A Pre-Cruise Stay In Newcastle Upon-Tyne

Newcastle upon-Tyne is a city full of life and vibrancy and it’s a place that I am proud to call home. In recent years, cruising from Port of Tyne has increased in popularity and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Thomson Cruises regularly have several embarkations from the city each year. It’s also a popular in-transit cruise call, but what a lot of people don’t realise, especially those visiting from other parts of the UK and the world, is that my wonderful city is also the gateway to the eclectic city of Amsterdam.

DFDS operate daily departures from Newcastle to Ijmuiden and it’s a trip that, in the last 5 years, I’ve come to love. I don’t think I could have a year that didn’t involve a visit to Amsterdam that also included a trip on either King Seaways (my favourite) or Princess Seaways. The journey is convenient and comfortable and you can arrive in Holland feeling refreshed and ready to explore. Before I jump too far ahead, let me talk more about Newcastle.

There are so many things to see and do in and around the city – we have a long and sometimes bloody history that is just waiting for people to come in and explore it. Popular stops include Alnwick Castle, Newcastle city centre, Tynemouth Castle and Priory and the Roman Fort in Segedunum. These are all places you need to see, but you can’t do them all in one day. If you’re embarking or disembarking in Port of Tyne, whether it be for a cruise or a sailing with DFDS Seaways, then you must spend time either pre-or-post-cruise in the area – don’t just turn up for your ship and leave, let us be your hosts.

My friend TravelShopGirl recently visited from America and we spent a day/night in Newcastle before leaving for Amsterdam. Although she had never been to the city before and I really should have shown her some of the more obvious sides of Newcastle, I did plan a day that was perfect for us and I am sure will appeal to many of you. Firstly, we arrived in the city via St James’ Park Metro station – the beating heart of my incredible city and the home of Newcastle United F.C. We checked into our hotel and then walked through Haymarket, down towards the Theatre Royal on Grey Street and then along to the lower end of town, where the Central Station is located. In all, it was leisurely day because the night ahead was going to be a scream!

As the sun set and the darkness began to drift across the city, I walked with TravelShopGirl to Newcastle Castle (also known as Castle Keep), for it was there that we would meet Steve from Haunted City Tours (Alone in the Dark Entertainment) and head off on a journey into the ghostly tales and history of the castle and surrounding area. The walk, from start to finish, was fantastic. Marian (TravelShopGirl) and I were both so enthralled by the experience and Steve’s enthusiasm for telling the ghoulish tales, that to begin with, we barely even noticed the cold of the evening air. We were told of the castle and its connection to the witch trials, we made our way down a set of very intimidating stairs that have a terrible and murderous history attached to them (where the three of us all heard and felt strange things), through the Black Gate and along cobbled Victorian streets.

It was a night I will never forget and the best ghost walk I’ve been on. I absolutely cannot recommend this enough. Steve is a fountain of knowledge and clearly loves what he does and the city itself. He had answers to our questions, he knew the history – both good and bad – of Newcastle like the back of his hand and he himself was interesting. If you’re in the city overnight, please consider booking this tour! I’d love to tell you more, but I also don’t want to say too much as it will spoil your own experience. I will, however, share with you what the website notes to those that are interested in going on the Newcastle Ghost Walk.

Newcastle is one of the UK’s oldest cities with its dark legends of ghostly headless horsemen, serial killers such as the Dean Street Strangler, the Newcastle witchcraft trials of 1649, human sacrifice to the real brutality of the Newcastle civil war and grisly executions, the Black Death of 1636. This ancient city offers the best backdrops for such ghastly encounters with its bygone murderers of its violent past through our stories and old buildings that still stand and play part in our stories and form the backdrop for many a haunting from Newcastle Castle Keep and Black Gate along with its dungeons, Tudor houses where plague families were locked up and died to old pubs and sites of real history”.

The following lunchtime, before Marian and I left the city to join Princess Seaways for our crossing to Amsterdam, we had lunch at The Bohemian on Pink Lane. The Bohemian is an award-winning vegan restaurant and when I spotted it online I knew it would be a great choice, as Marian is vegan. It’s a quirky little restaurant and the woman that greeted us was very welcoming. She showed us to our seats and then handed us a menu each. Vegan food is all new to me, I had no idea what some of the things were that I was looking at, so I played it safe and ordered the Potato Bravas to start. They were nice, but I’d not order them again and that’s because Marian let me try her starter (Shredded Peking Jackfruit) and it was delicious. I was incredibly surprised. To follow, I ordered the caramelised red onion and mozzarella flat bread and I can tell you, in all honesty, that it was the nicest flat bread pizza I have ever eaten. The bread was as light as the clouds and the cheese, well, you’d never tell that it wasn’t actual mozzarella. I enjoyed The Bohemian so much that I’ll be going back, even if I’m not with my vegan friend!

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Posted in Destinations, DFDS Seaways

Celebrity Edge To Sail From Southampton

The most anticipated new cruise ship, Celebrity Edge, will set sail in Europe in summer 2019. Calling Rome and Barcelona home for the summer, Celebrity Edge will start her season from Southampton with a 10-night European inaugural sailing on 15 May 2019.

