Princess Cruises Announces South America And Antarctica 2020-2021 Programme

Princess Cruises has announced that its full 2020-2021 South America and Antarctica programme will go on sale from Friday July 12, 2019.

Two ships will sail the region: the 2,000-guest Coral Princess and 670-guest Pacific Princess. Voyages will range in length from 14-92 days, with a total of 35 destinations on offer in 17 countries, on eight itineraries.

Guests on select departures will have the opportunity to spend more time ashore with overnight calls in Lima (Callao), Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

Coral Princess will depart on a series of voyages from Los Angeles, Santiago and Buenos Aires and will offer a new 15-day Cape Horn and Strait of Magellan voyage, which will give guests the opportunity to view the solar eclipse off the coast of Argentina.

The voyage will sail from Santiago to Buenos Aires on December 3, 2020 and will call at Puerto Montt, Amalia Glacier, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn (scenic cruising), Falkland Islands (Stanley), Puerto Madryn and Montevideo. Prices from £1,999pp with up to $375 onboard spending money per person.

Also available on Coral Princess are several departures to Antarctica and Cape Horn. Each 16-day sailing will feature four days of scenic cruising through the Antarctic Peninsula and will call at Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn (scenic cruising), Falkland Islands (Stanley) and Montevideo. Prices for January 3, 2021 departure are from £2,799 per person, with up to $375 onboard spending money per person.

Guests wishing to extend their holiday can combine their cruise with land tours visiting Iguazu Falls and Macchu Picchu.

Pacific Princess will circumnavigate the continent on a 92-day Circle South America voyage, sailing from Sydney to Brisbane, featuring overnight calls in Tahiti, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro – during its annual carnival – and Lima, as well as visiting more off-the-beaten-track destinations such as Easter Island and Ilhabela. Prices from £14,519pp, with $1,000pp onboard spending money and complimentary gratuities*.

Also available on Pacific Princess is a 90-day Circle South America sailing roundtrip from Sydney with prices from £14,219pp and an 82-day sailing roundtrip from Auckland with prices from £13,359pp.

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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Avlo Travel & Cruise – Protect Your Hands Between Washes

So, not the kind of blog title you’re used to seeing from me, but let me take just a few minutes of your time to introduce you to a new and exciting product that I’ve been testing recently: Avlo Travel & Cruise hand and skin cleanser.

The product was developed by virologists with decades of experience in antiviral research and development. They wanted to produce a natural and holistic method of blocking germs and the result was Avlo, a proprietary germ blocking protein complex combined with a soothing and moisturising lotion.

Regular cruisers will know that you can’t enter any restaurant onboard, or public lounge, without seeing a bottle of hand sanitiser. It’s there for our own protection and we should all use it. I always do, I even carry my own, but I do find that the liquid used onboard often leaves my hands very dry and that’s where Avlo comes in. It’s not designed to replace the sanitiser onboard, it’s an added shield against germs that you can use in-between, and it puts the moisture back into your skin that the alcohol gel sucks out. I’ve been using Avlo at home for the last 2 weeks, replacing my own scented sanitisers with the same Purcell liquids you find onboard, so I could ensure I was getting real results. My hands are retaining far more moisture between sanitising, simply from using the Avlo. I don’t have the rough texture on my palms or fingers that the alcohol gel often leaves behind.

I’m not a scientist, so let me share with you some FAQ’s provided by Avlo, so you can find out more about the product.

How does Avlo work?

Avlo is a proprietary combination of natural products, proteins and our patented ingredient, GermBlock, which allows Avlo to work with your skin to enhance your skin’s natural ability to shield you from germs.

Is Avlo a hand sanitiser?

Avlo is not a hand sanitiser, but can be used to enhance the germ fighting ability of hand sanitisers and hand washing with soap. When applied after hand washing, Avlo provides a durable long-lasting shield between hand washings.

How is Avlo different from other hand moisturisers?

Unlike regular hand lotions that just moisturize, Avlo goes beyond and will not only moisturise your skin, it will also help your skin’s natural barrier function and provide a long-lasting shield from germs.

How many times per day should I apply Avlo?

Avlo contains natural ingredients and proteins so it can be applied multiple times per day without risk of damage to your skin.

I’d definitely recommend this product, especially if you’re travelling with kids. You don’t need a lot per application, just a pea-sized amount, so it will last you more than the duration of your trip. It has no harsh smell or chemicals, so it should be suitable for even the most sensitive skin (the image below lists the ingredients so you can see exactly what it contains), and it doesn’t leave behind any greasy residue. It’s quite a milky cream and absorbs quickly.

If you’re interested in trying this for your next trip, then let me give you some discount! Simply enter the discount code AVLOSTART at the checkout when buying from GoAvlo.com or Amazon.com.

 

 

#Sponsored #Ad

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Posted in Cruise Shopping, General Cruise Articles

Seabourn Unveils Custom Subs To Take Guests “Below The Surface” On New Ultra-Luxury Expedition Ships

Seabourn is preparing to take guests into the depths of the ocean for the first time by revealing the design and details for its custom submarines that will operate excursions for an additional charge from the line’s two upcoming ultra-luxury purpose-built expedition ships. Both Seabourn Venture and her sister ship launching 2022 will sail to the far corners of the Earth carrying two U-Boat Worx Cruise Sub 7 subs designed specifically for Seabourn.

