for you! It was only 4 hours in duration, so if you had a full day in Barbados, you’d still have time to explore Bridgetown on foot. Our driver and guide (Deon and Dre) were fantastic, a real breath of fresh Barbadian air, and they truly did make our day a memorable one! Thanks to that tour, I can say that I’m looking forward to returning to the island at some point in the future. It’s so vibrant and alive, but I didn’t see that during my previous visit.

Our next stop was St Lucia and we had a day at Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa to look forward to. My friend and I were picked up from the port and whisked away to a tropical paradise in Rodney Bay. We introduced ourselves to the friendly reception staff and were promptly shown around the grounds. We’d only been there a few minutes before we had a prime spot on the beach and a soft drink in hand.

The resort is picture perfect from all angles and it is much-less crowded than the rest of Reduit Beach – sun lovers were packed in like sardines further down the golden sand, but my friend and I lounged like queens, with several feet of space between us and the next duo of sun loungers. We relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere for several hours – I even hired a jet ski for a while a little further down the beach – before heading to the resort’s Hi Tide Restaurant, which offers views across Reduit Beach. The food on the menu was varied and everything sounded good. I decided I’d have calamari to start and followed that with a chicken roti and fries – both dishes were tasty and the roti was huge.

I would absolutely recommend a day pass for Bay Gardens if you are visiting on a cruise. Our passes offered a delicious two-course lunch, four beverages per person (including house brand alcoholic drinks), a courtesy hotel room for the day (subject to availability) and a choice of a 20-minute massage, two non-motorized watersport activities or a complimentary half-day pass to Splash Island Park. Day passes are available for Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa and Bay Gardens Hotel & Bay Gardens Inn – all of which are in Rodney Bay village. If you’d prefer, the hotel will also arrange your transportation to and from Castries – my friend and I went with this option and the transfers were seamless. We left Bay Gardens with smiles on our faces, and should I find myself in St Lucia again, you can look for me on the beach at Bay Gardens.

I used my beach day in St Lucia as an opportunity to try out a new pair of flip-flops from ItBeach. They are incredibly comfortable (made from a silicon PVC material) and because of the design, it feels like you are walking on cool gel – there are breathable vents underfoot for air circulation and you really can feel it. They aren’t cheap to buy, but they are absolutely worth it. You can browse the full range of sandals, shoes and boots on the ItBeach website.

The following morning, we arrived in Antigua and I was desperate to get ashore. Antigua was my first introduction to the Caribbean, back in 2013, and I’ve had a huge soft spot for the island ever since. As soon as the ship was cleared, we were off down the dock and into a taxi. Our destination: Dickenson Bay Beach. Again, this was my beach of choice during my first visit, but this time I’d arranged for my friend and I to spend the day at Coconut Grove: a restaurant and bar located in its own picturesque slice of heaven a little further down Dickenson Bay.

First impressions were fabulous. My friend and I were promptly greeted by Delroy and given the choice of where we would like to sit on the beach. It was early, so still quiet, and it truly felt like we had stumbled across our own section of paradise – even later in the day when it became busy, the small beach that Coconut Grove occupies never felt crowded. It was perfect! The service was very good, the drinks were fruity and cold, and lunch, well, lunch was the icing on the cake! I ordered coconut shrimp and sweet potato fries and I’m still thinking about the shrimps! They were bursting with flavour – I can honestly say that they were the best coconut shrimps I have ever had. If you’re visiting Antigua, then add Coconut Grove to your list, I’ll certainly be going back there in the future. You can get a taxi to the beach from the port for just $6 per person. Alternatively, Fred. Olsen also offered Coconut Grove as a 4 hour beach break excursion, so if you aren’t confident travelling there on your own, you might be able to book it through the onboard tours desk.

We sailed from Antigua and as the weather was glorious, my friend and I decided to dine in The Grill that evening. I had expected to be able to dine al-fresco – it seemed like the perfect evening to do so and would have given The Grill an added touch of something special – but this wasn’t the case. The food and service, however, were both superb. I ordered shrimp to start, followed by an 8oz fillet of beef. I couldn’t move by the end of the meal. I was very happy and very full! I spoke to several people onboard who had also relished in the culinary delights offered at the back of The Palms and I have nothing negative to report – give it a try on your next Fred. Olsen cruise!

