ITV’s ‘The Cruise’ To Return To TV Screens In January

ITV have confirmed that the sixth series of ‘The Cruise’ will air on a weekly basis from Thursday 3 January at 8:30pm. The six-part documentary was filmed on the 3,560-guest Majestic Princess cruise ship as she sailed to Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Throughout this latest series, according to ITV, viewers will be introduced to a number of new faces including Captain Dino Sagani, a fourth-generation captain who has worked for Princess Cruises for 25 years. He has served as captain on several Princess ships since first being appointed in 2007. Majestic Princess holds great personal importance to him as it was built in Monfalcone, Italy just a few miles north from his hometown of Trieste.
 
ITV say some familiar faces will also take centre stage including Newcastle-born Hotel Services Engineer, Scott Grayson. As well as being filmed helping maintain the 143,000-tonne ship, Scott is seen offering a glimpse into his preparations for heading home to begin a whole new adventure of his own – as a father to a new born baby girl.


Providing the voiceover for the series is actor Anthony Head, who is internationally known for playing Rupert Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and for his role as Geoffrey Howe in Oscar winning film, The Iron Lady.

The Cruise is made by Wild Pictures, one of the UK’s leading factual documentary makers, who also produced the previous five series.

Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises’ vice president UK and Europe, said: “We’re delighted that Princess Cruises will once again feature in The Cruise series on ITV, which offers viewers a wonderful glimpse into the wealth of experiences for our guests both onboard and ashore, and the daily lives of our dedicated crew. We can’t wait for the series to transport viewers to exotic Asia and the stunning landmark locations of Australia and New Zealand on Majestic Princess.”

Join the conversation on social media via #TheCruise

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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Largest Carnival Cruise Line Ship Ever Constructed To Be Named ‘Mardi Gras’

In a nod to Carnival Cruise Line’s rich history as America’s Cruise Line, the line has announced that it will name its new XL-class ship to be delivered in 2020 Mardi Gras, bringing back to the fleet the name of the first Carnival Cruise Line® ship that entered service in 1972 and started the wave of cruise vacation popularity in the United States.

In keeping with its tradition of fun, Carnival revealed the name to a nationwide television audience on the popular game show Wheel of Fortune on its signature Puzzleboard at the conclusion of the broadcast.

Mardi Gras will be the largest Carnival Cruise Line ship ever constructed and the first in North America to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), part of Carnival Corporation’s green cruising platform.  At 180,000 tons, the new Mardi Gras will be more than six times the size of its namesake.

Currently under construction at Meyer Turku in Finland, the 5,200-plus lower berth vessel will offer a variety of never-before-seen innovations and attractions.

Itineraries for Mardi Gras will be announced in January and go on sale later that same month.

The original 27,000-ton TSS Mardi Gras, a converted trans-Atlantic ocean liner  purchased by entrepreneur and Carnival founder Ted Arison, ushered in the modern-day cruise industry when it set sail on its inaugural voyage in 1972, helping to transform cruising from an experience once reserved for the elite into a mainstream vacation accessible and affordable to everyone.

“Our first ship Mardi Gras was a historic vessel, introducing a brand new style of cruising to the vacationing public. What better way to pay tribute to our company’s nearly 50-year history of creating wonderful vacation memories than by naming this groundbreaking vessel after our original and beloved ‘Fun Ship,’” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “The new Mardi Gras will follow the trailblazing lead of her predecessor, introducing features and technological innovations that have never been seen before on a cruise ship while setting a new standard for seagoing vacations.”

Carnival previously announced that the ship will be based in Port Canaveral, Florida, which will feature a new state-of-the-art terminal.  A second XL ship will start construction in 2020 and be delivered in 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Carnival Cruise Line’s founding.

I am looking forward to seeing this ship complete as the original Mardi Gras was built in Newcastle upon-Tyne, which is where I am from. She was built as RMS Empress of Canada in 1960 and her name was changed to Mardi Gras in 1972 when she joined the Carnival fleet.

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Posted in Carnival Cruise Lines, Cruise News

Celebrity Edge Is Named By Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.

