Celebrity Cruises Adds Additional Preview Sailing To Celebrity Apex’s Inaugural Mini Season In UK

Celebrity Cruises has announced that the highly anticipated inaugural season of Celebrity Apex has been expanded, as the second revolutionary Edge Series ship will now be completed ahead of schedule and enter service earlier than anticipated in 2020.

Guests can now enjoy a sneak peek of Celebrity Apex on a new Preview Sailing; a four-night itinerary out of Celebrity Apex’s launch port, Southampton (UK). The Preview Sailing will depart on 1 April 2020 and call at the beautiful city of Bruges, followed by an extended port of call in Amsterdam, offering guests the opportunity to explore this one-of-a-kind city by day and night, kicking off a mini-season of five sailings from Southampton.

Hot on the heels of the launch of the award-winning Celebrity Edge in late 2018, Celebrity Apex will feature innovative and breath-taking signature features exclusive to Celebrity Cruises’ Edge Series ships, including the Magic Carpet, an ever-changing cantilevered platform suspended from the side of the ship; open-air plunge pools with 270-degree views; an outdoor Rooftop Garden; a 22,000 ft. spa; 29 unique restaurants and bars and a stunning three-deck dining and immersive entertainment space, Eden.

Guests will be able to take advantage of the signature Edge Series staterooms featuring an Infinite Balcony, the design of which has been carefully developed by renowned London-based designer Kelly Hoppen, MBE. Suite guests will also enjoy two exclusive new sanctuaries, The Retreat Sundeck and The Retreat Lounge.

The additional four-night Celebrity Apex Preview Sailing will be priced from £889 for an Oceanview stateroom, based on two people sharing.

Celebrity Apex will then continue its European mini-season with five cruises to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe in spring 2020, before homeporting in Rome and Barcelona for the rest of the summer.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News

P&O Cruises IONA To Offer The Ultimate Family Cruise

Exciting global street food experiences, a fun gelateria serving award-winning gelato, a four-screen cinema complex and extraordinary pop-up performances are just some of the new options onboard Iona that will ensure the ultimate holiday for families. 

A new dining concept called The Quays is a lively multi-venue dining piazza offering an impressive line-up of eateries and restaurants. There’s a fun street-food atmosphere with plenty of buzz, theatre and colour adding to the beachfront promenade vibe. With access onto the Promenade Deck, outdoor dining is available too. It’s all about flexible, fun, family-friendly food – the perfect place for a quick snack, light lunch or informal dinner. 

All the family will love The Boardwalk Diner, where American classics meet Southern soul food with an all-day menu including chargrilled burgers, hot dogs, eggs over easy, southern-fried chicken with a side of slaw and so much more. Fusion is a hot spot for lovers of authentic Asian flavours. Offering take-away dishes all day, enjoy an odyssey around South East Asia in a relaxed and casual environment. For seaside hunger cravings at lunch or dinnertime, nothing beats traditional British fish and chips, and you can find just that at Hook Line and Vinegar. Think crispy battered fish, calamari, fish burgers, scampi, crab cakes – all served with chips and mushy peas. With a strong focus on food provenance, The Olive Grove celebrates the flavours of the southern and eastern Mediterranean with authentic dishes and sharing platters. It’s the ideal venue for a celebratory family meal – with options to eat in the restaurant or in the conservatory area.

For more exciting global cuisines all the family will enjoy, there’s Taste 360, a new signature concept offering a street-food-style dining experience on deck so guests can try exciting flavours with a side of dramatic sea views.

Located at the top of the Grand Atrium at the entrance to The Quays, and with access to the Promenade Deck, Ripples is an informal and family-friendly venue serving scoops of luxury Italian-style gelato courtesy of Snowflake. However, there’s far more on offer than stylishly served cones – guests young and old will be tempted by gelato cakes, sundaes, customisable sticks, cookies, the creamiest milkshakes and even a three-tiered gelato afternoon tea. There will also be exclusive flavours created especially for Iona, including a taste experience that takes its inspiration from the ship’s inaugural season cruising the spectacular Norwegian fjords. 

Iona also offers a full programme of entertainment and programmes that appeals to all youngsters, from toddlers to teens. The Reef onboard activity programme keeps children aged six months to 12 years happy and entertained throughout the day and evening; Scene gives teens aged 13 to 17 their own cool place to hang out and test their skills with the latest gaming technology; while the Night Nursery allows parents the chance to enjoy Iona’s extensive array of dining and entertainment options without little ones in tow.

If parents can tear their kids away from the clubs, the whole family will enjoy an outing to Ocean Studios, a four-screen cinema complex offering a warm welcome, comfortable seating and a premium cinema experience. With screenings throughout the day, there’s always an option to see an age-appropriate blockbuster or family classic – complete with popcorn, ice cream and snacks, of course. 

