Regent Seven Seas Cruises Announces 2020-2021 Itineraries

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has revealed its 2020-2021 itineraries, which showcase 167 sailings including maiden calls to 11 new ports across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, four newly-released Grand Voyages and new pre-and post-cruise land tours and accommodations for luxury ocean travellers. The company’s 2020-2021 season opens for bookings today, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018.

What’s New:

New ports of call include La Rochelle, France; Stornoway (Hebrides), Scotland; Aalborg, Denmark; Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam; Lecce (Otranto), Italy; Crotone (Calabria), Italy; Siracusa (Sicily), Italy; Porto Empedocle (Sicily), Italy; Porto Torres (Sardinia), Italy; and Cabo Frio, Brazil.

Free enriching two-to-three night pre- or post-voyage land-based tour programmes are included on 21 select voyages in all suite categories in destinations including Buenos Aires, Lima, Cape Town, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bali and Auckland.

Seven Seas Explorer® sails to Asia and Alaska for the first time. Seven Seas Voyager® visits Lecce, Crotone, Siracusa, Porto Empedocle and Porto Torres, Italy and Cabo Frio, Brazil, for the first time. Seven Seas Mariner will sail 117 nights on her World Cruise from Miami to Barcelona. She also calls on a new port, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

Seven Seas Splendor sails to Havana, Cuba nine times in her inaugural year, the most visits by a Regent Seven Seas Cruises ship to the island.

Four new Grand Voyages include a 91-Night Grand Arctic Discovery, 68-Night Grand Cape Horn Adventure, 76-Night Grand Spice Route Quest, and 61-Night Grand Asia Exploration.

In total, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 2020-2021 season features its most overnight stays ever — 114 — and provides access to 352 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Itinerary Highlights By Ship:

Seven Seas Splendor

Guests will be surrounded by the highest levels of elegance, comfort and hospitality as they sail aboard the new, highly anticipated Seven Seas Splendor as she perfects luxury. Seven Seas Splendor’s Inaugural Europe Collection features the Greek Isles, French Riviera, Iberian Peninsula, United Kingdom and more. As guests explore the intimate new ship, they can also discover up to 95 UNESCO World Heritage Sites off-ship including the City of Rhodes and the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region of Cyprus.

Seven Seas Splendor will then cross to the Caribbean for winter 2020-2021. Nine of her Caribbean voyages call on Havana, Cuba, three of which are overnights, allowing guests to immerse in the fascinating history of this unique island.

Seven Seas Explorer

Seven Seas Explorer sails Northern Europe and the Mediterranean during summer 2020. The season includes two roundtrip Southampton voyages: one traditional circumnavigation of the United Kingdom and one calling on Spain and France, including an overnight in Bordeaux.

  • Her first-ever Asia voyages include a roundtrip Tokyo voyage on April 6, 2021 and the full collection includes overnight stays in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Osaka.
  • Seven Seas Explorer will then sail Alaska for the first time during summer 2021.
  • New ports of call include La Rochelle, France; Stornoway (Hebrides), Scotland; Aalborg, Denmark, and Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.

Seven Seas Voyager

Seven Seas Voyager will spend summer 2020 sailing the Mediterranean.

On her November 14, 2020 voyage, she returns to Africa calling on Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, Gambia; Abidjan, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana; Lomé, Togo; São Tomé; Walvis Bay, Namibia; and Cape Town, South Africa.

In early 2021, she returns to South America for the first time in almost a decade, visiting Chile, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, and the iconic coastal cities of Brazil.

New ports of call include Lecce (Otranto), Italy, Crotone (Calabria), Italy, Siracusa (Sicily), Italy, Porto Empedocle (Sicily), Italy, Porto Torres (Sardinia), Italy, and Cabo Frio, Brazil.

Seven Seas Mariner

Seven Seas Mariner will sail Alaska during summer 2020. Two voyages are 10 or more nights and include calls on ports including Victoria, British Columbia and Wrangell, Alaska — ports not visited during shorter, seven-night voyages.

South American voyages include overnights in Lima (Callao), Peru; Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, Argentina; and Manaus (Amazon River), Brazil. Before sailing into the Amazon, she’ll call on a new port, Esmeraldas, Ecuador. She’ll then sail north to the Mexican Riviera and the Caribbean.

Seven Seas Mariner will sail 117 nights on her World Cruise from Miami to Barcelona departing on January 5, 2021. She visits six continents, 30 countries and 61 ports across South America, French Polynesia, Australia, Asia and the Mediterranean, including 11 overnight stays.

Seven Seas Navigator

The voyages on May 22, June 5 and June 15, 2020, feature late spring/early summer calls on Canadian and New England ports.

Seven Seas Navigator will then spend the summer sailing through Northern Europe including the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Russia and more.

Following a trans-Atlantic crossing, she’ll then call upon Bermuda, the Caribbean and the South Pacific in 2021.

 

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Posted in Cruise News, Regent Seven Seas

Princess Cruises Introduces Tea And Coffee Making Facilities In All Sapphire Princess Staterooms

Princess Cruises has recently equipped the 2,670-guest Sapphire Princess with kettles and tea and coffee making facilities in all staterooms. As the main Princess ship sailing from the UK both this year and in 2019, the new amenities onboard will appeal to the British market and in particular their taste for tea.

Sapphire Princess underwent an extensive two-week refit earlier this year, which included the introduction of a new luxury bed in every stateroom. The new in-cabin tea and coffee making facilities will further enhance each room.

