The Grand Plaza: The Epicentre Of Celebrity Edge

With Celebrity Edge less than three months from delivery, Celebrity Cruises completes the final chapter of the ship’s transformational design story, with the reveal of iconic spaces designed by renowned designers, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, of Jouin Manku Studio. This includes the stunning space that will become the beating heart of the year’s most anticipated new ship, The Grand Plaza, yet another venue designed to break from traditional cruise ship thinking and shatter all expectations.


With the aspiration to completely transform the way guests connect to the world, Celebrity Cruises sought creative thinkers who were new to the cruise industry to ensure every aspect of Celebrity Edge would be a departure from traditional thinking about cruising.

Among those chosen were the Paris-based design duo of Jouin Manku, who are celebrated for drawing inspiration from a multitude of cultures and for merging cutting-edge technology with old-world craftsmanship. They are credited with world-famous works such as the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée and the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Together, the visionaries collaborated with the Celebrity Cruises team to bring these new concepts to life.

Jouin’s connection to the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard was also found to be far rooted beyond his work on Celebrity Edge, noting: “The shipyard is very important for me and my family: My grandfather worked at this very yard, and when he passed away at a young age, they hired my grandmother, so she could continue to support her family. This project was a very emotional one for me. Sanjit and I channeled that into our design, which inspired our unique approach in showing the craftmanship.


Mixing simplicity and modernity, The Grand Plaza takes inspiration from the glamourous days of transatlantic travel. At a time when cruise ships were at the heart of chic society, the centre of these ships were traditionally spectacular ballrooms, accented with dramatic staircases and ornate chandeliers. They were social places to meet, greet, dine, drink and dance. The Grand Plaza pays homage to these powerful historic spaces and reinterprets them for the 21st century.

Spanning three decks at the heart of the ship, The Grand Plaza acts as the epicentre of Celebrity Edge, which radiates an energy that lures guests throughout the day, as it transforms both physically and atmospherically. Guests are drawn to the space by The Chandelier, a striking lighting feature – and art installation – that rises over the Martini Bar to the ceiling three decks above. Composed of five levels of 765 blades illuminated by dynamic LED strips that change colour from day to night, The Chandelier weighs in at seven tonnes.

Here, guests will be transported to the lively piazzas of Italy, of which this sprawling 5,167 sq. ft. (480 metres sq.) space was also inspired. Home to many of the incredible new speciality restaurants – including Raw on 5 and Fine Cut Steakhouse on Deck 5; Le Grand Bistro and Café al Bacio on Deck 4; and the new Grand Plaza Café on Deck 3 – The Grand Plaza truly is a grand space. At its centre, on Deck 3, guests will find the breath-taking next evolution of the always-buzzing Martini Bar, one of the most popular venues across Celebrity Cruises’ fleet. Adorning the edges of The Grand Plaza are intricately hand-stitched mesh screens, combining more than 13,500 pieces of metal, leather, and fabric.

In the morning, The Grand Plaza invites guests to enjoy a cappuccino and a croissant at either of the cafés. Guests can return to The Grand Plaza for afternoon tea or to indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail while enjoying unexpected pop-up performances. At nightfall, the energy transforms completely, and the space becomes the social epicentre of the ship, coming alive with live music.


The Grand Plaza remains a highlight of Jouin Manku’s involvement in the design of Celebrity Edge, but their influence can be felt throughout the ship.

Inspired by the thousands of hands that go in to the construction of a ship – such as Jouin’s grandfather, who was a welder in the construction of the S.S. Normandie – Jouin Manku designed the exposed corridor. Complete with authentic welders’ touches, architects’ markings and engineers’ notes, the exposed corridor uncovers the bare hull of the ship leading to and from The Grand Plaza and the main dining rooms. The space transforms depending on the direction a guest is walking, like a life-sized lenticular wall. One way, guests will see the unadorned beauty of the ship’s steel bones, while heading in the other direction guests will see a sleek, modern design that starkly contrasts the alternate view.

Jouin Manku’s influence is also strikingly apparent in the Main Dining Atrium, where they’ve taken the concept of a staircase and turned it into a work of art. Hanging three stories between the flights of stairs, is yet another meaningful art installation known as The Pendulum. The Pendulum base moves ever so gently to the rhythms of the ocean to remind guests that they are indeed moving and connected to the sea, even when they cannot see it.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News

Cunard Unveils Expanded 2020 Summer Sailings

Cunard has announced its expanded voyages for the remainder of 2020, including new sailings to the Norwegian Fjords, Japan and Australia. Guests will have the opportunity to experience true luxury and relaxation on Cunard’s iconic ships – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria – while travelling around the world.

Cunard will continue many of its classic voyages, including Queen Mary 2’s signature Transatlantic Crossing between New York and Southampton, while adding new itineraries in Western Europe and Southeast Asia. Whether choosing a three-night short break or a 19-night Grand Voyage, Cunard guests will enjoy a blend of iconic, world-class cities and lesser-known, charming destinations.