There’s also The Club House where families can play games and enjoy entertainment and game shows; a range of swimming pools, family-friendly shows in the Headliners Theatre and extraordinary pop-up performances, including aerial and circus performances, in the Grand Atrium and SkyDome. 

With so much to see and do on board and on shore, families will be out and about having fun exploring. However, when it’s time for rest and relaxation, Iona offers a great choice of accommodation for families, including two special family suites at the front of the ship. All family-friendly cabins have been carefully designed to maximise space by day and create flexible sleeping arrangements by night.

Iona is currently being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg and will be launched in May 2020. 

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Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

Princess Cruises Announces Longest Ever Season Sailing From The UK And Europe

Princess Cruises has announced that 2021 will see its longest UK and Europe season ever.

The season will include a total of nearly 500 days cruising from Southampton across three ships – Grand Princess, Island Princess and Crown Princess – an increase of 9% on 2020. The 2,600-guest Grand Princess will sail the longest ever period for a UK-based ship, from April to November.

Meanwhile, Princess Cruises’ two newest ships, Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess, will additionally be based in northern and southern Europe respectively. This brings the total European cruise days up to almost 1,000.

Grand Princess will sail for 207 days from Southampton, including six school holiday sailings across the season. The ship will depart for the Mediterranean, northern Europe and Canada & New England, with several new voyages including:

  • A 24-day Canada & New England voyage to Boston, Bar Harbour, Halifax, Sydney (Nova Scotia), Quebec (overnight call), Saguenay, Charlottetown and St. Johns (Newfoundland)
  • A six-day school half term cruise in May to Guernsey (St. Peter Port), La Rochelle (for Cognac) and Bilbao
  • An eight-day Scandinavia voyage to Kristiansand, Aarhus, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Oslo

The 2,200-guest Island Princess will spend a season sailing out of Southampton from June to October across northern Europe. The ship will similarly take in a range of new sailings such as:

  • A 10-day Oktoberfest European capitals cruise to Hamburg, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, Rotterdam and Brussels/Bruges (Zeebrugge)
  • A 24-day Grand European Explorer cruise to Porto (Leixos), Gibraltar, Mallorca (Palma), Sicily (Messina), Naples, Rome (Civitavecchia), Katakolon, Athens, Kusadasi, Jerusalem/Bethlehem (Ashdod) and Galilee/Nazareth (Haifa), Limassol, Rhodes, Mykonos and Malta (Valetta)

The 3,080-guest Crown Princess will sail the British Isles from April to October on 14 Southampton sailings. The ship will travel to destinations including Liverpool, Dublin, Orkney Islands (Kirkwall) and Edinburgh, with select itineraries offering overnight calls in port.

The line’s two newest ships, the 3,660-guest Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess, will both be based in Europe in 2021. Sky Princess will spend April to September sailing Scandinavia and Russia roundtrip from Copenhagen, visiting destinations including Tallinn, Oslo, Helsinki and Berlin (Warnemunde), and will offer overnight calls in St Petersburg.

Enchanted Princess – which will be named in Southampton at the end of June next year – will sail across the Mediterranean from April to October via Rome, Athens and Barcelona, taking in the likes of Mykonos, Santorini, Kotor, Florence and Istanbul.

This means every ship based in Europe during 2021 will feature the multi award-winning OceanMedallion, which has been designed to deliver an entirely new level of service and create a holiday that is more simple, effortless and personalised with:

  • Princess MedallionClass experience, featuring the complimentary OceanMedallion wearable device. The OceanMedallion is the same size as a 10p piece and is used by guests on an individual basis throughout their cruise
  • Expedited arrival – Guests who arrive at the terminal OceanReady with travel documents (i.e. passports) uploaded to their profile enjoy a streamlined and expedited check-in process that gets their holiday started even sooner
  • Touchless stateroom entry – No need to touch, swipe or insert cards or devices into the door handle to unlock the stateroom. As a guest approaches their stateroom the door automatically unlocks
  • On-demand services – Using OceanNow from smart devices, guests have the ability to order drinks, food and retail items such as suntan lotion and have them delivered directly anywhere onboard, including to their stateroom
  • Family and friend locator – Accessible on portals throughout the ships and via guests’ smart devices, OceanCompass leverages the OceanMedallion to easily locate and chat with friends and family onboard. OceanCompass is available on portals throughout the ship and from smart devices and guides guests throughout their journey, providing directional information so they can seamlessly navigate to their next point of interest
  • Interactive voyage timeline – Available on ship portals and via guests’ smart devices, JourneyView is an interactive timeline that lets guests scroll through all of the events available on board during their voyage and bookmark activities they’re interested in to their own personalized itinerary. Voyage itineraries are available as many as 60 days in advance, allowing guests to start planning before they leave home

Princess ships also benefit from MedallionNet, which allows guests to stay connected anywhere on the onboard including staterooms. MedallionNet allows guests to share holiday experiences with friends and family back home; stream TV shows, movies and sports events; and make voice and video calls.