Throughout the summer, Celebrity Edge will immerse guests in the stunning vistas of the Mediterranean with a range of seven to 11-night sailings, visiting iconic destinations such as Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Mykonos, along with the likes of Ibiza and Valencia where she will boast longer evening stays in port. The itineraries will also feature two brand new, Celebrity Cruises-first ports – the picturesque Nauplion in the Peloponnese region of Greece and the stunning Santa Margherita, located on the Italian Riviera close to one of Italy’s most famous village’s, Portofino.

Celebrity Edge marks a turning point in Celebrity’s approach to ship design, with its revolutionary, outward-facing infrastructure – highlighted by signature features such as the Magic Carpet and the Edge Stateroom with an Infinite Veranda. With this in mind, all the destinations within the inaugural European season for Celebrity Edge have been carefully selected to offer exquisite views and unparalleled access to the natural beauty, culture and experiences of the region.

A new ship opens up the possibility for new experiences, and with that in mind, Celebrity Cruises has carefully curated a new shore excursion programme that offers in-depth, authentic and locally inspired experiences.

Stateroom accommodations on-board Celebrity Edge feature an Infinite Veranda which merges the boundaries between outside and inside to create one larger space and open-air access to the sea. The interiors are all designed by renowned interior designer Kelly Hoppen MBE and fuse a trio of style, design and elegance. The revolutionary Infinite Veranda bring guests closer to the ocean than ever before, to ensure that the destination experience begins before even stepping off the ship.  Celebrity Edge’s suite offering has also been redefined with the introduction of two spectacular new categories, Iconic Suites and Edge Villas as well as a new private utopia called The Retreat offering suite guests a private sundeck, lounge and dedicated restaurant.

Cantilevered from the side of the ship, the Magic Carpet makes Celebrity Edge’s distinctive profile recognisable from miles away.  At the summit of the ship on Deck 16, the Magic Carpet becomes the ultimate speciality restaurant offering a special “Dinner on the Edge”, especially with late night departures from some of Europe’s most scenic destinations.  At its lowest position on Deck 2, Magic Carpet is a key component to the Destination Gateway, a luxury embarkation area where guests will be whisked away on-board sleek Edge Launches – transforming the guest experience in smaller ports of call such as Villefranche and Cannes.

Celebrity Edge’s new 2019 summer season goes on sale at 8pm today – 17 October 2017. The summer season includes one sailing from Southampton to Rome (Civitavecchia) on 15 May 2019. Summer 2019 Mediterranean sailings will depart from both Rome (Civitavecchia) and Barcelona.

Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News

Refresher Course: Etiquette on the High Seas

Etiquette used to mean “keep off the grass”. The gardener of the French monarch Louis XIV realized that the well-to-do were trampling through his garden at Versailles, so he put up signs or étiquets. It is not always effective now and it wasn’t effective then, until the King himself declared that no one was to ignore these étiquets. Over time, the meaning of étiquets morphed into the ticket used to enter a court function, which prescribed the expected behavior in court. It has also come to mean good manners in all social settings.

Everyone needs some guidance to help them feel comfortable in a new situation and a cruise is no different from any other activity in this respect. So, how do you “keep off the grass” on a cruise ship? One of the first rules of etiquette is to dress appropriately, and this is true for most activities, from a night out at the casino to a sporting event to a meeting with the board of directors of a company. For example, everyone should dress nicely for dinner, not in shorts or swimwear in the formal dining area; save your shorts for more relaxed seating areas that will allow for it.

We’ve all heard plenty of stories of visitors who were late for the ships departure and had to be left gazing forlornly out to sea on the dock as the ship sailed away. Be timely for your departure to avoid the ensuing confusion and because it’s proper etiquette. 

A cruise is one of the most relaxing types of vacations, where you can enjoy activities all in one place. However, guests should be considerate of others and keep the noise levels down when leaving their cabin; either coming in from a late-night outing or going out.

Tipping is another area that always causes some uncertainty regarding when to do it and how much, but this can vary: Some cruise lines add it as a service charge to your account while others leave it up to your discretion or prod you somewhat by leaving envelopes in strategic places. You can do your own research and see what is done on varying vacations in different parts of the world as well.

While you’re having fun on a cruise, be prepared to share, though, because, during meal times, you may have to share your table with strangers. Hopefully, you’ve learned the art of communication. Also, note that a cruise is one place where there is a fusion of different cultures; whether it be among the crew or guests. So be mindful of all the different cultures on board and the differences throughout the trip.

Rude passengers are generally the minority, but it only takes one who doesn’t follow the rules of cruise etiquette, like slamming doors in the middle of the night, to stain an otherwise fantastic vacation. As we travel more and more, we have gradually become less and less civil. Let’s return civility to travel, particularly when out on the high seas. After all, proper etiquette is what separates man from beast.