In total, the Cunard fleet will travel over 169,000 nautical miles with calls at 110 destinations in 34 different countries, with eight maiden calls including Bornholm, Denmark; Nordfjordeid, Norway; Ringaskiddy, Ireland; Jakarta, Indonesia; as well as Kurhiro, Ishigaki and Tokyo, Japan. Cunard will also offer a selection of two-night calls in major cities including Barcelona, Hong Kong and Québec and late evening departures which allow guests more time in port for deeper exploration in places such as Juneau, Alaska, Aomori, Japan, Malaga, Spain, and Tromsø, Norway.

Queen Mary 2

Flagship ocean liner Queen Mary 2 will continue to be the only ship to offer regularly-scheduled service between New York and London, making 19 7- to 8-night Transatlantic Crossings from April through December in 2020. Voyage itineraries range from seven to 21 nights and include port calls in Canada, Iceland, Scotland and Le Havre, France, along with overnight calls in Québec and Reykjavik and evening departures in Boston and Halifax. Queen Mary 2 will also sail two Norwegian Fjords voyages ranging from seven to 25 nights and five Western European voyages for three to five nights.

Queen Mary 2 voyage highlights include:

  • Nine 14- to 15-night Transatlantic Crossings roundtrip from either New York or London
  • Two 21-night sailings with calls to Canada, Iceland and Scotland – one sailing roundtrip from New York, the other roundtrip from London
  • Fourth of July seven-night Independence Day cruise roundtrip from New York
  • Four seven-night voyages between New York and Québec
  • Eight 14-night New England & Canada voyages which begin and end in ports of New York, Québec, Southampton or Le Havre

Queen Elizabeth

Continuing with the exciting new voyage types first introduced in 2019, Queen Elizabeth, will continue to roam among far-flung and beloved destinations to bring our guests a taste of the exotic in Fall 2020. Starting in September, Queen Elizabeth will embark on three roundtrip voyages from Tokyo as well as Grand Voyages that cover the North Pacific, East Asia and Australia. These can be taken as shorter individual voyages from two to 18-nights or grouped together into longer combinations of up to 40 nights, to satisfy any discerning guest’s need for exploration.

Queen Elizabeth highlights include:

  • Five Roundtrip Tokyo itineraries with varying lengths and destinations
  • Five Southeast Asia voyages, ranging from seven to 23 nights

Queen Victoria

Cunard’s Queen Victoria will return to Southampton in early spring after embarking on a circumnavigation of South America. She will continue to sail Northern Europe itineraries in addition to seven shorter Western Europe voyages ranging from two to seven nights. She will make seven maiden calls with overnight stays in the major cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Reykjavik and St. Petersburg, and evening departures in Bodo, Narvik and Tromsø, Norway, Dublin, Ireland, Hamburg, Germany, Malaga, Spain, and Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Queen Victoria highlights include:

  • Four Baltic voyages, ranging from nine to 16 nights
  • Four Norwegian Fjords voyages, ranging from seven to 12 nights
  • Three Atlantic Coast/Iberia voyages, ranging from 10 to 12 nights
  • Two 12-night Iceland voyages
  • Two 12-night North Cape voyages (with a high likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights at Alesund)
  • Two Western Mediterranean voyages, ranging from 14 to 17 nights
  • A 12-night British Isles voyage

Queen Victoria maiden calls: 

Bodo, Norway | Bornholm, Denmark | Riga, Latvia | Nordfjordeid, Norway | Leknes, Norway | Skjolden, Norway | Ringaskiddy (for tours to Cork), Ireland

Renowned for impeccable White Star Service, gourmet dining and world-class entertainment, all three of Cunard’s Queens offer luxury accommodations in Britannia, Britannia Club, Princess Grill Suite and Queens Grill Suite staterooms. Cunard is the only line to offer regularly scheduled Transatlantic service between New York and London, and it continues to celebrate the freedom of travel on exciting World Voyage and Grand Voyage itineraries that visit Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.


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Posted in Cruise News, Cunard Cruise Line

The Wonder That Is MSC Meraviglia

It had been a while since I’d stepped aboard an MSC Cruises ship and I couldn’t wait to explore MSC Meraviglia, even if it was only for a few hours.

The MSC charm hit me in the face as soon as I entered her beautiful atrium. The Swarovski stairs were glistening (each step being worth 15,000 euros) as I made my way up them and into Galleria Meraviglia. What a space! I was speechless. This 96m long central promenade is packed with restaurants and boutiques, and it’s illuminated by a 480 square metre LED screen (the largest at sea) that is essentially an atmospheric digital sky. It’s really something quite special.

On the lower level of the Galleria, you’ll find the Jean-Philippe Maury Chocolate Atelier and let me tell you that you MUST make a purchase, everything is delicious! All the chocolates are made on board and you can even watch a team of chocolatiers in an open kitchen creating the sweet masterpieces. Directly opposite is the Jean Philippe Crepes & Gelato bar. I really liked this space and because most passengers were ashore, it was quiet enough to explore in depth and take photographs. There’s something special about feeling like you have a ship all to yourself.