After more than four years of limitless passion and hard work by thousands of engineers, architects, artisans, designers and crew, Celebrity Cruises has set sail into a new era. Celebrity Edge officially joined the fleet after a moving ceremony on 4 December where the ship’s godmother, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, was joined by all on-board to “bless this ship and all those who sail upon her.”

The naming event brought together more than 3,000 guests, employees, crew members and students to commemorate the debut of Celebrity Cruises’ first new ship in six years, and first new ship series in more than a decade.

Yousafzai, who is now a student at Oxford University, is the inspirational co-founder of Malala Fund, which advocates for a world where every girl can learn and lead by investing in local education activists, holding global leaders accountable and amplifying girls’ voices around the world.

She discussed those issues before the ship’s crew and guests in a one-on-one interview with Celebrity Cruises’ president and CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. From girls’ education to the power of diversity, both share a profound passion and commitment to these important topics.

Celebrity Cruises is proud to partner with Malala Fund and support them in their mission to see the 130 million out-of-school girls around the world get the 12 years of free, safe, quality education they deserve.

“I’m fighting to ensure millions of girls stuck in situations of poverty or war that they didn’t create can learn what they need to choose a future for themselves. But to continue making progress for girls’ education, we need support from leaders in every sector. I am so grateful to Celebrity Cruises for their generous support and investment in the potential of girls everywhere,” said Malala Yousafzai, co-founder of Malala Fund.

At the naming event, hosted by noted designer Nate Berkus, emotions ran high when acclaimed recording artist Andra Day took to the stage for empowering renditions of her Grammy-nominated single “Rise Up” and Oscar-nominated “Stand Up For Something.” Both anthems were chosen for their bold statements about the power of girls’ education and its role in shaping the future.

Foregoing the traditional champagne bottle at the launch, instead the naming ceremony saw a custom-made 18-litre bottle of Badoit French mineral water smashed across the ship’s Parabolic Ultra Bow. The ship’s long-awaited inaugural season will now get underway, sparking a revolution in the cruise industry, with the ship’s cutting-edge design and first-at-sea offerings.

Celebrity Edge will begin her inaugural season sailing alternating seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries before transporting guests to the stunning vistas of the Mediterranean with a range of seven- to 11-night sailings from the iconic cities of Barcelona and Rome in 2019. Sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Celebrity Edge will make her first maiden voyage on 9 December 2018. Building on Celebrity Edge‘s incredible momentum, she’ll be joined by Celebrity Apex in 2020, and two additional sister ships in 2021 and 2022.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News

Cunard Launches NEW Holistic Spa Concept

Inspired by the ocean and seamlessly blending natural beauty and timeless luxury, Cunard has announced the launch of its brand new holistic spa concept, Mareel.

Co-created by Cunard and wellness trailblazer Canyon Ranch, Mareel Wellness & Beauty will launch exclusively on board the newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth this December, closely followed by Queen Victoria later in the month and on board Queen Mary 2 from November 2020.

The word ‘Mareel’ is from old Norse language meaning ‘phosphorescence of the ocean’. This description of glowing light from the sea perfectly reflects our new ocean inspired wellness and beauty experiences that will leave guests feeling radiant, from the inside out.

Mareel will offer a brand new luxury space decorated in hues of blue, green and pale coral, creating a sanctuary of calm where guests can soak up the transformational power of the oceans.  Brand new facilities offered by Mareel on board Queen Elizabeth will include:

  • A new couples suite for seaweed bathing rituals
  • A meditation room with acoustic resonance loungers
  • A reconfigured multifunctional fitness centre and studio space
  • New sound therapy facilities in every treatment room

While Cunard sets the standard in maritime luxury, the spa and wellness treatments and expertise will be offered in partnership with Canyon Ranch, with a brand new and extended spa treatment menu featuring mineral-rich seawater and marine based experiences to transform and heal.

Luxury products used within the new Mareel spa have all been selected to offer the very best and meet socially responsible production techniques, with organic treatments featuring ingredients that are sustainably harvested, wild-picked, biodynamic and toxin-free.

The signature treatment of the Mareel spa is ‘Ocean Discovery’, offering the option to combine up to five treatments, or select individual 30 minute treatments if preferred.  Using luxurious marine based products from VOYA which are sustainably harvested from Western Ireland, Ocean Discovery aims to leave guests feeling revitalised and illuminated from the glow of the ocean.