The rest of the evening was spent out on the open deck, beneath the glow of the night sky. I don’t like to be cooped up inside when the air is warm and the sky is clear, I like to make the most of being able to sit outside before courses change and the weather, once again, turns cold. We spent several hours that evening sitting with friends, chatting and enjoying a few drinks. I think it was also that night we established that the incredibly bright star we had been discussing for the previous few days was in fact Venus!

We would spend the following 2 days at sea before reaching our next port of call, Trujillo, but it wouldn’t go as planned…

 

Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Central America And The Mardi Gras With Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Part 1

I’m back! I’m sorry that I couldn’t update you with live blogs during the cruise – I just couldn’t get my blog to open using the ships Wi-Fi – but I’m here now, so let me tell you ALL about my Central America and Mardi Gras cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines!

The cruise didn’t quite start off as everyone had planned. We were late sailing from Southampton and from the moment we left, Mother Nature threw storms at us – one after the other, so much so that we lost count of how many we had sailed through or tried to avoid. Balmoral was due to arrive in Funchal, Madeira on Wednesday February 8th, but we had to take shelter from strong winds and rough seas, so on February 7th, we ended up in the Spanish port of Gijon – I’d never even heard of it before. We stayed there overnight to try and avoid the worst of the weather and we sailed again, for Madeira, at 18:30 the following day. This unexpected stop put us 2 days behind schedule and we were informed that because of the weather ahead of us, we would unfortunately lose our calls in the Caribbean to Tortola and Jamaica. Not what anyone wanted to hear, but what can you do about the weather? We had to just roll with it…literally! On the up side, by this time, I had been reacquainted with several crew members whom I had met on previous cruises aboard Balmoral and I was absolutely thrilled to see them. They were equally as pleased to see me, which was nice! I have always said that Fred. Olsen has some of the best crew members at sea and I still stick by that.

We finally arrived in Madeira on Friday February 10th and we were incredibly lucky. Rain had been forecast for most of the day, but aside from a quick shower, it was warm and the day offered the glimmer of sunshine that we all so desperately had been craving – we’d had nothing but grey skies, rough seas, bad news and rain up until this point. My friend and I had a walk around town before arriving at Marina Terrace where we would stop for lunch. We visited this restaurant in 2016 and enjoyed it so much that we had to go back. It’s located on the marina and it is a wonderful place to eat, drink and watch the world go by. It’s a family-owned restaurant and you can have anything from Madeira’s famous ‘steak on a stone’ to a simple ham and cheese sandwich. I opted for steak on a stone this time (I had pizza last time) and it was delicious. The piece of beef was HUGE! It was served with traditional Madeira garlic bread, homemade chips, dips and salad, and a drink, all for 16 euro. If you are in Madeira on a cruise at some point, then please go and check out the menu. There is an access point to the restaurant from the main street – you can’t miss it.

We sailed from Madeira, right into another area of low pressure! We really were becoming storm chasers at sea by this point, but within 48-hours, everything began to resemble the tropical cruise that we were all aboard Balmoral for. The sun was out, the air temperature was slowly increasing and the crew were even outside doing a BBQ at lunch time – something they would continue to do at lunchtime on most sea days throughout the cruise. Spirits lifted and the ship became a different place – long gone were the tears over Jamaica and Tortola, most of us were happy to finally be outside, enjoying the open decks, even if it was still windy.

The weather improved day-by-day and it wasn’t long before I was sunning myself by the pool on Deck 7 with a raspberry smoothie in hand. I was excited to finally arrive in the Caribbean, but I must admit that I did enjoy the long row of sea days – we all need to sit and do nothing sometimes and those sea days gave me the opportunity to switch my brain off for a while and delve into some books. I know I’ve said it before, but I rarely get the chance to read at home, so I love days/nights onboard when I can really get my head into something that lets my imagination wander freely for a while. I managed to finish 2 books before we arrived in the Caribbean: Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison and the final book in the Seven Sisters series by M.L. Bullock, the latter of which I liked to read at night as it was quite spooky.

