168-Night Grand Voyage Aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca – LIVE UPDATES

If you’re reading this, you’re coming on a fascinating journey with me. On October 3rd, I left the port of Dover aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines‘ ‘Boudicca’ for her 168-night ‘Grand Voyage’. She is taking me to some of the most incredible destinations on the planet and I’m looking forward to sharing the cruise with you. I’ll be updating this page LIVE throughout the cruise, so please save the URL and check back for daily updates on where in the world I am and what exciting places I’ve been exploring.I’ll also be sharing daily content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have any questions about the ship or any of the destinations along the way, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

OCTOBER 3RD – DOVERTo say my adrenaline levels were through the roof this morning is the understatement of the century. I was like a kid on a sugar rush. I arrived at the terminal earlier than I should have, but that was only because I had to check out of my hotel by noon, and when you have 4 cases in tow, you’re limited to where you can go! Check-in was a doddle and I was soon onboard. My cabin is an outside (portholes) on Deck 3 and I’ve started turning it into home. I’ve got a double bed (YES!) and a bath!I’m going to spend tonight settling in to my new home and catching up with old friends.

OCTOBER 4TH – AT SEAWe’ve spent today at sea, heading through the Bay of Biscay. It’s been a bit on the choppy side, but I’ve loved every minute of it. I enjoy being reminded that I’m on a ship. Everyone is settling in and I’ve met a mixture of interesting people. I’ve also bumped into several people whom I met last year on the World Cruise and catching up with them has been a lot of fun. We seem to have just picked up where we left off.Tonight was our first formal evening, which also meant it was time for the Captain’s welcome onboard party. I don’t always go to those gatherings, but I did tonight. I’ve never sailed with this crew and I wanted to put faces to names. Resisting the canapes while enjoying the jokes was hard (they had sausage rolls and I love a sausage roll) but I managed to do it. I wanted to save space for the gala dinner. I sat at my table in the Tintagel restaurant and got right down to business, ordering the chateaubriand. It was cooked exactly to my liking and I cleared the plate. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but what came next was chocolate pudding perfection. I really WISH you could have tasted it! Warm, with a melting middle and finished with a zesty orange sauce. Let’s just say I’m not going to Supper Club tonight because the pudding disappeared just as the beef did. I don’t know what happened! 😉 It was the best chocolate pudding I’ve ever tasted.Day one has been a blast! We’re in La Coruna tomorrow.

OCTOBER 5TH – LA CORUNA

We’re in La Coruna today, in Spain. It’s warm and sunny, and there’s no wind! I’ve been here a few times, but I can’t remember much about the port, so I’m going to head ashore very soon, once all the tours have left, and have a walk around. Boudicca’s RIB’s have just left the ship on their first excursion of the cruise. I didn’t book for today, but I am booked further into the cruise and I can’t wait to share that experience with you. I love a high-speed boat ride.

OCTOBER 6/7 – AT SEA

Boudicca has been at sea for the last 2 days and they have been absolute heaven. Sunday was warm and sunny, and although I didn’t sit in the sun, it was nice to feel the warmth in the air. Honestly, I didn’t do much, I just wanted to sit on the deck, listen to the sea and start my book. So, aside from looking for marine life, that’s exactly what I did. That’s one of the nice things about cruising, you can do as much or as little as you like and sometimes, we all need a ‘do nothing’ day. My marine life spotting went very well. I stood at the front of the ship for almost an hour and there were dozens of flying fish (some of the biggest I’ve seen), a pod of dolphins and 1 whale. Sadly, I don’t have any photos, but I suspect in time, I’ll catch them!

In the evening, I went to the Silent Disco in the Lido Lounge and it was hilarious. I can’t wait for the next one. The headphones have 3 different music channels, so you can choose which tracks to listen to. Some of us were dancing to rock and roll, while others went for more modern pop.

Today has been overcast but still quite warm. I was up early, walking the Promenade Deck and getting ready for the day ahead, and come lunchtime, there was only one place I wanted to go, the Poolside Grill. It’s absolutely my favourite place for lunch on sea days, I like being able to sit outside in the fresh air and watch the world go by. I ordered the bruschetta but changed the avocado for halloumi. It was fresh and very tasty. Although, not something I’d usually order, I wanted to try it and I’m glad I did. I’ll definitely have it again.

This afternoon I’ve been taking photos and writing this update for you. I’ve also spent a lot of time with other passengers, some of whom will be leaving us in Tenerife and then Cape Town. I’ll be sad to see them go, but some are coming back for other sectors of the cruise, so it’s not all sad. As the sun is shining, the crew have been going around the decks with fresh fruit skewers and cool towels, which I think is a nice touch. I’ll certainly be grateful for it once we get to more humid destinations.

We dock in Funchal tomorrow on the island of Madeira, so I’ll be back soon with more updates for you.

OCTOBER 8TH – FUNCHAL, MADEIRA

Hello from a hot and sunny Madeira! What a beautiful day we’ve had for our call here, and we had the best berth. I’ve not long been back onboard. I’ve walked all over the town, through the pretty gardens and stopped for one of my favourites, a Pastel de nata. Technically, I’m in Portugal, so it had to be done. I’ve been here several times so again, decided to go off and explore under my own steam. I know a few people were going to try the cable car, which I’d recommend if you ever visit the island and the dolphin watching tours are also worth considering. I ended up coming back to the ship with Christmas decorations, as one does! I’m living here for 6 months, so I’m decorating as I go. Well, not with Christmas things just yet. ;)We’ll be sailing soon, heading for Tenerife where we’ll stay overnight. I love the sailaway from here. Funchal always looks so pretty, it’s best admired from the sea, and you quite often see dolphins in the bay. I’ll be on lookout and let you know if I spot anything.

OCTOBER 9/10 – TENERIFE

Tenerife offered us more sun and heat, and the biggest individual pizza I’ve ever seen. I enjoy eating ashore on port days and would usually try local dishes, but this time, I went for Italian and Greek. My first gyro experience and it was nice, but huge! While I’m on the subject of food, let me tell you about the Rooftop Terrace evening we had a few nights ago. It was set up on Deck 9 aft and beautifully presented. There was paella, which was bursting with seafood and being cooked on deck, other light nibbles and a selection of olives and breads. It really was something a little extra special and the deck looked so nice. I’ve also sampled the new gelato bar onboard. I had 2 scoops of salted caramel ice cream in a giant cone that had a chocolate coating. It was lovely. Just what I needed to cool down.We’ve got lots of new passengers joining us today, so we don’t ssil until late tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll be in the last of our Canary Island ports, Gran Canaria.I can’t believe I’ve been onboard for a week already. I’m enjoying everything and taking the days at my own pace. My tours begin in St Helena, so be prepared for info overload. 😉

OCTOBER 11 – GRAN CANARIA

So, I originally thought we were going to the island of La Palma, but I was wrong. We docked in Las Palmas this morning, in Gran Canaria. I’ve had a girls shopping day in the mall which is right behind the ship. We’ve got a great berth, just a short walk to town, too. I found a bargain pair of shoes for 9 euro, so I’m very happy. I was going to walk to the beach, but I just wanted to keep out of the hot midday sun. I sat on a bench on the waterside for a while and enjoyed the breeze before heading back onboard. We have 2 sea days coming up before we reach the Cape Verde islands, so I’m looking forward to those and maybe a dip in the pool and a visit to The Grill.

OCTOBER 12/13 – AT SEA

We’re on our second sea day of two and they have flown over! Last night, there was another themed event involving food and drink, but this time, it was held in the Lido Lounge. The theme was ‘Salsa and Sangria’ and come 8:30pm it was in full swing and packed with people enjoying cocktails, canapés and dancing.Since the cruise began, I’ve spent a lot of time with a gentleman named Alan. He’s 82 years old and is my absolute favourite passenger, we’re virtually joined at the hip. I love to listen to his stories from years gone by, the experiences he’s had in life and the places he’s visited in the world. A ship like Boudicca is the perfect place to meet people and form friendships, because she’s small enough to see the same faces day after day. Meeting new people is a huge part of the cruise experience for me, I really do enjoy hearing what they have to say, and in some cases, learning about the world and life as it was before I even existed. It’s fascinating.Alan does have his quirks and I’ve been learning what I can only refer to as his ‘Boudicca Lingo’. I’ll share a few snippets with you.

  • Express lift – Forward lift between 6pm and 10pm
  • The Shed – The Secret Garden
  • Paradise Deck – Deck 8
  • Bubbles – Tonic water
  • Home- Boudicca
  • Playing out clothes – Non-formal wear

We dock in Mindelo early tomorrow morning, so I’ll be back soon!