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Posted in General Cruise Articles, New To Cruising

Royal Caribbean International Announces New Features Onboard Symphony Of The Seas

Royal Caribbean International has orchestrated a new holiday experience that is set to redefine family and adventure travel in 2018. Symphony of the Seas, the cruise line’s newest ship, brings together the award-winning and acclaimed features only found on Royal Caribbean, with distinct new experiences that will continue to inspire adventure among guests of all ages. New dining concepts and family activities, awe-inspiring aerial, ice and aqua entertainment, and the most dynamic suite in family travel will join the line-up of Royal Caribbean exclusives – such as robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar powered by Makr Shakr; the iconic AquaTheatre showcasing unrivalled high-flying, high diving performances; and the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea – for a thrilling crescendo of diverse experiences, all set in the unique seven-neighbourhood concept of the award-winning Oasis-class ships.

Symphony of the Seas will claim the title of the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuts in April 2018 for her inaugural season in Europe. The architectural marvel will accommodate more balcony staterooms overlooking the open ocean and legendary Boardwalk and Central Park neighbourhoods than her popular sister ship, Harmony of the Seas. But there is much more to this ship than her impressive size.

Boardwalk Reimagined

Symphony of the Seas will introduce the new generation of Royal Caribbean’s famed Boardwalk neighbourhood, infused with new energy, interactive experiences and lively venues conceptualised for endless entertainment for all ages. Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade will be the place to watch the “big game” from around the world across 30 big-screen TVs, ensuring everyone has the best seat in the house to cheer on their favourite sports team.

Spanning the length of the Boardwalk, the vibrant sports bar and arcade will be a hot spot for families to enjoy wings, burgers and craft beer on draft, as well as friendly competitions of Ms. Pacman, Star Wars Battle Pod, Ice Skeeball and other popular games. Across the way, aptly adjacent to the Boardwalk’s iconic hand-carved carousel, Sugar Beach sweet and ice-cream shop will bring a sugar high of sweet treats to adults and kids alike, enticing them in with colourful candy-packed walls and tempting ice cream and toppings galore. The sweetest spot on the high seas also will feature family-friendly activities for aspirational bakers.

The highly anticipated additions to the Boardwalk will round out the signature offerings that propelled the neighbourhood’s popularity. The Ultimate Abyss will catapult only the brave from the tallest slide at sea into the heart of the Boardwalk to revel in their adrenaline rush. Johnny Rockets is where indulgences of burgers, fries and milkshakes will be celebrated with 1950s diner music and entertainment. The awe-inspiring AquaTheatre will activate the ocean backdrop and starry nights with a breathtaking show of aquatic acrobatics and stunning high-diving aerial performances found only on Symphony of the Seas.

The Ultimate Family Suite

Symphony will introduce the world’s most adventurous and interactive family suite. The next generation of family accommodation, the two level Ultimate Family Suite is a dream come true for kids of all ages and will debut eye-popping features, including: an exclusive slide from the kid’s only bedroom down to the living room below; a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, an air-hockey table and hidden nooks for chilling.

A separate 3D cinema theatre-style TV room, complete with popcorn machine and a library of video games across multiple gaming systems will bring a new level of euphoria and competition to gamers in every family. And that’s just the inside; the 212 square foot wrap-around balcony touts a bumper pool table, a climbing experience and a full-size whirlpool that will provide unmatched ocean views. The Ultimate Family Suite spans 1,346 square feet accommodating a family of up to eight in two bedrooms and uses every inch of space to activate the imagination and provide the most brag-worthy accommodations imaginable.  If that wasn’t enough, guests in the Ultimate Family Suite will have their own personal Genie to take care of their every need while enjoying all the services and premium amenities of the Royal Suite Class. This ultimate expression of family holiday indulgence joins the wide variety of contemporary suite accommodations available throughout the ship, from the Loft Suites with their breathtaking views to the spacious multi-room Owner’s Suites.

All-New Culinary Creations

Symphony will debut new food and beverage concepts adding to an already diverse line-up of more than 20 specialty and complimentary restaurants across the ship’s seven neighbourhoods. Hooked, Royal Caribbean’s first New England-style seafood restaurant will feature fresh seafood and a robust raw bar complete with oysters harvested to order. Located at the front of the ship in the Solarium, the casually sophisticated restaurant will offer expansive views of the open water, serving lunch and dinner. El Loco Fresh will offer mouth-watering made-to-order tacos, burritos and other popular Mexican fare. The open-air restaurant will seat more than 100 guests in the Sports Zone.

The cruise line’s signature culinary favourites including Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park with its American seasonal menu, Park Café and Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, will also introduce refreshed designs and new menu specialties on Symphony, offering guests the widest choice and variety of dining options.

Entertainment Elevated

Royal Caribbean’s unparalleled entertainment will once again raise the bar, touting immersive shows where theatre magic extends beyond the stage and into the audience. Back by popular demand, the hugely successful “Hairspray” – the brand’s first Broadway musical at sea – will return on Symphony with a total refresh and will headline the Royal Theatre along with a new original Royal Caribbean show, “Flight”, a historical satire on the evolution of air travel that ends with homage to the famed Wright Brothers. In the iconic AquaTheatre open-air amphitheatre, a new aqua show “HiRo” offers serious wow factor with high-flying diving and acrobatics. Studio B will showcase a new time-travel adventure, a high-tech ice-skating show “1977” will bring guests to London on the eve of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee when her Crown Jewels are stolen in the heist of the century.