Guests on Sapphire Princess and all other Princess ships can also continue to order complimentary tea and coffee in their stateroom via the onboard 24hr room service. 

Sapphire Princess is currently sailing roundtrip out of Southampton up to October 2018, followed by an April to October season in 2019. A variety of voyages are on offer, largely to the Mediterranean and northern Europe, as well as a 24-day Canada & New England voyage in 2019.

Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises’ vice president UK and Europe, said: “We fully appreciate how much Brits all enjoy drinking tea and coffee. While it’s still easy enough for guests to order complimentary hot drinks via room service or our onboard restaurants, introducing kettles will give them an extra coffee and tea-making option when it’s time to rise and shine or they’re sitting back and relaxing in their stateroom or balcony.”

 

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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Entertainment With An Edge: Celebrity Cruises Unveils Its Most Technologically Advanced Theatre

With its transformational design, Celebrity Edge is poised to raise the bar on modern luxury travel to even greater heights, and the entertainment on board is just as game-changing as the ship itself. On Celebrity Edge, guests will experience the brand’s most technologically advanced main theatre, the most production shows of any ship in the brand’s history, the largest cast of world-class performers on any premium cruise ship, and more entertainment venues than ever before.

INTRODUCING THE THEATRE – A FEAT WORTHY OF A STANDING OVATION

The Theatre on Celebrity Edge throws away the curtain altogether, blurring the line between audience and performance and immersing guests in an entertainment experience like no other. With four stage areas and three gigantic, moving projection screens, The Theatre offers an ever-changing canvas for the productions.

The main stage extends into the audience creating a theatre-in-the-round. A duo-directional rotating platform rises almost seven feet above the stage to take performances to a whole new level. With two rotating spiral staircases, 10 synchronised panoramic projection screens, 16 state-of-the-art video mapping laser projectors, aerial performance rigging, and more, the technology behind the scenes will, at times, steal the show.

To help create an industry-leading theatre space, Celebrity Cruises turned to award-winning architect and designer Scott Butler, founding partner of Wilson Butler Architects, a firm known for designing some of the most innovative arts and entertainment venues in the world.

To make all of The Theatre’s technology run like clockwork, Celebrity Cruises has collaborated with TAIT, a leader in the stage automation business. The entire stage performs a precise synchronisation of rotating stage platforms, rain curtains, spiralling staircases, flying aerial rigs, and the tallest projection screens at sea. TAIT’s automation is coupled with the visions of the UK-based Black Skull Creative group, who’ve created contemporary shows and experiences around the world, including the 2012 London Olympics. Celebrity Cruises has also teamed up with Three In One Entertainment and Consulting, whose creative successes include INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular in Las Vegas.

At The Theatre, guests can enjoy five new full production shows, including the Shakespeare-inspired A Hot Summer Night’s Dream, where light-hearted theatre meets extraordinary acrobatics; The Jewelry Box, with its jaw-dropping technological feats; Kaleidoscope, a high-energy music and dance extravaganza harnessing the stage’s state-of-the-art technology; and two shows as part of Celebrity Cruises’ new Headline Residency program – Get Up, a dynamic pop concert produced by Black Skull Creative, and The Purpose, an uplifting production designed to celebrate the inner self.

WELCOME TO THE CLUB

Brought to life once again in collaboration with the visionaries behind Celebrity Edge’s Eden – Butler and famed designer and architect Patricia Urquiola – The Clubon Celebrity Edge is a progressive space that changes its persona throughout the day and night.

During the day, The Club offers experiences such as the Funovation Laser Maze Challenge, the Drone Hunting laser obstacle course, and more.

At night, The Club undergoes yet another transformation. Undercover at The Club puts a contemporary spin on the Prohibition era with 20’s-inspired craft cocktails and an aerial saxophonist. The futuristic body scanner of Andromeda allows guests to become someone else for the evening. And Celebrity Cruises’ HypnoCam Experience is a first-at-sea dance party featuring a high-tech camera that’s passed around to capture photos, which are instantly displayed on a giant LED screen.

NEVER THE SAME CAMP TWICE

On Celebrity Edge, the brand takes its fully customisable Camp at Sea programme to the next level for younger travellers of all ages with more than 500 activities, including Celebrity Cruises’ first youth coding experience at sea, its innovative STEM programme, and two completely separate contemporary spaces, one for the kids and one for the teens.

ENTERTAINMENT EVERYWHERE

Celebrity Cruises has infused entertainment throughout the ship. At the Rooftop Garden, guests can enjoy experiences such as the Rooftop Concert Series and the Garden Cinema Series, the next evolution of the brand’s Taste of Film experience that’s an under-the-stars movie experience with live musical performances.

The iconic Eden will feature evolving entertainment as the space transforms from a “chillful” escape in the mornings to “playful” in the afternoons to “sinful” at night. Daytime experiences include Meditation at Eden and performances from sitar players to aerialists. As dusk falls, Eve at Eden begins. Developed in partnership with Variety Worldwide, this theatrical journey will indulge every sense and put guests at the centre of the experience, for a fusion of culinary exploration, performance art and nightlife – like nothing else at sea, or even on land.

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Oceania Cruises Announces OceaniaNEXT Initiative

Oceania Cruises has announced its OceaniaNEXT initiative, a sweeping array of dramatic enhancements designed to elevate every facet of the guest experience.  The first initiative to be undertaken is the $100 million re-inspiration of the line’s four 684-guest ships (Regatta, Insignia, Sirena, and Nautica) that will result in four better than new ships.  Each will emerge from the re-inspiration process with 342 brand new designer suites and staterooms and stunning new décor in the restaurants, lounges and bars, inspired by the line’s 450 ports of call.