Like most other cruise ships, bread and cakes are also freshly made on board, but MSC Meraviglia holds another little secret, she has her very own mozzarella production area within the Marketplace Buffet on Deck 15, where 300kg of the cheese is produced on a daily basis. It was conveniently right next to the pizza station and it took everything I had in me to not help myself to a slice. I love MSC pizza! Like, really love MSC pizza.

I also explored the casino, kids club areas, Horizon pool, Himalaya Bridge and Polar Aquapark, and several bars and lounges. There was so much to see and do throughout the vessel, lots of areas that I am sure are a hive of activity when passengers are on board, but I did also notice a few places where you could just relax and have some quiet time. I suppose that’s the beauty of cruising and on a ship such as MSC Meraviglia, there literally is something for everyone, young and old.

My favourite pool area was her Atmosphere Pool. It was the kind of place I would enjoy relaxing in the sun on a warm sea day. There’s a giant TV screen, 2 swimming pools, numerous sun loungers and I’d imagine at night, it’s probably a great place to enjoy a cocktail. I’ve enjoyed several deck parties on MSC ships, I’m sure MSC Meraviglia would not be the one to let the fleet down.

When lunchtime came around, I stopped in the Top Sail Lounge (which is exclusive for MSC Yacht Club guests) before heading up to the MSC Yacht Club Restaurant for a 3-course feast. I ordered mushroom soup to start which was followed by ‘Devilled Rooster’. I finished with a small slice of chocolate fudge cake and I was quite content. I couldn’t have eaten another thing, although I was still thinking about the pizza.

A few hours didn’t give me enough time to take in everything this impressive ship has to offer, and she certainly left me wanting more. I’ve sailed with MSC Cruises several times and each time I’ve had great experiences. I always enjoy the fresh smell that flows throughout each ship, the cabins available are some of the best and most spacious at sea and overall, MSC is superb value for money.

MSC Meraviglia Fun Facts

12 dining venues

75% of cabins have balconies

20 bars and lounges

There’s a flight simulator on board

A full-size bowling alley with 2 lanes

2 exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows are offered in the Carousel Lounge

2 F1 simulators

A full-size basketball court

3 waterslides

22 treatment rooms in the MSC Aurea Spa


For more information on MSC Meraviglia and her itineraries, please visit the MSC Cruises website.

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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Reunites Fleet For Historic ‘Captains In Cadiz’ Celebration

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines celebrated an historic coming together of its fleet of four ocean ships – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch – in Cádiz, Spain on 10th September 2018. Entitled ‘Captains in Cádiz’, this was only the second time ever that the fleet has converged in one place, anywhere in the world.

Fred. Olsen’s four ships sailed into Cádiz harbour at just before 8am, carrying 4,000 lucky guests, who were welcomed by the ‘Los Sones de Cádiz’ band and a port bedecked with ‘Captains in Cádiz’ fiesta-style bunting and banners.

Mike Rodwell, Managing Director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:

“We have named this year’s event ‘Captains in Cádiz’, as our Captains – and their dedicated crews – help to make the cruise experience across our fleet such an enjoyable and memorable one.

“This year marks the 170th anniversary of Fred. Olsen’s start as a shipping company and we are delighted to be celebrating today in the stunning city of Cádiz. Our cruise ships have been calling here since 1987, and the excellent port facilities mean that we can berth all four ships in close proximity to each other.

‘‘Captains in Cadiz’ has been two years in the planning, and follows on from the tremendous success of our ‘Four Ships in Bergen’ event in July 2015, when we brought our four ocean ships together for the very first time in Bergen, Norway. We would like to thank the Port and city of Cádiz for their very warm welcome, and we look forward to giving our guests another unforgettable Fred. Olsen experience here today with ‘Captains in Cádiz’!”

A key part of the ‘Captains in Cádiz’ celebrations day was the bringing together of the eight ships’ Masters from across the Fred. Olsen fleet: Captains Victor Stoica and Rommel Pineda from Balmoral, Captains Jozo Glavic and Jens Erik Gulowsen from Braemar, Captains Juha Sartela and Mikael Degerlund from Boudicca, and Captains Henrik Mattsson and Valentin Giuglea from Black Watch.

Also attending the event was Chairman of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Fred. Olsen Junior, who watched the fleet come together again with pride.

Captain Mikael Degerlund, Master of Boudicca, said:

“Captains in Cádiz’ really was another tremendous success for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. The event was wonderful, not only for all of us eight Captains, but also for all the staff and crew, who had a great opportunity to meet and mingle with guests from across the fleet, together with the Chairman, Directors and Managers from both of our offices in Ipswich and Oslo. Wherever you walked and turned, there was always a familiar face.

“On a personal level, it makes me very proud to be part of Fred. Olsen, whose cruise ships – for me and many of our guests – are our ‘home away from home’.”