For thrilling live action adventure at sea, guests can gear up for an epic glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience like no other. State-of-the-art technology and special effects will transform Studio B into the world’s largest and ultimate laser tag arena as family, friends and foes battle over the fate of the last planet in the galaxy. Guests looking for a challenge can experience a new Puzzle Break experience on Symphony of the Seas where teams will race against the clock, learning to work together towards a common goal to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.

All New Mobile Check-in Debuts on Symphony

The latest technological innovations will be integrated throughout Symphony of the Seas, including a redesigned check-in experience that eliminates lines and bypasses the counter. The new process will leverage a combination of facial recognition, barcodes and beacons to make boarding fast and frictionless.

Guests will check-in via the brand’s new mobile app and seamlessly upload their security “selfie” to create their onboard account from the comfort of home. Upon arrival, guests will go through a security screening and then head straight to their stateroom where their key will be ready and waiting. In addition to mobile check-in, Symphony will feature all of the pioneering and award-winning guest technology the brand is known for, including VOOM – the fastest internet at sea, state-of-the-art wayfinding and virtual balconies.

Seven Neighbourhoods in Perfect Sync

One ship, seven distinctive neighbourhoods for families to explore together or individually, Symphony of the Seas is the ultimate playground for guests of all ages, with new surprises at every turn.

  • Boardwalk – Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and the Sugar Beach sweet and ice-cream shop bring a new spin to this outdoor space inspired by the nostalgic seaside piers of yesteryear. The Boardwalk, with its original hand-carved carousel, will offer classic family fun combined with a high energy vibe felt throughout its casual restaurants, shops and activities for a family fun day. The signature AquaTheatre, located at the stern of the ship with a distinct ocean backdrop, is a dazzling amphitheatre-style theatre where guests can experience stunning aquatic acrobatics and high-diving aerial performances.
  • Central Park – With more than 12,000 lush tropical plants, this open-air neighbourhood is a serene retreat that features meandering walkways with quiet nooks for reading and relaxing, boutique shops and specialty restaurants including Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park and Vintages wine bar. The expanded Park Café with its communal table and additional outdoor bistro seating overlooking a central piazza, is the perfect spot for meeting friends and people watching.
  • Entertainment Place – A contemporary night club district where more intimate venues cater to different moods and preferences is anchored by Casino Royale, which will take the title of the largest casino at sea, and Studio B, home to a full-scale ice rink and newly introduced glow-in-the-dark laser tag game. The Attic exudes the vibe of a downtown comedy club and transforms into a lounge for late night drinks and dancing, while Jazz on 4 features live jazz and blues performances with the convenience of table service for couples and groups.
  • Pool and Sports Zone – Home to the ship’s most active adventures, including The Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea, The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, two FlowRider surf simulators, a mini-golf course, a nine-deck high zip line, and the beach pool, plus the all new El Loco Fresh restaurant.
  • Royal Promenade – Dining, bar-hopping and shopping all around on this bustling main street at sea. The Promenade features a café, the industry-changing robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr and the Rising Tide Bar that transports guests up to Central Park.
  • Youth Zone – Adventurous tots through to teens can dive into the widest array of youth facilities and innovative programming at sea, including a yet-to-be-revealed new Puzzle Break challenge where teams will race against the clock to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.
  • Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center – Chill out or workout at the largest spa and fitness centre on the high seas.
Posted in Cruise News, Royal Caribbean International

Thomson Cruises To Rebrand As Marella Cruises

Thomson Cruises has announced that later this month, the UK’s third largest cruise line will be embarking on the biggest and most exciting evolution in the company’s history as it is rebranded as Marella Cruises. The move comes at the same time as Thomson changes to TUI later this month. The rebrand will see the cruise line set sail towards new horizons with sleek, modern additions to the fleet, such as Marella Explorer next year, and exotic new routes in the pipeline.

With Marella Cruises still part of the world of TUI, customers will still be offered fantastic itineraries, great service and entertainment on board all six ships with the friendliest staff at sea. The word Marella, which means ‘shining sea’ in Celtic, was chosen by the company to reflect its spirit of exploration and discovery across the seas. Those choosing a Marella Cruises holiday will be able to take advantage of flights on their doorstep across 22 regional UK airports, as well as a wide Cruise & Stay programme that combines a cruise holiday with a stay at one of more than 140 hotels across 10 destinations worldwide, including the luxurious TUI Sensatori collection.

All the extras that customers have grown to know and love with a Thomson Cruises holiday will still be offered with Marella Cruises, such as tips and service charges included in the price, All Inclusive as standard on Marella Explorer, Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2, previously TUI Discovery and TUI Discovery 2, and cruises setting sail at night meaning fewer days spent at sea and more time spent ashore. Thomson Cruises’ industry-renowned staff and crew will also still be a big part of the holiday experience; ensuring passengers receive the warmest of welcomes and the friendliest service at sea throughout their time onboard.