All Europe 2021 voyages go on sale on August 14, 2019. Princess’ Elite guests are able to book from August 13, 2019 at 9am.

A low £1 deposit is available to book any of the UK and Europe 2021 sailings on both August 13 and 14.

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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises Announces South America And Antarctica 2020-2021 Programme

Princess Cruises has announced that its full 2020-2021 South America and Antarctica programme will go on sale from Friday July 12, 2019.

Two ships will sail the region: the 2,000-guest Coral Princess and 670-guest Pacific Princess. Voyages will range in length from 14-92 days, with a total of 35 destinations on offer in 17 countries, on eight itineraries.

Guests on select departures will have the opportunity to spend more time ashore with overnight calls in Lima (Callao), Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

Coral Princess will depart on a series of voyages from Los Angeles, Santiago and Buenos Aires and will offer a new 15-day Cape Horn and Strait of Magellan voyage, which will give guests the opportunity to view the solar eclipse off the coast of Argentina.

The voyage will sail from Santiago to Buenos Aires on December 3, 2020 and will call at Puerto Montt, Amalia Glacier, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn (scenic cruising), Falkland Islands (Stanley), Puerto Madryn and Montevideo. Prices from £1,999pp with up to $375 onboard spending money per person.

Also available on Coral Princess are several departures to Antarctica and Cape Horn. Each 16-day sailing will feature four days of scenic cruising through the Antarctic Peninsula and will call at Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn (scenic cruising), Falkland Islands (Stanley) and Montevideo. Prices for January 3, 2021 departure are from £2,799 per person, with up to $375 onboard spending money per person.

Guests wishing to extend their holiday can combine their cruise with land tours visiting Iguazu Falls and Macchu Picchu.

Pacific Princess will circumnavigate the continent on a 92-day Circle South America voyage, sailing from Sydney to Brisbane, featuring overnight calls in Tahiti, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro – during its annual carnival – and Lima, as well as visiting more off-the-beaten-track destinations such as Easter Island and Ilhabela. Prices from £14,519pp, with $1,000pp onboard spending money and complimentary gratuities*.

Also available on Pacific Princess is a 90-day Circle South America sailing roundtrip from Sydney with prices from £14,219pp and an 82-day sailing roundtrip from Auckland with prices from £13,359pp.

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Avlo Travel & Cruise – Protect Your Hands Between Washes

So, not the kind of blog title you’re used to seeing from me, but let me take just a few minutes of your time to introduce you to a new and exciting product that I’ve been testing recently: Avlo Travel & Cruise hand and skin cleanser.

The product was developed by virologists with decades of experience in antiviral research and development. They wanted to produce a natural and holistic method of blocking germs and the result was Avlo, a proprietary germ blocking protein complex combined with a soothing and moisturising lotion.

Regular cruisers will know that you can’t enter any restaurant onboard, or public lounge, without seeing a bottle of hand sanitiser. It’s there for our own protection and we should all use it. I always do, I even carry my own, but I do find that the liquid used onboard often leaves my hands very dry and that’s where Avlo comes in. It’s not designed to replace the sanitiser onboard, it’s an added shield against germs that you can use in-between, and it puts the moisture back into your skin that the alcohol gel sucks out. I’ve been using Avlo at home for the last 2 weeks, replacing my own scented sanitisers with the same Purcell liquids you find onboard, so I could ensure I was getting real results. My hands are retaining far more moisture between sanitising, simply from using the Avlo. I don’t have the rough texture on my palms or fingers that the alcohol gel often leaves behind.

I’m not a scientist, so let me share with you some FAQ’s provided by Avlo, so you can find out more about the product.

How does Avlo work?

Avlo is a proprietary combination of natural products, proteins and our patented ingredient, GermBlock, which allows Avlo to work with your skin to enhance your skin’s natural ability to shield you from germs.

Is Avlo a hand sanitiser?

Avlo is not a hand sanitiser, but can be used to enhance the germ fighting ability of hand sanitisers and hand washing with soap. When applied after hand washing, Avlo provides a durable long-lasting shield between hand washings.

How is Avlo different from other hand moisturisers?

Unlike regular hand lotions that just moisturize, Avlo goes beyond and will not only moisturise your skin, it will also help your skin’s natural barrier function and provide a long-lasting shield from germs.