Pictured, left to right: Captain Jens Erik Gulowsen – Master of Braemar, Captain Juha Sartela – Master of Boudicca, Captain Mikael Degerlund – Master of Boudicca, Captain Henrik Mattsson – Master of Black Watch, Fred. Olsen Junior – Chairman of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Mike Rodwell – Managing Director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Captain Valentin Giuglea – Master of Black Watch, Captain Victor Stoica – Master of Balmoral, Captain Rommel Pineda – Master of Balmoral, and Captain Jozo Glavic – Master of Braemar, celebrate ‘Captains in Cadiz’ in Cádiz, Spain on 10th September 2018.

Working closely with Cádiz Port Authority and the various Cádiz and Andalusian tourism partners involved, Fred. Olsen laid on a fun-packed programme of festivities and activities during the day, along the quayside and throughout the city.

Guests could take part in a ‘Siege of Cádiz’ themed Treasure Hunt, enjoy live bands and Flamenco shows along the route, try delicious local produce, cheer on the crew in a hotly-contested inter-ship Tug of War competition, and sample local Sherry – poured in the traditional way.

One of the highlights of the event was a ceremonial Plaque Exchange on stage, attended by all eight Captains, Fred. Olsen Junior, Mike Rodwell, the Mayor of Cádiz, President of Cádiz Port Authority and other local dignitaries, at which ships’ plaques were presented by the Captains and commemorative gifts received from the city of Cádiz, followed by a VIP Reception on board Balmoral.

Guests also had the rare opportunity to visit all the Fred. Olsen ships during the day, and many took advantage of the chance to meet up with each other – or their favourite crew members – and get to experience the rest of the fleet for themselves.

At 5pm, all four ships made a dramatic departure from Cádiz in convoy, serenaded by a local jazz band. Led out of the harbour by a fire tug boat spraying its water cannons, the Fred. Olsen fleet passed under the imposing The Constitution of 1812 Bridge in formation, before setting sail for their next destinations: Braemar was returning to Southampton, UK; both Balmoral and Black Watch continued to Lisbon, Portugal; and Boudicca headed to Ibiza, Spain.

Fred. Olsen has already started planning its next fleet reunion – the third such event – in the stunning city of Funchal, on the ‘Garden Island’ of Madeira, on 4th April 2020. Named ‘Four Fred.s in Funchal’, this exciting event is already proving popular with guests, many of whom have chosen to book their place following their enjoyment of ‘Captains in Cádiz!

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Posted in Cruise News, fred olsen cruise lines

Celebrity Edge Inspires The Next Generation Of Explorers At Sea

From tots speaking their first words to teens preparing to leap into university, Celebrity Cruises is taking learning at sea to the next level for guests of all ages on its new transformational ship, Celebrity Edge.

Younger travellers will be truly spoilt for choice with the ship’s Camp at Sea programme. With over 500 activities to try out, don’t miss out on the chance to take part in the cruise line’s first youth coding experience at sea, create a holiday vlog using a Go Pro camera or master the music decks with a Scratch DJ tournament.

Those looking to become the next Albert Einstein, Bear Grylls or David Attenborough can harness their inner scientist, explorer and adventurer at Anturus Explorer Academy. Navigate the world like an explorer and uncover the Earth’s magnetic field, test out a homemade shelter with a special camp-out evening on the top deck, and test out those commentary skills at The Explorer Olympics. At the end of the sailing, children will graduate from the academy as an Explorer with their very own certificate and badge and can put their training to good use after their holiday.

Free for all children on-board, the Anturus Explorer Academy sessions will not only help ignite the imaginations of young people, they also bring the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – to life outside the classroom.

Join Celebrity Cruises for a nine-night Western Mediterranean fly/cruise from £2,659 per person based on two people sharing an Oceanview stateroom. Both guests will receive a free Classic Drinks Package worth £450* per person, along with free soft drinks packages for additional guests.

Departing 10 August 2019, the price includes return flights from London Heathrow airport, transfers, and a nine-night cruise departing Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), and calling at Naples (Italy), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Monte Carlo (Monaco), Santa Margherita (Italy) and Florence/Pisa (La Spezia, Italy), before returning to Rome for the flight home; meals and entertainment on-board the ship and all relevant cruise taxes/fees.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News, Cruising & Kids

My Top Reasons To #ChooseCruise

Throughout September and October, the global cruise industry is coming together to promote everything that is wonderful about cruising. Across social media, you’ll see the hashtag #ChooseCruise and this represents 2 whole months of talking ship! I’m proud to say that last week, I was the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) blogger partner for ‘Relaxation’ week and although my week is over, the campaign itself has only just started. So, get involved, get sharing and get booking those cruises!

These are some of my top reasons why everyone should #ChooseCruise:

Superb Value for Money

Cruises offer great value for money, especially those that are all-inclusive – once on board, you need not worry about anything! Your on board accommodation and food are always included in the cost of your fare with every cruise line, but with some, your fare can also include drinks, gratuities, flights, transfers, shore excursions and even pre-or-post-cruise hotel stays. Whatever kind of cruise experience you want, you can have.