Each battery-powered sub will carry six guests and one pilot, who will guide the journey up to 300 meters beneath the surface to explore sunken wrecks, reefs, and view marine wildlife in their natural habitat. Guests will be seated in two clear acrylic spheres flanking the centre pilot’s station, with an awe-inspiring perspective of the marine world just outside thanks to undisturbed and undistorted views in virtually all directions. The three passenger seats in each sphere are mounted on a rotating platform that can turn for best sightlines.

To maximise the guest experience, the subs will be outfitted with a host of optional equipment to enhance this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A 4k underwater video camera system will record the world outside while an internal video recording system will capture imagery of guests inside and their direct surroundings. Video footage can then be downloaded and projected on large screens in the Discovery Center during lectures aboard the ships. A six-function manipulator arm capable of lifting up to 32 kg (about 70 pounds) will also be mounted on the side of the sub. In keeping with the luxury experience found on Seabourn, each sub on both ships will be outfitted with custom embroidered leather upholstery, two air conditioning systems, a Bluetooth stereo system, and champagne chiller for guests looking to toast their voyage of discovery.

The subs will be operated multiple times per day in regions around the world. They will be equipped with underwater LED flood/spotlights, imaging sonar that acts as a second set of eyes, and an advanced underwater tracking and navigation system.

Seabourn Venture is scheduled to launch in June 2021, with a second yet-to-be-named sister ship slated to launch in May 2022. The ships are being designed from conception for expedition travel blended with ultra-luxury and personalised service by leading travel experts and seasoned professionals with great depth of experience in expedition, hospitality, and luxury cruising.

Between July 2021 and April 2022, Seabourn Venture will visit a vast number of breath-taking locations and remote destinations in the Arctic and Antarctica, as well as in the Amazon, Caribbean, Central and South America and more, offering guests the unique opportunity to experience ultra-luxury expedition cruising and exhilarating adventures. The ship is scheduled to visit more than 150 unique and fascinating destinations across the globe – many of which few travellers have ever been – and over 65 new or notable destinations with a multitude of new and compelling expedition experiences. The itineraries, fares and additional details of Seabourn Venture’s inaugural year are available at http://www.seabourn.com.

Both ships will be designed and built for diverse environments to PC6 Polar Class standards and will include a plethora of modern hardware and technology that will extend the ships global deployment and capabilities. The ships will also be designed to carry a number of kayaks and 24 Zodiacs that can accommodate all onboard guests at once, which will allow for a truly immersive experience. Each ship will feature 132 luxurious oceanfront veranda suites. More details and full-colour renderings of the ship and its interior spaces will be released in the months ahead.

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Posted in Cruise News, Seabourn

Emerging Canada Aboard Saga Sapphire: Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing, Ponta Delgada And An Inflatable Liferaft

The next 4 days were enjoyed at sea, heading across the Atlantic and towards Ponta Delgada. I spent one day reading a book about Titanic and its connection to Halifax. I know, I could have picked a better subject, but I was eager to learn more about the ships’ connection to the port we had just left. over the years, I’ve read and heard so many stories about the disaster, but I wasn’t aware of half the things noted in that book, It was incredibly interesting. Once I finished, I moved on to another book on the same subject, but it was about survivor stories and originally published in 1912. Did you know that a pet pig survived the sinking?

During one of the sea days, there was an onboard auction to raise money for The Silver Line. Up for grabs were some very interesting opportunities, including steering the ship, starting the engines and inflating a liferaft on the deck. Captain Horne and Dame Esther Rantzen were in charge of the auction and proved to be quite the comedy duo. It was a fun 90 minutes, although I’m sure it would have gone on for much longer had the Cruise Director not told them both to get a move on. We all got the chance to participate in the liferaft inflating, but I’ll get to that later.

One thing I always look forward to when sailing with Saga is the BBQ, but more than that, the live Jalfrezi cooking demonstration on the Verandah Deck. I do enjoy a good curry and this time, we had the choice of chicken or prawn. Obviously, I had to sample both, it would have been rude not to! The chicken was my favourite and the chapati bread (freshly made chapati bread) was incredibly light. The whole meal was delicious. I sat with 5 other people for lunch that day and I don’t think we spoke two words to one another until our plates were empty, we were completely fixated on the food. Yes, I went back for seconds, I’ll hold my hands up to that!

We arrived in Ponta Delgada slightly later than planned because of an issue with one of the engines, but no one really cared. The sun was shining and for the first time, we felt hot! I enjoyed the morning watching the numerous dolphins playing in the ships wake and then got myself ready for my afternoon panoramic tour.

‘Scenic Sete Cidades’ was the highlight of my time in Ponta Delgada. We drove through the western part of Ponta Delgada, via the coastal route, before we arrived at Feteiras, where the road climbs to Sete Cidades (Seven Cities). We stopped at the crater for a photo opportunity and were greeted with a rather incredible sight. The crater is 1,900 feet above sea level and eight miles in circumference, and from our view point on the craters edge, we could see two distinct lakes below, one green and one blue. The blue lake reflects the sky and the green lake reflects the lush vegetation of the crater walls. From here we drove to another view point on the island, from where we could see the east and west coasts.

It was a short tour and that suited me just fine. I wanted to get back to Saga Sapphire and soak up every last second of the day, and the 4 sea days we had to come.

We sailed from Ponta Delgada at 10pm and enjoyed a lively deck party until around midnight. Everyone was having a good time and it was nice to be outside, with live music, delicious drinks and for a while, no coat! I know, how lucky were we!

