Voyages To Antiquity Sets Sights On Asia And Africa With 129-Day Cruise

Cultural cruise line Voyages to Antiquity has announced an exciting new 2018-19 winter season featuring a return to Asia and Africa (last featured during winter 2015-16).

Cruises in the region will begin in December 2018 and include six new itineraries and five new ports of call: Ain Sokhna in Egypt (for excursions to the 4th century St Anthony’s and St Paul’s, the oldest Christian monasteries in the world); Trincomalee in Sri Lanka; Port Louis in Mauritius; Reunion Island; and Port Kelang (for Kuala Lumpur) in Malaysia. The announcement means that in 2018 Voyages to Antiquity will once again offer year-round cruising.

With very few repeated stops throughout the season, two or more cruises can be easily combined into Grand Voyages. Four cruises can even be combined for the ‘Grand Odyssey’ sailing, a 129-day epic trip spanning half the world, from Athens to Malaga via Egypt, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the islands of the Indian Ocean and Africa.

Experiences on offer range from a desert island beach barbecue in the Maldives to cruising the Yangon River in the heart of Burma, exploring India by tuk-tuk and discovering the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

The winter 2018/19 programme features 30 per cent more included shore excursions and overland adventures than previous seasons including those to India’s Golden Triangle and Cape Town in South Africa, with up to 12 nights in hotels per cruise.

To celebrate the launch of the new programme, Voyages to Antiquity is offering savings between £500 and £5,000 per cabin on individual sailings and up to an amazing £21,400 per cabin on the 129-day ‘Grand Odyssey’. Repeat customers can save an additional 10 per cent on 2018/19 winter bookings until 15 December 2017. In addition, a low supplement, equivalent to just 10 per cent, is available across 36 dedicated solo cabins.

In addition to the new destinations and itineraries, Voyages to Antiquity is also enhancing the on-board programme for passengers during the winter season. This includes guest speakers bringing to life regional food and wine, cookery lessons, local cultural entertainment and a new opera group to entertain passengers. The renowned expert lecture programme unique to each cruise will remain a key aspect of enrichment.

Highlights of the new winter 2018/19 season include:

The 29-day ‘Golden Triangle to the Strait of Malacca’ cruise-tour, beginning with a five-night land tour to Jaipur, Agra and Delhi (all India) before joining the ship in Mumbai to sail to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the Malay Peninsula.

A dedicated Odyssey Club Reunion Cruise for members of Voyages to Antiquity’s past passenger loyalty club featuring an appropriate port of call in Reunion Island. Open to all passengers, the 10 February 2019 ‘Islands of the Indian Ocean & South Africa’ sailing will include special events for Odyssey Club members. This 33-day cruise-tour features highlights such as a special ceremony when the ship crosses the Equator, a Maldives beach barbecue and classic African safari.

The 63-day ‘Grand Indian Ocean and Southern Africa’ cruise-tour combines two cruises. Departing from Colombo (Sri Lanka) the sailing invites guests to visit Mauritius, join a three-day safari in South Africa, enjoy a four-night stay in Cape Town (South Africa) and sail to Namibia, Angola, Cape Verde Islands and Morocco for an overnight hotel stay and trip to Casablanca.

The 129-day ‘Grand Odyssey’ takes in the travel highlights of three continents and 18 countries, with more than 50 visits and excursions included in the fare. A combination of four individual cruise journeys in one four-month epic sailing, it sails all the way from Athens east to Asia, back across the Indian Ocean to South Africa and the length of Africa back to the shores of the Mediterranean in Malaga. Celebrate Christmas and New Year onboard.

All prices include return flights, transfers, hotels, excursions, all meals and drinks with dinner onboard and the full Voyages to Antiquity onboard guest speaker programme, full details of which will be released in the coming weeks. The new winter 2018-19 season from Voyages to Antiquity is on sale now and supported by a new preview brochure highlighting the extensive new season.

 

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Posted in Cruise News, Voyages of Discovery

Crystal Symphony Has A Sophisticated NEW Look

One of the most awarded luxury ships in the world has a sophisticated new look, offering travellers freshly imagined choices during their global holidays. Crystal Symphony has emerged from dry dock, returning to the seas with newly designed spaces, features and amenities that luxury travellers crave. The ship’s new Open Seating dining concept ushers in new restaurants on board, while more of the spacious, butler-serviced Penthouse accommodations were added. Throughout the ship, state-of-the-art technological upgrades were installed, enhancing guests’ connectivity and access to entertainment and news on demand. The month-long dry dock redesign marks the most expansive makeover in Crystal Symphony’s esteemed history, and reaffirms Crystal’s commitment to providing the most luxurious ocean experiences in the world.