Extending the offering of Mareel beyond the spa space, enhanced wellness experiences will also be offered across the ship’s daily activity programme including stretch and meditation films on stateroom TVs every morning, wellness seminars, activities on deck such as dance and open air yoga.

The new Mareel Wellness & Beauty experience is just one offering following a refurbishment of Queen Elizabeth during a two week period in dry dock in Brest, France.  In addition to the new Mareel spa, many of the guest public areas have been updated and all Grill Suites and Britannia Staterooms have new carpets and soft furnishings. The Royal Court Theatre has had a complete technical overhaul and several public rooms, bars and lounges have also been refitted with new carpets. Outside on deck there is new furniture and the aft sun deck has a new layout.  Finally a fresh shopping experience has been created in The Royal Arcade.

2019 is an important year for Queen Elizabeth. 3 January will see her set sail from Southampton to Australia via Cape Town,  South Africa.  She will be based in Australia until 30 March 2019, then depart for Tokyo, Japan for two voyages exploring the cultural delights of the islands. On 5 May 2019 she will start a transpacific voyage to relocate to Alaska for a maiden season until 30 June 2019. Queen Elizabeth will then head back to Southampton via the Panama Canal.

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Posted in Cruise News, Cunard Cruise Line

Regal Princess Prepares For Princess Medallion

Princess Cruises has announced that it is now preparing Regal Princess as the second ship fully activated with Princess MedallionClassTM experiences that are currently delivering enhanced and personalised cruise holidays to guests onboard Caribbean Princess.

Regal Princess will be fully activated for her Caribbean Season starting February 17,2019. The Princess OceanMedallion, included complimentary, is a wearable device that elevates the guest experience by delivering enhanced experiences and personalised service resulting in high guest satisfaction scores.

Considered a breakthrough in the vacation industry and recently honoured with a CES® 2019 Innovation Award, the OceanMedallion features leading-edge technology that delivers personalised service through enhanced guest-crew interactions, eliminates friction points and enables interactive entertainment.

Princess MedallionClass vacations offer guests a portfolio of experiences specifically designed to enhance their cruise vacation, including:

  • Fast ship boarding with OceanReady™ – guests who arrive at the terminal with travel documents (i.e. passports) uploaded to their profile have a personalised check-in process that starts their vacation with ease. Personalisation starts pre-cruise by guests becoming OceanReady while at home.
  • On demand beverage delivery: Using smart devices, guests have the ability to order drinks using OceanNowTM and have them delivered directly to them throughout the ship and even in their stateroom.
  • The best Wi-Fi at sea: MedallionNet™ is fast, reliable, affordable and unlimited. MedallionNet provides land-like speeds that allow guests to stay connected from anywhere on the ship including staterooms which are each equipped with a Wi-Fi access point.  With MedallionNet guests easily share vacation experiences with friends and family back home, stream TV shows, movies and sports events, and even make voice and video calls.

Other innovative features of the Princess MedallionClass experience include:

  • Keyless Stateroom Entry: Access to staterooms is a seamless experience where each guest is securely validated and the door automatically unlocks with personalised greetings displayed on the door portal.
  • OceanCompass™: OceanCompass leverages the Princess Medallion to enable point-to-point wayfinding through-out the ship. OceanCompass guides guests throughout their journey, providing directional information so they can seamlessly navigate to their next point of interest.
  • MedallionPay™: An easy to use payment feature, enabling crew members to focus on meaningful guest interactions.
  • OceanCasino™: On smart devices and select portals, guests can wager real money on games, including slots, poker, bingo, roulette, keno and lottery from anywhere on board.
  • OceanViewTM: Guests can stream more than 100 hours of award-winning Ocean Original travel shows to their smart device anywhere on the ship at no cost – content which airs nationally on weekends on ABC and NBC.
  • PlayOceanTM: On portals located throughout the ship, guests play family games, including trivia, word jumble, a matching game and Ocean Treks Adventure – an interactive, ship wide digital scavenger hunt. PlayOcean also transforms guests’ mobile devices into game controllers for interactive gaming on the massive Movies Under the Stars screen. And, guests can enjoy big screen interactive fun with Games Under the Stars where players enjoy arcade and trivia fun on our “Movies Under the Stars” screen.