As I mentioned earlier, there had been an auction onboard several days earlier to raise money for The Silver Line. One of the prizes was to inflate a liferaft on the deck. The excitement wasn’t limited, however, to just those that would be doing the inflating, the ship made a show of it and everyone lined the aft decks to watch. It was great fun, but incredibly noisy! I had thought at first that it wasn’t going to inflate, but once a few crew members helped out, the plastic soon popped, and the raft began to inflate. It was left on the deck for a few hours so everyone could have a look and take some photos. I’m glad no other ships were close enough to see what was going on, they must have thought we were crazy! I love things like that. Something different that you definitely don’t get on many, if any other cruise ships. I’ll post the video to my Facebook page in the coming days, so make sure you’re following.

In total, passengers & crew on this cruise raised a massive £15,957.90 for The Silver Line! This was by way of the auction, donations and during the last few days of the sailing, a country fayre that was held in the Britannia lounge. I could hear screaming, shouting, laughing and cheering from 2 decks above, so I had to go along and see what was going on. Everyone was having a ball and the crew were getting right into the thick of it. It was great fun and such a fab idea to raise more money for The Silver Line. I’d never seen so many people walking around with bottles of wine, there were clearly a lot of happy winners.

The food throughout the cruise was exceptional, as it always is with Saga. The choice and quality is always first-class and there’s never a dish that I don’t want more of, especially in East to West. I was going to share a few photos with you of my favourite dishes, but I’ve decided to put them all in one blog so you can enjoy everything, and maybe get some ideas for home cooking. Watch this space…

Saga Sapphire is one of my favourite ships and although I enjoyed every second of the cruise, it was bittersweet and honestly, quite emotional. It’s likely that was my last time to sail on her before she leaves the fleet and it makes me sad to think that I’ll never travel with her again. She has left with with some wonderful memories and amazing friends and I will miss her.

I met some lovely people on this sailing and came across some familiar faces. A massive thank you to each and every one of you: Jay, Julie, Anthony, Liz, Geoff, Verity, Pauline, Joan, Captain Horne, Jemma, Maja, Dianja, Diana, Genesis, Danny, Ryan, Chelle, Mary-Hazel, Boyet, Rey, Rolando, Francis, Chef Francis, Executive Chef Gavin Baxter, Bernard, Felix, Richard, Mark and the amazing team of SuperCrafters, Hazel, Jackie, Brian, Diane, Margaret, John, Pat, Tony, Norma, Steve, Ramel, Becky, Sam, the Explore Ashore team, Santosh, Vishal, Frederick, Jose, Judy, Lucito, Joven, Reinier, Dion, Nikko, Adelino, Abel, Kelvin, Alvin, Limuel, Jimoel, Estelita, Irene, Walter and Reymel. I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone off the list, but thank you, too!!

Last but by no means least, a huge WELL DONE to all of Saga Sapphire’s crew. During this cruise they had a rather intense and brutal inspection, but as we all knew they would, they aced it and sailed away with a score of 98%.

The next Saga chapter is about to begin. I’m joining Spirit of Discovery from Tuesday for several events. For live updates, make sure you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Posted in Saga Cruises, Solo Cruising

SAGA’s New Spirit Of Discovery Arrives At Her Home Port Of Dover

Saga today sails into its future, as the first of two bespoke new build ‘boutique’ cruise ships, Spirit of Discovery, arrives at her home port of Dover for the first time. Sailing past the iconic White Cliffs and into Dover’s recently developed Western Docks, Spirit of Discovery’s British arrival marks the start of a new chapter for cruising in the UK. 

With HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as her ‘Godmother’, Spirit of Discovery’s Naming Ceremony on the 5th July will mark the start of a significant new era for the Saga Cruise division, which is the only remaining major British independent,  British registered, cruise company.  Best Small Cruise Company winner at the British Travel Awards 2019, Saga’s Spirit of Discovery will be the only ship built and delivered exclusively for the British market this year, and  the company is determined to build on its success in this steadily growing and lucrative cruise market.

Spirit of Discovery’s sister ship, Spirit of Adventure is due to arrive in summer 2020, marking the realisation of a £600 million+ investment in both ships. This will spearhead Saga’s role not only as the British company creating and driving the distinctly British boutique cruise market, but also as the champions of discovery based travel for this  market. 

To create the proposition, Saga commissioned extensive research with both current and potential future customers, and the overriding feedback was that they didn’t want the much larger cruise ships that competitors are now creating. Many cruise customers want a refined, luxury experience, a return to an original ‘romance of travel’ and cruise experience, but with a modern twist, this is what Saga terms, Boutique Cruising.  They also want a distinctly British experience, and to be challenged both on board and ashore as they sail around the globe.  

As a result, the architectural and interior design for the 999 passenger, 523 crew, Spirit of Discovery has been created by London-based agency SMC who have taken the ultimate in London-based boutique hotels as their influence. Key features of the new ship include a wraparound promenade deck (removed from nearly all new design ships), an above water spa, ‘The Club’ – a dining and music venue in collaboration with Jools Holland, a private balcony for every cabin and, uniquely, 20% of cabins have been luxuriously designed for single occupancy (typically ships have only 5% and often these cabins do not have a view.)

A major commitment has been made to British contemporary art with almost 400 original pieces of British art amongst the over 1,000 total artworks,  all of which have been created by British based artists. Names include established artists such as Helen Amy Murray, Evelyn Binns and David Harber as well as some really exciting and unique up and coming talent.