After 13-days onboard Balmoral (and only 2 ports of call), we finally arrived in the Caribbean. Our first stop was Barbados, and as my original evening tour had been cancelled, I jumped ship and took off on a ‘Barbados Beach Hop’…

Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Carnival Horizon To Debut With A Series Of European Voyages In April 2018

carnival-horizon-info

Carnival Cruise Line has assembled a wide array of exciting and diverse itineraries featuring breathtaking destinations throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean for its newest fleet member, Carnival Horizon.

Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, Carnival Horizon will offer many of the hugely popular indoor and outdoor dining, bar, entertainment and activity options that debuted on Carnival Vista, currently the line’s newest ship.

Among those is a groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide, an IMAX Theatre, a massive WaterWorks aqua park offering lots of splash-tastic fun, and a microbrewery where several kinds of beer will be brewed on board.

A wide range of accommodations will also be offered, including spa cabins adjacent to the luxurious Cloud 9 Spa and offering exclusive access and privileges, extra-roomy staterooms in Family Harbor, and tropical-inspired Havana staterooms and suites along with a Cuban-themed bar and pool for the exclusive daytime use of guests in Havana accommodations.   A variety of unique dining and bar concepts and spectacular outdoor spaces found only on Carnival Horizon will be offered and revealed in the near future.

Port-Intensive European Cruises Round-Trip from Barcelona

Carnival Horizon is scheduled to make her maiden voyage April 2, 2018, with a 13-day Mediterranean voyage operating round-trip from Barcelona and calling at Livorno, Rome (Civitavecchia), and Naples (Capri and Pompeii), Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Corfu, Greece; Messina (Sicily), Italy; Valletta, Malta; and Cagliari (Sardinia), Italy – the first of four round-trip departures from this Spanish port. Carnival Horizon will also operate two seven-day cruises departing April 15 and 22, 2018, and featuring Cagliari (Sardinia), Naples (Capri and Pompeii), Rome (Civitavecchia), Livorno, and Marseilles, and a 10-day voyage departing April 29, 2018, with stops at Livorno, Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples (Capri and Pompeii), Dubrovnik, Corfu and Messina (Sicily).

14-Day Transatlantic Crossing from Barcelona to New York

Carnival Horizon will reposition to the U.S. with a 14-day transatlantic crossing departing Barcelona May 9 and arriving in New York on May 23, 2018.   Five stunning European and Canadian ports will be featured:  Malaga, Spain; Gibraltar; Lisbon, Portugal; and Vigo, Spain – Carnival’s first visit to the centuries-old seaside town – along with a stop at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Eight-Day Caribbean Cruises from the Big Apple

After arriving in New York, Carnival Horizon will offer an exciting summer schedule of eight-day Caribbean cruises operating round-trip from the Big Apple and featuring visits to Grand Turk; San Juan; and Amber Cove (Dominican Republic).  Departure dates include May 28, June 5, 13 and 25, July 3, 11, 23 and 31, Aug. 8, 20 and 28, and Sept. 5, 2018.  Additional departures from New York in summer 2018 are being planned and will be announced in the coming weeks.

Year-Round Six- and Eight-Day Caribbean Voyages from Miami

Carnival Horizon will then shift to Miami and kick off a year-round schedule of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning Sept. 22, 2018. Prior to the start-up of this programme, Carnival Horizon will offer a special two-day cruise to Nassau from Miami Sept. 20-22, 2018.

On her new Miami-based schedule, six-day cruises will depart Sundays, calling at Ocho Rios; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel. Two different eight-day itineraries will be offered with departures on Saturdays – one featuring Grand Turk; La Romana (Dominican Republic); Curacao; and Aruba; and the other visiting Grand Turk; San Juan; St. Kitts; and St. Maarten.

 

Posted in Carnival Cruise Lines, Cruise News

Cruising: I Doubted It Until I Tried It, Then Never Looked Back

Today’s blog comes courtesy of Jennie Bond. You might remember Jennie as being the former royal correspondent for the BBC and from her appearance in ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity’, but when not hard at work, she enjoys life on the high seas just as much as we do and today, she shares with us some stories from her cruises with Cunard, Azamara and Uniworld.