Princess MedallionClass experiences activate a travel industry first on an Experience Internet of ThingsTM (xIoTTM) platform using a guest-centric approach that helps maximise a cruise vacation in real-time based on guests’ choices and preferences. The result delivers enhanced personalisation on a large scale across every aspect of a cruise vacation.

The OceanMedallion was first unveiled by Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald at CES 2017 and was a key factor in Fast Company recognising the corporation with two Innovation and Design Awards that same year.

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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Crystal Cruises Announces Voluntourism Adventures For 2019

Continuing its tremendously popular “You Care. We Care.” voluntourism adventures into the new year, Crystal is unveiling more than two dozen voluntourism experiences for its 2019 ocean voyages.

Offered on most Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity sailings, as well as select Crystal Esprit itineraries in the West Indies, the complimentary excursions invite both guests and crew members to give their time and energy to dozens of worthwhile causes around the world. Following its debut in 2011, Crystal’s “You Care. We Care.” programme has garnered great interest from travellers seeking to connect with destinations on a deeper level, offering visits to some organisations once a year and others visited on multiple voyages, building goodwill and relationships.

The spirit of hospitality is at the heart of Crystal’s “You Care. We Care.” programme, reiterating the company’s commitment to the respectful treatment of the oceans and communities in which it travels. Each programme selected is carefully vetted by Crystal. The criteria for selecting the activities that are part of the experience on each “You Care. We Care.” adventure involve identifying those at which participants can make an immediate positive impact. The organisations determine their greatest needs and then the Crystal team works closely with them on how they would like Crystal to be involved.

The contribution of guests and crew is that of time and care, with no financial obligations requested or required. Crystal also provides financial and other needed resources annually to many of the charities visited during “You Care. We Care.” adventures benefiting the programmes and the people they serve.

For 2019, Crystal guests and crew can contribute to communities around the world with the following “You Care. We Care.” voluntourism excursions including:

  • Assisting at the San Francisco Food Bank, Clatsop Community Action Food Bank in Astoria and Mustard Seed Food Bank in Victoria.
  • Playing games, reading, dancing and participating in an array of other activities with the elderly and children at the Granitos de Paz Foundation in Cartagena.
  • Helping to feed the elderly at Mercy Kitchen in Belize.
  • Assisting with cleaning and caring for the animals at the Samui Animal Shelter in Koh Samui.
  • Getting an up-close look at the wildlife at Territory Wildlife Park and joining the conservation team in maintaining the park’s botanical gardens in Darwin.
  • Participating in tree planting conservation efforts to shelter the yellow-eyed penguins of Dunedin.
  • Assisting with gardening and other household duties at Domus Christi Home for the Elderly in Dubrovnik.
  • Assisting with meal preparation or recreational activities at Smile of a Child in Corinth.
  • Helping prepare food and create ceramic artwork with the disabled at the Pio Monte della Misericordia in Sorrento.
  • Learning about the conservation of marine life and participating in the theoretical rescue of a dolphin at the Rehabilitation Centre of Prat de Llobregat in Barcelona.
  • Assisting with the work at the Gallinas & Focas home for the mentally challenged, tending gardens and olive groves in Palma de Mallorca.
  • Assisting with grounds keeping at the historic Mount Stewart House & Gardens in Belfast.
  • Planting trees at the Heidmork Natural Reserve in Reykjavik.
  • Visiting the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in St. Peter Port.

Its recommended that Crystal Voluntourism Adventures are pre-reserved in advance.

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Posted in Cruise News, Crystal Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces Recreation And Entertainment Line-Up For Norwegian Encore

Today at the Meyer Werft shipyard, Norwegian Cruise Line, the innovator in cruising, held an unforgettable keel laying ceremony for Norwegian Encore, unveiling the award-winning entertainment line-up and leading recreational amenities scheduled for the ship’s fall 2019 debut.