A host of independent British suppliers including Hush Heath wine producers of Kent,  Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest Brewery based in Faversham, Kent, Donald Russell British Lamb and River Test Trout and Salmon from the Severn & Wye smokery, have been confirmed as providers for the pioneering boutique cruise vessel.  In addition 60% of the cheeses onboard are from British farms from the coast of Devon to the tip of Scotland.

Saga cruises are only marketed in the UK and are designed for the British market. They have an enviable repeat customer rate and opportunities are significant given that this market is one of the most affluent and influential in the UK. In 2018, the UK’s over 50s totalled 24.9m,  representing close to 40% of the entire UK population, as well as holding 75% of the UK’s household wealth.  The growth of this crucial demographic is expected to continue and is predicted to  be c.30m by 2044. The pursuit of a more active lifestyle continues to be a key trend with  54% of the UK’s total expenditure on leisure, culture, food, recreation and health made by this demographic.

With the launch of Spirit of Discovery, and as part of the ‘boutique’ experience, guests can also enjoy Saga’s new concierge service ‘Explore Ashore’.  Each voyage will have an on-board team of experts who are knowledgeable about every port and will be ready to organise individual and small group excursions and activities so that guests can experience exactly what they wish to in each port.

Image credits: Christopher Ison

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Posted in Cruise News, Saga Cruises

British Quayside Garden Party Planned For The Royal Naming Ceremony Of Saga’s Spirit Of Discovery

Spirit of Discovery’s Naming Ceremony will see 500 invited guests joining HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Saga management team, crew and employees to pay homage to one of the great British traditions of summer,  a contemporary Garden Party. The extensive Afternoon Tea will be prepared by Saga’s celebrity chef Kevin Woodford working with Selwyn Stoby, the former Executive Pastry Chef at Buckingham Palace and Paul Gayler, the former Executive Chef of the Lanesborough Hotel.

The Port of Dover quayside will be transformed, with grass grown in Yorkshire. There will be traditional bunting and table settings, stunning foliage, florals, trees and parasols. Guests will be served Spirit of Discovery sparkling wine, specially blended by Kent vineyard Hush Heath for the ship, and Anno Kent Gin, from nearby Marden.

The celebration cake, a two metre long replica of Spirit of Discovery, will be designed and made by Mark Tilling, winner of Bake Off Crème de la Crème, and cut by The Duchess of Cornwall. During the official naming ceremony, guests will be entertained by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood and the Morrison Orpheus Choir and the ship will be blessed by The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, before being christened by The Duchess of Cornwall with a Jeroboam of the specially-created Hush Heath Spirit of Discovery English sparkling wine.

Saga confirmed that it has now taken ownership of Spirit of Discovery, the first of two British boutique cruise ships they commissioned from world-leading shipbuilders Meyer Werft.  Robin Shaw, CEO, Saga Travel signed the official documents with Meyer Werft’s Managing Director, Tim Meyer, marking the formal handover.

Following her ‘First Arrival’, on 28th June, Spirit of Discovery will become the first cruise ship to be named at the Port of Dover for over a decade, and the first to be docked at Berth 4 in the recently developed £250m Dover Western Docks Revival.

Before the afternoon’s formal proceedings, The Duchess of Cornwall will be given a tour of the ship, which epitomises the best of British contemporary boutique hotel style and elegance. Her Royal Highness will view some of the 1,000 artworks on board, many of which have been created by artists working in Britain, as well as the suites named after the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast.  The Duchess of Cornwall will meet Captain Burgess and his officers and crew as she tours the impressive new British boutique hotel at sea.

Saga has already shown its firm commitment to Britain as Spirit of Discovery has been registered in the UK and will proudly display London as her port of registry on her stern.  The ship will sail 999 guests around the world, flying the Red Ensign, and her sister ship, Spirit of Adventure, will also fly the Red Ensign when she launches in August 2020.  The arrival of Spirit of Adventure next year will mark the realisation of a £600million+ investment in both ships, underlining Saga’s position as the British company creating distinctly British boutique cruising.

The inaugural cruise of Spirit of Discovery, A British First, will depart from Dover on 10th July and sail around the British Isles

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Posted in Cruise News, Saga Cruises

Emerging Canada Aboard Saga Sapphire: Corner Brook, Sydney And Halifax

I had a short morning tour in Corner Brook that was simply titled ‘Corner Brook City Highlights’. It was a relatively small place, so the tour was only 2 hours in duration, but it suited me. There’s nothing worse than a tour being dragged out for longer than it need be, so I was off down the gangway and onto the awaiting school bus.

We admired the stunning view across the Bay of Island’s from Captain Cook’s Lookout. In 1767, he surveyed the Bay of Island’s and was the first one to map the area. We also stopped at ‘The Old Man in the Mountain’, so called because according to local legend, the Spanish buried treasured on Shellbird Island, and if you look closely, you can see the face of an old man within the rock foundation overlooking the island. I couldn’t see it to begin with, but I got there eventually. Can you see it in the image below?

Several other stops were included, but I think my favourite was at Marble Mountain, where you will find the Heritage Tree. This incredible monument is a 52-foot, four-foot-six-inch wide pole weighing a whopping nine tonnes. It was fantastic, and features many carvings depicting Newfoundland’s history from the arrival of the Viking’s in 999AD right up to modern times. The carvings feature puffins, stamps, icebergs, Churchill Falls, ships, Signal Hill, a Newfoundland 20 cent coin and much more.