How many times per day should I apply Avlo?

Avlo contains natural ingredients and proteins so it can be applied multiple times per day without risk of damage to your skin.

I’d definitely recommend this product, especially if you’re travelling with kids. You don’t need a lot per application, just a pea-sized amount, so it will last you more than the duration of your trip. It has no harsh smell or chemicals, so it should be suitable for even the most sensitive skin (the image below lists the ingredients so you can see exactly what it contains), and it doesn’t leave behind any greasy residue. It’s quite a milky cream and absorbs quickly.

If you’re interested in trying this for your next trip, then let me give you some discount! Simply enter the discount code AVLOSTART at the checkout when buying from GoAvlo.com or Amazon.com.

 

 

#Sponsored #Ad

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Posted in Cruise Shopping, General Cruise Articles

Seabourn Unveils Custom Subs To Take Guests “Below The Surface” On New Ultra-Luxury Expedition Ships

Seabourn is preparing to take guests into the depths of the ocean for the first time by revealing the design and details for its custom submarines that will operate excursions for an additional charge from the line’s two upcoming ultra-luxury purpose-built expedition ships. Both Seabourn Venture and her sister ship launching 2022 will sail to the far corners of the Earth carrying two U-Boat Worx Cruise Sub 7 subs designed specifically for Seabourn.

Each battery-powered sub will carry six guests and one pilot, who will guide the journey up to 300 meters beneath the surface to explore sunken wrecks, reefs, and view marine wildlife in their natural habitat. Guests will be seated in two clear acrylic spheres flanking the centre pilot’s station, with an awe-inspiring perspective of the marine world just outside thanks to undisturbed and undistorted views in virtually all directions. The three passenger seats in each sphere are mounted on a rotating platform that can turn for best sightlines.

To maximise the guest experience, the subs will be outfitted with a host of optional equipment to enhance this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A 4k underwater video camera system will record the world outside while an internal video recording system will capture imagery of guests inside and their direct surroundings. Video footage can then be downloaded and projected on large screens in the Discovery Center during lectures aboard the ships. A six-function manipulator arm capable of lifting up to 32 kg (about 70 pounds) will also be mounted on the side of the sub. In keeping with the luxury experience found on Seabourn, each sub on both ships will be outfitted with custom embroidered leather upholstery, two air conditioning systems, a Bluetooth stereo system, and champagne chiller for guests looking to toast their voyage of discovery.

The subs will be operated multiple times per day in regions around the world. They will be equipped with underwater LED flood/spotlights, imaging sonar that acts as a second set of eyes, and an advanced underwater tracking and navigation system.

Seabourn Venture is scheduled to launch in June 2021, with a second yet-to-be-named sister ship slated to launch in May 2022. The ships are being designed from conception for expedition travel blended with ultra-luxury and personalised service by leading travel experts and seasoned professionals with great depth of experience in expedition, hospitality, and luxury cruising.

Between July 2021 and April 2022, Seabourn Venture will visit a vast number of breath-taking locations and remote destinations in the Arctic and Antarctica, as well as in the Amazon, Caribbean, Central and South America and more, offering guests the unique opportunity to experience ultra-luxury expedition cruising and exhilarating adventures. The ship is scheduled to visit more than 150 unique and fascinating destinations across the globe – many of which few travellers have ever been – and over 65 new or notable destinations with a multitude of new and compelling expedition experiences. The itineraries, fares and additional details of Seabourn Venture’s inaugural year are available at http://www.seabourn.com.

Both ships will be designed and built for diverse environments to PC6 Polar Class standards and will include a plethora of modern hardware and technology that will extend the ships global deployment and capabilities. The ships will also be designed to carry a number of kayaks and 24 Zodiacs that can accommodate all onboard guests at once, which will allow for a truly immersive experience. Each ship will feature 132 luxurious oceanfront veranda suites. More details and full-colour renderings of the ship and its interior spaces will be released in the months ahead.

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Posted in Cruise News, Seabourn

Emerging Canada Aboard Saga Sapphire: Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing, Ponta Delgada And An Inflatable Liferaft

The next 4 days were enjoyed at sea, heading across the Atlantic and towards Ponta Delgada. I spent one day reading a book about Titanic and its connection to Halifax. I know, I could have picked a better subject, but I was eager to learn more about the ships’ connection to the port we had just left. over the years, I’ve read and heard so many stories about the disaster, but I wasn’t aware of half the things noted in that book, It was incredibly interesting. Once I finished, I moved on to another book on the same subject, but it was about survivor stories and originally published in 1912. Did you know that a pet pig survived the sinking?