Following the major construction milestone and maritime tradition of embedding a “commemorative coin” within the keel blocks of the ship, attendees were treated to an unexpected presentation.  Four performers appeared in extravagant costume with the lead singer in the show’s iconic boots, providing a surprise performance from “Kinky Boots,” confirming the Tony Award®-winning musical as the headlining act on Norwegian Encore.  Lola, the lead character, and her three dancing angels sang “Land of Lola,” one of the 16 original songs by Grammy Award® winner Cyndi Lauper. 

Staying true to the company’s commitment to delivering unrivaled entertainment options; the freedom and flexibility for guests to express themselves and design their ideal cruise experience; and providing one of the most inclusive vacation options available, the offerings soon-to-be-available on Norwegian Encore are a testament to the continued evolution of the Breakaway-Plus class, the most successful class of the company’s history.

Entertainment at Sea

Exclusively on Norwegian Encore, “Kinky Boots” is a story about an unlikely partnership between a fabulous entertainer and factory owner, who through compassion and understanding embrace their differences and work together to create something the world has never seen before.  Featuring original songs by Cyndi Lauper, the Broadway hit inspires audiences to feel free to be who they want to be.

 Expanding on some of the most compelling entertainment at sea, “The Choir of Man,” which recently debuted on Norwegian Escape, combines high energy music, dance, live percussion and foot stomping choreography by the incredible talent of nine ordinary guys who perform everything from sing-along anthems to classic rock.

Additional entertainment that made a debut on Norwegian Bliss and will be available on Norwegian Encore include “Happy Hour Prohibition: The Musical,” the interactive cocktails and theater show, and guest favorite – The Cavern Club, which transports audiences back to the legendary Liverpool club with live musical performances from a Beatles cover band. 

Recreation Activities for All Ages

As the only company to offer go-karts at sea, Norwegian Cruise Line is expanding its portfolio with a bigger and better two-level race track on Norwegian Encore.  At nearly 1,150 feet, ten exhilarating turns and four points that extend up to 13 feet over the side of the ship, guests will enjoy the largest race track at sea. Additional upgrades include a covered viewing area in the center of the track where guests can provide passing go-karts with an additional turbo boost by tagging them with a laser beam.

Norwegian Encore will also feature the Galaxy Pavilion, a more than 10,000-square-foot indoor virtual reality complex, showcasing cutting-edge technology and interactive gaming. From multisensory virtual experiences, simulators to an escape room taking guests on a labyrinth of adventures, guests of all ages will be able to find something to enjoy. 

The industry’s only open-air laser tag arena made popular on Norwegian Bliss will reappear on Norwegian Encore, but this time as the resurrected lost city of Atlantis, with new elements for a more exciting and interactive experience. The ship will also feature the Aqua Park, which guests have come to expect of the Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus class, including two multi-story waterslides, one of which extends 11 feet over the edge of the ship and loops down to the deck below. 

At approximately 169,000 gross tons and accommodating up to 4,000 guests, Norwegian Encore will cruise out of Miami every Sunday and sail seven-day voyages to the Eastern Caribbean, beginning with her first journey on November 17, 2019 through April 12, 2020.

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Posted in Cruise News, Norwegian Cruise Line

To River Cruise, Or Not To River Cruise: That Is The Question

River cruising is more popular than ever before, but is it really for me? I’m still not entirely sure, but I am open to the possibility of experiencing a new way to travel by water. To river cruise, or not to river cruise: that is the question.

What is it about the river cruise experience that tempts me?

I like the idea of leaving my floating home and being right in the heart of the destination that I’m visiting, it’s possibly one of the biggest appeals of river cruising. There’s no hassle getting to and from because it’s all there in front of you. Yes, I can absolutely see myself enjoying that aspect, especially if it’s been a long day of exploring but the ship doesn’t sail until late evening, or even the following day, as it makes exploring by night much easier and far more appealing.

Onboard entertainment isn’t my thing on any ship, ocean or river, so when it comes to that aspect of the experience, I could take it or leave it. I’d much rather sit outside and watch the world go by, remembering to ‘duck’ at some points along the route! All that top deck space is just screaming at me to go and enjoy it, but I must remember to keep my head!