Incredible Dining Options

Food has always been a substantial aspect of cruising and some of the finest dishes in the world are waiting for you at sea. There is so much choice when it comes to on board dining. You can have everything from a fine dining experience to a quick burger and fries by the pool. There is an option to suit everyone. Some of the larger cruise ships feature restaurants that offer more than 10 cuisine options. It’s not uncommon to find Italian, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Asian, Spanish and British pub-style restaurants on board.

Family Friendly

Cruising is the perfect option for the entire family. If you are travelling with young children, then the on board kids’ clubs are your saviour. They are led be a dedicated team of qualified and highly trained members of staff and specific age groups often have their own designated areas. Sometimes, the baby care options do incur an additional cost, but for toddlers through to teens, the clubs are all incorporated in the cost of your fare. On some family-friendly ships they offer adult-only spaces, so you relax and enjoy a few hours of rest and relaxation while the kids are taken care of.

Calling All Solo Travellers

If you like to travel on your own, cruising is probably the safest way to do it. I’ve met dozens of people since I started cruising that sail solo because they feel safe. Everything can be organised for you, so you’ll never be sightseeing alone, or if you’d prefer, you can go off and do everything independently. The choice is yours. No need to worry about finding a cab to take you back to your hotel following an evening of dining and dance, all you need to do is press the button on the elevator.

Explore Several Destinations in one Holiday

A cruise allows you to unpack once and see several amazing destinations all in one holiday. Imagine boarding a cruise ship, unpacking and waking up the following day in Spain and then the next day in Portugal. It really is seamless and it’s a great way to uncover destinations that you may decide you want to spend a longer amount of time exploring on another holiday – or maybe even on another cruise by adding a pre-or-post-cruise land stay into your travel plans. With many cruise lines also placing a big focus on longer port calls, you have more time than ever before to explore each destination that your ship calls on.

Amazing Crew

Your ship is your home for the duration of your cruise and you will be looked after from beginning to end by a fabulous team of dedicated individuals from all over the world. Without our outstanding crew members, we wouldn’t have the cruise industry that we do. These men and women work day and night to ensure you have the best possible cruise experience and I’m almost certain that you will never have received such dedicated and passionate service in any hospitality environment as you will when you set off to sea.

No-Fly Cruising

There are many options to sail directly from UK shores, cutting out the need to fly. In the last 3 years, destinations have become more exotic, making a cruise directly from the UK even more tempting. You can choose anything from 2-weeks in the Mediterranean to a full circumnavigation of the globe. I don’t like to fly, so sailing from the UK is the ideal choice for me. I will also sail from other ports if I can reach them without having to board a plane. Amsterdam, for example, is a great embarkation port.

Whatever cruise you choose and wherever in the world you decide to explore, you’ll certainly not be disappointed. Remember, always use a travel agent you can trust and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!

Happy Cruising! 😊

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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Brings Flagship Balmoral ‘Closer’ To The North Again In 2019

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is promoting its sensational sailings from the north of the UK in its new ‘Balmoral from the north’ brochure, showcasing a variety of exciting cruises from Newcastle and Rosyth (Edinburgh) next year, aboard its flagship, Balmoral.

‘Balmoral from the north’ profiles 20 of Fred. Olsen’s very best cruise itineraries from Newcastle and Edinburgh in 2019. Glide along scenic, historic waterways into the cities of Germany, Sweden, Belgium or the Netherlands. Soak up the late summer sunshine in France, Portugal and Spain, or unearth the spellbinding natural wonders of Iceland.

Embark on an in-depth discovery of the capital cities of the Baltic, or perhaps explore this wonderful region, at a time of year with fewer tourists. Revel in the unspoilt beauty of Fred. Olsen’s homeland on a Norwegian fjords adventure, or join a very special ‘Mystery Cruise’, which visits a different country every day. For a quick getaway, there is a range of five-night taster holidays – the perfect way to introduce friends and family to the award-winning Fred. Olsen experience.

Fred. Olsen will be returning Balmoral to Edinburgh (Rosyth) in 2019, for its second cruise season from the convenient Scottish port. Next year, Balmoral will be offering a total of eight cruise holidays from Edinburgh (Rosyth), between June and August, including a seven-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ departure, a 14-night ‘Baltic Capitals’ discovery, and a nine-night ‘European Rivers & Canals’ experience.

This follows on from a very successful debut season for Balmoral from Rosyth in 2018, from May to July, with a record nine sailings – an increase on the eight departures on board Black Watch from the port in 2017.

Guests have awarded facilities at the Port of Rosyth a 12% improvement rating year-on-year, and disembarkation has seen a year-on-year increase in satisfaction of 17%. Check-in and embarkation have also achieved an average of 90% guest satisfaction – one of the highest ratings of any of Fred. Olsen’s five UK departure ports.

Fred. Olsen will also be operating Balmoral from the popular Port of Tyne from April to October 2019, on a cruise season split with Rosyth. The ex-Newcastle cruise season starts with an eight-night ‘German Waterways’ sailing in April 2019, with other notable itineraries including a 14-night ‘Capital Cities of the Baltic’ departure – utilising the Port’s strategic northern location closer to Scandinavia and the Baltic – and an 11-night ‘France, Spain & Portugal’ getaway.