OCTOBER 14/15 – MINDELO & PRAIA, CAPE VERDE

We docked in Mindelo yesterday and I had such a good day. I used the shuttle bus service into town and had a walk around. I collect African masks and bought one a few years ago in the Mindel Gift Shop. Of course, that was my first stop. There was nothing that caught my eye this time, so I walked along the seafront, through the fish market and then back along to the main town square. It was there that I found a gorgeous hotel with swimming pool and cabanas. They allowed us in and I spent the rest of the afternoon there. It was completely empty and absolute bliss. I felt like I had my own private retreat.

Today we’re in Praia and it has been so incredibly hot and humid, it was too much for me, so after a walk through the town and a browse of the huge fruit and veg market, I plonked myself down at a cafe and enjoyed an ice cold Fanta before heading home.

I wasn’t blown away during my first visit to the Cape Verde islands, but I’ve explored more of the local towns this time and enjoyed it.

We’ll sail in a few hours and start heading for Ascension Island. I’m hoping we have good weather so I can go out in the RIB. Keep your fingers crossed!

AT SEA X4

Boudicca has been at sea for the last 4 days and rather than give you updates each day I decided to save everything and update you in one post.

Lots of people have been asking about the activities on offer during sea days, so let me fill you in. To give you the short version, you could never be bored, that’s for absolute sure. There’s so much to get involved with, you couldn’t possibly do everything that’s advertised. I went to the line dancing class with Joan and Jeff and that was a lot of fun. It’s also a great option for people that want to do something active that’s not too strenuous.

Tony’s ukulele class is another popular option and on sea days there are sessions in the morning and afternoon, meaning you can drop in at any time and join as a beginner or at a more advanced level. Tony is a barrel of laughs and very patient with his students. We met last year in the world cruise and instantly got chatting. Several people have made comment on the fact his classes are relaxed and enjoyable. If you miss a note, don’t worry, just catch up. It’s all about having fun.

Other activities on offer include daily quizzes, bridge (beginners and advanced), golf putting, craft classes (very popular), art classes, whist (hosted and un-hosted), lectures, shuffleboard, deck quoits, dance classes, Nintendo Wii bowling, table tennis, darts, aerobics classes, carpet bowls, dolphin racing, dog racing, drama classes, spa seminars, internet tutorials, flower arranging tutorials, guest choir and so much more. Like I said, you couldn’t possibly do everything on offer in a day.

It’s been very hot and sunny for the most part, which meant a fun afternoon on the outer decks on Wednesday, as the various onboard departments teamed up for a tug of war. It was hilarious and each man and woman involved really went after the winning position, but the title was taken by the engine department. Apparently, they’re undefeated and we could all see why when they heaved the bridge officers across the deck.

I enjoyed a delicious meal in the Poolside Grill on the evening of our first sea day and before I forget, let me tell you that the menu is now presented in a lightbox folder, which I think is a brilliant idea. I ordered scallops to start which I followed with a 10oz filet minion and then to finish, a passion fruit chocolate cylinder that I can only describe as being the absolute paramount dessert for chocolate lovers. The entire meal was flawless, and I enjoyed every mouthful, although I couldn’t finish it all. There are lots of options on the menu and you can add little extras to your main course, such as shrimp, scallops and lobster. I’m here for quite some time, so I’ll try some other dishes and share those with you in the coming months – the grilled lobster is calling me.

On Friday October 18th we crossed the equator at noon and of course, we had a good old ‘Crossing of the Line Ceremony’ to celebrate. I’ve been fortunate enough to cross the equator 4 times and honestly, the party to go with it never gets old, it’s great fun. The ceremony is an initiation rite that commemorates a persons’ first crossing of the equator. Those that have crossed before are known as Shellbacks and those that have never previously crossed are referred to as Pollywogs. It’s the Pollywogs that are put on the spot and ridiculed. King Neptune commanded over the ceremony, the fish was kissed, and several crew members ended up in the pool, including our Executive Chef, Chief Officer, Security Officer, Hotel Manager and Captain. Several passengers also got involved and subsequently ended up in the pool, fully clothed.

We’ve had some amazing sunsets over the last few evenings, lots of interesting cloud formations made for some wonderful photo opportunities, so I’ll leave you with the one below and check back with you again soon.

We’re calling to Ascension Island tomorrow and I’m booked on the 9am RIB tour, I can’t wait! I’ll be back with more updates very soon.

OCTOBER 20 – ASCENSION ISLAND CIRCUMNAVIGATION

We were hoping to tender ashore today but sadly the swell cancelled our parade. It wasn’t too rough for us to tender, but the waves were crashing against the rocks shoreside, meaning the local authorities were unable to launch their boats in order to come to us and give the ship clearance. Because of this, my RIB tour was also cancelled. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have went ashore and explored, but as Ascension Island wasn’t originally a port we were visiting – it was always noted as a circumnavigation only – all is not lost.

Boudicca sailed around the island for 3 hours and the scenery was absolutely incredible. The colours and textures were wonderful, in some places, the rock facades looked like paintings. We had regular commentary as we went, and it was very interesting to find out about this remote island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. Discovered by Portuguese navigator João da Nova in 1501, It’s mostly a desert of dormant volcanic craters, but it’s also a hugely important and critical nesting site for endangered green sea turtles. They come ashore between January and April to lay their eggs. The island is a popular nesting place for numerous bird species, including the masked booby, frigate bird and brown booby. Some of the birds take safe haven on Boatswain Bird Rock, which you can see to the right side of the image below. It’s a white coloured boulder approx. 300 yards off the east coast of the island.

The island was uninhabited until 1815 but it’s now a hub for NASA (operating a Meter Class Autonomous Telescope for tracking orbital debris), the U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force (RAF Ascension Island), European Space Agency (rocket training station), BBC World Service and British and American intelligence organisations. As I said, very interesting.

We’re back out at sea now, heading for St Helena, so please keep your fingers and toes crossed that we arrive to fair weather on Wednesday.

AT SEA X2

We finished our circumnavigation of Ascension Island and continued heading south for St Helena, where we’re due at our anchorage point at 8am local time tomorrow.

A deck BBQ was the evening highlight 2 nights ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You could choose from various different things, including fresh salad, burgers, hot dogs, jacket potatoes, BBQ chicken and more. I do like a BBQ beneath the night sky and the coloured lights around the pool created a nice atmosphere. It was quite full, actually, more people turned up than I expected.

Last night we had a party on the Marquee Deck for those of us that are doing the entire Grand Voyage and what a fabulous hour it was. We were offered a variety of drinks and canapés, and there was a chocolate fountain for dipping sweet strawberries that the ship took onboard in Tenerife. There are 62 of us in total going all the way around and then back to Dover.

Evening entertainment has been varied, everything from illusionists to singers. It’s difficult to take pictures during some shows because the Neptune Lounge is quite dark, but I’m working on it and in the coming months, I will share some images and video snippets from a selection of the nightly shows. I’m going to watch Shimi Goodman perform tonight. He’s a friend of mine and a fabulous singer, you’ve probably seen him on one of your cruises.

OCTOBER 23 – ST HELENA

I don’t even know where to start my blog entry today, that’s how brilliant our time in Jamestown has been.

My tour left via tender just before 9:30am and we were soon on our way up to the Plantation House, which was built in 1792 by the East India Company as a country residence for island’s Governors. The exterior and grounds were absolutely beautiful, and the interior was full of rustic charm. There are 35 rooms inside the mansion with the dining room being the largest of them all. My favourite room was the library which led out into an open courtyard and visitors are welcome to enjoy the books that are available. The house was interesting – Napoleon once stayed there – and we had the chance to meet the Governors’ wife, but honestly, it was Jonathan I was there to see.

Jonathan (a Seychelles Giant Tortoise) is the oldest known land vertebrate in the world, at approx. 187 years old, and it’s believed he was brought to St Helena from the Seychelles in 1882. He is huge and not bothered by the presence of humans in the slightest. I guess he’s used to people flocking to see him after being on earth for as long as he has. He’s still very active, although he is now hand fed because he’s not as quick as he used to be. His diet consists of mainly fruits and vegetables. He’s blind in his right eye and has blurred vision in his left, but aside from that, he’s doing very well. He shares his paddock area with 3 other tortoises: Emma, Fred and David.

St Helena is a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic and is one of the most remote places on earth. It has a rich history, incredible culture and very friendly locals. Before returning to the ship, we had a photo stop and I then stayed in town to have some lunch and a walk around. In places it feels like you’ve stepped back in time and I loved seeing smiles on the faces of almost every person I passed on the street. It felt like a tropical England in some ways. Jacobs Ladder was a big attraction for many people, but I like being able to breathe, so I passed on that. There are 699 steps to climb in order to reach the top/bottom and it’s almost vertical!