I was lying on a beach in Antigua the other day as you do, when I heard a bloke on a nearby sun lounger pointing out to his wife the islands of Barbuda, St Barts, and St Kitts and Nevis on the horizon.

“That’s why the Caribbean is such a great place for cruise ships,” he said. “There are just so many islands to explore.” She looked unimpressed.

“You know perfectly well that I can’t stand the idea of cruising,” she said, settling back down on her lounger, book in hand.

Antigua-Caribbean-Cruise

Life on a cruise ship is whatever you make it

And that’s how I once felt. Many years, and many cruises, ago. There are so many misconceptions about life on a liner. People imagine that you’ll be living cheek by jowl with thousands of strangers and be corralled into jolly group activities and party games, like a band of happy campers.

The truth is that you can often find yourself virtually alone, sipping an after-dinner brandy in a quiet lounge, while a harpist plays soothing music. Or you could be in the theatre watching a comedian, a magician or a fantastic dance performance; you might be in the ballroom pretending you’ve just won the Strictly glitter ball yourself, or just relaxing in the privacy of your cabin.

You can tailor a cruise to suit your personal taste. The choice of ships and variety of voyages is increasing every year. That’s because more and more people are discovering that cruising takes all the strain and stress out of organising a holiday.

Jennie aboard the wonderful SS Antoinette

Jennie aboard the wonderful SS Antoinette

A veteran stalwart perspective

I guess my husband, Jim, and I qualify as veteran cruisers these days. I’ve lost count of how many wonderful adventures we’ve enjoyed over the past 20 years. We’ve voyaged on big ships and small, tall ships and riverboats; we’ve crossed the Atlantic, navigated the Panama Canal and sailed the Timor Sea.

I’m lucky enough to be an ambassador for the cruise experts, ROL Cruise and tapping into their knowledge is an absolute must. They know what’s new on the market, where the best deals are and, most importantly, which cruises would suit me best.

Last year, we began with a magnificent voyage on board Cunard’s Queen Victoria. Cunard ships ooze class and elegance. I’m not a great one for dressing up, but there is something rather special about swishing down the staircase in a full-length gown for dinner. Of course, that’s only on “formal” nights, of which there are just two or three. Other nights are much more relaxed.

We sailed from Darwin, in Australia’s tropical Northern Territory, through south-east Asia to Singapore. At every port, the sight of Victoria waiting for us majestically as we returned from a steaming hot shore excursion, was like manna from heaven.

The ship becomes your temporary, very luxurious, travelling home. And, every morning, the most magical thing happens: you draw back the curtains and discover that a new country or island has come to visit you. And all you’ve done is enjoy a fabulous dinner, some fine wine and excellent entertainment.

Victoria carries 2,000 guests and 900 crew. That’s a lot of people, though not in the same league as the capacity of some of the super liners. But we never find that it feels crowded or overwhelming.

If, however, you feel more comfortable as part of a smaller community, I can highly recommend Azamara’s two ships, Quest and Journey. Each carries just over 650 passengers and has the feel of a big, extremely flash, house party.

Jennie-Bond-Azamara-Cruises

Jennie aboard Azamara Quest

From the Captain down, the crew are very much in evidence and cannot do enough to make your stay on board the best possible experience. Drinks are included and the wine is good quality; you find you are constantly being offered a snack, a cooling flannel, a towel or an ice-cream.

Last year, we joined Azamara Quest in Miami and sailed through the Caribbean – probably my favourite winter destination in the world.

In St Maarten, the ship laid on one of their special events. On every cruise, they offer all their guests one bespoke occasion. When we were in Turkey one year, they took us on an exclusive evening tour of Ephesus and treated us to a private classical concert in the small amphitheatre. It was enchanting. This time, we were drummed ashore by a twenty-strong Caribbean band in colourful costumes. And then we enjoyed an open-air concert by an electric string quartet, followed by fireworks over the ocean. It was fantastic!

From one cruising extreme to another

But there’s always something new to explore in the cruise world. And last year, in between our sea voyages, we tried out a river cruise on board Uniworld’s SS Antoinette.