Crystal Symphony’s new look is decidedly modern, particularly in regard to the high-tech features in staterooms and penthouses, although the ship still boasts the classic elegance that has enabled it to transcend trends throughout the years. Crystal Symphony’s stunning redesign includes:

New Penthouses and Penthouse Suites

Crystal Symphony now features more spacious, butler-serviced Penthouses and Penthouse Suites, with the newly added Seabreeze Penthouse with Verandah (12 new suites) and Seabreeze Penthouse Suite with Verandah (28 new suites), both occupying Deck 9, Seabreeze. The new accommodations boast the same square footage as existing Penthouses and Penthouse Suites (367 sq. ft. and 491 sq. ft., respectively), while Seabreeze Penthouses are paired by shared entryways recessed from the hall.

Penthouse accommodations offer guests enhanced all-inclusive Crystal amenities, including butler service and in-room speciality dining. Penthouse guests now receive unlimited complimentary dining at the onboard specialty restaurants. The conversion of staterooms into the new penthouse accommodations effectively reduces the ship’s guest capacity to 848, while the number of crew on board remains the same. Crystal has long led the industry in abundant space and number of crew per guest aboard its ships, and the decreased guest capacity enhances the atmosphere of copious space in public areas and dining venues.

New Open Dining Concept and Restaurants

The world-class culinary experience also enjoyed an evolution, as brand new stylish restaurants are debuted. Most significantly, a brand new Open Seating concept allows guests to dine at their leisure, affording more choices and flexibility for evening dining and entertainment. While the design and menu of global selections have evolved, the classic elegance, Michelin-level cuisine and superlative service remain.

  • Waterside has emerged in place of the former Crystal Dining Room, reflecting the stylish décor and sophisticated ambiance found in the restaurants of the same name aboard Crystal River Cruises. Added tables for two and four guests offer expanded options for intimate dining in the expansive space, while a new open seating concept invites guests to dine as they wish eliminating Crystal’s previous format of assigned seating and times. Waterside continues to serve breakfast and lunch.
  • Moving into the former Lido Café space are Marketplace by day and Churrascaria by night. Both venues feature an open kitchen concept with dishes made to order. Marketplace continues to serve casual buffet style breakfast and lunch options, and is converted into Churrascaria, a stylish casual dinner venue in the evening creating an additional dining option for guests. Churrascaria features a Caipirinha as a welcome cocktail and serves a selection of Brazilian-inspired tapas, ceviche, salads and grilled meats presented by Crystal “gauchos” on sword-like skewers.
  • Newly adjacent to the existing Trident Grill on the Lido Deck is Silk Kitchen & Bar, offering full service dinner of modern Chinese-inspired fare with family-style dinner plates ideal for sharing, and self-service options for breakfast and lunch that include dumplings, Chinois salad, a soup and noodle bar and other Asian favorites. The Trident Grill remains in the adjacent space, serving casual grilled options including burgers and sandwiches.
  • Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, the specialty dining venues by famed Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, has been rebranded as Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. The authentic venue serves the inspired cuisine of Nobu, prepared by his personally trained chefs, and remains the only Nobu restaurants at sea. The ship’s second specialty restaurant, Prego, remains the same, continuing to serve regional specialties of Italy.

High-Tech Enhancements

Upon completion of Crystal Symphony’s dry dock, all guests now enjoy unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi throughout any Crystal voyage aboard all Crystal vessels. Crystal’s investment in technological amenities for guests includes hardware and software enhancements to enable expanded Internet connectivity and doubled satellite speed.

Additionally, a new guest portal – Crystal Connect – is now featured on the landing page of onboard Internet connections. The portal enables guests to easily access the internet, as well as an array of shipboard information including daily menus from each restaurant, daily Reflections, day and evening activities, Crystal Adventures shore excursions; and the ship’s location, itinerary and points of interest. A number of international newspapers are available for digital viewing, as well as a library of box office hit movies, music, Crystal lectures on demand and much more. Crystal Connect is also available for use on guests’ personal devices.

