Monday, 31 January 2011

Specialist photography expedition to Antarctica


Aurora Expeditions has created a special photographic expedition for just 27 passengers. Accompanied by two professional photographers, David Burren and Martin Bailey from LuminOdyssey, this voyage is for all levels of photographers.

This 25-day trip begins in Ushuaia at the Southern tip of Argentina and cruises south over the Drake Passage to spend a week on the Antarctic Peninsula. Time will be spent exploring the historic and rich wildlife at Vernadsky Station, taking in the spectacular rugged coastline from Lemaire Channel to the Gerlache Strait as you head northwards to King George Island. You will be greeted by fur and elephant seals as well as adelie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. As you continue north, you will witness the spectacular cliffs of the Falkland Islands, home to an abundance of breeding birds and the world's largest black-browed albatross colony at Steeple Jason Island as you steam towards Atlantic Patagonia. Following the steps of Darwin, you will explore the abundant wildlife, visiting Puerto Desaedo, Bahia Bustamante and the waters around Peninsula Valdes. Enjoy the spectacle of majestic orcas feeding on young sea lions at Punta Norte before you sail into the port of Mar del Plata.

Whether you're using film or digital, a compact camera or an SLR, you will return with the essence of Antarctica captured by your lens. This may be an iceberg shining on a slate grey sea, minke whales spouting beside the ship, and clouds, pre-dawn pink, which morph into ice-draped mountains.

For digital camera photographers, resident experts David and Martin will explain how to process and organise images with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. Prior to the voyage, they will also be available to advise you regarding your photography equipment. During the passage to Antarctica, they will present classes and seminars to help prepare you for the Peninsula & Falkland Islands, and these will continue throughout the voyage.

Prices start from $9,350 and include ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes. For further information, contact ww.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Disney Difference

So, having evaluated the new Disney Dream from it's first-glance appeal, accommodation, dining and entertainment quotients, how should we sum up this glitzy new offering from Disney Cruise Line?

Well, it certainly remains a great proposition for families AND for couples without children, as the adults-only facilities remain some of the best at sea. And, should you so wish, you wouldn't need to even see a child aboard, let alone know you are at sea with several hundred of them at any one time!

There are, of course, the overtly Disney touches that could only come from the House of Mouse, notably the three themed restaurants, the superb (but distinctly Mickey-fied) big show productions, the many character meet-and-greet opportunities, and the outrageously outfitted kids activity centres, which only Royal Caribbean's biggest ships can touch for space, range and style.

The introduction of their 'magical portholes,' the virtual window onto the outside world which all inside cabins now boast, the Enchanted Art throughout the ship (special pieces of art which literally come alive when activated by a pssing guest) and the special fireworks-at-sea deck party also all point to the kind of imagination and invention which exists primarily with Disney's 'Imagineers.'

But the designers have continued to keep a handle on cruising's luxury and tradition-orientated heritage, with many touches which look and feel totally five-star. The Cove Cafe, glamorous Concierge Lounge and associated cabins, Palo restaurant (and new bar area), District nightlife complex and, especially, the gourmet dining of Remy all highlight a tendency which Disney began with the Magic and Wonder and have firmly continued with their latest vessel.

Their staff remains keen and eager to please and even the standard level cabins are wonderfully comfortable, practical and well-fitted, with the split bathroom arrangement putting them well ahead of most of the competition.

And, as befits a ship produced by the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, it displays a superlative level of finish and build quality. While the yards of Finland and Italy are not short on style and quality, I have never failed to be impressed by the end product out of this German marine production centre, and feel they go the extra yard to making sure everything is completed to the nth degree.

Take time to stroll along the classic internal promenade on Deck 3 (above), take time out at the Bon Voyage bar, walk the 'red carpet' into the Walt Disney Theatre and take a ride on the unique AquaDuck 'water-coaster' and you will have sampled four highly contrasting but all representative facets of this extraordinary ship.