Insignia will be the first to debut on 7th December 2018, followed by Sirena in May 2019, Regatta in September 2019 and Nautica in June 2020.

At the helm of the dramatic refurbishment is Studio DADO, a Miami-based design and concept studio specialising in luxury residential and hospitality design.

Surprisingly New, Delightfully Familiar

With the line’s acclaimed Marina and Riviera as their muses, Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena will feature richly appointed and stylish new interiors that showcase the best of residential design. Furnishings from Baker and Donghia along with fabrics from Rubelli and Kravet will adorn the public spaces, with new richly-hued custom-milled carpets lining the floors.

Effortless style in an elegant atmosphere will be the defining characteristics of the Reception Hall and Upper Hall.  A sparkling new Grand Staircase framed by intricate railings and balustrades inset with crystal accents will welcome guests onboard. Overhead, a crowning grand chandelier adorned with hanging pieces of smoked and hand-painted glass, will set the space aglow.

The Grand Dining Room will feature buttery soft cream leather dining chairs accented with metallic bronze threading to catch the light from the stunning new crystal chandelier, which will be the room’s defining centrepiece.

Martinis becomes anew with a palette inspired by the stunning coastline of Santorini featuring hues of deep Grecian blue, sienna and chocolate browns and stately pewter. Silver-white marble and tobacco quartz will accent the bar while the trademark walnut panelling adds lustre and whispers of familiarity.

All-New Suites and Staterooms

Wanting guests to feel at home while away from home, the luxurious brand-new staterooms and suites will be lighter, brighter and even more spacious. Stripped down to their studs, every ounce of the re-inspired accommodations will be modernised, featuring custom-crafted furnishings, exotic stone and polished wood finishes and designer accessories, creating a harmonious celebration of style and comfort.

For convenience, USB ports will be incorporated in each of the staterooms, as well as a state-of-the art television system with movies on demand in multiple-languages, live stations and a programme guide, plus itinerary information and weather updates.

Lustrous New Bathrooms

Every fixture and surface of the bathrooms will be new, with designer fixtures, perfect lighting, lavish vanities and chic glass shower enclosures. Penthouse, Vista and Owner’s Suites bathrooms become true luxury retreats, offering more space outfitted with Carrara marble, polished granite and sleek onyx.

Re-Inspiration By The Numbers

  • $100 Million Dollars
  • 1,368 New Suites and Staterooms
  • 1,400 New Marble Bathrooms
  • 8,000 New Light Fixtures
  • 12,000 New Sofas and Chairs
  • 1,000+ Artisans and Craftsmen

FOUR RE-INSPIRED SHIPS

OceaniaNEXT is a sweeping array of dramatic enhancements so transformational, they are inspirational.  The Regatta-Class re-inspiration is the first in a line of exciting announcements and enhancements to come in 2018, 2019 and beyond.  This ambitious brand initiative will elevate every facet of the Oceania Cruises guest experience to new levels.  From thoughtfully crafted new dining experiences and reimagined menus to the dramatic re-inspiration of the iconic Regatta-Class ships, guests will savour The Finest Cuisine at Sea, be pampered aboard intimate and luxurious ships and be enriched through in-depth destination exploration.

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Posted in Cruise News, Oceania Cruises

Enjoy A Dose Of Winter Sun With Holland America Line

With the guarantee of warm climates and even warmer hospitality, it’s easy to see why the allure of the Caribbean now attracts almost 10 million cruise travellers each year. A cruise is the ideal way to experience different destinations and it also offers guests the opportunity to find their favourite Caribbean island.

Holland America Line’s carefully crafted itineraries blend the region’s most popular ports with dozens of fascinating but less-visited gems, such as Oranjestad in Aruba and Cienfuegos in Cuba. There are itineraries from three to 21 days, in the Southern, Western or Eastern Caribbean, as well as some including Cuba and the Panama Canal. With Holland America Line, visitors may discover these tropical gems in greater depth through inside stories, regional cuisine, and authentic destination experiences.

What’s more guests travelling to the Caribbean with Holland America Line can enjoy exclusive access to Half Moon Cay. Located in The Bahamas, the award-winning and privately-owned island by Holland America Line gets its name from the island’s spectacular mile-long, crescent-shaped white sandy beach. Most of this 2,400-acre island is a nature preserve and privileged guests can enjoy activities such as horseback riding in the surf, snorkelling, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, bicycling, private cabanas and villas, and more.

Below is a selection of Holland America Line’s newest Caribbean cruises with availability:

7-night Western Caribbean on new ship Nieuw Statendam

Be amongst the first guests to sail on the newest ship to join the fleet, Nieuw Statendam, as she spends her inaugural season exploring the golden beaches and sun-kissed skies of the Caribbean. Sail on a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise whilst calling at exciting destinations. The trip visits Ochos Rios in Jamaica, famous for its Georgian influences and rich 18th century history, and Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), which offers travellers endless water activities, including snorkelling, scuba diving, and glass-bottom boat tours. Other ports of call include the lesser known Cozumel in Mexico. This stunning island, located in the Caribbean Sea, offers visitors panoramic sea views and the chance to visit Mayan archaeological sites. The trip then heads back to Florida before guests disembark at Fort Lauderdale.