In all rooms throughout the ship – in each stateroom and in all public areas – high-definition, interactive flat-panel TVs enable guests to conveniently access onboard programmes, view the Crystal Spa & Salon menu, the Connoisseur Wine Selection and dining menus.

Reimagined Public Spaces and Entertainment

Several favourite shipboard spaces also enjoy reimagined designs, while maintaining their inherent function as part of guests’ onboard experience. Crystal Symphony’s mid-ship Starlite Club, a hub for evening dancing and cocktails, was also refitted, boasting a fresh design to complement its vast sea views and brand new technological capabilities.

Underlining the newly revamped entertainment venues is a brand-new production show, Crystal in Motion. The production showcases the vast repertoire of the Crystal Ensemble, featuring various genres of music and dance, and replaces the former “welcome aboard” show in the Galaxy Lounge. Additionally, the ship will offer evening-long entertainment options around the ship as guests enjoy anytime dining. The Starlite Club features varied acts from the Crystal Ensemble, as well as comedians, ballroom dance group and the Crystal Show Band, performing on select evenings of each voyage.

Crystal will continue its investment into its award-winning ocean ships with the equally extensive redesign for Crystal Serenity, set for autumn 2018.

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Posted in Cruise News, Crystal Cruises

Tips For Enjoying Your Cruise Ship Casino

We all know that most cruise ships offer onboard casinos, but it’s not something we really talk about. I sometimes feel like casinos at sea are the taboo of the cruising world and shouldn’t be discussed, but why is that? They are there for our entertainment and so long as you know when to cut yourself off, they can be a great experience.  I never gamble at home, but I do like a little flutter on the Roulette wheel when I am at sea. I’m not exactly a big spender, I usually budget around £20 and once that has gone, I move on.

There are no secrets to winning in the onboard casinos and I truly believe that if you go in with the mindset that you are there to win something instead of just being there to have a fun time, then you’re going to leave empty handed.  Here are a few of my tips for making the most of your time in the casino.

Know The Rules

When you walk into a cruise ship casino, it’s easy to feel that you’re entering a pretty casual environment. Almost everything on a ship feels a little more relaxed than its mainland counterpart, from nice restaurants to theatres, and the casino is no exception. But you still need to know what you’re doing because the games are still the same as they are on land. In fact, one article made the interesting point that they may even be a little tougher on a cruise ship. In a regular casino, you can walk around the floor and look for games with favorable odds or rules, whereas on a ship the games they offer are the only games you are getting. I had no idea how to play Roulette, but I stood and watched the game and studied the rules for several hours before finally joining in. OK, it’s not exactly a difficult game, but I felt more comfortable knowing what I should and shouldn’t be doing. You’ll often find that ships with casinos will offer free teaching sessions of various games, including the likes of Blackjack and Poker, and I’d highly recommend you take the lessons if offered and you have never played before.
How To Pay To Play

This is a simpler concern and shouldn’t take you too much time to figure out, but you might want to look into it before you embark. Some cruise casinos will allow you to pay for play using the same card you have registered to your onboard account, others ask that you play with cash. You may want to research online or even call the cruise line in advance so that you know how you’ll be asked to pay and you can plan accordingly. Even if you don’t take cash with you, you can often make withdrawals onboard but again, it’s best to double check before you leave.

Try Blackjack Before Poker

This is a matter of personal preference, but in general blackjack is the better choice on a ship. For one thing, it’s simpler and less time consuming, meaning it’s easier to fit in a lot of fun games among all your other on-board activities. Additionally, however, blackjack is the world’s most popular casino game for a reason. It’s one of the easier games to learn, and with some simple strategy and practice, you can reduce the house’s edge to make it winnable. These factors make up the perfect ship gaming experience.

Consider Opening Hours

When you’re on a cruise, it’s easy to fall into a mindset that everything is always available to you. The “all-inclusive” nature of these ships, after all, is part of their appeal. But there are strict hours for cruise casinos. They are only open when the ship is at sea and on some ships, they’re also closed during the day. This is all easy to work around, but you should keep in mind that most cruise casinos are not 24/7, just so you don’t try to go and find yourself disappointed.