A constant and ever-changing scenery is also something I enjoy and yes, it does come with ocean travel, but not in the way it does with river. There’s always a physical land aspect to admire on a river cruise and that would also sit perfectly with my above mention of being out on the open decks and disregarding organised entertainment. Instead, I could sit outside and use the scenery as a talking point to engage with other people, that’s my kind of entertainment. We spend so much time immersed in technology and being “entertained” that we forget about the basics of life and what enrichment you can get just by conversing with another human being. Give me conversation over anything and everything else.

Included excursions are a big appeal and Emerald Waterways offer some fab ones (I’ve looked). That takes a huge weight off budgeting for extra costs and it also gives you one less thing to plot and plan pre-cruise. It’s already been taken care of for you. I could spend hours researching one port, so this could potentially save me days of my life.

And what’s putting me off?

If you know me, this won’t come as a surprise. Bad weather and the potential lack of it puts me off. One thing I enjoy more than anything about ocean travel is being able to feel the force of Mother Nature. I’m not likely to experience a force 9 storm in the middle of a river, am I? And that is genuinely one thing that deters me. I know, I’m missing some crucial screws, but each to their own.

Size is also a concern. I much prefer a smaller cruise ship over a mammoth monster, but is a river ship going to be too small for my idea of comfortable space? Several people who have tried river cruising have all said I would enjoy it and that the vessels don’t feel as small as they can sometimes look, but it does sit in the back of my mind. I like to see the same faces day-to-day when I cruise, but I don’t want to feel like we’re constantly on top of each other.

Flying is one thing I don’t like to do and with many river cruises, unless I trekked across Europe, I’d have no choice but to fly out to meet the ship. Maybe I should be kinder on this subject as one trip I’d love to do is along the Rhine and I can easily sail from my home city to Amsterdam to join a whole host of river vessels. See how this was supposed to be on my negative list, yet I manage to spin it into something with a more positive vibe? Maybe that’s my travel heart already ruling my head and telling me which direction I’m going in.

Will I do it?

Regardless of all the things that are telling me it would never be my first choice over ocean travel, I would like to experience it and even prove myself wrong. Before embarking on my first cruise I was always adamant that cruising wasn’t for me and here I am. Maybe having a river cruise option in my life will enhance my overall travel experiences and give me something else to crave in our fabulous world that is filled with wonders to explore.

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Posted in Emerald Waterways, General Cruise Articles, River Cruising

100 Days Until The Launch Of MSC Bellissima

The 100 day countdown to the launch of MSC Bellissima began today with the new MSC Cruises flagship to be named in Southampton, UK on 2nd March 2019, and I’m excited to say that I’ll be there for her christening.

With a maximum capacity of 5,686 guests and gross tonnage of 171,598, MSC Bellissima will be the biggest ship to be named in Southampton and will certainly live up to her name meaning “most beautiful” by offering guests a beautiful and memorable cruise experience.

MSC Bellissima is the second ship in the innovative Meraviglia class and the fourth of MSC Cruises next-generation ships to come into service in just over 18 months. MSC Bellissima will spend her inaugural season in the Mediterranean offering 7-night cruises to some of the region’s most popular ports before moving to the Emirates for Winter 2019/2020.

Here are just some of the most beautiful highlights guests can expect:

NEW DIGITAL CRUISE ASSISTANT – ZOE

Guests on board MSC Bellissima will be the first to experience the world’s first digital cruise assistant available in seven languages designed to answer the most commonly asked questions in the comfort of their cabin. Zoe is a voice-enabled Artificial Intelligence device fitted in every cabin and has been custom designed for the cruise experience in partnership with HARMAN International. This will elevate the guest service experience to the next level and is employing start-of-the-art technology to enhance and enrich life on board for MSC Cruises guests.

NEW TAPAS RESTAURANT CONCEPT FROM RAMON FREIXA

Located on deck 6 at the heart of the iconic Mediterranean-style promenade, HOLA! Tapas Bar welcomes you into an amazing culinary experience created by the two Michelin starred chef Ramón Freixa. Designed as a social dining experience where guests can enjoy shared plates and a wonderful celebration of the Mediterranean way of life. Throughout the day, HOLA Tapas Bar is bustling and features a range of delicious dishes and is a mix of tradition and vanguard in a contemporary but warm open space with both communal and individual seating.