Of course, St Helena is also famous as being the place where Napoleon was imprisoned in exile by the British in 1815. He died on the island in May 1821.

I don’t quite know what I was expecting from the island, but I’ve left satisfied and I’m so glad I can say that I’ve been here. I feel very fortunate indeed.

Our next port is Walvis Bay, Namibia.

SEA DAYS X3 (October 24 – 27)

The last three sea days have been a perfect relaxation opportunity before we reach Namibia and have two port days back-to-back. They’ve also been the perfect opportunity for me to catch up on other things, such as washing and ironing, and deciding what spa treatments to indulge in. I’ve been going through the menu and have picked out a few things that I’ll share with you in the coming months.

Alan and I enjoyed a meal at The Grill 2 nights ago and we had a very pleasant evening. We both ordered the Caesar salad to start, but I had a garlic dressing with mine as I don’t like anchovies and they come pre-mixed into the sauce. When it was served, I thought to myself this looks interesting, I had expected more shrimp, but when I cut into the little lettuce parcel my prayers were answered. It was full of shrimp, sauce, more lettuce and little croutons. It was very, very nice. My main course was an 8oz filet with lobster tail and then to finish it just had to be the chocolate cylinder.

Since joining the ship, I’ve met some lovely people and there are a few of us that get together on a daily basis. Several will leave in Cape Town, so I’m not looking forward to that, but Moira and John, and Alex and Lorna are going all the way back to Dover, which I’m very happy about. I spend a lot of time with both couples and we always have a good giggle. I refer to Moira as my partner in crime because when we get together, there’s no telling what could happen.

At the moment, we’re in a section of the South Atlantic that is known for being cloudy and chilly. I don’t know exactly why but was told it has something to do with the water temperature. Yesterday was very hot and sunny, today is a total contrast as it’s cold and cloudy, aside from the real sailors among us, I don’t think we were expecting such a temperature change overnight. It was a good excuse to have a lazy morning in bed.

I’ll update you on our Namibia calls in a few days. I’m off to get my bag and clothes ready as I have a tour right into the Namib Desert tomorrow and temperatures are looking to be around the 35 Degrees Celsius mark

OCTOBER 28/29 – WALVIS BAY & LÜDERITZ, NAMIBIA

Yesterday we called to Walvis Bay and after clearing immigration it was time to start The Living Desert tour. It was a short drive to the dunes and within minutes of arriving our guide Gerald found a Palmetto gecko. They’re nocturnal and transparent, so he didn’t keep it out in the daylight for too long. Being transparent means they can easily burn in the sun.

As we continued through the dunes, we also came across a sidewinder adder, horned adder, sand diving lizard and chameleon. I’d never seen any of them before and it was a huge privilege to find and admire them in their natural habitat. Apparently, we were quite lucky to see the chameleon. In 2018 they didn’t find a single one. We were followed for the duration of one walking section by 2 very friendly little birds. Gerald hand fed them some meal worms to show us how unbothered they are by humans.

It was a fantastic tour, I’d highly recommend it, but in the strong wind that we had, it was quite cold. I thought the desert was hot! My advice is to wear a t-shirt but take a jacket with you, just in case. I didn’t, but Gerald kindly let me wear his coat. The drive back was also good as the wind had picked up even more. The sand was being blown across the road and in the distance, it looked like a thick fog. It was pretty impressive – even the dunes off to our left disappeared from view – but my photo doesn’t really do it justice. I think we all arrived back at the ship dusted in a fine coating of Namibia.

We docked in Lüderitz this morning and it was another windy arrival but not quite as windy as yesterday. It’s blowing a gale out there now, but the sun is still quite warm if you find the right spot.

I spent the morning at Kolmanskop Ghost Town which is approx. 10km outside of the port, in the Namib Desert. It came to life in 1908 when a local worker found a diamond in the area. He showed the stone to railway inspector August Stauch and soon after, German miners began settling and exploiting the diamond field. The town was built in typical German architectural style and had numerous amenities, including a school, casino, theatre, hospital, power station and sport-hall.

The diamond field started to deplete following World War II and the town began to decline. In 1928, the richest diamond-bearing deposits ever found were discovered 270 km to the south and many of the town’s inhabitants rushed to the new and wealthy land. By 1956, Kolmanskop was completely abandoned, with some residents leaving behind not only their homes but many of their possessions. Today, it’s a major tourist attraction and you can walk through many of the buildings that have literally been reclaimed by the desert. Some structures have several feet of sand within them, making for some incredible photo opportunities.

I absolutely loved it. I did go on an organised tour, but I broke away from the group after a brief introduction by our guide. I wanted to see as much as possible in the time we had, so I went into Dora the Explorer mode. It really was fascinating, and I’d definitely recommend you visit if you’re ever in Lüderitz.

We’re at sea tomorrow before arriving in Cape Town on October 30th.

AT SEA X1 (October 29th)

Today has absolutely flown over, I’ve been so busy!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I went along to watch the ukulele concert and will say they were very good. They have all clearly worked hard over the last several weeks to harmonise and they came together perfectly for their showcase.

The galley team have been showing off their pumpkin carving skills on Deck 6, just look below to see the incredible creations. I can’t even carve a pumpkin to put a candle in, let alone create wonders like these. It really was something to see. Passengers could vote for their favourite.

The rest of the day has been spent doing things such as washing, colouring my hair, eating (of course), exchanging currency at reception and generally tidying up my cabin. There’s always something that needs to be done, even if it’s not part of the entertainment.

We’re in Cape Town for 3 days from tomorrow, so it will be a few days before I update you again. I’ve got quite a packed schedule of tours and sightseeing, so watch this space.

OCTOBER 30 – NOVEMBER 1 – CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

My first day in Cape Town was spent on an all-day tour titled ‘Cape Point Peninsula’. We drove along one of South Africa’s most scenic routes toward Cape Point and it was breath-taking. The views were incredible. As we went, we passed through the suburbs of Green Point and Sea Point en route to Camps Bay before going through Hout Bay and finally into the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where we stood at the most south-westerly point of Africa.

Parts of this tour were a real eye-opener. We passed a rather large shanty town in Hout Bay and it was very different to some of the places we’d driven through earlier in the day. People living in ramshackle huts and with little to no income.

The last stop of the day was made at Boulders Beach where we observed the gorgeous little African penguins. That was the highlight of the day for me. I’ve read about the penguins and watched documentaries, but to see them with my own eyes was just magical. There were hundreds of them, and they weren’t afraid to come right up to us humans for a good look. They used to be known as the Jackass penguin because the noises they make are similar to that of a donkey, but the name was changed to African as it was felt Jackass was a bit harsh.

I took day two at a more leisurely pace and explored the V&A Waterfront. What a place! It was a hive of activity and full of restaurants and shops. One shop in particular had my attention for over an hour, the African Trading Port. It’s full to the brim with all kinds of African masks, statues and more. I left with 2 new wall masks, a Punu and a Yohure.

Today I went on a Table Mountain tour. I’m terrified of heights and the cable car was the steepest and highest I’ve ever been on. I was shaking by the time we got to the top, but I can say I’ve been to one of the 7 New Wonders of the Nature! Table Mountain was added in 2011.

The views were spectacular, and we were very lucky that there wasn’t too much low cloud coverage. This trip is an absolute must if you’re visiting Cape Town for the first time. The cableway has been in operation since October 1929 and to date, more than 28 million people have enjoyed the ride (some more than others). At its highest point, Table Mountain is 1085m above sea level and the views in each direction are stunning. Each cab can carry a maximum of 65 people and as you ascend, the floor rotates, allowing everyone a chance to see the views from each direction.

We’re at sea tomorrow before reaching Port Elizabeth on Sunday for a day of safari!

AT SEA X1 (November 2nd)

It’s windy and cold outside today and although the sea is quite rough, we can barely feel any movement. Having spent 3 days in port, I’ve had lots to catch up with today, ready for my first ever safari tomorrow!

I’ve had lunch, today opting for a Nicoise salad with Halloumi, and now I’m watching a movie. Sorry I’ve nothing too exciting to report, but most of today has been spent charging camera batteries, sorting out my bag and clothes for tomorrow (I like to be organised) and washing clothes. It’s amazing how quickly a sea day passes when you have a dozen things to do and only one day before your next port.

Before I leave you, I must show you the photo I snapped as we sailed from Cape Town yesterday, isn’t it just stunning! What a fabulous way to end our time in such a great destination.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more updates and hopefully lots of pictures of animals.

NOVEMBER 3 – PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA

I don’t even know where to begin on telling you about today, it has been so good.