Once the tour had finished, I returned to the ship and then went ashore in search of a take-away restaurant called Louis Gee’s. I spotted it on the way into town from the shuttle bus and was soon filling my face. Of course, it had to be poutine, and although not as nice as the dish I had in Montreal, I enjoyed it. The restaurant was hugely busy, and most people were buying pizza slices which also looked delicious. There really wasn’t much else to do here, so I made my way home – at a slower pace than before I’d eaten – and enjoyed my afternoon lounging around onboard.

The following morning we arrived in the port of Sydney, Nova Scotia. We had been due to dock there earlier in the cruise, but bad weather had forced us on, so it was second time lucky. I had originally booked the ‘A Day in 18th Century Louisbourg’ tour, but because our date of arrival changed, which then meant our duration changed, the length of the tour had also been cut. I decided to cancel it and instead do my own thing. I didn’t want to feel rushed. Lunch was also included and I knew that would mean less time to explore the fortress.

I left the ship around 10am and enjoyed a leisurely walk along the boardwalk, dodging the hundreds of kids as I went – they were having a morning mini marathon. The boardwalk stroll surprisingly made for great photo opportunities of Saga Sapphire and I was quite content just taking the day in my stride. You can only walk to a certain point, so when I reached it, I turned back and made my way up to street level. I wandered through town for a while, although there wasn’t a great deal going on, and then I unhurriedly made my way back towards Sapphire. It was another relatively small port, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really do enjoyed days that are leisurely in port just as much as the hectic ones. By the time I was back at the port, the sun was shining and it was warm. As Saga Sapphire geared up her engines and pushed us off the berth, I sat back with a drink in hand as we sailed beneath warm air and on to our final Canadian port, Halifax.

I opened the cabin curtains and was met with fog, pouring rain and howling wind, not what I’d wanted to see for our arrival in Halifax, but there’s not a single thing anyone can do about the weather.

Peggy’s Cove and a coastal drive were on my morning agenda and shortly after docking, I was on the coach and heading for the above. Honestly, it wasn’t the most pleasurable experience in the pouring rain and wind, but it was a beautiful place. I could imagine on a dry and sunny day it would be a hive of activity with people exploring the rock formations, enjoying a picnic, and experimenting with the endless photo opportunities that could be had here. It’s a small fishing village, home to around 40 people, and sits on top of a solid stone inlet. It’s also home to Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.

On the drive back to the ship, we went through an area called Glen Margaret, which is home to a local artist and storyteller named Ivan Frazer. Our guide had mentioned that on warmer days, the man himself could often be seen in the garden, waving at passing visitors, and as luck would have it, even though it was lashing down with rain, there he was, exactly where our guide had said he’d usually be. He ran from the front door and the coach slowed down enough for us to see him waving. He then picked up a rather large anchor and started waving that at us. Ivan opened up his home many years ago as a museum and welcomes visitors for daily tours, where you can learn more about him, his life and the famous Peggy.

My plan for the afternoon had been to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, to see the Titanic exhibition, and to then get a cab to Fairview Lawn Cemetery to visit the graves of 121 people that perished in the early hours of April 15, 1912 when Titanic sank. Sadly, the weather was not on my side at all and I couldn’t get a definite answer as to whether the cemetery was open or not, as it was a Sunday. It had been one of the things I wanted to see on this cruise above all else, but it wasn’t meant to be. I accepted that and was happy that I could at least make it to the museum.

It was a modest fee of $9.55 to enter (approx. £5.60) and I ensured my first stop was the Titanic exhibit. I didn’t have much time, it was almost 1pm when I arrived at the museum and the last shuttle bus back to the ship was at 3pm.

The exhibit is on the second floor and features the largest collection of Titanic artefacts in the world, including a chopping board, deck chair, a balustrade from the D Deck landing on the forward staircase, a section from the ships’ grand staircase, a lifejacket fragment reportedly worn by John Jacob Astor, and a wooden cabinet.

There are also a few items on display from those that were lost on that terrible night and they included a pair of leather gloves that were recovered from the body of Charles Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway. His body was the first to be recovered by Minia after she arrived in the disaster area. He’s buried in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery.

Another very sad sight was that of a tiny pair of shoes that had belonged to the “Unknown Child”. For more than 100 years, the little boy was unknown, but in 2010, scientific studies revealed him to be 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin of Wiltshire, England. He was the youngest of a family of eight that were travelling on Titanic. All perished and his was the only body recovered. He’s buried in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. His body was found by the Mackay-Bennett and it was the sailors aboard this vessel that paid for his monument. They also buried him with a copper pendant that read “Our Babe”.

It was a very moving visit. I don’t know how anyone could walk through the exhibit and not feel a great sense of sadness. If you’re ever in Halifax, you should add this to your list of things to see and do.

I did also manage to take a quick look at the Cunard exhibition before leaving, but it was much smaller than I’d expected it to be. Of course, Samuel Cunard was born in Halifax, so only fitting that he would have an exhibition of some sort. I liked the wheel from Aquitania, which had been presented to the city of Halifax by Cunard Line in 1950 because of the ship’s long association with the port.

We sailed from soggy Halifax and made our way back out into the fog coated ocean and, believe it or not, I didn’t see the sea again for 3 days! It was fun, minus the fog horn going every minute, and reminded us we were on a ship. I snapped the below photo as we were leaving Halifax, you can just see land in the background if you look closely, but after 10 minutes or so, we could see absolutely nothing.