It had been a long-standing ambition of my husband to sail down the Rhine and, rather bizarrely, to see for himself a small car ferry at a town called Linz.  Don’t ask me why, but, for some years now, he has enjoyed studying the webcam of the Linz ferry as part of his morning routine. And this was his chance to catch a glimpse of the vessel in real life!

jennie-bond-rhine-cruise

Jennie and SS Antoinette

Our river trip took us from Basel to Amsterdam, past fairytale castles and magnificent countryside. The ship was far more spacious than I had imagined, the decor was lush and the overall feel luxurious.

The food and wines were excellent and the shore excursions – all included in the price – were varied and highly informative. I love doing things that seem completely off the wall… like going on a vinegar tasting tour.

“You what?” said Jim, when I told him we were going. “You expect me to drink vinegar?”

Well, it turned out to be absolutely fascinating; we had to don monk-like, protective robes to inspect the ancient barrels (they were being protected from us, not vice-versa) and we sampled some of the finest vinegar in the world – which can all be served as aperitifs or digestifs and which allegedly carry medicinal qualities.

There’s much more to see and do on a river cruise: you can find yourself sailing past quite large cities and there are things to watch on each bank all the time. And I loved the fact that there were bicycles on board, so you could just borrow one and whizz off on a city tour of your own.

So, you see, there is a whole world of cruising to explore. And I wanted to tell that lady on the beach in Antigua that she really ought to give cruising a go before insisting that it simply wasn’t for her.

I was that woman once. And look at me now… counting the days until I step on board once again and set off on another adventure.

Jennie Bond.

Posted in Azamara Club Cruises, General Cruise Articles

Back To The Very Beginning With P&O Cruises

oriana-po

I embarked on my first cruise in 2007: a 12-night voyage to the Canary Islands aboard P&O Cruises ‘Oriana’. Since then, I have tried many other ships and many other cruise lines, and I have been lucky enough to sail to some incredible places, but every time I see a ship that bears the sun (and now a huge Union Jack), I can’t help but lose a little piece of my heart to her.

You NEVER forget your first cruise, and although you may sail aboard other ships and to more exciting destinations, that first ship will always be the ONE. Unless you have been on a cruise, you won’t really understand what I mean and will probably think I’m a little bit weird, but those that have will know exactly where I am coming from. You don’t just enjoy the destinations that you sail to, the ship itself becomes so much more than a mode of transportation. It becomes a place where wonderful memories are made and great new friendships are sparked. It becomes a place where you feel at home and safe – you’ll never get that feeling from a hotel on land. Plus, there are so many exciting things to experience, things that you can only ever experience from the deck of a ship: the muster drill, sailing into port, watching the crew lower the gangway, eating your breakfast on your balcony while watching a pod of Dolphins swim by…I could go on and on, but you get the picture!

Oriana hasn’t really changed that much since I first sailed on her in 2007. I cruised aboard her again in 2008, but following that, it would be 2015 before our wakes would once again cross. She brought back so many wonderful memories and the instant I stepped onboard it was like I had never been away. On the cruise in 2015, she sailed me to the Arctic Circle – a destination that really took my breath away. It’s still one of the best cruises I have experienced and I can never say enough good things about it. There she was, helping me create lifelong memories, once again, through travel.

P&O Cruises had started something inside my heart back in 2007, and it gently simmered away for many years – even I didn’t know what was to come! Eventually, it made its way to the surface at full boil and I left my steady job to take a risk on something entirely new. I wanted to see the world and I wanted to do something that put me in a position to allow work and travel to compliment one another – CruiseMiss.com was born…in theory, anyway.

I started this blog (what I am writing now) with the intention of going in one particular direction, but it seems that my fingers have typed me onto another course. I’m not going to go back and change it, I’ll stay here now and end by saying that if you want to do something, go and do it! We are placed on this earth for one show and the curtain soon comes down. Don’t get to a point in life where you wish you had done something – make it happen.

Happy Cruising! 🙂

 

Posted in P&O Cruises

My First Cruise Of 2017: Caribbean, Central America And America

My first cruise of 2017 is just 23-days away and WHAT an itinerary it offers! It looks like this: Madeira, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola, Jamaica, Banana Coast, Belize City, Cozumel, New Orleans (2-nights in port), Tampa, Key West, Miami, Port Canaveral, Jacksonville, Charleston, Bermuda and Ponta Delgada. Fantastic, right? I can’t wait to get my suitcases packed and sail-away from Southampton. It’s only by chance that this voyage came along, I had originally been planning a cruise on another ship, but then I found myself looking at Balmoral’s itinerary and I was converted in less than a minute.