To celebrate the launch of Marella Cruises, the company has unveiled exciting new itineraries across Asia as part of its winter 2018 programme. The newly renamed Marella Discovery will sail to 18 exotic new ports of call on 14 new adult-only itineraries, including Colours of the Far East, departing from Bangkok, Thailand and Enchanting Far East, setting sail from Langkawi in Malaysia. Marella Discovery’s South East Asian adventure will take it to vibrant destinations such as Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Kuala Lumpur. In addition to this lusted-after corner of the world, Marella Discovery will also sail to India, calling at fascinating ports including Mumbai, Mangalore, Mormugao (Goa), Cochin (Kerala) and Colombo (Sri Lanka), and to the Middle East, with highlights including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat.

For the first time in the company’s history, two ships will be based in Barbados for winter 2018. Marella Explorer will sail its first ever winter season from the Bajan paradise and will be joined by Marella Celebration, operating established itineraries,

Sister company Thomson will also be rebranding later this month, moving to one aligned, global brand as TUI.

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Posted in Cruise News, Thomson Cruises

Destination Jamaica – CLIA Plan A Cruise Month 2017

Each year, October marks ‘Plan A Cruise Month’ – a celebration of all things that are cruise related. It’s also a great time of year for holidaymakers to look at booking their next getaway, with many of the cruise lines offering some fantastic incentives throughout the month.

This year’s theme for ‘Plan A Cruise Month’ is ‘destinations’ and as anyone that has cruised before will know, there is no better way to experience multiple destinations in one holiday than on a cruise. It’s the only way to travel, as far as I am concerned.

I’m incredibly excited to be part of ‘Plan A Cruise Month’ and to celebrate, I wanted to highlight one of my favourite destinations and some of the things you can do during your time there. Let me introduce you to the Caribbean island of Jamaica, an island that I fell in love with back in 2013 and one that I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times.

It’s warm, tropical waters entice ships to its shores every year and although I’ve not yet had the pleasure of visiting Ocho Rios, Falmouth or Port Antonio, I have called into Montego Bay on numerous occasions and experienced something different on each visit.

I want to make the most of my time in each destination, so I always do research before I embark on a cruise and for my first visit to Jamaica, I just had to spend the day with CHUKKA, a company that offers a wide range of activities on the island, including visits to Dunn’s River Falls, horseback ride and swim, 4×4 adventures deep in the rainforest and more. I opted for the 4×4 adventure and thanks to their highly experienced and friendly guides, it remains one of my favourite Jamaican experiences. We enjoyed stunning views across Montego Bay, a 4×4 ride deep into the countryside (which included a stop to pick oranges) refreshment stops for that all-important Rum Punch and a chance to take a dip in The Great River. It was exciting without being exhausting and it was a lot of fun. Just my kind of excursion.

If you’d prefer something that sheds some light on the history of the island, then you must visit Rose Hall, the country’s most famous house. It was originally built in the 1770s and was lovingly restored back to its former glory in the 1960s. Originally a plantation house, Rose Hall sits within 650 acres of land, this was originally divided among sugar cane, grass and pasture for over 200 cattle. At any one time, 250 enslaved Africans were housed on the adjoining Palmyra estate. Although Rose Hall is steeped in rich Jamaican history, it’s the legend of the White Witch (Annie Palmer) that most are familiar with. According to legend, the spirit of Annie Palmer haunts the grounds. The story tells us that she was born in Haiti to an English mother and Irish father and spent most of her life there until her parents died of yellow fever. Annie was then adopted by a nanny who taught her witchcraft and voodoo. As an adult, she moved to Jamaica which is where she met and subsequently married John Palmer, owner at the time of the Rose Hall Plantation. Annie murdered Palmer along with two subsequent husbands and numerous male plantation slaves, later being murdered herself by a slave named “Takoo”.

Another absolute must in Jamaica is a visit to Scotchie’s, which is just a short journey away from Rose Hall, in Montego Bay. This world famous ‘jerk-pit’ offers tasty jerk pork and chicken cooked the traditional way, on open-air barbeques over pimento wood. The food here is delicious and you can have your jerk as mild or spicy as you like – I’m told the home-made jerk sauce is HOT! Other items on the menu include rice and peas, corn, breadfruit and roasted yam. The Montego Bay location is the original, but you can also find Scotchie’s in Ocho Rios and Kingston.

These are some other excursions to consider when cruising to Jamaica:

  • Dunn’s River Falls – closest cruise port is Ocho Rios followed by Falmouth (1 hour) and then Montego Bay (approx. 1.5 hours)
  • Bob Marley tour with a visit to his final resting place – closest cruise ports are Falmouth and Ocho Rios, both are 1+ hours via road
  • Doctor’s Cave Beach – one of the most stunning beaches on the island, the closest cruise port is Montego Bay followed by Falmouth (30 minutes)
  • Dolphin Cove – closest cruise port is Ocho Rios
  • Blue Mountain National Park – closest cruise port is Port Antonio
  • Trench Town Culture Yard Museum – closest cruise port is Ocho Rios

Jamaica is fun, vibrant and although it hasn’t had the best reputation with cruise passengers, I’ve never found an issue here and I’ve always felt comfortable. I like to experience the local life and check out the places where the locals go. By speaking with the incredible shore excursion teams on-board the ships that know the destinations inside out, you’ll discover that you can also learn to make the best jerk seasoning at a local restaurant, head to a market and jostle with the locals for authentic crafts and culinary specialities or head up into the mountains to sample Jamaica’s world-famous coffee.