I went to the Kariega Game Reserve on a 3 hour safari. Before we even got into the reserve we spotted 2 large elephants. Sadly, I don’t have a photo and luck wasn’t on my side because we didn’t see them again. Well, we did, we were treated to a backside view as one disappeared into the trees. That was hugely disappointing. I was desperate to see the African Elephant up close and in its natural habitat, its my favourite animal. But at least I can say I came to Africa and although only very briefly, I did see one. I have another safari booked in Richards Bay, so hopefully I’ll see one on that trip, but at the moment, we don’t know what is happening with that as our bunker was late today. We’re now staying in Port Elizabeth overnight.
We spotted dozens of zebra, baboon, various species of antelope, wildebeest and more. We were also very lucky to see 5 white rhino, including Thandi (Hope). She was one of four rhino at Kariega that were attacked by poachers and she was the only one to survive. Thandi was shot and suffered severe injuries to her head. Several experts came in from Cape Town to save her and ultimately, rebuild her face. She was enjoying the afternoon breeze with her baby not far from a watering hole when we passed her. It was so lovely to see her so relaxed. The small rhino at the reserve have their horns filed off once they’ve stopped feeding from their mothers. It’s sad it has to be done, but it’s the only way to try and deter the vile poachers.
We also watched as several animals darted across the grass. Something had clearly spooked them. I managed to catch the below photo of it, but it doesn’t really do it justice. The pounding from all of their hooves was quite intense. We thought for a moment that there may have been a predator in the bushes, but it was probably something as simple as a branch or twig breaking.
We did see a male and a female lion, but they’d recently had a big kill and were stuffed full, hiding from the sun under a bush. It was quite funny, actually, the male was fast asleep and the female jolted forward and kicked him in the head. For a split second he lifted his head, obviously startled, and that was the only opportunity our jeep had to see his great mane and gorgeous face. I did my best to photograph him. I was in the top seat at the rear of the jeep, so slightly too high up to see properly, but I still love the end result.
The giraffes were quite elusive during our game drive, but then on our way out, our coach broke down (as if by magic) right next to a huge herd of them. Put it this way, no one was complaining. It was so nice watching them wandering through the bushes and grazing. I can think of far worse places to wait while a fan belt is replaced.
Overall, it was a fabulous day. My first safari, a mini one at that, and we got to see so much wildlife. The Savanna cider  went down well with my lunch of rice and prawns.
AT SEA (November 4th) 
We’re heading for Richards Bay at present and are due to arrive at 8pm tomorrow evening. We were supposed to be there by 8am tomorrow morning but a huge delay in our fuel bunker arriving yesterday meant we had to stay in port overnight. Technically, we’re running a day behind, but we don’t know yet what impact that may or may not have on our next ports. Once I find out, I’ll let you know.

Poolside lunch today was exciting because there were new additions to the menu and obviously, I had to try one. There was a shrimp wrap and a spiced chicken with yoghurt and salad, so I tried the chicken. It was delicious, even the grilled aubergine had tons of flavour. I also had entertainment thanks to the pool spilling out over the deck every now and then. You’ve got to love sea days, you really have. I love sitting on Deck 6 to have lunch. I can people watch, enjoy the smells coming from the kitchen and admire the view. It’s one of my favourite places on Boudicca and it was on Black Watch, too.

I’m heading back out on deck now to meet up with some friends and have a drink before dinner. I’ve met some lovely people since being onboard, several of them are going all the way around with me and we have our little chats and sunbathing sessions throughout the day.

NOVEMBER 5 & 6 – AT SEA/ RICHARDS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA

Hello! I need to give you an update on our itinerary as it’s changed slightly. As I mentioned yesterday, we’ll dock in Richards Bay tonight and all tours will run as usual tomorrow (we should have arrived at 8am this morning). Originally, we would leave Africa and head for the island of Mayotte, but sadly, that call has now been cancelled. On a happier note, we’ve lost one port but gained another. We will now make 2 calls to Madagascar instead of one.

That’s my main update for today. I’ve cocooned myself in the Oriental Room since 8am as I’ve had lots to catch up on with work. I’m also covering this cruise for World of Cruising magazine, so there’s always something to do. When I have left Deck 6, I’ve been ironing, eating, packing my bag for my second safari tour tomorrow, looking at tours for our new port of call (Diego Suarez) and slurping hazelnut cappuccinos from the Bookmark Café – I’m slightly obsessed with those and the little sweet treats that come with them.

My most important job of the day has been handing out chocolate biscuits to some of the crew in the Lido Lounge and on that note, I want to take a minute to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Kyle, Kevin, Nirin and Camille. And Freddie, my right-hand man in The Secret Garden. When I get a dessert, I’ll say to him what’s our deal and his reply is always the same, “you were never here”. Everyone needs a Freddie in their life.

 

NOVEMBER 6TH – RICHARDS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA

My last day in South Africa and my second safari experience. I went to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, which is roughly 1.5 hours from Richards Bay.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is 96,000 hectares in size and offers an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna. It’s a small country compared to Kariega and it protects the wildlife of Zululand.

Our visit landed on a very hot and humid morning with temperatures peaking at around 31 Degrees Celsius. For safari, that’s not great as the animals, just like us humans, search for shade to stay cool. However, we spotted wild boar, baboons, dung beetle, white rhino, zebra, antelope, water buffalo, warthogs, kudus and more. So, I think we did quite well. Almost everywhere we looked there was something to see, including the beautiful reserve itself. We did also see giraffe, but ironically, they were at the reserve next door.

The rhino at Hluhluwe have not had their horns removed. Our guide explained that the base of the horn, which is below the skin, is the heaviest part, so even a dehorned rhino is still at the mercy of poachers. Sadly, this reserve has lost a lot of rhino to poachers over the years. It must stop!

All I’d wanted to see were the African elephants, I was desperate and anything else was a bonus. Hluhluwe gave me exactly that. These majestic beasts were everywhere! Herds with their young passing just feet in front of us and not threatened at all. It was absolutely incredible. I became quite emotional. I didn’t get the perfect herd photo I’d been craving as the vehicles at this reserve have roll bars and a material roof, so there was never any real clear line of sight, but I did get to see them playing in the mud and at the watering hole. We saw no less than 30 of them. I can’t put into words how magical it was. I came to South Africa, I saw, and I definitely conquered. I returned to the ship happier than anyone else onboard, I’m sure of it.

Safari sightings are never guaranteed and that’s why I booked 2 for our time in South Africa. If you’re thinking of doing a safari tour, I’d highly recommend booking more than one, if you have several ports that offer it. It gives two opportunities to see as much as possible, which both of my tours have proven.

The next 3 days for us will be spent at sea before we reach our first port in Madagascar.

AT SEA (November 7-10)

The last few sea days have been very hot. The temperature peaked at 32 Degrees Celsius today but thankfully, there was a breeze. It was nice to watch the ice carving at lunchtime (although it was melting so quickly) and sample the spiced rice with chicken that the chef was cooking on the open deck. Without that breeze, I doubt many of us would have stayed out to enjoy it. I gave in and retreated to the air conditioning at around 1:30pm.

While I’m here, I want to mention Room Service to you. We have all used it as some point I’m sure, and the team on Boudicca have been brilliant. I tend not to eat a lot of bread at home, but I’ve become slightly addicted to the Traditional Club sandwich since being onboard. I don’t even have to tell the guys my order anymore, they tell me what I’m ordering and where it’s going. That’s service!

On one of the sea days I woke up at 3:30am, I just couldn’t sleep, so I got ready and made my way out onto deck. It was so peaceful, not another soul anyway to be found. I sat and just took a few hours for myself, watching the sky get lighter as the sun came up. Moments like that are priceless in my eyes.

We’re in Madagascar tomorrow, well, the island of Nosy Be and I’m going to go and see the lemurs. I’ll be back soon.

NOVEMBER 10 & 11 – NOSY BE & DIEGO SUAREZ, MADAGASCAR

Yesterday, Boudicca dropped anchor off the island of Nosy Be, Madagascar. It was a lovely morning and I was soon on a local speedboat heading off on my ‘Nosy Komba – Isle of Lemurs’ tour. The journey took around 20 minutes and it was such good fun. Our group was last leaving the ship and much smaller than the others. They were on much larger boats that couldn’t quite go at our speed. Of course, we waved as we passed them! 😉

After a shallow wet landing, we started making our way through Ampangoriana village and up towards the Black Lemur Sanctuary. There were fewer lemurs than I’d expected, and it was very crowded, but it was lovely to see them jumping through the trees and I did take the opportunity to feed one male lemur some banana, once he’d perched himself on my shoulder. Just to note, male lemurs are black, and the females are a light brown colour. We spotted more males than females.