Saga Sapphire was now heading back across the North Atlantic towards Ponta Delgada and ultimately, Dover…

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Posted in Saga Cruises, Solo Cruising

Celebrity Equinox Transformed By The CELEBRITY REVOLUTION

The newly modernised Celebrity Equinox is revolutionising the way travellers experience the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean. The dramatic transformation — part of THE CELEBRITY REVOLUTION — makes Celebrity Equinox the third ship to be “revolutionised” as part of Celebrity Cruises’ $500 million investment in ship-wide upgrades and breath-taking reimagined spaces, taking the brand’s fleet to the Edge.

On the transformed Celebrity Equinox, Caribbean cruisers enjoy enhancements that include:

  • The addition of The Retreat for suite guests, including The Retreat Sundeck, an exclusive sun-soaked hideaway, and The Retreat Lounge (formerly Michael’s Club)
  • The awe-inspiring Qsine (formerly Silk Harvest) will feature both the brand-exclusive Le Petit ChefTM and Friends and the original Le Petit ChefTM, two amazing dining experiences developed in partnership with TableMationTM and SkullmappingTM that bring the tabletop to life using innovative 4k technology
  • A completely reimagined Passport Bar, perfect for mixing and mingling before and after dinner

  • An exciting new creation, Craft Social (formerly Gastrobar), a casual spot featuring more than 40 craft beers, wine and cocktails on tap, mouthwatering comfort food favorites, flat-screen TVs, and inviting leather seating
  • Refreshed staterooms and suites ship-wide with stunning enhancements designed with guest comfort in mind, now all featuring Celebrity’s exclusive eXhale bedding collection with luxurious king-sized Cashmere mattresses
  • The launch of an exciting new partnership with the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, featuring S.T.E.M.-focused activations and unique, first-at-sea programming offered as part of the popular Camp at Sea for young cruisers
    • The interactive programming focuses on two science topics – one on the identification of and solutions related to microplastics and another on the importance and diversity of plankton to the Earth’s oceans and the environment
  • Impressive digital enhancements across the ship, such as the addition of RFID lock technology and pervasive Xcelerate Wi-Fi
    • Guests will also now be able to experience the brand’s industry-first facial recognition technology with the implementation of the Celebrity Cruises app, which enables smooth port arrival and expedited boarding, plus additional features including guest-to-guest chat and digital room keys
  • Unique new treatments and products offered at The Spa by Canyon Ranch, including three new Signature Couples’ treatments, Dyson Supersonic blow-outs at the Canyon Ranch Blow-Out Bar, Mink and Rapid Lash services, and new customized facials by Reveal Machine, among others
  • World-class retail offerings, including John Hardy Boutique, Kate Spade, and a new watch boutique featuring Shinola, Hublot and other Swiss watch brands

Celebrity Equinox is just the third revolutionary revitalisation for the brand. Celebrity Silhouette is next, scheduled for completion on 31st January 2020, with five more ships to be modernised by 2023.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News

Emerging Canada Aboard Saga Sapphire: Montréal And Quebec City

We arrived in Montreal on the morning of May 26th and I was soon ashore, beginning my private tour courtesy of Tourisme Montréal. My guide’s name was Rene and he met me promptly in the terminal building at 9:30am.

We were soon on our way out of the port and into the Old Town. We quite literally went all over the city, but one place I really wanted to explore was Saint-Laurent Blvd.. So, off we went to see some of the giant mural street art paintings that are part of a larger festival held here. I found several on our drive and they were hugely impressive, especially the giant image of Leonard Cohen which adorned one side of a building.

After taking some snaps of the artwork, we made our way towards Le Village, one of the largest gay areas in all of North America. There are more than 100,000 coloured balls tied above the street and it was certainly an impressive sight to see, especially from above, as we crossed the bridge and made our way to the small island where the Grand Prix is held. We drove around here for a few minutes, even spotting a small fox, before driving back into the main city via Habitat 67.

This housing complex is rather impressive, and it was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. It was conceived as his master’s thesis in architecture and then built as a pavilion for Expo 67. It’s considered an architectural landmark and in 2017, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp for the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 featuring Habitat 67. Honestly, I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. Apparently, the pods, as they call them, are quite expensive and people often buy 2 or 3 to make their living space larger.

Downtown was our next stop and what a contrast it was to the Old Town. Lots of skyscrapers, more impressive artwork and a much busier vibe. I liked the contrast and it was nice to see the two very different sides to the city. In Montreal, by law, no building can be taller than Mount Royal. This is to preserve the aesthetic predominance of the ‘mountain’. The downtown area is home to Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The Bell Centre and more. It’s also where you’ll find the world’s largest underground city, with indoor access to over 1,600 shops, restaurants, offices, businesses, museums and universities, as well as metro stations, train stations, bus terminals, and tunnels that extend all over downtown. Essentially, in the bitterly cold winter months, you can spend most of your day underground and hidden from the harsh environment above. It’s pretty remarkable.

Lunch was at La Banquise and it was my first authentic poutine experience. For those of you that don’t know, poutine is fries with gravy and cheese curds. It was delicious and you could add various other toppings, including smoked meat, hot dogs, peppers and onions, but I went for the traditional offering. The cheese had an odd texture, it squeaked when you chewed it. It’s not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This restaurant is open 24 hours and I’d highly recommend it. It was busy when I arrived, but by the time I left the queue was out the door. La Banquise is near La Fontaine Park on Rachel Street East.