11-night Southern Caribbean Wayfarer on Pinnacle-class Koningsdam

Escape the gloomy UK weather with an 11-night Southern Caribbean Wayfarer on Koningsdam. This ship offers guests the chance to wake up to scenic views with more spacious balcony staterooms than most cruise lines. This trip calls at Caribbean destinations with French, British, Dutch and Spanish influences. The roundtrip Fort Lauderdale trip calls at incredible destinations including Philipsburg (St Maarten), Castries (St Lucia), as well as scenic cruising of Soufriere Bay in St Lucia, Bridgetown (Barbados), Fort de France (Martinique), St John’s (Antigua), St Thomas in US Virgin Island, a full day at the private Half Moon Cay, in Bahamas, before returning to Fort Lauderdale.

10 or 11-night Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer on Vista-class Zuiderdam

For those looking for a bucket list experience a scenic cruise through the Panama Canal is a must. With Holland America Line’s Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer guests can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America all in one trip. After departing Fort Lauderdale, ports of call include the private island of Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas, Aruba, and Curacao brimming with its Dutch heritage, before heading into the Caribbean Sea. Here, the journey continues to Cartagena in Columbia famed for its Spanish style architecture and sights, Puerto Limon for San José in Costa Rica as well as a daylight transit through the Panama Canal, Gatun Lake and Colon in Panama.

10-12-night Cuban Explorer on Veendam

With Holland America Line’s Cuban Explorer, guests can savour some Caribbean flavour with lots of sizzling Latin heat. After departing Fort Lauderdale travellers will enjoy an overnight stay in Havana, the Cuban capital before venturing into the colonial city of Cienfuegos. This city is the gateway to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cuba’s Sancti Spiritus province.  After dancing the night away to salsa and drinking mojitos, guests will wake up in Georgetown, Cayman Island. Other ports of call in the Caribbean include Ochos Rios in Jamaica home to the famous Dunn’s River Fall, as well as the private island of Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas.

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Norwegian Cruise Line Transforms Three Ships With Bow-To-Stern Enhancements

Norwegian Cruise Line today announced the completed refurbishments of three ships, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star, further showcasing its commitment to extraordinary quality and the guest experience.

As part of The Norwegian Edge®, the company’s program designed to elevate the standard of excellence across its fleet, the revitalised ships now feature new designs and venues including Los Lobos Cantina, an upscale Mexican restaurant; the adults-only enclave, Spice H2O; and Syd Norman’s Pour House – an American rock ‘n’ roll bar and lounge, which makes its debut aboard Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway, which was built in 2013, debuts the new American rock ‘n’ roll bar and lounge Syd Norman’s Pour House as well as upgraded accommodations, public spaces and more, following a two-week dry dock in Brest, France.

A testament to Norwegian Cruise Line’s commitment to providing the best entertainment at sea, Syd Norman’s Pour House is an authentic and immersive experience inspired by the greatest clubs in American rock ‘n’ roll history.  Replacing Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club, Syd Norman’s is a tribute to the grandfather of “Rock of Ages” playwright Chris D’Arenso and modelled after influential rock houses such as CBGB’s, The Rainbow and the Fillmore.  Vintage décor, diner-style seating and an unforgettable playlist of classic rock from the late 1960’s to 1980’s come together to bring this high-calibre entertainment offering to life. Three times a week, cast members from “Rock of Ages” will treat guests to speciality cocktails named after rock ‘n’ roll classics such as “The Witchy Woman” among others in the interactive Syd Norman’s Experience. Guests will also rock-out to a five-person band playing classics six nights a week.

Additional upgrades include enhancements to Bliss Ultra Lounge with new, premium furniture; new carpet in all 2,014 staterooms and suites; a full transformation of the gift shop; and new carpet installations in the staircases, elevators and lobbies.

Norwegian Sun

Built in 2001, Norwegian Sun underwent a three-week bow-to-stern renovation in Victoria, BC.  As a result, she now features refreshed staterooms and public spaces, and boasts three new venues including Los Lobos Cantina, Bliss Ultra Lounge and Spinnaker Lounge.

Los Lobos Cantina is a Mexican restaurant offering a modern take on traditional favourites like guacamole prepared table side, al pastor tacos, enchiladas de mole and handcrafted margaritas. Replacing Las Ramblas Bar and Restaurant, Los Lobos Cantina features leather banquettes, dark wood tables and seating and ranchero-style design accents.

Bliss Ultra Lounge, formerly Dazzles, is the new bar and nightclub where guests can begin or end their evenings. Enhancements include an updated look with new plush seating, cocktail tables, bar stools, chandeliers, wall sconces, wall coverings, ornamental ceilings and a wooden dance floor.

The Spinnaker Lounge replaces the Observation Lounge and showcases a fresh design with a natural colour palette reminiscent of blue, beige and tan. New to the venue are leather chairs, carpet, chandeliers, wall coverings and a stone top bar.

All 968 staterooms were upgraded with smart televisions and USB ports as well as new carpet, artwork and select furniture. The newly revitalised accommodations pay tribute to the beauty of the surrounding ocean with a palette of cool blue hues and silver and turquoise accents. The adorning abstract art within the staterooms and suites are the ideal complement to the new and modern feel.

The renovations also touched dining outlets and public spaces including Cagney’s, La Cucina, Le Bistro, Teppanyaki, the Mandara Spa, Stardust Lounge Theater, Splash Academy and more.

Norwegian Star

Following a nearly three-week dry dock in Barcelona, Spain, Norwegian Star underwent extensive enhancements to its staterooms, public spaces, restaurants, bars and lounges. The ship, built in 2001, also unveiled three new venues: Sky High Bar, Bliss Ultra Lounge and Spice H2O.