Unlike the vast Oasis and Allure of the Seas, it is not a destination in itself; and it is not an out-and-out resort at sea, with all mod cons and little connection with the maritime world. It does have plenty to keep guests occupied without ever setting foot ashore (and, to be honest, it's 3 and 4-day cruising to the Bahamas is not guaranteed to have people flocking off anyway, with the exception of Disney's private island of Castaway Cay), but the onboard style still has more in keeping with cruise tradition than the all-mod-cons approach of others.

Are there elements that don't work especially well? Almost certainly. The deck space in the adults-only Cove Pool area is less than capacious; there are sure to be quite long queues to try the AquaDuck; and the main atrium area seems like a huge, empty void at times, as it is geared up for the many Disney character photo opportunities and is otherwise a pretty pointless space.

Their rotational dining system may not suit those who prefer to dine in one main location, especially for a 7-day (or longer) voyage, but it is hard to fault the novelty and attraction that it represents over just 3 or 4 days.

We absolutely love Castaway Cay, where we were able to cycle at our leisure, enjoy the adults-only Serenity Beach area, grab a quick lunch with ease and stroll along the main beach back to the ship, which is docked by the purpose-built pier. Brilliant thinking all round, and the family facilities here are the equal of any beach resort in the world.

Does it all add up to the premium price that Disney charges for such a short cruise? It can cost $1350/person for a 4-night cruise in a balcony cabin, which could get you a 7-night cruise (or even longer) on a few other lines. But you will certainly feel like you are in high-quality territory here, and the X-factor that comes with all Disney ventures is most firmly to the fore here.

All in all, it is a superb experience, a real one-off in the cruise world today, and one that is well worth considering. The rest, as they say, is up to you...!


Cruise the Moorish Mediterranean and stay in a Moroccan riad

Tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers is offering a unique opportunity to explore the history of the Mediterranean, combining the romance of a voyage through the Balearic Islands and Andalucia to Morocco with a stay in a beautiful riad in Marrakech.

This one-off cruise, on the line’s flagship, the five-masted square rigger Royal Clipper, departs Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, on October 15.

After a day exploring the dramatic medieval fortress town of Bonifacio in Corsica, the ship sets a course to Mahon, Menorca (above), Lord Nelson’s chosen base for the British fleet during the Napoleonic wars. There’s a day in Ibiza, best known for its nightlife but actually rich in history, from its Carthaginian origins to 500 years of Moorish rule. Ibiza is especially lovely in autumn, when the summer crowds have left but the sea is still warm enough for swimming.

Royal Clipper next calls at Motril on southern Spain’s Costa Tropical, an easy hop from Grenada and the magnificent Alhambra Palace. Then there’s a day at Safi in Morocco, famous for its pottery, before disembarking in Casablanca and being transferred to Marrakech.

Here, in conjunction with short break specialist Kirker Holidays, guests will spend four nights in the Riad Kniza, an exquisite town house that has been restored by one of the city’s top antique dealers, situated in the heart of the old Medina, just minutes’ walk from the famous Djemaa el Fna Square.

The riad, built around three open air courtyards, has just 11 rooms, as well as a pool, traditional hammam and roof terrace. Marrakech is a wonderful city for browsing the tangled streets of the souks, walking along the massive ramparts, soaking up the carnival atmosphere of the Square, or taking day trips into the Atlas Mountains.

From £2,199 per person, including flights to Rome and from Marrakech; eight nights’ full board on Royal Clipper; four nights’ B&B at the Riad Kniza, a three-hour private tour of Marrakech, transfers and the services of a Kirker Holidays concierge.

For more information, please visit http://www.starclippers.co.uk/ or contact the adventure cruise specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Speciality Dining with Celebrity

Celebrity Cruises plans to add speciality dining venue Qsine to Celebrity Infinity. Launched onboard Celebrity Eclipse (above) last year, Qsine is the first restaurant at sea to offer guests a menu and wine list on an iPad.

Infinity will actually emerge from drydock on December 3 with two new restaurants, as Qsine replaces the former Conservatory and Flower Shop and Blu, the Mediterranean-themed speciality restaurant, is added on deck 5.