During one of the sea days, there was an onboard auction to raise money for The Silver Line. Up for grabs were some very interesting opportunities, including steering the ship, starting the engines and inflating a liferaft on the deck. Captain Horne and Dame Esther Rantzen were in charge of the auction and proved to be quite the comedy duo. It was a fun 90 minutes, although I’m sure it would have gone on for much longer had the Cruise Director not told them both to get a move on. We all got the chance to participate in the liferaft inflating, but I’ll get to that later.

One thing I always look forward to when sailing with Saga is the BBQ, but more than that, the live Jalfrezi cooking demonstration on the Verandah Deck. I do enjoy a good curry and this time, we had the choice of chicken or prawn. Obviously, I had to sample both, it would have been rude not to! The chicken was my favourite and the chapati bread (freshly made chapati bread) was incredibly light. The whole meal was delicious. I sat with 5 other people for lunch that day and I don’t think we spoke two words to one another until our plates were empty, we were completely fixated on the food. Yes, I went back for seconds, I’ll hold my hands up to that!

We arrived in Ponta Delgada slightly later than planned because of an issue with one of the engines, but no one really cared. The sun was shining and for the first time, we felt hot! I enjoyed the morning watching the numerous dolphins playing in the ships wake and then got myself ready for my afternoon panoramic tour.

‘Scenic Sete Cidades’ was the highlight of my time in Ponta Delgada. We drove through the western part of Ponta Delgada, via the coastal route, before we arrived at Feteiras, where the road climbs to Sete Cidades (Seven Cities). We stopped at the crater for a photo opportunity and were greeted with a rather incredible sight. The crater is 1,900 feet above sea level and eight miles in circumference, and from our view point on the craters edge, we could see two distinct lakes below, one green and one blue. The blue lake reflects the sky and the green lake reflects the lush vegetation of the crater walls. From here we drove to another view point on the island, from where we could see the east and west coasts.

It was a short tour and that suited me just fine. I wanted to get back to Saga Sapphire and soak up every last second of the day, and the 4 sea days we had to come.

We sailed from Ponta Delgada at 10pm and enjoyed a lively deck party until around midnight. Everyone was having a good time and it was nice to be outside, with live music, delicious drinks and for a while, no coat! I know, how lucky were we!

As I mentioned earlier, there had been an auction onboard several days earlier to raise money for The Silver Line. One of the prizes was to inflate a liferaft on the deck. The excitement wasn’t limited, however, to just those that would be doing the inflating, the ship made a show of it and everyone lined the aft decks to watch. It was great fun, but incredibly noisy! I had thought at first that it wasn’t going to inflate, but once a few crew members helped out, the plastic soon popped, and the raft began to inflate. It was left on the deck for a few hours so everyone could have a look and take some photos. I’m glad no other ships were close enough to see what was going on, they must have thought we were crazy! I love things like that. Something different that you definitely don’t get on many, if any other cruise ships. I’ll post the video to my Facebook page in the coming days, so make sure you’re following.

In total, passengers & crew on this cruise raised a massive £15,957.90 for The Silver Line! This was by way of the auction, donations and during the last few days of the sailing, a country fayre that was held in the Britannia lounge. I could hear screaming, shouting, laughing and cheering from 2 decks above, so I had to go along and see what was going on. Everyone was having a ball and the crew were getting right into the thick of it. It was great fun and such a fab idea to raise more money for The Silver Line. I’d never seen so many people walking around with bottles of wine, there were clearly a lot of happy winners.

The food throughout the cruise was exceptional, as it always is with Saga. The choice and quality is always first-class and there’s never a dish that I don’t want more of, especially in East to West. I was going to share a few photos with you of my favourite dishes, but I’ve decided to put them all in one blog so you can enjoy everything, and maybe get some ideas for home cooking. Watch this space…

Saga Sapphire is one of my favourite ships and although I enjoyed every second of the cruise, it was bittersweet and honestly, quite emotional. It’s likely that was my last time to sail on her before she leaves the fleet and it makes me sad to think that I’ll never travel with her again. She has left with with some wonderful memories and amazing friends and I will miss her.

I met some lovely people on this sailing and came across some familiar faces. A massive thank you to each and every one of you: Jay, Julie, Anthony, Liz, Geoff, Verity, Pauline, Joan, Captain Horne, Jemma, Maja, Dianja, Diana, Genesis, Danny, Ryan, Chelle, Mary-Hazel, Boyet, Rey, Rolando, Francis, Chef Francis, Executive Chef Gavin Baxter, Bernard, Felix, Richard, Mark and the amazing team of SuperCrafters, Hazel, Jackie, Brian, Diane, Margaret, John, Pat, Tony, Norma, Steve, Ramel, Becky, Sam, the Explore Ashore team, Santosh, Vishal, Frederick, Jose, Judy, Lucito, Joven, Reinier, Dion, Nikko, Adelino, Abel, Kelvin, Alvin, Limuel, Jimoel, Estelita, Irene, Walter and Reymel. I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone off the list, but thank you, too!!