Example itineraries featured in Fred. Olsen’s new ‘Balmoral from the north’ brochure include:

– 10-night cruise L1906 ‘Sweden’s Scenic Waterways & Cities’ cruise, ex Newcastle on 29th April 2019.

A special journey exploring the cultural highlights and exquisite waterways of Sweden. Encounter a network of fjords, the beauty of which can only be truly appreciated while cruising, and discover two captivating cities by day and by night. Experience the splendour of Stockholm’s archipelago; call into the Hanseatic city of Visby; and have the chance to enjoy mesmeric architecture and canal boat tours.

For further information: See ‘Swedens Scenic Waterways & Cities

– Eight-night cruise L1912 ‘French River Cruising with Antwerp’ cruise, ex Edinburgh (Rosyth) on 15th June 2019.

Join this romantic eight-night Summer voyage and be whisked away to charming cities in France and Belgium aboard elegant ‘Balmoral’. Sailing along the stunning River Seine is sure to provide a stunning backdrop, whilst there are Belgian chocolates and dazzling diamonds galore in Antwerp!

For further information: See ‘French River Cruising with Antwerp

– 11-night L1914 ‘Exploring the Natural Wonders of Iceland’ cruise, ex Edinburgh (Rosyth) on 30th June 2019.

The convenient location of Rosyth means that guests are quickly immersed into this epic journey of discovery, which features the extraordinary wildlife and scenic wonders that Iceland has to offer. From puffins and humpback whales, to geothermal lagoons and stunning nature reserves, this ever-welcoming destination boasts beauty and drama, both aboard and ashore.

For further information: See ‘Exploring the Natural Wonders of Iceland

– Nine-night L1919 ‘Cruising European Rivers & Canals’ cruise, ex Newcastle on 7th August 2019.

Escape on this nine-night adventure, as ‘Balmoral’ sails inland to reach cities in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Guests will have the chance to explore culture-rich destinations famous for their winding streets, fascinating history and unique architecture. The journey is scattered with other highlights, too: diamonds, canals, fine art and sweet treats, along with two helpings of the gorgeous River Seine.

For further information: See ‘Cruising European Rivers & Canals

In 2019/20, Fred. Olsen’s fleet of four smaller, more intimately-sized ocean ships – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch – will be visiting no fewer than 219 destinations in 75 countries around the globe, covering 79 areas of scenic cruising.


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Azamara Pursuit Naming Ceremony And A French Market Extravaganza

I’d been looking forward to immersing myself in the country club-style experience that Azamara Club Cruises is renowned for and my time to board finally came last week, when the line’s newest ship, Azamara Pursuit, arrived in Southampton. I was impressed from the moment I stepped on board. The décor was beautiful, and she instantly made you feel like you were somewhere very special. I remember turning to my friend and saying, “this is absolutely gorgeous, I can’t wait for the next few days, we are so lucky to be here”. I was completely at the beck and call of this stunning vessel.

My first stop was lunch and as one always does when a buffet is offered, I grabbed a bit of everything. I’m not a huge fan of salmon, but it looked and smelled so nice that I decided to take a small piece to try. I also had a spoonful of Dauphinoise potatoes, a sample size serving of Pad Thai and for good measure, a slice of pizza. It was all very tasty, but the salmon was surprisingly good, I may have been converted.

The Naming Ceremony was to begin at 5PM, so I found my cabin, unpacked, attended the muster drill and then prepared myself for the evening. I had a twin balcony cabin on Deck 7 which was welcoming and spacious enough for 2 people. The bathroom offered what you would expect and as with the public areas, everything was finished to an exceptionally high standard. The bed was very comfortable, and the linen was incredibly soft. The TV was larger than your average cabin television and there were USB points available for use by each bed. The balcony featured a table and two chairs.

I took my seat at the back of the Cabaret Lounge and soon the ceremony began. There were appearances and short talks from Richard D Fain (Chairman and CEO Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd) and Larry Pimentel (President & CEO Azamara Club Cruises). A superb show from the Reading Scottish Pipe Band followed and then, before Azamara Pursuit’s godmothers officially named her, blessings from Reverend Canon Andrew David Gibson Wright and Rabbi Maurice Michaels. As we neared the end of the ceremony, Lucy Huxley and Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio both stepped forward and officially named the ship. We all jumped from the thud as the bottles hit the hull and exploded, and then the entire room celebrated. It was such a huge privilege to be there. *The below images of the ceremony are credited to Azamara Club Cruises and the video of the ceremony can be viewed on YouTube.

Dinner that evening was served in the Discoveries Restaurant where the menu choice was impressive and substantial. I’d never seen so many offerings on a main dining room menu before, but I wasn’t complaining. I enjoyed everything I ordered, you could taste the quality of the ingredients in every mouthful and although my steak was not cooked as per my request, I still devoured it. I had a jumbo shrimp cocktail, mozzarella, tomato and spinach salad with garlic balsamic and then a New York Strip. I had no room for dessert.