Along with the addition of Qsine, the following features will be found onboard Celebrity Cruises Infinity


  • AquaClass accommodations – marking a Millennium-Class ‘first’ – allowing guests on Infinity to experience the brand’s popular spa-inspired accommodations and amenities
  • Mediterranean-themed specialty restaurant, “Blu,” offered exclusively for AquaClass guests
  • The Celebrity iLounge, which debuted on Eclipse and made Celebrity Cruises the industry’s first Authorised Apple Reseller
  • New verandas added to the ship’s spacious Celebrity Suites
  • Additional new oceanview and inside staterooms
  • More suites, with all new furniture, flat-screen TVs, bedding and carpeting
  • Restyled staterooms, with entirely new carpeting, flat-screen TVs and bedding
  • Expanded collection of original, contemporary art
  • New ice-topped Martini Bar and Crush
  • Vibrant creperie, Bistro on Five
  • Café al Bacio and Gelateria
  • Cellarmasters wine bar, complete with the “Enomatic” state-of-the-art wine serving system – an industry-first when it debuted on Celebrity Solstice – allowing guests to select wines by the glass, at the touch of a button.

The company currently plans to similarly refurbish Celebrity Summit in January 2012, followed by Millennium in April 2012. The already-revitalised Constellation will be further refitted with the additional offerings in April 2013.

For more information, see www.celebritycruises.co.uk, or contact the UK's specialist cruise agents of The Cruise Line Ltd on 0800 008 6677.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Flying to Antarctica

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Here's a rare opportunity for an Antarctica fly-cruise - the boutique little Antarctic Dream will operate for some high-season dates in 2011-12 with passengers flying across Drake's Passage once and navigating it the other way. Flights are to or from Punta Arenas in Chile while the sailing is between Ushuaia, the world's southern-most city, and the Antarctic peninsula.

Their carefully planned itineraries offer an entirely different type of adventure cruise (you can even kayak, if you like); one where you’ll be introduced to the Great White Continent and its seldom-seen wildlife whilst travelling on a luxury expedition cruise vessel guided by one of the most experienced teams sailing the region.

Check out Antarctic Dream or www.cruiseline.co.uk/Antarctic-Dream-Cruises for more information.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sampling Some Dream Entertainment

OK, so we've checked out the ship, looked at the accommodations, been wowed by the Concierge level and sampled much of the cuisine and restaurant offerings. Now it's time to see what makes Disney Dream tick in terms of the onboard entertainment.

And the simple answer is - high quality shows. The not-so-simple answer is - an amazing array and variety of live productions, music and nightlife, WAY too much, in fact, for just a 3 or 4-day cruise (which will be the Dream's stick in trade).

The 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theatre is the main focal point for all the big production musical offerings, 3 Broadway-style (and quality) shows in a grand setting, with lashings of Disney style and some superb staging.

The 3 shows are The Golden Mickeys (an 'awards' type show that is basically a look at Disney's greatest hits, film and music-wise), Disney's Believe (another rollicking musical that incorporates more great well-known songs and set-pieces, including the Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and The Frog, as well as The Genie from Aladdin and many other beloved Disney characters), and Villains Tonight (which we didn't get to see, unfortunately, but then there's only SO much you can squeeze into two days!).

The 3-level, art deco Theatre, with its orchestra and balcony seating, provides a beautiful setting for these big-production stagings, and there is usually an element of pre-show as well, utilising the big video screens either side of the huge stage.

More entertainment, this time of a cinematic and lecture-based kind, is on offer at the Buena Vista Theatre, which is basically identical to the versions on the Disney Magic and Wonder, while The D-Lounge adds a venue for family-style games and quizzes like Family Fusion and Anyone Can cook, and The District is the centre of the adults-only nightlife options.