You can also join in with #CruiseMonth! Follow Discover Cruises on Instagram and Twitter

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Posted in Destinations

Eavesway Cruise Link Service 2018

Whenever I travel to Southampton to meet my cruise ship, I always use Eavesway, where possible, and I have done so since 2010. The service is faultless and incredibly easy. I also feel safe with Eavesway, which I know is a big thing for many people that opt to use a cruise link service, especially those travelling alone. I’ve also never been late to a ship with Eavesway, so you can swiftly cast that worry aside. The ground team are in constant communication with your driver and the port, so even if there was a delay, you’ll still be there with plenty of time to spare – the ship won’t sail without you.

I could share my Eavesway experiences with you all day, but I need to tell you the important stuff and as 2018 draws near, I thought now would be a great time to share some information and updates with you on the 2018 service.

Prices in 2018 will be slightly higher than of previous years, but don’t worry, at an average increase of just £3 per person, it’s hardly going to break the bank and as always, you can look forward to the same high standard of service that Eavesway has been offering for over 28 years!

Alongside the standard facilities Eavesway guarantee, including air conditioning, reclining seats, foot rests, spacious leg room, toilet facilities and vehicle tracking systems, you can now also find FREE Wi-Fi on over 90% of their vehicles.

New in 2018 is the partnership with MSC Cruises for MSC Magnifica sailing out of Southampton.  Although a limited service initially, Eavesway is hoping to expand in following years – subject to the interest received from passengers in the first year of operation.

All Eavesway coaches can accommodate passengers with disabilities or that are unable to climb the several steps into the main coach seating area. This is proving to be very popular, especially with those needing to remain in their wheelchairs for the duration of the journey. If you feel you would need to reserve your seat because of mobility issues or any other issue, please let reservations know at the time of booking.

2018 Eavesway Services In Operation

Sailings from SOUTHAMPTON where a full service across the UK is available

(Scotland & Northwest, North East & Yorkshire, North Wales, South Wales*)

Royal Caribbean: Independence of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas – Sailings of 3+ nights

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Silhouette

P&O Cruises: Oriana, Aurora, Oceana, Arcadia, Azura, Ventura, Britannia – Sailings of 3+ nights

Princess Cruises: Sapphire Princess

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: Balmoral, Braemar, Black Watch – Sailings of 5+ nights *NO South Wales

Sailings from SOUTHAMPTON with LIMITED Services

(North West starting at Blackpool, Yorkshires starting at Bradford, North Wales starting at Chester)

MSC Cruises: MSC Magnifica – Sailings of 5+ nights

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Jade – Sailings of 7+ nights

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Silhouette (19/05/2018 – 26/08/2018) – Chartered by Cruiseco.co.uk

Royal Caribbean International: Navigator of the Seas (06/05/2018 – 13/05/2018) – Chartered by Cruiseco.co.uk

Sailings from DOVER with Limited Services

(Northwest Starting at Blackpool including Coventry, North Wales starting at Chester, Yorkshire starting at Bradford including South Mimms,)

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: Boudicca – Sailings of 5+ nights

Sailings from NEWCASTLE with an entire separate routing (Limited)

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: Balmoral – Sailings of 5+ nights

Looking ahead at 2019 I can advise that Eavesway will be holding their prices the same as the 2018 new prices.

You can view ALL of the Eavesway Cruise Link timetables on their website.

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Posted in Cruise News, Eavesway Cruise Link Service

Celebrating QE2’s 50th Anniversary Cunard Style!

Chris Frame of the Chris Cunard blog is my guest blogger today. He is a maritime historian, author, public speaker and travel writer, and he recently had the pleasure of joining Queen Elizabeth on her ‘QE2 50th anniversary voyage’ from Southampton.

September 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the most famous ocean liner in recent memory. Named and launched on 20 September 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the liner was the QE2.

The last large ocean liner to be built at the famed John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, QE2 went on to sail for more than 39 years, carrying 2.5 million passengers a staggering 5.6 million miles – that makes her the furthest travelled ship in history!

To celebrate this significant anniversary, Cunard hosted a celebration cruise aboard their newest Queen Elizabeth. The sold out 17 night voyage departed Southampton on 8 September with a full complement of QE2 devotees.

The round-trip voyage from Southampton sailed south and into the Mediterranean calling at Cadiz, Messina, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Split, Venice and Gibraltar. And despite the port-heavy schedule, the itinerary allowed for a number of glorious sea-days; five of which were specially themed for various events that occurred during the QE2’s career.

Each of these theme days were paired with commemorative collectible menus, specially written noon speeches broadcast by Captain Hashmi as well as themed daily programmes, delivered to each and every stateroom.

As the longest serving express liner in Cunard’s long history, the QE2 was unique among the fleet and to celebrate there were talks on these theme days about the company as well as QE2’s legacy from myself as well as past-QE2 Captain, Commodore Warwick and Maureen Ryan one of the ship’s original Social Hostesses and long-serving Cunarder.

The first of these themes was Triumph of a Great Tradition. This day paid tribute to the transatlantic ocean liner as well as QE2’s triumph over the great tradition of ocean voyages.