Keep It Casual

As a last general point, don’t get carried away with the “high roller” vibe you sometimes see in mainland casinos. As mentioned, everything on a ship tends to feel a little more relaxed, and while you’ll certainly find a few people dressing up for a few hours in the casino, they’ll probably be in the minority. The most enjoyable approach is generally to play it casual. Dress comfortably, have a drink or two, and simply enjoy the games!

Don’t forget! Stop when it’s no longer fun!

Posted in General Cruise Articles

P&O Cruises Arcadia And Oceana To Undergo Multi-Million Pound Refits

P&O Cruises has announced details of multi-million pound refits for two of its ships – Arcadia and Oceana – which will result in a fresher and more contemporary feel and improve the onboard guest experience.

Arcadia

Following guest feedback, P&O Cruises has partnered with one of the world’s leading hospitality interior design practices, RPW Design, and will be updating and improving cabins, suites, public areas, bars, main dining restaurants and fine dining restaurants to ensure that Arcadia offers the ultimate levels of design, luxury and comfort.

Highlights of the refit include:

The Aquarius pool and bar at the stern of the Lido Deck will feature a brighter colour scheme with new chairs, bar stools, sofas, coffee tables, signage and wall tiles.

The Atrium/Reception will be given the ‘wow factor’ with new carpets, chairs, banquettes and cushions as well as a brand new eye-catching nautical-themed wall feature. There will also be new open plan Future Cruise Sales & Loyalty booths.

New carpets and blinds in reception, as well as refreshed loungers and armchairs with new cushions, will enhance the sense of calm and relaxation in the Oasis Spa.

The Intermezzo cocktail and Champagne bar will feature a relaxed but sophisticated new colour scheme referencing the Mediterranean with updated carpets, blinds, chairs, sofas, bar stools, coffee tables and lamp shades. New lighting and ironmongery will have a subtle nautical theme.

The Belvedere Buffet will feature new seating and carpet and tiled flooring throughout, as well as improved lighting, new permanent waiter stations, four passenger hand wash stations and a self-serve paid Costa Coffee station.

The Piano Bar will get new carpets, window treatments and furniture in order to inject life and light into the space.

The ship’s busiest public space, The Rising Sun English-style pub, will be given new carpet, vinyl flooring and select furniture.

Arcadia’s suites will be completely refreshed with an elegant new design scheme that will create a warm and inviting ambience. Suites will be treated to new sofa beds, armchairs, coffee tables and headboards as well as various decorative items such as curtains, bed cushions, throws and lamps. Most cabins will be given new sofa beds while selected cabins will be re-carpeted and have balcony doors replaced.

Arcadia will undergo her refit in Hamburg this autumn in preparation for Christmas and her 99-night World Cruise which departs Southampton on January 9, 2018. Arcadia’s first cruise after after refit will be a three-night Belgium cruise round trip from Southampton departing November 15, 2017.

Oceana

Oceana will enter dry dock in Hamburg at the end of November where she will be updated and refreshed throughout in order to improve guest appeal for both summer and winter cruising.

Highlights of the refit include:

Suites will receive new carpets, curtains, sheers, bed runners, cushions, valances, headboards and lamps while cabins will get new carpets, lampshades and stools.

Public spaces and the Atrium will have brand new redesigned carpets throughout.

With the popularity of buffet dining, especially during the summer, Oceana’s Plaza Buffet will get new carpet and tiling throughout as well as new chairs and banquette seating. Draught lager will also be available.

The Yacht & Compass and Magnums will both get new flooring throughout, new furniture and new window treatments while Winner’s Bar will be re-carpeted and be given some new furniture.

Refurbished youth spaces will feature improved entertainment equipment, re-decorated walls and flooring, new soft play equipment, revised nursery space and an updated area for teenagers.

There will be significant work on the Terrace Bar with refurbished hot tubs, re-tiling of flooring and horizontal surfaces as well as a new canopy over the pool which will extend out to cover the bar.

The Spa and Gym will be brought up to date with new décor, wall covering, blinds and flooring.

Following her refit, Oceana will embark on a 12-night Canary Islands & Portugal cruise round trip from Southampton departing December 17, 2017.

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Virgin Voyages First Ship To Be ‘Adult By Design’

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin hosted a ‘Ship Tease’, where key details were revealed about what sailors can expect on the first of three ships, coming to the high seas in 2020. Live from Fincantieri’s shipyard in Genoa, Italy, they also celebrated the laying of the keel for the first ship, marking the commencement of construction.