This latter consists of five separate lounges and nighclubs offering a terrific variety of settings and moods for a grown-up evening out. The District Lounge is a piano bar casual pre or post-dinner drink; 687 is the ship's Sports Bar; Pink is a hugle stylised cocktail bar themed like being inside a bottle of pink champagne (if that isn't too bizarre); Skyline is one of the Dream's standout locations, a hugely imaginative bar/lounge that has six different famous cityscapes (that actively change every 15 minutes) as its backdrops through picture 'windows' behind the bar. It's the kind of thing that only Disney can do, and it's well worth seeing, if not staying for a cocktail or two (as even the menus are illuminated from within when you open them!); and Evolution is the high-energy dance club, a fairly large and dark disco that 'transforms' itself like a butterfly with plenty of light-induced imagery as guests are invoted to 'spread their wings' and party. This is also the venue for live comedy and cabaret acts.

The other big entertainment feature of note is the lively deck party vibe for both sailaway and final night on each cruise. Sailing Away is a fun, family-style party featuring Mickey and the gang to set the mood for the start of every cruise. For the grand final, there is a three-stage deck show that begins with the child-friendly Mickey's Pirates IN The Caribbean (with lots of character-induced fun and games; see pic above), the Buccaneer Blast (Disney's signature fireworks-at-sea show, a one-of-a-kind event that actually puts on a pyrotechnic extravaganza from the top decks of the ship) and Club Pirate, a show-cum-party finale, with Captain Jack Sparrow and a cast of villains making an entertaining appearance and giving way to on-deck dancing and general party amusements.

It all adds up to a truly mind-boggling array of rich and varied entertainment, certainly enough to keep the whole family (and especially mum and dad on their own, when it comes to The District area) amused for the full duration of any cruise. Once again, Disney Cruise Line has created something of a marvel.

The only drawback to my mind is - how are people going to fit it all in?!

2011 the ‘Year of Nansen and Amundsen’


The Norwegian Government has declared 2011 the ‘Year of Nansen and Amundsen’ to mark two major anniversaries and specialist cruise company Hurtigruten will play its own role in the celebrations. This year is 150 years since polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen was born and 100 years since polar hero Roald Amundsen and his four men were the first people in history to reach the South Pole. Special voyages themed around the anniversaries have been created, plus onboard celebrations in Antarctica on the day of Amundsen’s centenary.

There is no better expedition voyage operator to lead the celebrations than Hurtigruten. Named after Nansen’s vessel which sailed the original journey, Hurtigruten’s explorer ship MS Fram (above) will be embarking on many of the celebratory voyages in 2011.

‘Climate Voyage’ on the MS Fram 21 July, Reykjavik-Longyearbyen – from £2333pp

This year’s Climate Voyage celebrates the 150th anniversary of Nansen’s birth with an eight-day voyage from Reykjavik to Svalbard. As well as making an inaugural visit to Jan Mayen, one of the most isolated islands on the planet, the voyage includes fascinating climate-related lectures and discussions on topics such as the work of Nansen. The voyage departs July 21 and is priced from £2333pp to include seven nights full board on the ship and flights from Longyearbyen to Oslo, based on two sharing. International flights are extra.

The Polar Bears, Islands and Fjords voyage on MS Fram 7 September - from £3196pp

This new itinerary has been created especially for the year of celebrations, sailing in the wake of Fridtjof Nansen. This unique sailing from Spitsbergen to Bergen follows a similar route to that travelled by Nansen in 1896 on his return journey to mainland Norway after three years in the polar ice, during which he reached the northern-most point any human had ever been. Nansen sailed with Captain Otto Sverdrup and they received honour and glory in every port they visited on the way down the Norwegian coast. These ports form the backbone of the Hurtigruten service, which launched in 1897 with Captain Sverdrup at the helm. The voyage departs on September 7 and costs from £3196pp, including 11 nights full board on the ship, flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen and one night’s pre-cruise accommodation in Longyearbyen, with breakfast and sightseeing, Price is based on two sharing. International flights are extra.