It is a 46-night cruise aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ‘Balmoral’ – a ship that I can’t seem to keep away from right now – and my friend and I have been planning our ports days for the last few weeks. We are going to be docked in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and I absolutely cannot wait! I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans last year for 1-night, and that was an experience, but to be there for 2 this time and during Mardi Gras – it’s a dream come true, and I am certainly going to make the most of every second that I have in the Big Easy. I’m not going to tell you all our plans, as that would spoil the live blogs, but we are hoping to explore Ybor City in Tampa, the Mayan ruins at Lamanai in Belize, have an evening beach dinner in Barbados, a relaxing beach day in Antigua, and then let our hair down on the Cozumel Bar Hop in Cozumel. We are also hoping to have a bit of retail therapy during our time in Jacksonville as there’s a new ride-hailing app called zTrip (it’s available in a few other states too) and we’re hoping to use that service to get us to and from St John’s Mall – I thought it would be more exciting than simply hailing a cab on the street – you’ll have to wait to find out the rest! 🙂

Bourbon-Street-New-Orleans

The new ports for me on this cruise are: Falmouth, Jamaica; Banana Coast (Trujillo); Belize City; Tampa, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; and Hamilton in Bermuda. I’m looking forward to exploring them all, but especially Belize and the Banana Coast. I love new destinations!

This will be my 3rd cruise on Balmoral in less than a year, but the longest cruise overall that I will have ever done. I’ve spent 35-nights aboard a ship, but this 46-night journey is probably going to top them all. I’ve already started my packing – I thought it wise I get in there early to ensure that I don’t forget anything – and I have a stack of books and games ready to be enjoyed. That’s the thing about a transatlantic cruise like this one, you have plenty of sea days there and back to just relax and read. Obviously, reading beneath the warm glow of the sunshine is always nicer, but for those days that are a little grey and grim, a few travel games will always come in useful when you’re taking refuge inside.

It’s not very often I come across a ship that I REALLY like in virtually every way, but Balmoral made her way onto my “love” list back in May 2016 – she joined Saga Sapphire and P&O Cruises’ Oceana. Balmoral is the ideal size, her crew are fantastic, her accommodation options are spacious and the food is always very good. I also very much enjoy lounging on her open decks and just watching the world go by. She’s exactly what you want from contemporary cruising and during both of my previous voyages I met some wonderful people.

Fred-Olsen-Balmoral

If you want to know more about the voyage, then you can view it in full on the Fred. Olsen website – there’s still availability so why not come with me!

I’m hoping to blog live throughout the cruise, so be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all my latest updates.

Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Princess Cruises To Feature Ocean Medallion Aboard Regal Princess

regal-princess-ocean-medallion

Princess Cruises has confirmed it will be the first Carnival Corporation brand to feature the new Ocean Medallion.

The medallion, which is the same size as a 10p piece, will automatically provide information to guests during their cruise to give a more personalised onboard experience. It can be worn by guests as a pendant, on a wristband or simply placed in a pocket or bag.

The medallion will be used to:

  • Streamline the embarkation and disembarkation process, as the medallion gives quick and easy access to the ship
  • Lock and unlock an assigned stateroom door as guests near it, so replacing the current key card
  • Enable guests to purchase merchandise, services, excursions, food and drinks
  • Provide enhanced dining experiences based on food and drink preferences
  • Create an array of interactive gaming and other personalised entertainment
  • Enhance interaction with crew members and other guests

The medallion is fully automated and has no visible technology such as an on-off switch or charging function. The data it collects is based on preferences provided by guests before and during their cruise. Guests can supply as much or as little information as required in order to help personalise their cruise.