Sir Richard and Tom McAlpin arrived on stage via a 200-foot crane drop, in true Virgin style. They were joined by Bain Capital Chairman Stephen Pagliuca and Fincantieri’s Alberto Maestrini to weld ceremonial coins into the keel for good luck and smooth sailing.

Richard expressed excitement that construction is now underway. “This is a very big day for Virgin Voyages, as an exciting new holiday option for travellers starts to get ship shape. She will be the most recognizable ship sailing the seven seas, delivering an irresistible sailor experience. We’re also committed to making sure our crew are the happiest at sea and will be proud to sail with us.”

Tom McAlpin shared specifics on the Virgin Voyages design philosophy and experience. “The entire ship will be built with an attention to detail, reflecting the craftsmanship and materiality inspired by super yachts. Designed to feel more intimate and connected to the sea, 86 percent of all cabins will feature a sea terrace and 93 percent an ocean view. Virgin Voyages is creating a sophisticated ship and a transformational experience that offers our sailors a place where rejuvenating day-life meets exciting nightlife and everything in between.”

In a bold and unique move for the industry, McAlpin then gave details that the first ship’s experience will be “Adult By Design” – meaning that sailors must be at least 18 or older to sail. The decision was driven by feedback from future sailors and travel professionals, who are looking for a more elevated and premium experience, with a few Virgin style surprises.

The world also got its first glimpse of the ship’s distinct livery, which will feature a sleek silvery-grey hull, with smoked glass, and of course, distinctive touches of red. The livery was conceptualized by Ben Christie and David Azurdia from the multi-award-winning Magpie Studio in London. RWD from Beaulieu England, who are leaders in super yacht design, created the iconic red Virgin funnel of the vessel.

Virgin Voyages’ first fleet will be known as the “Lady Ships”, a play on the term ‘your ladyship’, giving a nod to Virgin’s British heritage. The spirit of our ship will be represented by a beautiful mermaid design that will adorn the bow. The mermaid is inspired by figureheads on historic vessels and was designed by London-based artist Toby Tinsley, who also designed the beautiful feminine motif on Virgin Galactic.

Consistent with their commitment to have one of the cleanest fleets at sea, Virgin Voyages signed an agreement with Scanship, providers of advanced waste management systems. Together, they will explore the development of potentially game-changing technology that could one day significantly reduce ocean discharge by turning waste into energy.

McAlpin wrapped up the ceremony by introducing Grammy Award-winning artist Boy George who then performed as the night’s superstar DJ.

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John Honeywell On His Passion For Cruise – This Is My Tribute To A Cruising Legend

I started my blog in February 2012 and at that time, I had no idea where it would take me or the friendships it would build. I worked tirelessly to make sure my content was always fresh and exciting and it wasn’t long before I caught the attention of John Honeywell, better known to those within the cruise world as Captain Greybeard.

My friendship with John grew over the years and I had the pleasure of embarking on several sailings with him and his lovely wife, Sheila. Our most recent being a trip to Iceland with Saga Cruises. Sadly, that would turn out to be one of John’s final adventures at sea, as he passed away recently after a very short illness.

If it wasn’t for John, I’d not have made my way into publications such as World of Cruising. He gave me advice, he offered support, he encouraged me to go and get what I wanted and he ultimately became one of my closest friends within this industry – I could always rely on him. He told me I had a talent for writing and he made sure that doors were opened.

I’ll NEVER be able to repay him, but I wanted to do something for John that would not only honour his memory, but also give him the spotlight one last time to tell you, in his own words, why he had such a passion for cruise.

I wish I’d known that within days – hours, even – of setting foot on a cruise ship in February 1997, I was going to be addicted. For life.

That first time wasn’t on a particularly grand vessel, and it was far from a perfect voyage. The ship had prop-shaft problems half way through the cruise and instead of sailing from Egypt to Dover, the passengers were flown home from Malta.

But after visiting the Pyramids and then boarding the ship in Port Said, I was overwhelmed by the fact that the very next day we were in Israel, setting off for an excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. At the tender age of … well, let’s say under 50 … I found myself being addressed as “young man” by a tour guide who needed help lifting a section of floor in the Church of the Nativity to show the tiles beneath.