Sky High Bar showcases a new design complete with an updated bar and seating for close to 120 guests.  Replacing Bier Garten, the outdoor bar and lounge offers the best views on board.

Bliss Ultra Lounge replaces Spinnaker Lounge for late-night entertainment and now boasts a light, neutral colour palette and a complete redesign with new carpet, custom loungers, seating, an upgraded bar and artwork.

For the first time, Norwegian Star will offer the adults-only enclave, Spice H2O. This well-appointed venue features a private pool, hot tubs, full bar and uninterrupted ocean views. During the day, it makes an ideal spot for sunbathing, and at night, it transforms into an open-air lounge with live entertainment, DJ’s and energising themed nights.

All 1,174 staterooms and suites were outfitted with USB ports, enhanced with over 1,500 works of art and upgraded with new carpet, headboards and select furniture. The three-bedroom garden villas which feature private deck areas and can accommodate up to seven people were also remodelled to offer a light and airy design.

Additional enhancements were made to the bars and lounges, restaurants and public spaces including Atrium Café & Bar, Garden Café and the main dining rooms. A VIP section was also added in the casino.

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Posted in Cruise News, Norwegian Cruise Line

P&O Cruises Iona To Sail Norwegian Fjords During Inaugural Season

P&O Cruises has announced that its new flagship Iona, to be launched in 2020, will sail exclusively to the Norwegian Fjords during the inaugural season, a destination that is best experienced by sea.

In all ports of call P&O Cruises has developed a diverse range of excursions and activities for guests.

Olden

Active adventure: For spectacular views over the Fjord landscape guests can take a trip on the dramatic Leon Skylift that carries them up to the summit of Mount Hoven.

Epic vistas:  From Olden visit the unmissable sight of the Briksdal glacier – part of the famous Jostedal ice field, the largest in continental Europe.

Bergen

Active adventure: Adrenaline junkies will enjoy seeing the sights on Norway’s fastest zipline, which soars 300m from Mt Ulriken 643m high to Mt Floyen.

Cultural encounters:  From Edvard Munch’s iconic Expressionism to today’s contemporary culture Bergen is the centre of the Norwegian art scene.   History comes alive in Bryggen, Bergen’s UNESCO-listed wharf area where most of the 60 buildings are 300 years old.

Epic vistas: For a different viewpoint guests can enjoy Bergen’s beautiful setting by helicopter.  Fly over Fjords, mountains and glaciers and look down on one of Norway’s largest Fjords, the Sognefjord.

Local flavours:  A visit to Bergen Fish Market gives a snapshot of Norway’s foodie culture.  It has been a gastronomic destination since 1200 when it was a meeting place for merchants and fishermen.

Hellesylt

Active adventure: Guests can take a fast-paced rafting adventure along 8km of fast flowing river followed by lunch around a bonfire.

Geiranger

Active adventure: Those in the mood for a two-wheeled adventure can descend the 17km by bike from the shores of a lake more than 1000m above sea level.

Geirangerfjord 

Active adventure: Guests can see one of nature’s masterpieces from the water with a kayaking experience that will float them past the amazing waterfalls this Fjord is famous for.

Stavanger 

Cultural encounters: known as the ‘Cradle of the Vikings’ this small city is packed full of history and heritage.

Epic vistas: Take a helicopter ride over Stavanger’s most iconic natural wonder – Pulpit Rock (a 604m-high flat-topped cliff rising out of the Lysefjord).

Active adventure:  The Lysefjord RIB ride will give guests an alternative and unforgettable view of Pulpit Rock.

Local flavours:  Fishing for crayfish is a traditional pleasure for the Norwegians and guests will be able to enjoy this surrounded by stunning mountains.

Alesund:

Cultural encounters:  Alesund offers visitors views of the best-preserved examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe.

Hardanderfjord:

Epic vistas: Enjoy the beauty of Norway’s second longest Fjord by light aircraft.

Iona has been designed to maximise views from three storey high glass walls in the Grand Atrium, to the innovative Conservatory Mini-suites. Guests are guaranteed an immersive experience as they cruise through one of the planet’s most spectacular regions on a cleaner and greener LNG- powered ship.

Iona will offer seven-day holidays to the Norwegian Fjords from May 2020, each leaving from and returning to Southampton.

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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Royal Caribbean Introduces SoundSeeker – Turning Your Photos Into Musical Works Of Art

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what if it was possible to “hear” what it sounds like? In a move that will redefine the modern holiday album, Royal Caribbean International has designed and built a first-of-its-kind tool that transforms holidaymakers’ most memorable photos into an original, shareable soundtrack, with a video to match.

Royal Caribbean teamed up with experts from Berklee College of Music (Boston, USA), and technologists from around the world, to create the unique song generator. More than a year in the making, SoundSeeker™ is a groundbreaking, patent-pending digital experience, powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The innovative tool is specifically designed to use machine learning to seamlessly create original soundtracks based on the content of each photograph.

By simply visiting soundseeker.com, users can upload three photos of their choice, and the AI analyses them based on colour, landscape, backdrop, emotion, body language and facial expression. SoundSeeker then turns them into a shareable and one-of-a kind soundtrack – virtually DJ’ing life’s most brag-worthy moments. Fans can follow along on Royal Caribbean’s social channels, and by searching #SoundSeeker.

SoundSeeker uses machine learning, an artificial intelligence technique that enables computers to simulate human intelligence and make decisions on their own without explicit instructions. The learning process entailed more than 600 hours in which Royal Caribbean and a team of musicians and technologists reviewed hundreds of music tracks along with 10,000 photos, matching each of the 2.5 million combinations to one of 10 moods.