Last but by no means least, a huge WELL DONE to all of Saga Sapphire’s crew. During this cruise they had a rather intense and brutal inspection, but as we all knew they would, they aced it and sailed away with a score of 98%.

The next Saga chapter is about to begin. I’m joining Spirit of Discovery from Tuesday for several events. For live updates, make sure you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Posted in Saga Cruises, Solo Cruising

SAGA’s New Spirit Of Discovery Arrives At Her Home Port Of Dover

Saga today sails into its future, as the first of two bespoke new build ‘boutique’ cruise ships, Spirit of Discovery, arrives at her home port of Dover for the first time. Sailing past the iconic White Cliffs and into Dover’s recently developed Western Docks, Spirit of Discovery’s British arrival marks the start of a new chapter for cruising in the UK. 

With HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as her ‘Godmother’, Spirit of Discovery’s Naming Ceremony on the 5th July will mark the start of a significant new era for the Saga Cruise division, which is the only remaining major British independent,  British registered, cruise company.  Best Small Cruise Company winner at the British Travel Awards 2019, Saga’s Spirit of Discovery will be the only ship built and delivered exclusively for the British market this year, and  the company is determined to build on its success in this steadily growing and lucrative cruise market.

Spirit of Discovery’s sister ship, Spirit of Adventure is due to arrive in summer 2020, marking the realisation of a £600 million+ investment in both ships. This will spearhead Saga’s role not only as the British company creating and driving the distinctly British boutique cruise market, but also as the champions of discovery based travel for this  market. 

To create the proposition, Saga commissioned extensive research with both current and potential future customers, and the overriding feedback was that they didn’t want the much larger cruise ships that competitors are now creating. Many cruise customers want a refined, luxury experience, a return to an original ‘romance of travel’ and cruise experience, but with a modern twist, this is what Saga terms, Boutique Cruising.  They also want a distinctly British experience, and to be challenged both on board and ashore as they sail around the globe.  

As a result, the architectural and interior design for the 999 passenger, 523 crew, Spirit of Discovery has been created by London-based agency SMC who have taken the ultimate in London-based boutique hotels as their influence. Key features of the new ship include a wraparound promenade deck (removed from nearly all new design ships), an above water spa, ‘The Club’ – a dining and music venue in collaboration with Jools Holland, a private balcony for every cabin and, uniquely, 20% of cabins have been luxuriously designed for single occupancy (typically ships have only 5% and often these cabins do not have a view.)

A major commitment has been made to British contemporary art with almost 400 original pieces of British art amongst the over 1,000 total artworks,  all of which have been created by British based artists. Names include established artists such as Helen Amy Murray, Evelyn Binns and David Harber as well as some really exciting and unique up and coming talent.

A host of independent British suppliers including Hush Heath wine producers of Kent,  Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest Brewery based in Faversham, Kent, Donald Russell British Lamb and River Test Trout and Salmon from the Severn & Wye smokery, have been confirmed as providers for the pioneering boutique cruise vessel.  In addition 60% of the cheeses onboard are from British farms from the coast of Devon to the tip of Scotland.

Saga cruises are only marketed in the UK and are designed for the British market. They have an enviable repeat customer rate and opportunities are significant given that this market is one of the most affluent and influential in the UK. In 2018, the UK’s over 50s totalled 24.9m,  representing close to 40% of the entire UK population, as well as holding 75% of the UK’s household wealth.  The growth of this crucial demographic is expected to continue and is predicted to  be c.30m by 2044. The pursuit of a more active lifestyle continues to be a key trend with  54% of the UK’s total expenditure on leisure, culture, food, recreation and health made by this demographic.

With the launch of Spirit of Discovery, and as part of the ‘boutique’ experience, guests can also enjoy Saga’s new concierge service ‘Explore Ashore’.  Each voyage will have an on-board team of experts who are knowledgeable about every port and will be ready to organise individual and small group excursions and activities so that guests can experience exactly what they wish to in each port.

Image credits: Christopher Ison

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Posted in Cruise News, Saga Cruises

British Quayside Garden Party Planned For The Royal Naming Ceremony Of Saga’s Spirit Of Discovery

Spirit of Discovery’s Naming Ceremony will see 500 invited guests joining HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Saga management team, crew and employees to pay homage to one of the great British traditions of summer,  a contemporary Garden Party. The extensive Afternoon Tea will be prepared by Saga’s celebrity chef Kevin Woodford working with Selwyn Stoby, the former Executive Pastry Chef at Buckingham Palace and Paul Gayler, the former Executive Chef of the Lanesborough Hotel.