Once we left the lemurs, we walked through an area that was home to various birds, tortoise species and lizards. It was steep in places and very hot, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. At certain points, a breeze was coming through the trees and I relished in it.

Before heading back to Hell Ville for our tender back to the ship, we stopped for refreshments on the beach and enjoyed some music and dancing from a few locals. It was a very pleasant tour and we all enjoyed the boat ride to and from the island. Our guide was also very good and super friendly, not sure it would have been the same without him.

Today we’ve been docked in Diego Suarez, on the northern tip of the mainland. I decided to explore under my own steam but there wasn’t a great deal to see. In hindsight, I should have booked a tour. Nevertheless, it was nice to wander around and see the locals going about their daily business. I stopped for a cold drink before heading back to the ship and sat watching the world go by. Tuk Tuk’s were speeding around here, there and everywhere, and local women were wandering the streets selling fresh fruits and savoury cakes.

I’m back onboard now and we’re supposed to be having a sailaway party later. I’ll share some updates on social media if we do. Remember, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

AT SEA (November 12th)

I’ve spent most of the day sitting in the sun. After 2 hot and humid port days, I was ready for some relaxation time. I like to sit on the wing on Deck 7 aft, there’s usually a nice breeze so you can enjoy the sun but stay relatively cool. I can’t sit for too long, though, I get restless, so I’ll sometimes go for a walk to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing again. I wandered up to Decks 9 and 10, briefly stopping to take advantage of the cool water misters at the Marquee Pool. I love those things! Such a good idea for warm days.

I’ve packed my bag ready for my tour tomorrow, but the weather forecast isn’t looking too good at the moment for our 3 days in the Seychelles. Thunderstorms are predicted. I really hope it changes, I’m going snorkelling and to various beaches!

We’re now 4 hours ahead of the UK. The last few time changes have been made at noon rather than in the evening. I much prefer doing it this way. I know it technically makes no difference, but I like it.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with Captain Sartela’s noon comment:

Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and beer belly, and still think they’re sexy.

NOVEMBER 13-15 – MAHÉ & PRASLIN ISLAND, SEYCHELLES 

I’m a day late with my blog, I’m sorry, but I just haven’t had enough hours in the day. So, to update, we left the Seychelles yesterday and we’re now at sea heading for the Maldives. I’ll update my 3 sea days as usual on November 18th.

We docked in Victoria, on the island of Mahé, on the morning of November 13th and it was time to start our Seychelles adventure! I did the ‘Moyenne Island & Snorkelling’ tour and we boarded our private catamaran just across the dock from the ship. It was huge and very comfortable. Shaded seats inside and then sun hitting the outer areas. Before reaching Moyenne, we stopped briefly to feed bread to the fish, it was brilliant and there were hundreds of them. We moved a little closer to Moyenne and then dropped anchor. We could snorkel first from the catamaran or board a small speedboat and be taken across to the beach, the order in which we did things was entirely up to us. I decided to snorkel first. The water was lovely and warm, but it wasn’t very clear, and the current was so strong. Needless to say, I didn’t see any fish from the water, only from the boat above, so I made my way across to the island.

Moyenne Island is located within the Ste Anne Marine National Park, and it has been a flora and fauna reserve since the 1970s. From 1915 until the 1960s, the island was abandoned until its purchase by Brendon Grimshaw, a former newspaper editor, originally from Dewsbury in Yorkshire, England. There is an entrance fee to visit the island. It was absolutely gorgeous, just how I’d imagined this part of the world to be. The beach (named the Jolly Roger) is only small but because people tend to walk through the island, it was never crowded. The water is also quite shallow for some way out into the islet. I spotted a young girl sitting on a small sandbank at least 60 metres away from the beach and when she stood up to come back, she wasn’t even waist deep.

After a few hours to snorkel and enjoying the beach, we made our way back to the port and our awaiting Boudicca. I absolutely loved the tour and would definitely recommend it be something you think about booking.

On day two, following a short walk around the town of Victoria and a visit to the Sir Selwyn Clarke Market, we made our way up to the viewpoint. We could see dozens of other islands in the distance, Boudicca was to our left, a beautiful reef to our right and directly in front was Eden Island, where we’d have lunch. We could also see Praslin Island, which would be our next call.

Bravo! is right on the waterfront and has a varied menu offering everything from pizza to local curry. I was really looking forward to trying a local dish, so I went for the prawn and chicken curry with rice and a papaya chutney. It was excellent. Hints of lemon grass came through the coconut flavour which dominated the dish. Not too spicy. I cleared my plate.

After lunch we made our way to the north of the island and it was beautiful. So much scenery and some stunning beaches. We stopped at Sunset Beach, Beau-Vallon and Carana Beach. Each was stunning, but quite different and unique in its own way. I’ve seen some gorgeous beaches over the years, but these were truly something else and the water was bursting with tropical fish. I was kicking myself for not taking my snorkel.

We also stopped at a beach that technically has no name, but is locally known as L’ilot Beach, as that’s the name of the small island just at the edge of the bay. Not many people know how to get there, so we were very lucky to have Marlon with us, a guide from the Seychelles Tourism Board. He was brilliant and knew all the best places to visit, and the secluded little secret spots. This particular beach is accessed via private land, hence not many tourists get the chance to see it. It was like something out of a movie. Just before we left, a huge fruit bat flew above us. It was a lovely end to what had been a fabulous day on Mahé.

Yesterday morning we set off on the shortest cruise from one place to the next that I’ve ever experienced. It took around 1 hour to get to the anchor point off Praslin Island from our berth in Victoria.

Our first stop was at Cote D’or Beach and it too was impressive. Miles of soft white sand, clear water and some shaded areas beneath the palms. Paradise and nothing less. I dipped my toes in the water but didn’t swim. We had a lunch reservation at a local restaurant, so I just enjoyed the view. I’d swim at Anse Lazio later in the day.

Lunch consisted of a buffet at a beachside restaurant named Pirogue and it was quite substantial. We had various salad choices plus fish and a chicken curry. I had curry and it hit the spot, but I didn’t have a lot, there was snorkelling to do.

Finally, we arrived at Anse Lazio, voted one of the best beaches in the world. Having already been spoilt by many others, I was excited to see what made this one so special. It’s absolutely gorgeous, but I did think some beaches I’d seen the day before were better, I suppose it’s all personal preference at the end of the day. The water was very rough, but once you got over the waves breaking it was relatively calm and warm. I did go snorkelling, but visibility wasn’t great because of the swell kicking all the sand up. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed it, being in the water with some friendly fish and cooling off from the mid-day heat. It’s not a huge beach and it was quite busy but not crowded in the slightest.

My time in the Seychelles has been everything and more than I expected it to be. It’s a stunning part of the world and the people are very friendly. I’d love to come back again one day and see more of the islands.

AT SEA (November 16-18)

Three days at sea, absolute bliss. We’ve had scorching heat and pouring rain. We also had a lovely rainbow this morning after our torrential downpour. We’re definitely in the tropics.

We crossed the equator again on the 17th, going back into the Northern Hemisphere. The Crossing of the Line celebration was good fun. It was shorter than the last one, but in the hot morning sun, it was very much appreciated. I followed it with fish and chips from the Poolside Grill.

I ventured to the spa yesterday and had my eyelashes tinted and my hair braided. I’ve only had French plaits once in my life and I was desperate to do something with my hair to keep it out of my face and off the back of my neck, so Lorraine transformed my locks. I have a facial booked soon, my first ever.

I have a new cabin stewardess now and she turns the toilet paper into a little boat every morning and evening. I like her creativity. There was a big crew change in the Seychelles and onboard, many of the crew that were already here have been moved to different areas of the ship. It’s taking some time to get used to it, we were all settled into our routines and then new faces appeared. Nirin passes each afternoon to say he misses us. 😦

We’re in the Maldives tomorrow and I’m off to Kuda Bandos for a resort island experience day.

NOVEMBER 19 – MALÉ, MALDIVES

Today has been absolutely AMAZING! We’ve been at anchor off Malé in the Maldives, but I’ve spent the day on the resort island of Kuda Bandos and it was so beautiful.

I spent almost 4 hours snorkelling and there were hundreds of different fish. Several bad-tempered Picasso triggerfish chased me off whenever I got too close, although in some cases I was nowhere near, but they still decided they didn’t want me there. A small black and white fish did the same thing and he really made me laugh. I was huge in comparison, but he let me know I had to keep going.

When we first got off the boat, we could clearly see a small black tip reef shark in the water, and I spent hours looking for more. Finally, I spotted one, so I ran off into the sea after it. The first time I’ve ever jumped into the sea to try and film a shark! Sadly, he was too quick for me and I only managed to get a grainy shot of him swimming away –  you can just see him in the below.