Centenary of Amundsen reaching the South Pole, MS Fram 4 December – from £4904pp

On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen and his men reached the South Pole, having set off from Fridtjof Nansen’s polar ship Fram and the Framheim camp. The expedition captured the imagination of the world. On the day of the centenary, Hurtigruten’s explorer ship MS Fram will be in Antarctica, where the anniversary will be marked with on board celebrations. Be part of this memorable day and join a 17-day ‘Chilean Fjords and Antarctica’ voyage departing on December 4. The 14-night full board voyage costs from £4904pp and includes a variety of landings, one night’s B&B in Buenos Aires before and after the voyage, return flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, and transfers. Based on two sharing. International flights are extra.

For more information on these and other crusies, visit http://www.hurtigruten.co.uk/ or visit the UK's adventure cruise specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

G Adventures 2011/12 Line-Up Of Polar Cruises


G Adventures introduces its 2011/12 Arctic and Antarctica cruise season with a slew of new features. Perfect for the cold weather and adventure enthusiasts, a trip aboard the M/S Expedition delves deep into the vast array of wintry wildlife and breathtaking scenery of narrow waterways, glaciers, icebergs and rugged mountains, which very few people will ever have the opportunity to see.

G Adventures is pleased to provide free destination cruising guides, as well as complimentary Wellington boots for the duration of the trip to keep passengers' feet warm and dry. Plus, travellers on select cruises who book category five cabins receive exclusive, complimentary Canada Goose Adventurer jackets. Parkas are also available for purchase online for $269 (approx: £173).

G Adventures 2011/12 Polar Cruises
For the ardent adventure-seeking passengers, Gap Adventures now offers sea kayaking in the Arctic and Antarctic - a unique opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with the native wildlife. Following in the footsteps of bold explorers, travellers can also camp and experience the majesty of Antarctica at night. Excursions must be pre-arranged as they are not sold on board.

Travellers with ample holiday time can also enjoy extensions and add-ons pre- or post-cruise. Antarctica extensions allow travellers to unravel the mysteries of Easter Island, indulge in the fine food and wines of Chile and Argentina or travel to the heart of the Amazon to discover Iguazu Falls. Arctic add-ons allow travellers to explore the beauty of Longyearbyen (Svalbard Islands) and Oslo.

Passengers who book a space on a selection of the Arctic cruises by January 31 will also receive a 25 per cent early-booking discount.

Uniquely equipped to meet the demands of cruising in polar environments, the Expedition provides an exceptionally safe, spacious and comfortable experience for all passengers. At a nimble 105 metres in length, the ship is able to approach remote areas to which many other vessels cannot navigate. This is also one of the most stable expedition ships in its class.

For more information, visit http://www.gadventures.co.uk./

Expeditions to Papua New Guinea and West Papua

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Travellers seeking a path less travelled to neighbouring Papua New Guinea and West Papua during 2011 will need to move quickly as Orion Expedition Cruises will visit this tropical paradise for only one season of cruises on their chic little Orion during March and April.

Two voyages will feature the popular Papua New Guinea Cultural Highlights itinerary while the third is an exciting all-new West Papua & Maluku expedition, taking in many rarely-visited places across the north of Papua New Guinea and West Papua, where even Google struggles to provide in-depth information!

Under the watchful eye of the specialist expedition team, Orion’s guests on the signature Voyage of Discovery expedition, departing April 14, will redefine the word ‘remote’, visiting rarely seen areas across the top of West Papua, including Mapia Atoll (just north of the equator) and the marine wonderland of Rajah Ampat, the Bird’s Head Peninsula, Kei and Yamdena Islands in the Tanimbars, concluding in Darwin.

11-night Papua New Guinea Cultural Highlights (March 23 and April 3)

Starting with an overnight in Rabaul, this voyage visits Sepik River & Watam Village, Madang, Tami Islands, Tufi, Fergusson Island, Samarai and Kwato Islands and Alotau (Milne Bay) before finishing in Cairns (April 3 voyage in reverse). Prices from £5,265 per person including 11 nights onboard Orion, all meals, entertainment and educational programmes, use of the ship’s sporting equipment and facilities, Zodiac excursions, port and handling charges, tender transfers and government fees and taxes. Two-for-one air is also available on these voyages.