In addition, an Ocean Compass for guests is also being introduced. The Ocean Compass acts as a ‘digital concierge,’ which is accessible via interactive displays throughout the ship, stateroom TVs or on personal mobile devices.

ocean-medallion-princess

It can assist guests in a number of ways, including:

  • Finding their way to venues around the ship
  • Making reservations at the Lotus spa, specialty dining restaurants and shore excursions
  • Arranging celebrations
  • Viewing photographs
  • Learning more about destinations they will visit and activities at each port of call

Crew members will similarly have access to a Crew Compass that will instantly recognise each guest, so they can tailor suggestions and information based on the guest’s preferences.

The Ocean Medallion will be available from November 13, 2017, on Regal Princess, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in early 2018.

Other benefits of the Ocean Medallion and Ocean Compass include:

  • The option for guests to place select dining orders and have them delivered to their current location. For example, by using the Ocean Compass guests can order select food and beverages from a poolside lounge chair
  • Similarly, guests can place a drink order and have it delivered to where they plan to be at a designated time. For example, an order for a glass of wine at the theatre can be made prior to a show, which will then be delivered to guests at their seat
  • Parents of older children can keep track of where they are onboard, while friends and family will be able to communicate with each other through seamless instant messenger service

Additional details on the Ocean Medallion will be announced in the run up to the first sailing on Regal Princess.

Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Saga Sapphire Technical Department: Show Us Your Engines!

saga-sapphire-technical-information

Saga Sapphire is one of my favourite cruise ships, I love virtually everything about her and I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there that also have a soft spot in their heart for her. When I enjoy something or I am passionate about something, I like to learn as much about whatever it may be that I can, so my blog today is a look behind the scenes of Saga Sapphire and what goes on below decks to enable her to sail us to the incredible places that she does. We all love a bit of technical information every now and then!

Saga Sapphire’s Propulsion Plant

Saga Sapphire has two main engines and each one is connected to its own shaft and propeller. The propellers are 5 bladed fixed pitch, so this means the propulsion of the vessel is directly linked to the loading of the engines.

What Are The Main Engine’s?

Sapphire has large Slow Speed Two Stroke Reversible Engines: MAN Bremer Vulkan, KZ SZ 70/125B. Each of her main engines are bigger than a traditional London double decker bus. Each one consists of 7 cylinders and each cylinder has a bore of 700mm diameter. Each piston has a stroke of 1250mm; this is the travel of the piston from top dead centre to bottom dead centre. The maximum operating speed of Saga Sapphire’s engines is 125 rev/min. This provides a ship speed pf up to 17 knots.

Each engine has two turbo chargers and one common scavenge air belt, which is known as a constant pressure turbocharging system. The engine has no inlet or exhaust valves, instead there are scavenge ports and exhaust ports in the liner to allow for the exchange of air change which is required for combustion. The ports are closed to the cylinder depending on the position of the piston.

How Is Saga Sapphire’s Engine Started?

To start the engines, they use a compressed air system, which is known as the start air system. This consists of 4 reciprocating air compressors which fill two start air receivers. Each of which has a volume of 9500 litres at a pressure of 30 bar.

From here, the air is supplied to the engine main start air valve. A signal from the Engine Telegraph system opens the start air valve which supplies air to each unit’s start air valve. Depending on the position of the engine, the air distributor will ensure that the air goes to the correct unit to open the relevant start air valve on the cylinder head, hence forcing the piston on a downward stroke causing the engine to rotate.

A sensor fitted on the engine flywheel detects the speed of the engine. Once the engine has reached a predetermined speed, the electronic governor admits fuel to the engine and closes the start air valve. The engine now accelerates to 45 rev/min which is dead slow ahead or stern.

How Big Are Her Propellers?

Each of Saga Sapphire’s 2 propellers is 4.75 metres in diameter and weighs 11.4 tonnes. Each propeller has 5 blades and can be compared with the size of an average person.

Saga-Sapphire-Refit

What Is The Bunker Capacity and Fuel Consumption Of Saga Sapphire?

Saga Sapphire operates on two types of fuel: IFO 380 and MGO.

Total Capacity: IF 380 – 338,000 gallons – 1460 tonnes | MGO – 325,000 gallons – 1250 tonnes

At a service speed of 16 knots, Saga Sapphire has a fuel consumption of approx. 150 feet to the gallon, or 184 litres per knot mile.