In the afternoon, I visited the Observatoire at Place Ville Marie. I’d read about it before leaving on the cruise and although I’m terrified of heights, I decided it had to be done. The views were incredible, 360 degrees across the city. In fact, from one side, we could see the state of New York. I’d absolutely suggest doing this if you’re ever in Montreal. There are numerous information points on the observation deck, and you can also have an audio guide, so you can learn about some of the history of this incredible city whilst taking in the panoramic views. I’d mentioned St Lawrence Blvd. earlier and this is the city’s physical division between the French-speaking East and the English-speaking West, which can be seen from the tower.

I had planned to return to the Observatoire in the evening, but instead opted to go on a long walk through the city. I walked for around 45 minutes to an hour towards the east. I was trying to explore more at ground level and with the option to go off in any direction that seemed interesting, we had all night in port after all, so why waste the opportunity. I stopped for a drink before walking back to the port, again through various little quaint streets and alleyways, before arriving back to the welcome sight of ‘home’.

On our second day in Montreal, I made my way to the Notre-Dame Basilica, which was virtually opposite the ship. I arrived just before 10am and queued for no more than 5 minutes before paying $8 for my ticket and entering what I can only describe as one of the most incredible pieces of architecture, inside and out, that I’ve ever been lucky enough to enjoy. It was magnificent. It was quite busy, but not to the point where you couldn’t get moved or have a chance to take a few nice photographs and sit for a while to simply admire what was around you. The basilica was built between 1824 and 1829 and it truly is a masterpiece piece of Gothic Revival architecture. The basilica’s interior, which is reminiscent of Paris’s Sainte Chapelle, is the work of architect Victor Bourgeau.

The basilica is just incredible, but aside from the marvellous altar and the magnificent stained glass, the pulpit really grabbed my attention. It too was designed by Victor Bourgeau, during renovations in the 1870’s, and it was then carved by sculptor Louis-Phillippe Hebert. It was one of the most intricate carvings I’ve ever seen.

Saga Sapphire sailed from Montreal slightly later than planned and we were soon heading back into the St Lawrence and towards our next port of call, Quebec City. For more information on things to see and do in Montréal, visit the official Tourisme Montréal website.

Our arrival began my day of tours and it was also my birthday, so I was very excited to get out and explore. I went out on deck before starting my first tour of the day and there in front of me was the stunning sight of the Chateau de Frontenac. I’d always wanted to see this hotel and had done so briefly as we’d passed on our way to Montreal but waking up to it was something else. It’s incredibly dominating.

My first tour of the day was to Sainte Anne de Beaupre and Montmorency Falls. To be entirely honest, I’d only booked this tour to see the falls, I do like to visit various places of religious interest on my travels and I seem to have developed a slight obsession with stained glass windows, but having just seen the Notre-Dame Basilica, I wasn’t expecting it to be as interesting. How wrong I was. We had a scenic drive before arriving at the basilica and from the outside it was visually pleasing, but what awaited us inside was another outstanding example of workmanship. It was beautiful, and yet again, I found myself utterly mesmerised by the wooden and stone sculptures, paintings, mosaics, more than 200 stained glass windows and everything else that my eyes were trying to digest. This renowned pilgrimage site, as you’ve probably guessed, is dedicated to Sainte-Anne, the grandmother of Jesus.

We left the basilica and made our way towards Montmorency Falls. I had hoped we’d make a stop at the foot of the waterfall, but sadly our tour only included a visit to the top viewing platform, however it was very exciting and I’d managed to take a face-on photo a few days earlier as we’d passed on our way to Montreal. The falls cascade down a 272-foot cliff and into the shore of the St Lawrence River. They’re also 30m taller than Niagara Falls, which I didn’t know and was quite surprised to learn. It was a pleasant area to walk around, as well as enjoy the mighty power of the water. There were several walking trails, viewing platforms, a small park and a restaurant, and a gift shop.

I rushed back to the ship and just had time to grab a quick sandwich before leaving on my second tour of the day. This was just a short 2-hour trip around the city and up to Chateau de Frontenac. After some hectic days and a lot of walking on other trips, I was quite content enjoying the ride up rather than having to walk it.

The area around the Chateau Frontenac is very pleasant, and there are several bars and restaurants where you could relax and watch the world go by. We didn’t have much free time, so once ‘released’ from the bus, I moved at lightning speed along the gorgeous boardwalk and took several photos of the buildings and, of course, Saga Sapphire. It was a warm and sunny day, and the views from the boardwalk across the lower half of the city were gorgeous.

 

After 2 hours onboard to change and recharge batteries, I was back on the gangway and heading out for my third and final tour of the day. It was Sugar Shack time! I’d booked this because it was something different and sounded like it would be a lot of fun. It only took 25 minutes to get from the port, but we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, it was a rustic and rural getaway. We had hoped to spot a bear, but sadly they were hiding from us.

The evening began with live music and food. We had bean soup to start which was then followed with potatoes, beans, pork, chicken, coleslaw, meat pie and more. It wasn’t Saga food, that’s for sure, but it was exactly as I’d expected it to be and I was loving it. The gentleman providing the music was great fun and several passengers did get up to have a little jig. For dessert we were served crepes and apple pie and I promptly covered both in maple syrup. It was warm, sweet, fruity and crunchy. I was in heaven.

We enjoyed more music before being shown to another building to make our own ice maple taffy. Hot maple syrup is poured over ice and you then grab a lolly stick and roll the maple onto it, thus forming an ice maple taffy lolly. My God, it was possibly the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. The warm taffy mixing with the ice was just incredible, a true taste sensation. Had it not been so bad for me (as in a sugar overload), I would have asked to make another. I thought it best, though, that I returned to the ship without bouncing off the decks.