Back then it was the shock of the new. Nowadays, after more cruises than I can count, I have to pinch myself so I don’t take it for granted. I’m still amazed that I could be walking the walls of King’s Landing – or Dubrovnik – one day, and within a few hours be zooming through the canals of Venice in a water taxi, just like James Bond. Or that I can be transported from the height of 21st Century hectic living and skyscraper luxury in Singapore or Hong Kong to the emerging innocence of Burma with its golden temples and placid, friendly people.

Polar bears in Svalbard, grizzlies in Alaska, wallabies in Australia and penguins in the Straits of Magellan – I’ve seen them all thanks to my addiction to cruising.

Give me a chance to take to the seas and I’ll grab it greedily, whether it’s a seven-day Transatlantic crossing on a Cunard liner, a lengthy voyage to remote St Helena, or a three-day jaunt across to Amsterdam in the company of Katherine Jenkins.

Which brings me from destinations to entertainment. If it weren’t for cruising I would probably have never discovered the sensational Blue Man Group, and while I have sat through some of the cheesiest end-of-the-pier song and dance shows imaginable while at sea, I have been spellbound by a West End-quality production of Chicago. Unexpectedly, I also seem to have developed a knack for leaving a shipboard casino with $100 more than when I entered.

As far as blackjack is concerned, I know when to stop. Can’t say the same about cruising though. Pass me my diary and let me know what’s up next …

Captain Greybeard

Sweet dreams, John. Thank you for everything. We all miss you! We love you! x x

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Posted in Cruise News, General Cruise Articles

Exploring Amsterdam With DFDS Part 2

Our stay at the IBIS Amsterdam Central Station also included breakfast, so we both grabbed a bite on our second day before heading out. There was something for everyone, from fresh fruit and yoghurt to sausages and scrambled eggs. I decided to have toast with jam and then a canal boat full of pain au chocolate pastries. They were so good that I went back twice! I just can’t say no to a good pastry.

Escape World in Waterlooplein called to us on day 2 and I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Marian (TravelShopGirl) had arranged this for us before we left. Having enjoyed several previously, she thought this would be something fun for us to do and, honestly, it was the highlight of our Amsterdam experiences for me. I absolutely loved it. There are several Escape World locations across the city, but we opted for the Waterlooplein location as it was close to our dining option later in the day. Our room of choice was ‘Cabin in The Woods’ and this is how it is described online

You are lost in the woods together with your friends. Due to the bad weather, you are looking for a suitable place to sleep. After a tiring journey, you suddenly see in the distance a log cabin, an ideal place to hide! Once inside, it seems not to be such a good idea … You are hearing eerie noises, you feel the presence of mysterious forces and inexplicable things happen. All families who have been here before are found dead after leaving. There is a curse on the cabin and it’s up to you to chase the ghosts before they catch you by surprise!”

I’m not going to tell you everything about this as I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone, but it really did put us both to the test and we had to work together as a team. Apparently, only 32% of groups manage to escape this room and sadly, we weren’t part of that percentage. Our time ran out but we were told that we had managed to get 75% of the way through the room, so we were happy with that. We’re already planning our next Escape Room experience for our next visit to Amsterdam – I’m hooked!

I was high on adrenalin after Escape World and we were both hungry. We left the game behind and made our way to Vegan Junk Food Bar in Heinekenplein – a brand new venue for this exciting restaurant. I’m not vegan, but Marian is, so it was ideal for her. We shared the Mediterranean Spring Rolls to start and they were amazingly good – you’d never guess that it wasn’t real cheese! To follow, I ordered onion rings and the Classic Shawarma, again both were excellent. The burger was huge, I couldn’t eat it all, but the flavours were incredible. Presentation of the dishes was also executed perfectly. You could see that the chefs took great pride and care in their dishes. I would highly recommend Vegan Junk Food Bar, even if you’re not vegan! They have 2 locations: the one we visited in De Pjip (Marie Heinekenplein) and the original in West Staringplein.

We spent another evening wandering around the canals of Amsterdam and calling into various bars along the route. It was easy and relaxing, exactly what both of us had wanted from the trip.

Before I knew it, I was back at stand G at Central Station waiting for the coach to take me back to Ijmuiden for my return sailing home with DFDS, this time aboard Kind Seaways.