I really have had the most incredible day. I could have stayed longer and snorkelled until I turned into a prune, I could also type you an entire book, but I wanted the images to tell the story. I love being in the water and seeing all the marine life.

I’ve burned the back of each leg, it’s very uncomfortable at the minute, so I’m going to go now and apply copious amounts of after sun in the hope that it cools. I can’t face wearing trousers, so back to shorts I’ll go. I also managed to slip on marble tiles and fall flat on my backside and left arm. Thankfully, there was no one there to see my ungraceful landing, but boy did it hurt! Maybe I should just go to the bar and get a glass of medicine and sit down for the rest of today? 😉

AT SEA (November 20th)

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

GAY TIMES & Celebrity Cruises Launch “Trailblazers” – A Cutting Edge Content Series Exploring LGBTQ Life Onboard

GAY TIMES and Celebrity Cruises today announce “Trailblazers”, an online series exploring genuine LGBTQ+ travel experiences, set against the backdrop of the stunning Celebrity Edge. The award-winning cruise line and the queer media powerhouse have joined forces to create an industry-leading content series, a documentation of authentic experiences onboard the ship as it docks in Europe’s most famous ports.

Launching daily on GAY TIMES and Celebrity Cruises social media channels from 30th September until 4th October 2019, each mini episode of “Trailblazers” paves the way for a perfect LGBTQ+ travel experience.  Aiming to shine a light on queer travel, the collaboration amplifies the voices of key representatives from the LGBTQ community, with the chosen influencers reflecting a range of diverse backgrounds.

Four pairs of new to cruise influencers were selected to participate in the series with each of the duos’ passion points and experiences chosen to reflect a different facet of the LGBTQ+ community. Setting sail to key LGBTQ+ European destinations including Barcelona, Valencia, Ibiza, Nice and Rome and culminating in the influencers’ participation in the third annual Pride at Sea onboard Celebrity Edge, together they explore the world in modern luxury, sharing their stories and building meaningful connections.

Jo Rzymowska, Managing Director, UK and Ireland Celebrity Cruises commented: “We were thrilled to welcome the cast of Trailblazers onboard Celebrity Edge, which we hope has positively shaped their perception of travelling as members of the LGBTQ+ community. We want everyone onboard our ships to feel appreciated and welcome, whoever they are, and am therefore delighted to launch this industry-leading content in partnership with GAY TIMES.”

Tag Warner, CEO of GAY TIMES commented: “Through our ‘trailblazing’ partnership with Celebrity Cruises we’re thrilled to share our exploration of queer travel experience onboard Celebrity Edge. This industry-leading      collaboration has set the scene for a unique      LGBTQ+ travel experience – an onboard community of like-minded people, thriving in a young, free and dynamic environment, a safe space for self-expression set against the perfect Mediterranean backdrop.”

As an industry leader in LGBTQ+ friendly travel, Celebrity Cruises is an award-winning company for championing diversity and inclusion, as proud headline sponsors of TTG’s LGBT initiative and named Best for LGBT Cruisers at Cruise International’s 2018 awards. Jo Rzymowska, Managing Director, UK and Ireland, was also named a Top 10 LGBTQ+ Inspirational Leader at the British LGBT Awards in 2017. The company is proud to spearhead a number of initiatives including: sponsoring the annual Miami Gay Pride; arranging welcome drinks for LGBT guests at the start of every cruise; and is the first U.S company to host same-sex weddings at sea.

Additionally, Celebrity Cruises annually celebrates Pride at Sea – an owned initiative set up to celebrate Pride month across its entire fleet around the globe. June 2020 will see Celebrity Cruises fourth annual Pride Party at Sea, with each ship in the fleet hosting a range of exciting events and activities throughout the “30 days of Pride”. Celebrity Apex℠, the breath-taking new ship launching in Southampton April 2020, will host the Flagship Pride at Sea Party when docked in Ibiza on 24 June 2020.

As part of an ongoing commitment to champion equality, 2018 saw Celebrity Cruises launch its first dedicated Diversity & Inclusion Training Module for agents on the e-learning platform, Celebrity Passport. Agents can log onto Celebritycentral.co.uk to access the updated LGBT toolkit collection with new images, flyers and logos and also learn about how Celebrity Cruises’ ethos of championing progression is filtered all the way through the company.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News

Explore The South Pacific With Ponant

Image credit: Nathalie Michel

Paul Gauguin Cruises was recently purchased by Ponant and on the back of that news it was announced there were plans to expand the line’s fleet in the South Pacific region. Currently, the area is home to the 332-guest Paul Gauguin, but the future is looking brighter and wider with talks of adding an additional vessel, while Ponant vessels and the Paul Gauguin continue to operate side-by-side and offer an exciting variety of South Pacific cruises.

In a statement released at the time, Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, Founder and President of PONANT said “We are pleased to welcome Paul Gauguin Cruises to our Ponant family. Our guests can now select from a wider range of iconic destinations and become enriched by cultural and expedition cruises of their choice, that literally travel to the ends of the earth from the most remote ports to more perennial favourites, on our combined fleet of small ships. We share the same core values.  The synergy between our operations makes this the perfect collaboration while preserving the unique DNA of both brand experiences.”

By 2021, Ponant will have 14 ships within its fleet, a rapid growth rate for the luxury expedition cruise line that has a flare of all things French. This growth will allow even more guests to explore some of the most incredible destinations on earth, with expansion in Tahiti, the South Pacific and French Polynesia.

Explore the South Pacific

The waters of the Pacific, the Earth’s largest ocean, are home to many wonderful treasures. Let Ponant help you discover legendary islands whose names alone are enough to conjure up idyllic images: Polynesia, Hawaii, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands… all magical places of incomparable beauty. In Polynesia, Hawaii and New Caledonia, the coral atolls encircle the most beautiful lagoons in the world. Composed of deserted fine sand beaches and volcanic peaks covered in dense forest, these island paradises are just waiting for you to explore their unique underwater treasures. You’ll also discover the friendliest people you’ll ever meet – custodians of ancestral traditions that are maintained to this day.

Farther South, standing as a faraway dreamland where Aborigines live in perfect harmony with environment, Australia will treat travellers to the unique experience of the last remaining virgin lands. This vast country is home to a concentration of sumptuous natural treasures, such as the Great Barrier Reef and hundreds of national parks. Off its East coast, New Zealand, the “land of the long white cloud” is an insular realm, an Eden composed of two islands with an infinite variety of landscapes: the volcanoes in the North contrast with the majestic glaciers in the South.

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Posted in Cruise News, Ponant

Backstage Onboard A Marella Cruise

Marella Cruises know there are certain home comforts that cruisers can’t sail without and to shed some light on this, here are some facts from backstage on a Marella Cruises’ ship.

Everyone knows the nation loves nothing more than a proper brew, so it comes as no surprise that during a one-week itinerary 13,000 cups of English Breakfast tea are brewed and served to satisfy the craving. To put this into perspective, if you lined up all those tea bags it would stretch for just under four times the length of Marella Explorer. Of course, to accompany the perfect cup of tea, a full English is the most popular breakfast choice, with 2,500 slices of toast consumed each week.

Coffee lovers are not far behind the traditional tea drinkers, as 12,500 cups of coffee are served during a week on a Marella Cruise making it part of the customer’s daily grind.

For those who enjoy an alcoholic tipple, the most popular cocktail on the cruise lines’ menu is the Long Island Ice Tea, which can be enjoyed whilst watching a show in the Broadway show lounge, where 73% of guests per cruise choose to enjoy a show. In addition, the favourite alcoholic beverage is also often well accompanied with a meal in the most popular á la carte restaurant – Surf & Turf, although the most popular soft drink – diet coke – would also be a top choice.

Guests looking to relax enjoy spending time in the onboard Champneys spa* where on the average week 80-100 guests visit the spa, the most popular treatment is the Lava Shell Relaxation Massage whilst sailing to popular destination hotspots.

Whilst relaxing at the spa and enjoying time away from everyday life are the elements everyone looks forward too, packing stress comes before that. And there is always one item that misses the suitcase and ends up being left behind. But fear not, Marella staff are always on hand should this be the case, and have discovered that a travel adapter is the most popular item people forget to pack and ask reception if they can borrow one to use throughout their stay.

The thought of the perfect cruise coming to an end is a feeling no-one likes, and when it comes to finding the perfect souvenir to keep those memories alive a fridge magnet or a pair of slippers are top of the list. Talking of which, although only a handful of robes go missing, 30% of guests slip away with their Marella cabin slippers** packed up and ready to fly home with them in the hope that when they look out their window, it will still be a different view every day.