The Port of Dover quayside will be transformed, with grass grown in Yorkshire. There will be traditional bunting and table settings, stunning foliage, florals, trees and parasols. Guests will be served Spirit of Discovery sparkling wine, specially blended by Kent vineyard Hush Heath for the ship, and Anno Kent Gin, from nearby Marden.

The celebration cake, a two metre long replica of Spirit of Discovery, will be designed and made by Mark Tilling, winner of Bake Off Crème de la Crème, and cut by The Duchess of Cornwall. During the official naming ceremony, guests will be entertained by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood and the Morrison Orpheus Choir and the ship will be blessed by The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, before being christened by The Duchess of Cornwall with a Jeroboam of the specially-created Hush Heath Spirit of Discovery English sparkling wine.

Saga confirmed that it has now taken ownership of Spirit of Discovery, the first of two British boutique cruise ships they commissioned from world-leading shipbuilders Meyer Werft.  Robin Shaw, CEO, Saga Travel signed the official documents with Meyer Werft’s Managing Director, Tim Meyer, marking the formal handover.

Following her ‘First Arrival’, on 28th June, Spirit of Discovery will become the first cruise ship to be named at the Port of Dover for over a decade, and the first to be docked at Berth 4 in the recently developed £250m Dover Western Docks Revival.

Before the afternoon’s formal proceedings, The Duchess of Cornwall will be given a tour of the ship, which epitomises the best of British contemporary boutique hotel style and elegance. Her Royal Highness will view some of the 1,000 artworks on board, many of which have been created by artists working in Britain, as well as the suites named after the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast.  The Duchess of Cornwall will meet Captain Burgess and his officers and crew as she tours the impressive new British boutique hotel at sea.

Saga has already shown its firm commitment to Britain as Spirit of Discovery has been registered in the UK and will proudly display London as her port of registry on her stern.  The ship will sail 999 guests around the world, flying the Red Ensign, and her sister ship, Spirit of Adventure, will also fly the Red Ensign when she launches in August 2020.  The arrival of Spirit of Adventure next year will mark the realisation of a £600million+ investment in both ships, underlining Saga’s position as the British company creating distinctly British boutique cruising.

The inaugural cruise of Spirit of Discovery, A British First, will depart from Dover on 10th July and sail around the British Isles

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Posted in Cruise News, Saga Cruises

Emerging Canada Aboard Saga Sapphire: Corner Brook, Sydney And Halifax

I had a short morning tour in Corner Brook that was simply titled ‘Corner Brook City Highlights’. It was a relatively small place, so the tour was only 2 hours in duration, but it suited me. There’s nothing worse than a tour being dragged out for longer than it need be, so I was off down the gangway and onto the awaiting school bus.

We admired the stunning view across the Bay of Island’s from Captain Cook’s Lookout. In 1767, he surveyed the Bay of Island’s and was the first one to map the area. We also stopped at ‘The Old Man in the Mountain’, so called because according to local legend, the Spanish buried treasured on Shellbird Island, and if you look closely, you can see the face of an old man within the rock foundation overlooking the island. I couldn’t see it to begin with, but I got there eventually. Can you see it in the image below?

Several other stops were included, but I think my favourite was at Marble Mountain, where you will find the Heritage Tree. This incredible monument is a 52-foot, four-foot-six-inch wide pole weighing a whopping nine tonnes. It was fantastic, and features many carvings depicting Newfoundland’s history from the arrival of the Viking’s in 999AD right up to modern times. The carvings feature puffins, stamps, icebergs, Churchill Falls, ships, Signal Hill, a Newfoundland 20 cent coin and much more.

Once the tour had finished, I returned to the ship and then went ashore in search of a take-away restaurant called Louis Gee’s. I spotted it on the way into town from the shuttle bus and was soon filling my face. Of course, it had to be poutine, and although not as nice as the dish I had in Montreal, I enjoyed it. The restaurant was hugely busy, and most people were buying pizza slices which also looked delicious. There really wasn’t much else to do here, so I made my way home – at a slower pace than before I’d eaten – and enjoyed my afternoon lounging around onboard.

The following morning we arrived in the port of Sydney, Nova Scotia. We had been due to dock there earlier in the cruise, but bad weather had forced us on, so it was second time lucky. I had originally booked the ‘A Day in 18th Century Louisbourg’ tour, but because our date of arrival changed, which then meant our duration changed, the length of the tour had also been cut. I decided to cancel it and instead do my own thing. I didn’t want to feel rushed. Lunch was also included and I knew that would mean less time to explore the fortress.