11-night West Papua & Malaku Voyage of Discovery (April 14)

Starting in Rabaul, this 11-night voyage visits Wewak, Jayapura, Urbanasi, Mapia Atoll, Raja Ampat, McClure Gulf, Kei Islands and Tanimbars before finishing in Darwin. Prices from £4,785 per person, including 11 nights onboard Orion, all meals, entertainment and educational programmes, use of the ship’s sporting equipment and facilities, Zodiac excursions, port and handling charges, tender transfers and government fees and taxes. Two-for-one air is also available on this voyage.

For reservations and enquiries, visit http://www.orionexpeditions.com/ or call the UK's adventure cruises specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Polar Cruising with Prince Albert

Taking a look at some of our favourite expedition-style ships, here's one that still offers full five-star creature comforts...

With only 117 passengers, Silversea’s purpose-built Prince Albert II has been designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of the earth’s polar regions.

A strengthened hull with a Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation (1A) for passenger vessels enables the ship to push safely through ice floes with ease. A fleet of Zodiac boats also allows Silversea's Expedition guests to visit even the most off-the-beaten path locations, while an expert Expedition Team provides insight and understanding to each daily adventure.

Silversea’s luxury expedition ship was named Prince Albert II, recognising the Prince of Monaco’s passion for exploration and environmental conservation. Silversea Expeditions also reflect the values of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

For more information, visit http://www.silversea.com/ or contact the UK's adventure cruise experts of The Cruise Line Ltd.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Azores, Canary Islands and Ceramic Wonders

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Sail in the wake of European explorers to the Atlantic islands that once constituted the western barrier of the known world on a small ship luxury cruise. Zegrahm Expeditions' Azores voyage begins with a visit to Spain’s Alhambra with its amazng carvings and ceramic tile patterns (above) and the famed Rock of Gibraltar. Morocco offers a sensory-filled experience from mosques to souks in the exotic cities of Casablanca, Agadir and Marrakech.

Then spend several days exploring the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. These dramatic volcanic islands feature historic architecture, lush gardens and vineyards, seabirds, beautiful beaches and colourful markets.

Zegrahm's Clipper Odyssey is also perfect for this style of voyaging, a 110-passenger luxury expedition vessel carrying a fleet of Zodiacs, which allow passengers to land anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. All cabins have an ocean view, safe, minibar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, in-room music system, and sitting area with sofa.

Dates
May 4–20, 2011

Activities
Archaeology, Birding, Culture, Photography, Sightseeing, Wildlife viewing

For more information, visit http://www.zeco.com/ or try the UK's leading adventure cruise specialists The Cruise Line Ltd.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Dream Dining


After the initial look at the new Disney Dream at Port Canaveral, it was time to spread out a bit further and see what else this grand 128,000-ton colossus had in store.

Our first item on the agenda was lunch, so we headed for the Cabanas restaurant up on Deck 11, an extensive indoor/outdoor buffet option that serves both breakfast and lunch. The style of this venue will come as no surprise to most regular cruise-goers, and, while it is not as cramped as the versions on original ships Disney Magic and Wonder, it is still a bit awkward to negotiate the cafeteria-style serveries. The seating areas are comfortable, though, and space never seemed to be a problem on our cruise (albeit with only around half the full passenger number).

The food choice was also quite wide, albeit a bit thin on the salad side of things. A wonderful blackened mahi-mahi was my top choice, along with an Asian stir-fry. There was also a fresh carvery station and plenty of typical fast-food options to keep the kiddies happy!

Between Cabanas and the main pools is a series of Quick Service Restaurants - Luigi's Pizza, Tow Mater's Grill, Fillmore's Favourites, Frozone Treats and Eye Scream. Nothing startling here, but all good, fresh food, and some very tempting sandwiches and paninis.

The grown-ups can also relax with a speciality coffee or tea, plus a pastry, at the Cove Cafe, which is definitely my idea of a soothing sea-going retreat (their Americano was also absolutely delicious!).