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Posted in Marella Cruises

Viking Announces New Ship Viking Venus

Viking has announced that its seventh ocean ship, Viking Venus, will join its award-winning fleet in early 2021, further solidifying the company’s standing as the largest small-ship ocean cruise line. The newest 930-guest sister ship will spend her maiden season sailing popular itineraries in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, including British Isles Explorer, In Search of the Northern Lights, Viking Homelands and Into the Midnight Sun.

Viking will also expand its offerings in the Mediterranean with five new itineraries that include stops in Istanbul, marking the company’s return to the iconic city. The new 8-day Ancient Mediterranean Treasures will sail between Athens and Istanbul, with overnight stays in both cities. Guests looking for an extended experience in the region can choose a longer versions of the itinerary, including the 15-day Ancient Adriatic Treasures, which sails between Venice and Istanbul; the 15-day Ancient Mediterranean Antiquities, which sails between Rome and Istanbul; the 22-day Iconic Mediterranean Treasures, which sails between Barcelona and Istanbul; or the 29-day Mediterranean’s Iconic Shores, which also sails between Barcelona and Istanbul and includes stops in Montenegro and Croatia.

Beginning in April 2021 and sailing on Viking’s award-winning 930-guest all-veranda Viking Sky, guests embarking on the new Ancient Mediterranean Treasures itinerary or its longer combination cruise options will witness the origin of civilisation while cruising the fabled Aegean Sea. Highlights of the new itinerary include:

  • Istanbul, Turkey: Guests begin their journey with an overnight stay in Istanbul, allowing more time to explore the iconic city. Guests can visit a wealth of religious sites including the “Blue Mosque” one of the city’s most recognisable sites, watch the mesmerising whirling dervishes perform at a local venue, or participate in a centuries-old tradition at a hammam, a Turkish bath. Plus, Viking’s Privileged Access offers guests the chance to tour the legendary Hagia Sofia free of crowds.
  • Troy (Çanakkale), Turkey: Guests can explore the nearby well-preserved ruins of Troy, most remembered as the setting of the Trojan War, described by Homer in the Iliad, or visit the nearby Battlefields of Gallipoli, the tranquil memorial site of one of World War I’s longest and deadliest battles.
  • Ephesus (Kuşadasi), Turkey: One of the best-preserved cities of antiquity in the world, Ephesus is rich in history and ancient relics. While in port, guests can visit the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, walk through the Byzantine Basilica of St. John, or visit the modest home where, according to legend, the Virgin Mary lived out her final days.
  • Rhodes, Greece: While on the island of Rhodes, guests can explore within the city walls of Old Town, Europe’s largest active medieval town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, learn about island culture through a visit to a traditional village home, or head to one of the island’s scenic mountaintops for sweeping views of the island and the Turkish coast.
  • Heraklion, Greece: Located on the island of Crete, Heraklion boasts millennia-old history and was once the strongest fortified city in the Eastern Mediterranean. Guests can take in archaeological splendours whose history is interwoven with the legends of Greek mythology, including the Palace of Knossos and the village of Arolithos, or explore the ruins of the Minoans, Europe’s oldest recorded civilisation.
  • Athens, Greece: The journey concludes with an overnight stay in Athens, known as “the birthplace of democracy,” where guests can witness iconic sites such as the Hellenic Parliament, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the mighty Parthenon atop the Acropolis. Viking also offers guests Privileged Access to the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation’s exhibit on British naval icon Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson and the chance to tour a reconstructed ancient Athenian warship, the Olympias, once the dominant warship on the Mediterranean Sea from the 7th to 4th centuries BC.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of several recent accolades for Viking. Just this month Viking was named Best River Cruise Line at the Food and Travel Reader Awards and Best Overall Cruise Line and Best River Cruise Line at the British Cruise Awards, as well as being highly commended for its culinary offering.  Earlier in 2019, Viking went straight to the top of the table in a Which? ocean cruise consumer satisfaction survey – the only brand to score five stars for its on-board facilities. Viking is a Which? Recommended Provider for both its river and ocean cruises.  In 2018 Viking was awarded Best Boutique Cruise Line and Best River Cruise Operator at The Times and Sunday Times Travel Awards and, for the 10th consecutive year, rated Best River Cruise Line at the 2018 British Travel Awards, one of the largest and most influential polls of consumer opinion in the UK.

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Cunard Announces 2021 Cruise Programme

Image credit: James Morgan

Cunard has released its June 2021 to January 2022 cruise schedule, which will see its three Queens visit 123 destinations across 39 countries.

With an extensive range of itineraries that span the globe, the 2021 schedule includes a variety of extended port stays, including 174 voyages with late evening departures. The schedule means guests can immerse themselves in the local cultures of a wide range of exciting international destinations, at their leisure.

In addition to a number of evening departures, Cunard’s 2021 season includes many overnight stays in spectacular and renowned cities; including Boston, Funchal, Lisbon, Quebec, Reykjavik, Rotterdam, Shanghai, Singapore and St. Petersburg.

Simon Palethorpe, President, Cunard said: “Filled with inspiring destinations, we’re making it our priority to ensure our guests have as long as possible to explore the world’s most exquisite locations in their own time and at their own pace. After immersing themselves in the local culture, guests can look forward to enjoying our unique onboard experience that offers the freedom of time and space with our exemplary White Star Service that is second to none.”

Queen Victoria will undertake an engaging European itinerary throughout 2021 including 20 Southampton roundtrip voyages. Highlights include a maiden visit to Aarhus, Denmark; a first for Cunard in its 180-year history; while extended stays in Lisbon, Reykjavik and St. Petersburg are sure to attract attention.

In 1840, Cunard became the first shipping line to offer regularly scheduled crossings. Today, Cunard alone maintain this timeless tradition, offering 23 crossings in 2021 on board the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2.

In response to surging demand, Asia remains firmly on Cunard’s radar in 2021 with Queen Elizabeth based in the Asia-Pacific region throughout the year. Itineraries include circumnavigations of Japan, a variety of Australian and New Zealand voyages as well as a spectacular maiden call in Seogwipo City, South Korea.

Simon Palethorpe continues: “In addition to 31 wonderful round-trip voyages from our home port of Southampton, we are excited that 2021 sees Cunard offer itineraries that span the globe. It is a testament to our long-standing commitment to excellence that from Southampton to Shanghai, Boston to Brisbane, Cunard has become synonymous with luxury in all corners of the world.”

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Posted in Cruise News, Cunard Cruise Line

Crown Princess To Feature In TV Series ‘Monster Ships’

Princess Cruises’ 3,080-guest ship, Crown Princess, will appear in an episode of a new TV documentary, ‘Monster Ships’. The episode will air on UKTV’s Yesterday Channel on Thursday 3 October at 8pm.

Providing a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a cruise ship, the hour long episode follows Crown Princess as she sails a 10-day Caribbean voyage roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. The ship visits local islands including Princess Cruises’ own private Bahamas resort, Princess Cays.

The programme provides an insight into the day-to-day roles of the 1,200 crew members and what it takes to ensure a seamless transition onboard when a new voyage begins. With 17 restaurants and bars, round-the-clock room service, four swimming pools, guest entertainment and over 1,500 staterooms, the vessel is a 24-hour operation 365 days of the year.

Monster Ships was commissioned by Discovery Networks International, and made by WAG TV, a leading international producer of TV shows.

Tony Roberts, vice president Princess Cruises UK and Europe, said: “We’re delighted to see Princess Cruises once again feature on the small screen, this time providing viewers with a rare onboard glimpse behind-the-scenes. The Crown Princess episode of Monster Ships is recommended viewing for anyone with an interest in the incredible mechanics and logistics of a cruise ship, or who wants to see the premium guest experience we offer on one of our stunning Caribbean sailings.”

Viewers can also experience the ship for themselves when she sails out of the UK next year on a series of voyages to the Mediterranean and northern Europe.

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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Counting Down To A ‘Grand Voyage’ With Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

 

When I left Black Watch in April 2018, I told myself that was the first and probably the last time I’d ever visit exotic destinations such as India, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. I don’t like to fly and let’s face it, a world cruise for most people that have the luxury of being able to afford it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I’d been there, and I’d lived every last magnificent moment of it. I fell in love with Asia, held a koala in Australia, admired the Treasury in Petra, and as a whole, had so many first-time experiences that I’d never forget. Put simply, I felt like the luckiest human being on the planet. I didn’t know it then, but something even more incredible was going to happen in the months that followed…

I’m now counting down to what I am sure will be yet another extraordinary cruise experience. In exactly 21-days, I’m joining Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ‘Boudicca’ on her 168-night ‘Grand Voyage’. I know, I still can’t believe it. Not only will this be the longest sailing I’ve ever been on, it’s also the longest itinerary to date that any Fred. Olsen ship has sailed – we’re making history together.