In addition to the new restaurant concept from Freixa, guests will be spoiled for choice with 12 international dining venues and 20 bars to choose from including a new French speciality restaurant L’Atelier Bistrot. The ship will also feature acclaimed pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury’s Chocolaterie and Chocolate Bar, dedicated entirely to unique and elegant chocolate creations and desserts and a delight for anyone with a sweet tooth.

TWO BRAND NEW CIRQUE DU SOLEIL AT SEA SHOWS

MSC Bellissima will be the second MSC Cruises ship to feature Cirque du Soleil at Sea, with two brand new shows designed exclusively for MSC Cruises guests. The new show concepts will be revealed next month. This long-standing partnership with world-leader in live entertainment, Cirque du Soleil will also see a further four new shows created for sister ships MSC Grandiosa, launching November 2019 and MSC Virtuosa launching in 2020.

BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS AND EXPERIENCES WITH ROUND THE CLOCK ENTERTAINMENT

From a brand new Grand Canyon theme for the aquapark with three exhilarating water slides to a full-size bowling alley, F1 simulator, XD cinema there is fun and interactive entertainment for guests of all ages. Six brand new West-end style theatre shows will wow guests each and every evening and a full programme of activities are organised and hosted by the onboard entertainment team. There is a never a dull moment!

MSC Bellissima features an iconic Mediterranean-style promenade with an 80-metre LED sky screen as the social hub of the ship and a shopping gallery with over 200 brands will delight those who love some retail-therapy. For those looking for relaxation and rejuvenation, the authentic Balinese MSC Aurea Spa offers 79 different body and facial treatments along with a stunning thermal area. And there is so much more to discover!

NEW MAGIC THEMED KIDS’ PROGRAMME

MSC Cruises is renowned for the award-winning kids offering across the fleet and for MSC Bellissima this is further enhanced and enriched with activities and facilities designed in partnership with LEGO® and Chicco. An impressive 700m² children’s play area will a brand-new School of Magic programme and weekly Magic Talent Show to bring a truly extraordinary touch to young travellers’ holidays.

In addition to offering the very latest in guest technology, MSC Bellissima will be fitted with a large number of environmental features and innovative technology to reduce her environmental footprint. Just like her sister ship MSC Meraviglia, she will be equipped with, amongst others: an exhaust gas cleaning system for cleaner emissions; an advanced wastewater treatment system; smart heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) to recover heat from machinery spaces; and LED lighting and smart devices to significantly save energy. This is all part of MSC Cruises commitment to provide guests with the best holiday experiences at sea in a sustainable way.

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Posted in Cruise News, MSC Cruises

Mini-Cruise Highlights From Saga Sapphire

Saga Sapphire is one of my favourite ships, she ticks all the right boxes and a few extras. She’s a home-from-home for many people and that was evident on my recent cruise, when I disembarked in Southampton and over 100 other people stayed onboard to sail to the Canaries.

I’m used to spending at least 2 weeks aboard Saga Sapphire and exploring each corner of every port she visits, but my recent trip was a short 4-night mini-cruise option and because of that, I decided my time would be best spent reacquainting myself with this wonderful ship and finding out what other people onboard thought of her and what was offered – approx. 40% of passengers were new to cruising and new to Saga.

The average age for the sailing was the lowest I’ve seen, in fact, many people didn’t look like they were old enough to be onboard. I know, I’m one of those people, but the regular Saganauts are used to seeing me floating around. For those of you that don’t know, to travel with Saga you must be over 50, but you can accompany someone over the age of 50 if you are over 40.

The Saga cruise experience is one of the best. They do everything exceptionally well and I am yet to come across someone that hasn’t enjoyed their time onboard. The cabins are spacious and very comfortable, all dining options (including speciality) are included, the shore excursion choices are varied to suit all tastes and abilities and the food, well, the food is simply incredible. I could talk about it without coming up for air, that’s how much I enjoy cruising with Saga, and even though it had been 16 months since my last cruise on Saga Sapphire, almost everything was exactly as I’d expected it to be. I was sad to see that the mini-golf course had been removed from the forward end of Deck 12. My friend and I used to enjoy going up there in the howling wind and pouring rain because it was ‘fun’. To sweeten my memories of those rather exciting times – battling with a vertical dolphin in blizzard-like conditions and trying to direct a ball that would go everywhere on the deck but where I wanted it to go – I stopped and helped myself to a boiled sweet from the Beach Club – they’re free!