The AI in SoundSeeker uses Google Cloud Vision to identify objects, facial expressions and colours in a user’s photo by referencing the road-map developed by the leaders in music theory at Berklee. SoundSeeker then finds the musical elements corresponding to each mood in the photo to compose a genuinely distinct audio and visual photo album. The Royal Caribbean tool is equipped to generate over one million unique tracks, based on custom base tracks, composed exclusively for the cruise line. The customised tracks take inspiration from a wide variety of music, including 90s hip-hop, rock, modern and electronic dance music.

Berklee leveraged music theory to create a road-map for the tool that helps determine the musical pairing to photos, accounting for pitch, tempo and instrumental combinations, among others. The contributors from Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) – an on-campus initiative that promotes entrepreneurialism in part by engaging Berklee students and faculty with emerging creative technologies – included Electronic Production and Design Chair Michael Bierylo, associate professors Ben Hogue and Michael Sweet, and assistant professor Jean-Luc Cohen.

SoundSeeker is the latest in a long line of technological advancements introduced by Royal Caribbean. Boasting a nearly 50-year legacy of innovation, the global cruise line has pioneered a number of technological “firsts,” including: SeaSeeker, a custom-engineered scuba mask for Snapchat Spectacles; VOOM, the fastest internet at sea; Virtual balconies, giving interior rooms a view; RFID technology, cocktails served by robots at the Bionic Bar, and a mobile app that boasts smart features like expedited arrival and X-ray vision into behind-the-scenes areas of the ship, such as the navigational bridge. Royal Caribbean continues to evolve its ships and experiences – on board and on land – to excite the most tech-savvy travellers, most recently introducing Symphony of the Seas in March 2018, a bold composition of the cruise brand’s most outstanding features and digital innovations.

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Cruising The British Isles With Voyages To Antiquity – Part Two

We sailed from Scilly and made our way towards Dublin. The weather changed quite dramatically and what should have been one day in port turned into two, with the loss of Oban and Portree. Everyone seemed quite happy at having the overnight option in Dublin as it would allow more time to explore. I wandered through the city, dodging numerous trams as I went and in the evening, after devouring a pizza on board, I went back ashore to enjoy the local nightlife. I left the ship at the perfect time: just as I started to cross the bridge to the opposite side of the river, the Red Arrows came into formation directly above Aegean Odyssey. It was quite an incredible sight. Very few others on board managed to see them – the majority were having dinner – I was definitely one of a lucky few.

During one of our unexpected days at sea there was a lecture on offer from Andy Bunten and it was the one I had been waiting for. I’d met Andy, one of Voyages to Antiquity’s guest lecturers, at the beginning of the cruise and I got on very well with him and his wife. His talk on this day was titled ‘Hold Your Breath – Britain’s Whales’ and Andy had my attention from the moment he spoke. He’s a fantastic guest speaker and his talks are educational, passionate and fun. I learned more about cetaceans during his talk than I have in my entire life. He spoke about feeding habits, how the tail muscles work to drive the mammal through the water, the evolution of the species and he also offered some fascinating facts:

  • There are 30 species of whales to be found in UK waters
  • Sperm whales can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes
  • The tongue of a Blue whale weighs the same as an elephant
  • Orca is the largest species of dolphin – they are NOT whales
  • One way of gauging a whale’s age is by examining its ear wax
  • Orca have a black half-circle below their eyes to prevent glare
  • Gulpers: whales that take a bite of water and then squeeze it out through a filter mechanism, thus saving the precious plankton that they feed on
  • Skimmers: these whales swim along with their mouths open, constantly filtering as they go

During the cruise, a list was being kept by Andy and other passengers on sightings, this included marine life and birds. These are just some of the things that collectively were spotted: puffin, gannet, buzzard, kittiwake, common tern, razorbill, kestrel, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise and a hummingbird hawk moth. Andy would regularly be out on the open deck, come rain or shine, seeing what he could spot.

Scrabster was our next port of call, in the Scottish Highlands. We were docked next to a small lighthouse and from the ship’s aft decks you could see dozens of sheep grazing on the almost vertical hills. During the morning, I could hear the lambs calling out for their mothers, it was very sweet. I’d noticed a path that led into the fields and was tempted to walk along it, but changed my mind. I didn’t want to scare the babies.

We’d actually arrived in Scrabster a day earlier than planned and once the ship was cleared, I set off to explore the harbour. It’s tiny, but full of life and the RNLI boat was on its way back into port just as I got there, the crew of which were happy to pose for a photograph. I spent a few hours during the evening in a bar called Popeye’s and it was great fun. Dozens of other passengers also descended upon this little pub and we laughed, played pool and rotated songs on the Jukebox until the sun set.

In the morning, I boarded the 9:30AM shuttle into Thurso. There wasn’t a great deal to do there, but I enjoyed the walk. In some places, it felt like I had gone back in time. Shop fronts hadn’t been updated for many years, since at least the 70s and 80s, so it had a real charm about it. I also spotted a building that I fell in love with right next to the shuttle stop. It’s home to a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but I really do wonder what it was originally, maybe a grand manor house? Who knows, but it reminded me somewhat of the house from the most recent version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Not entirely sure why, but I fell in love with it. Maybe it was the many windows and the thought of what nooks and crannies lay inside that captured my imagination.