OK, I know, you just want me to get to the itinerary. It would take 2 full pages to list it all – I have a Google document that is no less than 20 pages long – so I’m going to share some of things I’m most looking forward to seeing and doing during the cruise.

South Africa has long been a dream destination of mine and I’ll be visiting Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay. Being an animal lover, you can probably guess what I’m planning on doing while I’m in that part of the world – I’m going in search of the ‘Big Five’ on an authentic safari. I must remember that under no circumstances can I take a baby elephant back to the ship! I’m also planning on seeing the penguins at Boulders Beach and taking in the views from the very top of Table Mountain.

Mayotte, Madagascar, Seychelles and the Maldives are all screaming at me to pack a snorkel, so that’s what I’m going to do. I want to see what paradise is really like. Some of the best beaches in the world are in the Indian Ocean and one of our calls in the Seychelles (Praslin Island) is the gateway to the small island of La Digue, home to Anse Source D’Argent, one of the most photographed beaches in the world.

Last year, Asia charmed me from the second I put my feet on land. Each place was bursting with history, tradition and in some places, what felt like magic. Although each port was different, there were many similarities and I was completely enthralled by how different life in this part of the world was. On the Grand Voyage, I’ll be visiting several places in Asia, including Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar, but of them all, I’m most looking forward to our time in Bali, Indonesia. Because Boudicca heads east to then come back west, I’ll actually get to visit Bali twice: 3 days in December and 3 days in January. I’ve heard so many good things and have been told numerous times that I must explore every inch of Ubud, including the Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud Palace and the Tegallalang Rice Terraces.

Australia is also on the list and guess where I’ll be for New Year’s Eve? That’s right, Sydney! I’ve never been a fan of New Year and I’m not a big lover of fireworks. Actually, I can’t stand either of them, but I am genuinely looking forward to welcoming 2020 in the land down under and watching the fireworks that I’ve seen on TV for as long as I can remember. It’s quite surreal, actually. I’ll also be heading to Rottnest Island from Freemantle to see the legendary Quokka, supposedly the happiest animal on earth.

Other destinations that I’m excited to visit for the first time are Jamestown, St Helena; Kangaroo Island, Australia; Cairns, Australia; Melbourne, Australia; Hobart, Tazmania; Wewak, Papua New Guinea; Goa, India; Dubai, UAE; Muscat, Oman; Salalah, Oman; and Ashdod, Israel.

Boudicca sails from Dover on October 3, 2019 and I’ll be sharing my updates across social media – so make sure you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’ll also be posting a daily (as daily as I can) diary right here on my blog, so please do come back and let’s travel the world together!

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

First Hybrid Powered Ship Completes Northwest Passage Crossing For Hurtigruten

This week, Hurtigruten’s ground-breaking expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen wrote a new chapter in exploration history – being the first battery-hybrid powered ship to ever traverse the legendary Northwest Passage.

As the MS Roald Amundsen arrived Nome, Alaska, in the evening of September 10, captain Kai Albrigtsen could make a monumental entry in the ship’s logbook:  The first complete passage of the more than 3.000 nautical miles passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, by hybrid propulsion.

“Every expedition cruise with Hurtigruten is unique, yet this green milestone is literally making history with our guests. Only a few years ago, building cruise ships with battery packs was considered impossible; now the MS Roald Amundsen pays tribute to the great explorer she is named after by traversing one of the world’s most fabled stretches of sea by hybrid propulsion” says Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam.

For centuries, the renowned passage connecting East and West has spellbound ocean explorers.

Norwegian polar pioneer Roald Amundsen made the first complete passage from 1903 to 1906.

“We have experienced gale winds, snow and ice. We have also witnessed spectacular sunsets, and striking scenery and wildlife. However, what has had the biggest impact on us, is how warmly we’ve been welcomed by the local communities along the route, just as Roald Amundsen himself was. Their unparalleled hospitality is what has made this a genuinely inspirational voyage”, says captain Albrigtsen.

Equipped with large battery packs and ground-breaking technology, the MS Roald Amundsen has made global green waves in the cruise- and shipping industry after she was launched this summer. Using batteries to support her engines, emissions are reduced with more than 20 percent.

Having traversed the Northwest Passage, MS Roald Amundsen will sail further along the coast of North- and South America, before spending the winter offering one-of-a-kind expedition cruises in Antarctica.

The summer of 2020, MS Roald Amundsen will then return to North America, for a series of expedition cruises in Alaska.

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Posted in Cruise News, Hurtigruten

MSC Magnifica To Sail From Southampton In 2021

MSC Cruises has revealed brand-new itineraries for Summer 2021 sailing from Southampton. The newly refurbished MSC Magnifica will undergo a transformation adding 23 meters to the ship that will deliver an additional 7,000 m2 of added space to the ship. This will result in 215 extra cabins, bringing the total number of balcony cabins to 63% of the overall ship, a new water park, a redesigned kids area, plus additional features such as two new restaurants and a new shopping area.

The 24 sailings from Southampton beginning in May and ending in October will see the introduction of cruises ranging from 2 to 14 nights with brand new varied itineraries encompassing Canary Islands & Madeira, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Baltic Capitals. Most of the 24 sailings will  begin on a Saturday ensuring guests can make the most of their holiday experience

Highlights include a 12-night cruise that calls at three of the Canary Islands – Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote with their fantastic climate, distinctive landscapes and bustling ports the cruise departing early May is perfectly timed to catch the sun. A 14-night Western Mediterranean cruise in August, including popular destinations for UK guests such as Palma de Mallorca and Monte Carlo will be the perfect choice for the family summer holiday. MSC Magnifica will offer four different stunning Norwegian Fjord itineraries and will call at two brand new destinations; Skagen in Denmark renowned for hours of sun and unique light plus Rosendal, Norway, which is the world’s fourth largest fjord.

In addition to new itineraries MSC Magnifica will be back with all the ‘Best of British’ enhancements that were initially showcased on MSC Magnifica in 2018, including favourite’s such as pie & mash, back bacon and sausages available in the buffet and Kettles in cabins with of course Yorkshire Tea, which is back by popular demand.

This is not the first time MSC Cruises have refurbished and stretched existing ships in the fleet, in 2015 the four much loved Lirica class of ships underwent a significant renovation as part of the €130 million  ‘Renaissance project’, to improve facilities and enhance the onboard experience.

When works are completed, MSC Magnifica will feature two new major and important onboard environmental advances to complement a wide range of existing leading-edge environmental technologies across the company’s entire fleet: a state-of-the-art Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system and next-generation Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) system. SCR technology helps reduce nitrogen oxide into pure nitrogen and water through advanced active emissions control technology. MSC Cruises also took the opportunity to install a state-of-the-art advanced wastewater treatment system on board that meets the highest standards and that purifies used wastewater to near tap-water quality. The system meets the so-called ‘Baltic Standard’ and treats the wastewater to a higher standard than most waste standards available in cities around the world. To help reduce and continuously minimise emissions also while in port, the ship will be able to ‘plug in’ to the local power grid wherever such systems are available at berth.

Cruises will go on sale on the 12th September.

Itinerary highlights include:

May Bank Holiday Mini Cruise

This 3-night sailing runs across the late May Bank Holiday and is perfect for a first-time cruiser who wants a taster of a holiday at sea or an experienced cruiser looking to make the most of the bank holiday weekend. Set sail from Southampton late on Friday evening and spend the day in Zeebrugge before returning to Southampton.

Baltic Capitals

There are two opportunities to discover the much-loved Baltic Capitals, on a 12-night cruise departing 31st May or on a 14-night cruise departing 11th September. Offering slightly different itineraries with added highlights on the 14-night itinerary including an overnight stay in the Swedish Capital Stockholm, and a visit to Denmark’s Skagen. Both sailings include an overnight onboard stay in St Petersburg and a visit to Norway’s capital, Oslo.

Norway Your Way

With so many beautiful ports to explore in Norway choose from one of four different Norwegian Fjord itineraries setting sail across the summer season. Explore much loved ports including Flamm and Stavanger and new destinations for MSC Cruises Rosendal and Nordfjordeid.

14 nights perfect for families

Following guest and agent feedback this 14-night cruise to some of the Mediterranean’s most loved destinations has been developed with families in mind. Departing on the 7th August this no-fly cruise begins with two sea days to give guests a chance to settle in. Then it’s action packed itinerary allows you to explore seven different ports in nine days including a late sail from the fabulous Palma de Mallorca and a visit to the exclusive Monte Carlo.

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