Special activities that day included a QE2 past passenger and crew gathering which I hosted along with Ed Moffatt, Queen Elizabeth’s assistant entertainment director. It was so popular that we held another three events like it, which saw guests, share their memorabilia collections that many had brought aboard the cruise.

This day will always be memorable for me as along with Rachelle Cross who was also aboard, we launched our newest book – QE2: A 50th Anniversary Celebration. There was a queue of passengers from the Golden Lion Pub to the Queens Room and we signed books for well over an hour – what a thrill!!

The next theme day was themed The Falklands, which acknowledged QE2’s role in the 1982 conflict. The key event that day was a first-hand account of the campaign from Commodore Warwick who served as part of QE2’s 600-person volunteer crew during the ship’s action in the South Atlantic.

Moving in Royal Circles followed, with the theme concentrating on QE2 (and Cunard’s) long connection with the Royal Family. QE2 hosted many members of the Royal Household during her career, with Prince Charles as the first official passenger back in 1968 and Prince Philip as her last on 11 November 2008 – not to mention a number of visits by HM. The Queen.

On 20 September as the Queen Elizabeth sailed to Gibraltar, QE2 Day was celebrated; with the theme of “I name this ship”. This marked the actual 50th Anniversary of the launch of QE2.

My talk about QE2’s long history kicked off the day’s celebrations, followed by a panel with Captain Ian McNaught (QE2’s last master) who joined Captain Hashmi (himself a former QE2 officer), Commodore Warwick and Maureen Ryan. The panel took unfiltered questions from the audience; which was a fun, engaging and entertaining way to learn more about QE2 and her legacy.

A QE2 Ball followed the gala dinner that evening. Here photographs and video of the ship were shown on screens in the Queens Room to the sounds of the Queen Elizabeth Orchestra.

Following the final port of call, one last theme day took place – The World’s Flagship. This day acknowledged QE2’s role as a ground-breaking dual-purpose liner, with her cruise ship capabilities allowing her to complete 26 world cruises and a number of extended voyages.

These world voyages made QE2 a celebrity worldwide and resulted in thousands of people in ports across the world growing affection for the greatest ocean liner of our time. During this, a QE2 Country Fair was held with over $5,000 raised for the Princes’ Trust Charity during the event.

The celebration voyage was a great success, with many happy passengers sharing their appreciation of the events at the final QE2 themed gathering on the last sea day.

It was a fitting way to acknowledge the great ship for all of us who had sailed or worked aboard her, while the few passengers who hadn’t travelled with QE2 left with a new appreciation for that remarkable ship.

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Fun Facts About Tall Ship Cruising With Star Clippers

Sailing on one of Star Clippers’ graceful tall ships conjures up images of romance and mystery; of sea-faring legends and long voyages to far-off, exotic lands. Styled on the tea clippers of the 19th C that literally `clipped’ the waves as they plied the oceans, Star Clippers’ three tall ships today offer an exclusive and exhilarating cruise experience. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from guests on board Star Clipper, Star Flyer and Royal Clipper:

Can guests take part sailing the clippers?

It’s almost unheard of these days for guests to enter the bridge of a commercial cruise ship, but Star Clippers has an open bridge policy while sailing. Guests can discuss navigation techniques and learn about the instruments, take the wheel and help haul ropes.

How much do the sails weigh?

Surprisingly, the thousands of square feet of billowing sails weigh relatively little. On Star Clipper and Star Flyer, the sails weigh about two tons, while on the larger Royal Clipper, it’s double this.

What can guests learn on board?

Apart from learning sailing techniques, guests are invited to take part in knot-tying sessions, learn fruit carving, and or take part in deck-top yoga at dawn and sunset when guest yoga instructors are on board. For the more active the Sports Crew offers complimentary instruction in water-skiing, kayaking and sail boarding.

How much time do Star Clippers’ vessels spend sailing?

In the Caribbean, where the wind is most predictable, the ships operate under wind power up to 70 percent of the time, thus minimising use of the auxiliary engines, which also power the air-conditioning and provide electricity for the day-to-day operation of the ship.

How many bottles of champagne do guests consume each year?

Around 65% of those who sail with Star Clippers will return to find a bottle of champagne in their cabin. Sipping champagne is a popular way to leave port, while many pop corks to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries on board. Around 14,000 bottles are consumed each year,

When was the first modern day Clipper launched?

Star Clippers initially launched two identical four-masted barquentines, the 360’ Star Flyer, which set sail in 1991 and her twin, Star Clipper, in 1992. The vessels were the first sailing clippers to be built since 1910 and heralded a renaissance of a golden age of sail. In 2000, Krafft added a third vessel, Royal Clipper, a 400’ long, masted, fully square-rigged vessel with 42 sails, the largest sailing vessel of its kind in the world. In 2018, Star Clippers will launch Flying Clipper, a near replica of the dramatic France II ordered in 1911 at La Gironde shipyard Bordeaux, which was the largest square rig sailing ship ever built. She will carry 300 passengers and be powered by 35 sails totalling more than 6.350 m2.

How high can guests go during mast-climbing? 