Aegean Odyssey sailed just after lunchtime for her next port, Rosyth. I was up early and on the included tour to Stirling Castle. I love a bit of history when I travel and nothing beats a day of exploring an old castle. The drive to Stirling was pleasant and when the castle came into view, I was in awe. It was stunning. Our guide was fantastic, and she was soon walking us through the main entrance and into the castle grounds. She spoke for a few minutes, giving us a brief rundown of where everything was and what we should allow time to see, before setting us off with 2 hours of free time to explore.

The 12th century castle features the Queen Anne Garden, Palace, Great Hall, Chapel Royal, Tapestry Exhibition and more. My favourite area was the Palace, which was commissioned by James V in the 1530s. It was exquisite. I was charmed by the huge stone fireplaces and beautiful artwork that adorned the wall above each. Stirling Castle was one of the most favoured homes of Scottish kings and queens, but its strategic importance meant that it also became one of the most besieged castles in the land. It was the focus of two of the most important battles in Scotland’s history – Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314. Bannockburn was led by King of Scots, Robert the Bruce and his statue stands proudly just outside the main entrance to the castle grounds.

Mary Stuart, more commonly known as Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned at Stirling in 1542, she wasn’t even a year old when she acceded to the throne.

We were given just the right amount of time to explore at Stirling. Any more would have been too long and any less, not enough. We boarded our coach on time for the drive back to Rosyth, passing the most incredible sculptures that I have ever seen. The Kelpies are 30-metre-high horse head sculptures and they are out of this world. Sadly, I was on the wrong side of the bus, so I couldn’t take a photo, but Google them and have a look at some pictures online, you’ll not be disappointed.

My time aboard would come to an end the following day, when Aegean Odyssey made her maiden call to Port of Tyne, the gateway for Newcastle, Durham, Alnwick and more. I was sad to leave. I had a great time on board and I met some very interesting people. I left the ship after lunch and snapped my final picture of the cruise. It’s always sad when you have to say goodbye!

Award-Winning Aegean Odyssey

Voyages to Antiquity may be a small cruise line compared to others, but they offer a comprehensive cruising experience and from the food to the shore excursions, everything is meticulously planned.

I enjoyed the variation of food during my time on board, I never struggled to find something to satisfy my hunger. There were various meat, poultry and fish options, always several vegetable and salad options and a selection of cakes and other sweet treats that were simply divine. Highlights for me included the Asian buffet as it offered my taste buds something new, an Indonesian curry called ‘Opor Ayam’. The curry was so tasty that I went back for more. I ordered a mahi-mahi fillet one evening (pictured below), that was served with a lemongrass and coconut sauce and it too was moreish. I prefer shellfish, but wanted to give it a try and I’m glad I did. The pizza on board is very good and it is always available during lunch and dinner at The Terrace Cafe. Another always available option is spaghetti Bolognese and that is also worth trying the next time you are on board.

The ship’s main restaurant is the Marco Polo, but I only dined in there a handful of times. When the weather is good, I much prefer to be outside, taking in the scenery. There is a slight variation between menus in the two venues, but usually the al-la-carte dishes are the same in both – so you don’t miss out.

Aegean Odyssey’s crew are superb, not a single person was unapproachable or miserable. They literally couldn’t do enough for you and it was clear that past-passengers had built up friendships with many of them. As Voyages to Antiquity only operates one vessel, it’s not hard to return and see many familiar faces. I recognised at least two dozen people when I boarded and they all remembered me.

Shore excursions were varied and very well organised. Most excursions are included and you often have a choice of 2 or 3 in most ports, so you really can tailor-make the experience to suit you. Groups are called by colour and that colour is assigned to you at embarkation, so there’s no need to remember tickets. Your daily Journal details meeting times and places, all you need to do is match your colour and show up – simple and effective.

My favourite areas onboard are the Lido Deck, Charleston Lounge and The Terrace Cafe. I especially enjoyed the Lido Deck if the sun was shining. There’s a section on the starboard side of the deck where you can grab tea, coffee and water. In the morning, there is also a healthy breakfast option served here and sometimes, a mid-morning bouillon. Technically, you could stay here all day without moving far to get anything.

The Charleston Lounge is the place for live music and late night snacks and I spent a lot of time there reading, writing, chatting and enjoying the entertainment that was offered. I soaked up every moment of listening to Dawn’s beautiful voice when she sang as part of the Excelsior Duo and I couldn’t stop listening to The Odyssey Trio. I’m not a fan of classical music by any means, but their passion and enthusiasm was contagious and I couldn’t seem to peel myself away.

I was on board for 11-nights, but it wasn’t long enough, I could have quite happily stayed. I met several people that were doing back-to-back cruises and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little envious. I’d love to cruise on Aegean Odyssey again in the future. We first met in 2016 and it took me 2 years to get back on board. Hopefully I don’t have to wait quite so long until we meet again.

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Cruising The British Isles With Voyages To Antiquity – Part One

I recently returned from a cruise aboard Voyages to Antiquity’s ‘Aegean Odyssey’ and what a cruise it was. I was last onboard this little ship in 2016, and although it had been a while, as soon as I planted my feet on the deck, I knew I was back in friendly and familiar territory. I joined her in London on her British Isles sailing and spent 11-nights onboard.