Did You Know…

Engineer Officers wear gold stripes with purple because when Titanic sank, all engineers went down with the ship. King George V decreed that the Royal Purple will be worn in their memory from that date on.

The information contained in my blog today comes to us courtesy of 2nd Engineer Officer Luke Doyle.

Posted in Saga Cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ‘Top 10 Special Event Cruises’ In 2017/18

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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has released its ‘Top Ten Special Event Cruises’ for 2017/18, all of which showcase its commitment to offering cruise guests ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences! From the colourful Rio Carnival, the lively atmosphere of the Seville Fair to Norway’s National Day in Stavanger, Fred. Olsen has a host of unique cruise holidays that are sure to suit even the most discerning traveller.

Fred. Olsen’s ‘Top Ten Special Event Cruises’ for 2017/18 are:

1 – Balmoral’s eight-night L1706 ‘King’s Day Celebrations in Amsterdam’ cruise, ex Dover on 22nd April 2017.

Enjoy the annual Kings Day celebrations in Amsterdam, where the streets will be alive with locals and tourists enjoying the festivities and wearing their national colour, orange.

2 – Braemar’s 14-night M1710 ‘Rivers of Spain & France with the Seville Fair’ cruise, ex Southampton on 28th April 2017.

Be part of Seville’s most important event, the Seville Fair – take a horse drawn carriage through the festivities and watch the colourful displays of dance and theatre.

3 – Balmoral’s nine-night L1709 ‘Scenic Fjords & Norway National Day’ cruise, ex Dover on 15th May 2017.

Be immersed in Norwegian tradition on a visit to Stavanger for Norway’s National Day, with live music, locals in traditional dress, flag-waving and a chance to taste local delicacies.

4 – Black Watch’s 16-night W1705 ‘Sun, Sea and Monaco Grand Prix’ cruise, ex Southampton on 19th May 2017.

Take in the undisputed jewel in the Formula One crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, plus, with two full days in Nice, there is also the chance to watch the qualifying round too!

5 – Boudicca’s 26-night D1713 ‘Bermuda & the America’s Cup’ cruise, ex Liverpool on 9th June 2017.

Working with the preferred tour provider, enjoy a host of shore and ship-based festivities to get in the America’s Cup spirit, ahead of two full days to watch the races.

6 – Black Watch’s nine-night W1708 ‘German Waterways & Kiel Week’ cruise, ex Dover on 21st June 2017.

Be part of one of the world’s largest sailing events, Kielerwoche (Kiel Week); relax by the harbour, admiring the boats and sampling traditional German food, drink and entertainment.

7 – Braemar’s 10-night M1718 ‘Tall Ships and Cultural Trips’ cruise, ex Southampton on 26th July 2017.

Enjoy the jovial atmosphere and admire over hundred classic sailing vessels at the Tall Ships’ Races spectacular regatta, which has been held annually since 1956, on a visit to Klaipeda in the Baltic.

8 – Braemar’s 10-night M1722 ‘The Braemar Highland Games’ cruise, ex Southampton on 29th August 2017.

Take advantage of an extended stay in Dundee in Scotland to see the famous Braemar Highland Games, which are attended each year by the Queen and Prince Phillip.

9 – Balmoral’s 16-night L1728 ‘Canaries Christmas & Funchal Fireworks’ cruise, ex Southampton on 21st December 2017.

Enjoy a festive atmosphere on board this Christmas and New Year sailing, arriving in Funchal in Madeira for the impressive firework display to see 2018, in style!

10 – Balmoral’s 46-night L1803 ‘Rio Carnival & River Plate’ ‘Grand Voyage’, ex Southampton on 23rd January 2018.

Take in the euphoric atmosphere of the world-famous Rio Carnival with four days in the city to soak up the samba beats, vibrant parades, brightly coloured floats and thrilling performances.

If you have never cruised with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines before, then the above itineraries give you the perfect opportunity to change that! I am a BIG fan of Fred. Olsen and my first cruise with the line was during Kiel Week back in 2014. It was a fantastic experience and one that I highly recommend. I’ve visited all 4 ships and cruised aboard Braemar, Balmoral and Boudicca, so if I can answer any questions for you, just let me know.

Posted in Cruise News, Fred Olsen Cruise Line
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