I left the ship around 10am and enjoyed a leisurely walk along the boardwalk, dodging the hundreds of kids as I went – they were having a morning mini marathon. The boardwalk stroll surprisingly made for great photo opportunities of Saga Sapphire and I was quite content just taking the day in my stride. You can only walk to a certain point, so when I reached it, I turned back and made my way up to street level. I wandered through town for a while, although there wasn’t a great deal going on, and then I unhurriedly made my way back towards Sapphire. It was another relatively small port, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really do enjoyed days that are leisurely in port just as much as the hectic ones. By the time I was back at the port, the sun was shining and it was warm. As Saga Sapphire geared up her engines and pushed us off the berth, I sat back with a drink in hand as we sailed beneath warm air and on to our final Canadian port, Halifax.

I opened the cabin curtains and was met with fog, pouring rain and howling wind, not what I’d wanted to see for our arrival in Halifax, but there’s not a single thing anyone can do about the weather.

Peggy’s Cove and a coastal drive were on my morning agenda and shortly after docking, I was on the coach and heading for the above. Honestly, it wasn’t the most pleasurable experience in the pouring rain and wind, but it was a beautiful place. I could imagine on a dry and sunny day it would be a hive of activity with people exploring the rock formations, enjoying a picnic, and experimenting with the endless photo opportunities that could be had here. It’s a small fishing village, home to around 40 people, and sits on top of a solid stone inlet. It’s also home to Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.

On the drive back to the ship, we went through an area called Glen Margaret, which is home to a local artist and storyteller named Ivan Frazer. Our guide had mentioned that on warmer days, the man himself could often be seen in the garden, waving at passing visitors, and as luck would have it, even though it was lashing down with rain, there he was, exactly where our guide had said he’d usually be. He ran from the front door and the coach slowed down enough for us to see him waving. He then picked up a rather large anchor and started waving that at us. Ivan opened up his home many years ago as a museum and welcomes visitors for daily tours, where you can learn more about him, his life and the famous Peggy.

My plan for the afternoon had been to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, to see the Titanic exhibition, and to then get a cab to Fairview Lawn Cemetery to visit the graves of 121 people that perished in the early hours of April 15, 1912 when Titanic sank. Sadly, the weather was not on my side at all and I couldn’t get a definite answer as to whether the cemetery was open or not, as it was a Sunday. It had been one of the things I wanted to see on this cruise above all else, but it wasn’t meant to be. I accepted that and was happy that I could at least make it to the museum.

It was a modest fee of $9.55 to enter (approx. £5.60) and I ensured my first stop was the Titanic exhibit. I didn’t have much time, it was almost 1pm when I arrived at the museum and the last shuttle bus back to the ship was at 3pm.

The exhibit is on the second floor and features the largest collection of Titanic artefacts in the world, including a chopping board, deck chair, a balustrade from the D Deck landing on the forward staircase, a section from the ships’ grand staircase, a lifejacket fragment reportedly worn by John Jacob Astor, and a wooden cabinet.

There are also a few items on display from those that were lost on that terrible night and they included a pair of leather gloves that were recovered from the body of Charles Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway. His body was the first to be recovered by Minia after she arrived in the disaster area. He’s buried in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery.

Another very sad sight was that of a tiny pair of shoes that had belonged to the “Unknown Child”. For more than 100 years, the little boy was unknown, but in 2010, scientific studies revealed him to be 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin of Wiltshire, England. He was the youngest of a family of eight that were travelling on Titanic. All perished and his was the only body recovered. He’s buried in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. His body was found by the Mackay-Bennett and it was the sailors aboard this vessel that paid for his monument. They also buried him with a copper pendant that read “Our Babe”.

It was a very moving visit. I don’t know how anyone could walk through the exhibit and not feel a great sense of sadness. If you’re ever in Halifax, you should add this to your list of things to see and do.

I did also manage to take a quick look at the Cunard exhibition before leaving, but it was much smaller than I’d expected it to be. Of course, Samuel Cunard was born in Halifax, so only fitting that he would have an exhibition of some sort. I liked the wheel from Aquitania, which had been presented to the city of Halifax by Cunard Line in 1950 because of the ship’s long association with the port.

We sailed from soggy Halifax and made our way back out into the fog coated ocean and, believe it or not, I didn’t see the sea again for 3 days! It was fun, minus the fog horn going every minute, and reminded us we were on a ship. I snapped the below photo as we were leaving Halifax, you can just see land in the background if you look closely, but after 10 minutes or so, we could see absolutely nothing.

Saga Sapphire was now heading back across the North Atlantic towards Ponta Delgada and ultimately, Dover…

You can also read about my Canada journey over at World of Cruising.

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Posted in Saga Cruises, Solo Cruising
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