One of the biggest highlights of the cruise was boarding at Tower Bridge. I watched her sail into port early in the morning and I was raring to go. Guests were ferried across the Thames on local tenders and we then boarded Aegean Odyssey via HMS Belfast. I can only describe it as being very cool, one of the best embarkation ports I’ve ever experienced. I stepped onto HMS Belfast – a town-class light cruiser that was built for the Royal Navy but is now permanently moored in the Thames and operates as a museum – and then crossed a short gangway onto Aegean Odyssey. Very few cruise ships have the privilege of being able to sail along the Thames and under Tower Bridge, a huge appeal for small-ship cruising, and I was in my element.

Once onboard, I refreshed my memory with a quick walk around and then I went in search of my cabin. I had a Deluxe Outside cabin on Deck 7 which was spacious, comfortable and offered a shower over bath. Two windows in the cabin allowed ample natural light to fill the space and the opportunity to spot dolphins. I made my first sighting as we were dropping anchor in Guernsey. I’ll also note the towels in the bathroom, they were very soft! Possibly the softest towels I’ve ever had on a cruise ship. I like my cabin to be ‘chilled’, so I adjusted the air-con and within 20 minutes I had transformed my space into a fridge. I was quite content with my new digs.

Aegean Odyssey began revving up her engines shortly before 9PM and as we watched Tower Bridge lift, the onboard party began. It was incredible. Everyone was out on the open decks, hundreds of people lined the banks of the Thames and we sailed to the tones of Rule, Britannia! I felt very proud and quite emotional. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I soaked up every bit of the iconic moment. I snapped many pictures during our sailaway, but for me, this one sums it up perfectly.

We spent the first day at sea and it was pure bliss. A sea mist rolled in during the mid-morning, but come afternoon, it was bright and sunny once again. I played the afternoon quiz and failed miserably, then I enjoyed Richard Sykes (Cruise Director) and his musical tribute to Victoria Wood. It was hilarious! The evening brought the Captain’s Cocktail Party and then dinner beneath the warm air at the Terrace Café. As the day came to an end, I had the most beautiful sunset to admire before enjoying a cocktail in the Charleston Lounge. In all, it was a perfect day at sea.

Guernsey was our first port of call and we were at anchor from around 8AM. I’ve been to Guernsey many times and I was desperate to start telling you all about the beginning of the cruise, so I stayed onboard and enjoyed taking pictures, chatting with other passengers and then sharing it with you all on social media. I also started writing this blog. I quite like staying onboard in some anchor ports because the scenery is always changing as the ship slowly moves around. One minute I could see another cruise ship, but the next time I looked up from my laptop there was land.

I’ll also admit that during the afternoon, when I took a break from writing, I found myself unintentionally lurking outside The Terrace Cafe, just in time for afternoon tea. I had no intentions of eating anything, but there I was, face to face with the most delicious looking chocolate and hazelnut brownies I had ever seen. I could almost taste them. I turned and made my way back towards the exit. Sadly, I didn’t make it. I was lured back and the rest is history. It didn’t end there. I went back before the end of service and asked if I could take a few more as there were still some left. Absolutely no will power. Zero.

Falmouth in Cornwall was on the horizon on July 25th and I was very much looking forward to this port. I booked myself on the included tour to St Michael’s Mount and I was raring to get going. It was another hot and sunny day, but our air-conditioned coach kept us cool on the 45-minute drive from the port. It’s quite a long walk along the beach and across the causeway to get to the island, but once there, you can cool off with a cold drink or ice cream before making the trek to the top.

The site is managed by the National Trust and the castle and chapel have been home to the St Aubyn family since roughly 1650 – the earliest buildings there date back to the 12th century. It was originally a counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, but in 1424, it was given to the Abbess and Convent of Syon at Isleworth, Middlesex.

I was tired by the time I reached the top and I’d been hand in hand with another passenger the entire way, but the views were stunning. Sadly, I had no time to go inside. There were thousands of people there and a huge queue to enter, but even the exterior alone is still worth making the climb for. I walked back along the causeway before the tide came in and it was closed, and across the beach to a small cafe where I enjoyed a cold drink before re-joining my group.

As Aegean Odyssey sailed from Falmouth, I dined al-fresco at The Terrace Cafe. I ordered Asian spiced chicken which was served with rice, fried shallots and sugar snap peas. It was delicious. I’d missed lunch and I was ready for a good meal. The scenery as we left finished the moment off perfectly.

I opened my curtains on July 26th to the sight of the Scilly Isles. I never knew England was so beautiful. For a moment, I thought we were in the Caribbean! Voyages to Antiquity offered and included tour to Tresco in this port, but there were also independent tender options to Tresco and St Mary’s. I spent the morning on St Mary’s with friends I’d met on a previous cruise. They took me all over the island. There are only 7 miles of roads, so I got to see just about everything. I admired stunning views from the Star Castle, which is now a hotel, but you can access the grounds. It’s part of The Garrison and just around the corner is an old gunpowder magazine store that has info boards detailing some of the history, it’s free to enter, and you’ll find it behind the Detention Cell! We also drove to some of the islands stunning beaches and other view-points, through the main town, up to the airport and then back across the island towards Prince Charles and Camilla’s house. You can’t see much, just a window.

There are several islands that make up Scilly, including St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin’s, St Agnes and Bryher. Some of the small islands are uninhabited, but you can take boats across and spend the day there. Can you imagine that? Having an island and beach ALL to yourself for the day! That’s the stuff of dreams. I boarded the noon tender to come back to the ship, had lunch and then sat admiring the view. I was lucky enough to also spot a massive seal – something I’d really hoped I’d see during my time there and at the very last moment, I did.

Our next stop would be Dublin and we’d spend longer there than originally planned. Cruising the British Isles with Voyages to Antiquity, part two coming soon…

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