King Seaways is my favourite and I was excited to get back onboard. The one thing I enjoy most about this ferry is the onboard ORCA centre, where you can learn all about the marine life in the waters which DFDS sails. ORCA and DFDS have been working together for ten years and in that time, they have showcased the diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises that can be spotted in the North Sea. Here are some facts and figures that you might enjoy:

  • 139 ferry surveys in 10 years
  • Coast off Newcastle is popular for White-Beaked Whale sightings – groups of up to 100 have been spotted
  • 9,037 passengers in 2016 alone joined the ORCA team onboard to participate in wildlife activities
  • Peak season for Minke Whale sightings in the area is July and August
  • Coast off Ijmuiden is popular for Harbor Porpoise sightings
  • 21,094km is the distance travelled – surveying from the bridge between 2006 and 2016
  • There have been 27 Bottlenose Dolphin sightings since 2006
  • A Fin Whale was spotted in 2015 – very rare!

So, let me get back to the ferry. For the Ijmuiden to Newcastle crossing I had a double-bed inside cabin on Deck 8. I’d never had an inside cabin before on any DFDS ferry, so I was excited to see what it was like. The bed literally filled the space and that worked perfectly for me. I was only going to be there for 1 night, I didn’t need a ton of space. The bathroom offered a sink with mirror, toilet and shower. Would I opt for this grade again? Absolutely, the double bed was a real treat and very comfortable.

I stood out on the aft deck as we sailed from Ijmuiden and then I enjoyed a delicious Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri in the Columbus Bar – which has clearly had an upgrade since my last King Seaways sailing and looked great! I also managed to find myself in the onboard shop, but I think we all knew that was bound to happen.

Before disembarking in Newcastle, I enjoyed a buffet-style breakfast in the Seven Seas Restaurant. I’d not eaten since the lunchtime of the previous day, so I was hungry and wanted to eat everything! I opted for a slice of toast with some scrambled egg and then helped myself to two little pastries and some apple juice. There were so many different things to choose from, including a selection of fresh breads, fresh fruit, bacon, sausage, cold meats and cheese, cereal and so on. They also had a nice gluten free area. It was a pleasant way to end what had been a wonderful trip.

The ease of everything with DFDS is what appeals to me. Yes, I love to be at sea (obviously) but as I don’t like to fly, the DFDS route from Newcastle is perfect for me and for many others it would see, as there was a wide nationality mix onboard. I’ve never waited longer than 15 minutes to check in, the coach transfers are simple and incredibly easy, the accommodation is comfortable and you know exactly what you’re going to get. Everything about the experience is hassle-free.

I try to visit Amsterdam with DFDS every year – I’m already planning 2018!

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Posted in Destinations, DFDS Seaways

Exploring Amsterdam With DFDS Part 1

I’d sailed with DFDS several times, but this would be my first experience at using the coach transfer service from Newcastle city centre. The bus stop was in a convenient location (directly opposite Central Station) and boarding was easy. Although TravelShopGirl (Marian) and I had stayed in the city the night before, if you were joining via rail services on the same day then you’d walk out of the train station to the left, cross the road and the bus stop would be right in front of you. Completely hassle free and easy with luggage.

We arrived at Port of Tyne and were checked in, through security and onboard in less than 15 minutes. Our first stop was our cabin. We had a 3-bed Commodore cabin on Princess Seaways and having travelled in standard accommodations on all my previous sailings with DFDS, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a huge double bed, sofa (which opened into a pre-made single bed) vanity area with storage space, flat-screen TV, fridge with complimentary beverages and a bathroom that hosted a shower, toilet, hair dryer and sink. It was spacious, comfortable and I was certainly a very happy sailor!

Marian and I knew we had a few days of little sleep and lots of excitement ahead of us, so we retired to bed early that night (taking advantage of having a TV in the cabin), but before we got there, we did manage to enjoy a cocktail in a bucket – 1.0 litre Sex on the Beach for 26 euros – explore the onboard shopping options and walk around the open decks. It was a relaxed evening and it wouldn’t be long before we were in Amsterdam.