I spent the rest of the evening socialising and experiencing more of the Azamara Club Cruises hospitality that I’d heard so much about. I ended my day in the Living Room, which is located right at the front of the ship on Deck 10. It’s a comfortable space to enjoy during the day and in the evening, it comes to life thanks to a live DJ. It was a lot of fun and very busy, many others had clearly had the same idea.

Azamara Pursuit was already alongside in Cherbourg by the time I greeted the world the following morning. I took the time to explore the ship a little more before choosing The Patio as my lunch dining option. During the day, this poolside grill serves everything from nachos to hot dogs, but in the evening, it is transformed into something more luxurious and is a great place to dine al-fresco. It was relatively busy, but I didn’t wait long for my order: a quality hot dog and crispy onion rings.

A stroll into Cherbourg killed some time before the AzAmazing Afternoon began and I was oblivious to what I was about to experience. Azamara’s AzAamazing Events are designed to bring local life, well, alive! They allow everyone on board to forge unique connections with the cuisine, culture and real-life character of a destination, and our experience in Cherbourg would be no different. A local French market had been set up exclusively for Azamara Pursuit guests in the baggage hall of the old Transatlantic Terminal Building and it truly was AzAmazing! I was speechless. The market ran the full length of the hall and there were vendors offering all sorts of treats, including fresh flowers, French wines, butter and chocolate laden pastries that were out of this world, and a variety of local cheeses and mouth-watering macarons. It took me a moment to realise, but everything we were looking at was complimentary – even the flowers! I could have stayed there all afternoon and eaten everything. It was such a wonderful and authentic experience, and it was within feet of the gangway. A Cabaret performance was also offered, but I was too distracted by the food and atmosphere inside the market, I literally couldn’t get enough of it. I even stopped to smell the flowers, I can’t remember the last time I did that.

Our final evening on board was all about the White Night Dinner & Party, something I’d been looking forward to since I received the itinerary for the sailing. The pool deck was transformed into a stunning al-fresco dining area and everyone was in good spirits. Again, there was an abundance of food on offer, including fresh oysters, steak, lobster tail, tempura shrimp, fresh pasta, rice, vegetables and kebabs – a bit of everything, basically. I managed to get as far as the lobster tails, tempura shrimp and steak. I had enjoyed the French market too much and now I was regretting having that second pastry. Everything I put on my plate was delicious, the lobster was absolute perfection. I desperately wanted to go back for more, but there was just no space. The White Night carried on late into the evening and there was live music to compliment it. It was fabulous, I had such a great time. The more time I can spend out on the open decks, the better, so any event like this is always a big hit in my book.

Southampton was on the horizon as Azamara Pursuit arrived back in the UK. I stopped for a quick breakfast in the Windows Cafe before disembarking and that too was varied. There were fresh waffles available, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, bacon, sausages, beans, a selection of breads, yoghurts and cereals. Everything you’d expect and a little bit more.

One thing I enjoyed immensely on Azamara Pursuit (and it’s not something I usually take much interest in) were the flowers. Everywhere I went there were beautiful arrangements of tropical flowers and plants and the colours were magnificent. I couldn’t stop looking at them, smelling them, touching them and taking pictures. I’d never seen some of them before and for some reason I was transfixed.

Two nights was not enough time to fully immerse myself in the Azamara Club Cruises experience but what I did get to see and do has left me craving more, a lot more! I was hugely impressed with every aspect of not only the ship, but her crew, the food, the level of service throughout and, of course, the AzAmazing Event.

Thank you to everyone at Azamara Club Cruises for 2-days I’ll never forget!

If you’d like to know even more about Azamara Club Cruises, you can also head over to Heather On Her Travels for A Guide To Luxury Cruising On Azamara Pursuit.


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Posted in Azamara Club Cruises

The Arctic Like You’ve Never Seen – 5 Unmissable Cruises

Today, more cruisers are wanting to visit less accessible parts of the world and experience new adventurers and cultures. Enter the Arctic. About as far away from the Mediterranean as you can get, the Arctic is a frozen wilderness where giant musk ox roam the tundra and polar bears hunt on the endless sea ice.

It comes as no surprise therefore, to learn that the Arctic is becoming one of the most popular expedition cruise destinations in the world. But how to choose your perfect Arctic cruise? Stretching all the way from North America to North Scandinavia, this question is not the easiest to answer.

Don’t panic, to help you plan your unforgettable adventure, I’ve listed the Arctic’s top 5 unmissable cruises!

  1. The North Pole Expedition Cruise

Let’s start with a bang. The North Pole cruise is pretty much the most epic cruise on earth. At $28,000 though, it also comes with an epic price tag! In fact, I’m going to use the word epic a lot here because there’s only one ship epic enough to take the job on and that’s the Nuclear-powered 50 Years Of Victory. One of the most powerful ice-breakers on the planet, you can hear her coming before you see her!

This once in a lifetime cruise takes two weeks and departs from Murmansk, Russia. Along the way you sail through the Franz Josef Land archipelago which offers up fantastic wildlife including whales, polar bears and seabirds. Once you arrive at the top of the world, you’ll be greeted with champagne and, should you wish, a hot air balloon ride! Just make sure you pack something warm!