The real dining highlight of the Dream, though, is their unique rotational dining system, whereby families and couples have dinner at one of the three main restaurants each evening, with their serving team accompanying them at each one. Even though we had only two evenings aboard, we managed to sample all three by having breakfast in the Royal Palace, the fairytale-style dining room, with its plushly-upholstered 'throne' chairs and French-themed menu. To my view, this was the least eye-catching of the three, but that is only a relative term for Disney, where everything is so thoroughly themed.

Animator's Palate is the grand 'show' restaurant, a vibrant animation centre where the walls come alive with interactive features such as Turtle Talk with Crush (from the Finding Nemo film), a hilarious chance for kids (and some adults) to 'talk turtle' with the surfer dude from the East Australia Current.

The food style is supposed to be Pacific Rim, but we had a Wild Mushroom risotto, endive salad and Black Cod (me) and Sirloin Salad (Susan), none of which seemed especially 'Pacific' to us. Susan's tomato appetiser was surprisingly poor, with much of the tomato unripe and almost inedible. We may not have made great choices here, though, as most people felt the food in Animator's was among the best on the ship.

Our second night was in the superbly evocative Enchanted Garden, a grand setting 'inspired by the Gardens of Versailles,' and, to my mind, much more romantic and 'fairytale' in its style and theming. A lovely central fountain, gentle mood lighting and superb exterior decor make this a wonderfully different and relaxing dining area, and we also had an excellent dinner here.

My sea bass was beautifully succulent, and I also sampled a side order of the caramelized sea scallops which were positively melt-in-the-mouth good. Susan's marjoram-scented organic chicken was another taste extravaganza, while the lobster ravioli and beet carpaccio appetizers were equally satisfying. Portions were also relatively modest, which we like, and we didn't leave either restaurant feeling we were over-fed.

Desserts were good without being overwhelming (we had cruised most recently on the Crystal Symphony of Crystal Cruises, where desserts are an absolute stand-out feature, hence Disney was up against an impossible comparison standard here), but the little after-dinner petit fours at Enchanted Garden were another minor taste sensation (little cubes of exotic fruit and chocolate fudge).

In keeping with most cruise lines these days, Disney also offers an alternative dining experience at real speciality restaurants (for adults only). Palo is a larger version of the same Italian-themed restaurant on Magic and Wonder, with the addition of an outdoor terrace and bar area. It serves both dinner and an imaginative brunch, both at an additional $20/person surcharge, but it is usually well worth it.

Finally, the 'ultimate' dining option is that offered by Remy (above), Disney's first true gourmet experience. And, if Palo is the five-star option, Remy is six-star-plus, a creation of Michelin-starred French chef Arnaud Lallement and Disney's own uber-chef, Scott Hunnel. Sadly, we didn't get to dine here but we did get the chance to sample a couple of the restaurant's French-inspired dishes, a langoustine in Caesar sauce, and smoked bison, both of which were the kind of deep, palate-pleasing sensations that could easily be dangerously addictive.

The one drawback here is that the Remy cover charge is a whopping $75 per person, easily the most expensive of any alternative dining restaurant at sea, and their five-course wine-tasting menu would add another $99/head to your bill. However, if you look at it as the chance to dine at a 2 Michelin-star restaurant, where you would be unlikely to get change from $200 for a three-course meal, then you are certainly getting value for money here.

It seats just 70 a night (dinner can last up to 3 hours here) and there is a separate pre-bookable dining room for eight, and it also serves the best champagne cocktail in the world as your welcome-to-Remy aperitif - Tattinger champagne with a nip of pear vodka, a touch of dried apricot, half a blueberry and mint. Just sensational. However, if this appeals to you for your first Disney Dream cruise, you will need to book as early as possible, as this is likely to be a sell-out for every night of every cruise for the foreseeable future.

The other feature of Disney dining is the service, which is among the most personable and family-friendly at sea. Our four servers over the 2 evenings were from the Philippines, Jamaica, Scotland and Costa Rica, and all had a great touch that made the occasion memorable. There were a few grumbles from other media that the wait staff hadn't quite got their act together yet, but we never encountered anything less than the typical Disney enthusiastic-but-efficient style.