Commodore cabin grades automatically include breakfast at no extra cost and you can even order a few items to be delivered to your cabin. We had pre-arranged this the evening before, so we had coffee and juice as we prepared ourselves to leave the ferry behind and begin our time in Amsterdam. Again, we had coach transfers, this time from Ijmuiden – where the ferry docks – to Amsterdam. It’s a journey of around 40 minutes and at less than £5 per person, it goes without saying that it is the best, easiest and most cost-effective way of getting to the city.

We’d had a plan of things to do on day one, but we got a little side tracked and that turned out to be a good thing. We explored the market at Lindengracht, which runs on Saturday’s. It was a typical European market with all sorts of gadgets and gifts and, of course, food. We spent longer walking there and back than we did at the actual market, but it killed time until we could check into our hotel at 2PM.

The IBIS Amsterdam Central Station hotel was the chosen one, a hotel that I stayed in during my first solo visit to the city. I really like this hotel because it is just 5 minutes away from the DFDS coach drop off/pick-up point, it’s central to pretty much the entire city and you know exactly what to expect. Marian and I had a twin room on the 7th floor of the building that sat directly above the station tracks – the view from the glass bridge was awesome! The room was exactly as expected: clean, comfortable and just what we needed. Our 3-night stay here was ideal, although our room was incredibly warm on the first night. We reported this to reception and staff kindly gave us 2 fans and advised on the best way to use the air system in the room. Within 24 hours, we had a temperature that we were both content with and finally, we could sleep.

Once checked in, unpacked and freshened up, it was time to head out and explore. If I’m honest, we didn’t do much, we just walked around areas that we were both familiar with from previous visits, but then we stumbled across a bar on Zeedijk named Café t’ Mandje. We were both instantly charmed by the exterior, but it’s what is inside that is truly exciting. It’s a bar with a vast amount of history and the only way I can describe it is to say it’s a bit like Aladdin’s cave – there’s a bit of this, a bit of that and then a bit of something else. There’s stuff everywhere, basically, and we loved it. Café t’ Mandje was opened in 1927 by Bet van Beeren and it’s been an iconic Amsterdam gay bar even since. It is welcoming, fun and often filled with locals, something about travel that I always enjoy. You can even find a replica of the bar in the Amsterdam Museum! Next time you’re in the city, check it out. Sit at the bar with a drink and take in the history of this charming little establishment.

We spent the rest of our evening on a mini bar hop and then made our way back towards the IBIS at Central Station. We needed to rest as the following day, we had some escaping to do…

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P&O Cruises Britannia Rescues African Migrants

 

Guests aboard P&O Cruises Britannia were awoken this morning, around 1AM local time, to a man overboard announcement, 30 miles south west of Almeria, Spain. The ship went into a sharp 180 Degree turn and travelled back 2 miles before coming to a stop.

A coastguard helicopter was scrambled quickly and was soon on the scene overhead.

A small migrant boat from Africa was in trouble and although conditions were quite calm, Britannia provided shelter. There were 10 people on the small inflatable boat and they were all medically screened and given provisions onboard Britannia. A coastguard rescue boat was sent to the ship and the migrants were transferred and taken ashore in Spain. Their inflatable was towed by the coastguard.

The Captain made up good time following the incident, maintaining 21 knots and Britannia arrived in Gibraltar just 1 hour later than planned.

Britannia left Southampton on Friday the 13th and this wasn’t the first incident.

There was a medical emergency as the ship left Marseille. Britannia had just slipped her ropes when she had to go back alongside for an injured guest to be transferred to hospital.

In the early hours of the following morning, the Captain made an announcement that a helicopter was in-bound to airlift a critically ill passenger to hospital. This subsequently meant cancelling the port of La Spezia, however, Britannia arrived in Ajaccio instead and spent the night in port.

Britannia is due back into Southampton on October 27th.

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A Pre-Cruise Stay In Newcastle Upon-Tyne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I can't wait to be back at sea! 4 weeks today and the @fred.olsencruiselines World Cruise with @travelshopgirl begins! #cruise #travel #selfie at Lamanai, once a major city of the #maya civilization. This was my favourite temple, the Mask Temple. The masks date to the late fifth and early sixth century. You can also find the Jaguar Temple and High Temple at this site. If you're ever in #Belize, I highly recommend a visit to #Lamanai - even the boat ride there is exciting! I visited in February and it was so HOT! I thought I was going to melt! Take water! #cruise #travel #CentralAmerica
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