Guests can climb to a height of around 15m, to the first crow’s nest, when the uniformed sports crew supervise mast-climbing for guests of all ages, harnessed and attached to the rigging, to ascend to a spectacular birds-eye view of the teak decks, plunge pools and surrounding ocean.

What kind of fuel do the clippers burn?

When Star Clippers ships consume fuel, it is a less-polluting grade. All three vessels only use very pure, high-quality low-sulphur gas oil. The company was awarded the International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate and Star Flyer was the first ship in the world to receive this certificate, followed later by Star Clipper and Royal Clipper.

How many countries do Star Clippers’ ships visit?

Star Clippers’ ships have a higher draft than most commercial cruise vessels, they are smaller and more manoeuvrable, enabling them to access ports and harbours that larger vessels cannot navigate. In total, Star Clippers’ three vessels will visit 25 countries and territories in 2017-18.

These are: France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Malta, Canary Islands, Portugal, Madeira, Montenegro, Monaco, Turkey, Morocco, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cuba, Caribbean, Azores.

How much varnish does it take to keep the wood looking shiny?

Star Clippers gets through approximately two tons of varnish each year to keep Star Flyer and Star Clipper protected from the elements, and looking pristine, and around three tons for Royal Clipper.

Are the sails raised by computer?

There are no computerised sails on Star Clippers. The Captains and the crew are very experienced square-rigger sailors who are trained both on modern technology found on Star Clippers’ ships and the old-fashioned, traditional methods proven over the generations. Some winches are electric-powered but muscle-powered winches are widely used as well.

How are the undersides of the ships kept clean?

Star Clippers’ 3 ships go into dry dock every two to five years where one of the jobs is to clear the underside of barnacles. Sometimes this is done when the ship is still in the water, using an eco-friendly anti-fouling agent. Barnacles may seem small when you see them along the shoreline – but living on a ship, they can grow as big as tennis balls.

How far can the ships heel?

Royal Clipper’s five-masted, fully square-rigged design is such that she does not heel at much of an angle but Star Flyer and Star Clipper are able to lean over safely much further, just as the original racing clippers of the 19th century did. The maximum heel preferred when there are passengers on board is ten degrees but both ships have been put through their paces and achieved a much more exciting angle. Both have raced in the Classic Regatta in Antigua, for which the decks were cleared of furniture and the guests on board given special race training.

What is the music that echoes across the decks every time a ship leaves port?

It is a Star Clippers tradition to play 1492 – Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis (since copied by many other cruise lines). The crew have heard this music literally thousands of times but guests love it and hearing it always evokes memories for them of departing under sail from some of the world’s most beautiful ports,

Why don’t Star Flyer and Star Clipper have figureheads?

Star Clippers’ president Mikael Krafft explains: “We used to have a five-metre-long golden eagle on both Star Flyer and Star Clipper, however one was washed off during a storm and had to be replaced. We lost the figureheads twice more on these ships, and it was decided not to replace them as it was very expensive and they obviously did not want to stay!”

Who is the mystery lady on Royal Clipper’s bowsprit?

The figurehead on Royal Clippers is Marie Krafft, Mikael Krafft’s daughter and today Director of Sales for the company. It’s been in place for 12 years and is made of Douglas Fir. Mikael Krafft explains: “Marie had to go to the craftsmen’s workshop so that Claus and Birgit Hartmann could take a moulding of her face. They make their living creating sculptures and figureheads for ships. It was a very proud moment when these two artists gave the Marie figurehead to the Royal Clipper in Rotterdam.”

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Silversea Announces Plans To Lengthen Silver Spirit

Silversea has unveiled plans for its first-ever ship lengthening. The turn-key transformation of Silver Spirit will take place early next year at the Palermo shipyard of Fincantieri, one of the world’s largest shipbuilding groups and number one by diversification and innovation.

Starting in early March 2018, Silver Spirit will be lengthened by inserting a prebuilt 49-foot-long midsection housing six Silver Suites, 26 Veranda Suites and two Panorama Suites. Technical upgrades will also be implemented.

The ship’s extensive redesign takes its inspiration from the innovations of the line’s new flagship, Silver Muse. Creative dining concepts will be incorporated, and stylish décor enhancements will be made to existing suites and throughout public spaces and outdoor areas, providing an increased level of comfort and spaciousness.

“Based on the wonderful feedback from guests sailing onboard our beautiful Silver Muse, we believe the comprehensive makeover we have planned for Silver Spirit will enrich the onboard experience and be equally appreciated by guests. They will see many of Silver Muse’s innovations and elevated comforts embodied in our reimagined Silver Spirit,” said Christian Sauleau, Executive Vice President, Silversea Fleet operations.

Silver Spirit offers a lively, convivial atmosphere for cosmopolitan travellers who enjoy a greater variety of shipboard diversions, yet crave the personalised service and the authentic and “up-close” experiences for which Silversea is known. Silver Spirit is a true definition of Silversea’s heritage, with a modern edge. The vessel amplifies everything that matters: public and personal space, beautiful interior design, superior service, gastronomic cuisine and world-class wines. She also remains small enough to visit both secluded and iconic ports.

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