I spent a lot of time chatting with other passengers and I was surprised by how many of them had never cruised with Saga before, but had utilised many of their other services, including land tours. Were they impressed with the ocean aspect? I think that’s an understatement. Even those that were completely new to Saga seemed to be hooked from day one. On the flip side of the coin, I also came across a couple that spend up to (if not more than) six months of the year on Sapphire every year.

So, what did I do during my time on the cruise? Well, let me tell you about. I’ll start with Cooper’s.

Cooper’s is a small and very intimate bar located on the starboard side of Deck 8 (just outside the Britannia Lounge). It’s my all-time favourite space on any ship and only big enough to comfortably fit around 30 people. During the day, it’s quiet and you can often watch old comedies on the flat-screen TV, but in the evening, especially after the show in the Britannia Lounge, it comes alive! It’s the place for late night music, laughs, drinks and dancing. I’ve always enjoyed this space, but I like the fact that many people don’t even realise it’s there, it’s almost like a secret club. As people enter the Britannia Lounge, they are set solely on finding a good spot to watch the show, they don’t observe what’s really going on around them, so they completely miss Cooper’s. You’ll often see the same faces for several nights and then suddenly a new crowd will start to trickle in, and that’s all because for the first time, when leaving the lounge, they looked up and realised there’s a door. I’m sure those of you that have sailed on Saga Sapphire will relate to what I’m saying.

I didn’t go ashore in Belgium, I decided to stay onboard and take advantage of a quiet ship and some down time. This was when I discovered the mini-golf course had been removed. I walked all the outer decks and then made my way through the inside of the ship and the memories of good times came flooding back.

Food is not something I can claim to “do”. I’m not a chef or expert critic, I actually can’t stand cooking, but I like to eat and I know good quality ingredients when I taste them, and you’ll get nothing but the best on any Saga ship. Our Executive Chef for this cruise was George Streeter. He and I have met on several sailings, so I knew the food was going to be an issue for me (by issue I mean I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it) and that proved to be the case. I had curry, steak, lobster tail, fish and chips, and so much more.

During my final evening onboard, I dined in East to West with Captain Horne and several others. East to West is the ships speciality restaurant and every guest is welcome to try it, free of charge, at least once per sailing. The menu was new for me this time, so I was looking forward to demolishing some unfamiliar dishes, and as I can’t do anything by halves, I asked to sample several. To start, I combined the pan-fried chilli-ginger scallops with satay chicken and lemon grass skewers. To follow, I ordered green tea marinated XL king prawns and combined that with a taste of the six spice grilled Angus beef with an oriental herb sauce. The entire meal was exquisite; one of the best I’ve had in East to West and as you can see, the prawns were enormous!

I spent more time in the Drawing Room during this cruise than I had on previous sailings. It’s located on Deck 11 forward and offers lovely panoramic views. The design is like that of a living room, so it’s warm, cosy and it turned out to be the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon. I went ashore in Amsterdam, it’s one of my favourite places, but it was so incredibly cold and windy, I just wanted to get back to the warmth and comfort of Saga Sapphire. I took my friend to a few places that she’d not visited during her last trip to the Dutch city and then we headed back “home”. We plonked ourselves down in the Drawing Room (just as the rain began to fall) with a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, cup of tea each and some biscuits. It was the ideal way to spend a grey and damp Sunday afternoon and I loved it. The only thing that could have made it better was being there in my pyjamas.

Saga Sapphire is a ship for everyone and she’s been one of my favourites since we first met. I always feel so comfortable onboard, I meet interesting people and I know if I ever needed anything, her crew would be there in an instant to help. Although she will be leaving the Saga fleet in 2020, I will be cruising on her again before then and on that note, if there’s one ship you think about trying next year, please make it Saga Sapphire. Let her leave you with the incredible memories of fascinating adventures, just like the ones she’s going to be leaving with me.

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