Before leaving, we were given a short explanation on how the maple syrup is gathered. Firstly, the tree must be between 45 and 50 years old before it is tapped. To tap the tree, a hole is made in the trunk and then a small tube inserted, this then sits over the top of a bucket and that’s how the syrup is collected. Any one tree can only be tapped a maximum of 5 times per year, otherwise it could become sick, or worse, it could die.

Our next ports would be Corner Brook, Sydney and Halifax…

 

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Posted in Saga Cruises, Solo Cruising

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca pays tribute to 250 courageous D-Day veterans, on The Royal British Legion’s historic ‘D-Day 75 Voyage of Remembrance’

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is proud to have played its part in hosting 250 D-Day veterans – plus their carers and companions – on a poignant pilgrimage around the UK and Normandy, France, on The Royal British Legion’s ‘D-Day 75 Voyage of Remembrance’ aboard Boudicca, from 2nd to 9th June 2019.

Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca – resplendent in The Royal British Legion’s recognisable red poppy décor – set sail from Dover on 2nd June 2019, taking the veterans to Dunkirk, Poole, Portsmouth and Le Havre, where they attended a series of commemorative events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings on 6th June 1944.

Suffolk-based travel specialists, Arena Travel, partnered with The Royal British Legion on the historic Voyage – with whom they have been an official travel partner since 2013 – and contacted local Suffolk cruise line Fred. Olsen, due to the number of veterans to be transported and the high costs and lack of availability of hotels in and around Normandy.

The ‘D-Day 75 Voyage of Remembrance’ was one of the most poignant and moving journeys that Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca has ever undertaken. In Dover, veterans received a very special send-off, with the ‘40s-themed ‘Swingtime Sweethearts’ performing in the Cruise Terminal, which was decked out with flags and bunting, together with a display of military vehicles greeting veterans as they arrived. Military re-enactors also gave a flavour of the era, and the talented Dover Sea Cadets marched and performed a number of evocative wartime songs.

As the ship sailed out of Dover, veterans received a surprise performance by superstar Sir Rod Stewart – currently on tour around the UK – who sang his iconic seafaring anthem, ‘Sailing’, out on deck. Accompanied by his wife Lady Penny Lancaster – taking exclusive photographs for Hello! magazine – Sir Rod and Lady Penny spent a great deal of time chatting with veterans and learning their stories, as they had for the 70th D-Day anniversary, five years ago.

Following a call at Dunkirk, France – which played an important role during the war – Boudicca continued to Poole, where it became the largest ship ever to call at the Port, on its maiden call. Along the quayside, the Ministry of Defence hosted a series of military-themed events, entertainment and activities, and 40 Commando Royal Marines came on board to display their weaponry to veterans.

The following day, veterans attended the national commemorative events in Portsmouth, where many were able to meet the current Heads of State of the nations that participated in the D-Day operation. President Trump, President Macron, Prince Charles, along with many other leaders, joined the veterans for tea after the official event, and a number of veterans got to meet and shake hands with Prime Minister Theresa May. A 30-minute fly-past and aerial display by the famous RAF Red Arrows followed the event.

Upon departure from Portsmouth, Boudicca was escorted by a Royal Navy frigate, along with four smaller Navy vessels, into the Solent, where a flotilla of Royal Navy vessels and  personnel were waiting to salute the ship – including the Navy’s newest flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, where Prime Minister Theresa May joined them out on deck. The city of Portsmouth also paid its own tribute, waving off the veterans on their way to France with ‘THANK YOU’ spelt out in giant letters on the shore as Boudicca sailed past.

Boudicca then stood off the coast of Ventnor, Isle of Wight before sunset – accompanied by a Royal Navy escort warship – for a sombre ‘Moment of Reflection’ on deck, led by The Royal British Legion’s National President, Lt General James Bashall CB, CBE, before the ship headed for Normandy.

The following day, Boudicca arrived in the French port of La Havre, from where a convoy of 14 coaches, escorted under VIP blue lights by the French Gendarmerie, took the veterans to the Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, where they were able to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought and died during the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent advance into France. Here, the Prime Minister, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were able to meet and talk to the veterans personally.

After an overnight stay in Le Havre, veterans had the opportunity to visit the ‘Operation Overlord’ beaches, ‘Sword’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Juno’, as well as Pegasus Bridge, the British Normandy Memorial and the Arromanches Military Museum. Back on board Boudicca, veterans were entertained by the impressive ’40s-themed ‘D-Day Darlings’, runners-up in ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.

A sumptuous Gala Dinner on the final evening, en route to Dover, was the culmination of this commemorative sailing, with a rousing performance by Captain David Cole OBE and The Central Band of The Royal British Legion, and a closing finale by the ‘D-Day Darlings’ and Boudicca Show Company.

During the Voyage, veterans and their companions were treated to a wide range of entertainment on board, from celebrity acts, such as Lance Corporal Richard Jones, the only magician to ever win ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, and Peter Snow, renowned historian, as The Royal British Legion’s Guest Speaker. His son, fellow historian Dan Snow, also broadcast live from Boudicca in Portsmouth, as anchor for ‘The One Show’.

The Royal British Legion’s ‘D-Day 75 Voyage of Remembrance’ was offered free of charge to D-Day veterans and their companions, funded by the UK Government’s LIBOR grant, in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence.

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
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