  1. Iceland, Greenland, and Svalbard

The Iceland, Greenland, and Svalbard cruise is a your quintessential Arctic cruise. Also known as the ‘Jewels Of The Arctic’ itinerary, the cruise offers you the chance to see three magical countries in one journey. Although you can choose to do any of the three in isolation, combining them creates a cruise you’ll never forget.

Landscape lovers will love Iceland’s ever-changing scenery, from waterfalls and snow-capped peaks, to volcanoes and bright-blue rivers. Wildlife lovers on the other hand will be graced with polar bears and walrus in Svalbard, and huge musk ox in Greenland. Sailing from one to another also gives you the perfect opportunity to spot numerous marine species such as seals, narwhal, and orca.

  1. Eastern Siberia

Yes, it’s true, there are cruises to Eastern Siberia. What else is true is that they’re absolutely awesome! Probably one of the best kept secrets in expedition cruising, Russian Arctic cruises are a fairly recent addition to the cruise scene thanks to melting sea ice and a warming political climate. They aren’t cheap though and will cost you at least $10,000.

So what do you get for your dollars? Well, for one thing, you get to see brown bears and polar bears on the same trip! The Kamchatka region is full of brown bears whilst, Wrangel Island, is full of polar bears (not to mention walrus and musk ox). In fact, whale carcasses on Wrangel Island have been known to have over 200 polar bears eating from them at the same time!

  1. Baffin Island Cruise

Located in the Canadian Arctic, Baffin Island is one of the 35,000 islands that make up the regions archipelago. So why this particular island? The answer is simple – wildlife. With polar bears, musk ox, walrus, caribou, wolves and over 70 species of seabird, the island is one of nature’s last true strongholds! I forgot to mention the numerous whale species also such as beluga, narwhal, and bowhead whales.

With so many species on one island, it’s easy to see why there are a host of expedition cruise itineraries that focus their efforts here. Prices start at around $7,000 for 10 days, but a better option may be to combine your cruise with one that also visits Greenland. These are slightly more expensive, but you’ll visit a lot more islands and cover a lot more distance.

  1. The Northwest Passage

Like Eastern Siberia, the Northwest Passage has only recently become an option thanks to global warming and melting sea ice. The Passage now offers up the chance for passengers to take one of the greatest and most infamous sailing routes of all time! Take a ship all the way from Greenland, across the Canadian Arctic and into North Alaska, following in the footsteps of some of histories greatest explorers, including Sir John Franklin and Roald Amundsen.

The full itinerary takes two weeks and costs at least $10,000. It’s worth it though as you’ll see incredible wildlife, visit native Inuit communities and witness the remains of the Thule Culture dotted along the ragged coastline. Be aware though that this cruise is only available in August and September when the ice is at its lowest.

For more information on these cruises, please check out

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Posted in Destinations, Expedition Cruising, General Cruise Articles

Iona’s SkyDome Will Bring The Outside In

An innovative SkyDome on P&O Cruises newest ship Iona will connect guests with the sea, sky and shoreline and be the place to go for relaxation, effortless dining and contemporary entertainment.

The first of its kind in the cruise industry, the two-deck SkyDome on decks 16 and 17 will include a swimming pool that transforms into a stage at night, as well as a glass dome roof which creates a temperate climate while providing guests with fabulous views as they cruise through the scenic Norwegian Fjords.

By day, SkyDome will offer a relaxed, poolside environment, with tantalising dining and drinking options including a grill, pizzeria and street food as well as premium ice cream with flavours reflecting popular ports of call. With the feel of an English park in summer, the area will feature a central pool and two whirlpools. Sun loungers, reclining chairs, greenery and artworks will all create a peaceful environment and make it a tranquil space during the day.

As the sun goes down SkyDome will come alive as the space seamlessly transitions into a must-visit entertainment venue, showcasing spectacular aerialist performances and playing host to party nights under the stars.

The mood will change from daytime to showtime with stunning audio-visual effects including dazzling light shows creating a dynamic ambience. The swimming pool will transform into a stage for the night’s entertainment, while dramatic aerial acrobatic shows will make full use of SkyDome’s height. After the show, the space will transition into a party night, with DJs playing as guests dance under the night sky, whatever the weather.

The glass dome roof was designed by award-winning British engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan, renowned for their work on such innovative structures as Bulgari Glass House in Italy and Apple Park in California. The inviting living space underneath the dome was created by cruise ship specialists Partner Ship Design.

P&O Cruises senior vice president, Paul Ludlow said: “SkyDome promises to be one of Iona’s star attractions, providing guests with a magical venue in which to spend quality time whatever the weather. With stunning views of the ocean by day and of starry skies at night, I’m confident that this extraordinary venue will prove popular with our guests, whether they are early birds or night owls. With sunshine, swimming, dining and dancing all in one contemporary, visually spectacular space, SkyDome will raise the bar for entertainment spaces at sea.”

Iona is currently being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg and will be launched in May 2020. Holidays on Iona will go on sale in September 2018.


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