And, given that this was their first real test, it bodes well for the months and years to come.

OK, that's the low-down on Dream meal-times, stay tuned for more about this amazing ship in the next few days...

Saga's Top Choices for 2011

Saga has started 2011 - the year it promised to 'get people talking' - on the winner’s podium after Which? Magazine's annual cruise review awarded it the top cruise company in the country for the second year in a row. Saga has also selected its top cruises for the year, showing why Saga Ruby and Saga Pearl II (above) are consistently ranked as the leading cruise company.

Every cruise includes all meals, entertainment and tips. Port taxes, travel insurance and a chauffeured car service to the port or free car parking are also included in the price and customers can save up to 35% by booking early. Saga’s Price Promise automatically passes on any savings if a cruise decreases in price once a booking has been confirmed (and, for one couple, this meant a cheque in the post of over £10,000!).

Here are three of their Top Choices for 2011

Saga Pearl II - Nordic Discovery
7 nights from £860 per person, departing Dover on September 5; discovering Norway's dramatic fjords, waterfalls and quaint towns. Visit UNESCO heritage sites and, if paid in full at the time of booking, a further 5% saving can be made.

Exciting new destinations: Saga Ruby and Saga Pearl II will be visiting a number of ports that are completely new to Saga this year, including Halmstad in Sweden, Ørsta on Norway’s west coast and the historic city of Split in Croatia. Saga Pearl II also crossed the Atlantic for the first time on an in-depth voyage around the Caribbean and South America at the beginning of the year.

Saga Ruby – Australasia’s Highlights
20 nights from £4636 per person; fly from UK to Fremantle on February 22 to embark Saga Ruby; cruise along Australia’s beautiful western coast exploring four great cities and a host of unusual wildlife before crossing the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, where captivating scenery and unique Maori heritage will make this a trip to remember.

With a high number of single cabins on both ships, Saga cruises are ideal for solo travellers who don't want to pay double. Those who haven’t cruised alone before need not worry either as they will be properly looked after throughout the cruise – the ships have sociable atmospheres and welcome parties, so it is easy to meet new people, and Saga also has dance hosts for those who wish to take to the floor.

Saga Pearl II – Heart of the Caribbean
15 nights from £2324 per person; fly from Gatwick to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on March 7; there is no single supplement on this leisurely cruise which explores the crystal clear seas and soft sandy shores of the Caribbean, visiting the Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands and St Maarten.

For further details, visit http://www.sagaholidays.co.uk/

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Aboard A Dream

After the eye-popping event that was the Disney Dream's naming ceremony, the vast throng of media and guests retired back to the Terminal for a glass of champagne and canapes, to discuss and digest the great 'show' that had just unfolded before us.

It had been truly spectacular, aided and abetted by a blissful Florida winter's day - bright blue skies and ideal temperatures (just enough to redden a few arms and faces!), which was in stark contrast to how the week started and finished, with heavy rain. We did wonder what Disney had planned in the case of bad weather (because you know Disney are always prepared for every eventuality and there certainly would have been a Plan B, just in case) but, as it turned out, everything went off perfectly.

After about an hour of post-inauguration chit-chat, we were invited to board the new vessel, as she had now tied up alongside the Terminal and was ready to accept guests for the first time.

As some will know, all 3 Disney ships feature a large, three-storey central Atrium, where guests arrive via the gangway, and everyone is 'announced' in proper celebration fashion ("Now welcoming, the Veness family!"), and this sense of style and presence sets things up for every voyage.

Happily, all the cabins were open and ready, and we were able to head there first to check out our Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom With Verandah (a standard outside cabin with balcony) on Deck 6.

The first thing you notice is the fact the bed is raised up on proper legs and is not cobbled together from two single beds; it is a proper king bed with plenty of room underneath for cases and bags. Very tidy. The cabin is not terribly wide but the sitting area is quite spacious and there is a curtain to screen off the lounge space if you are using the sofa-bed as a third berth (which might well make it a bit of a squeeze for three).

It isn't exactly opulent but it's not spartan either, and all the fixtures and fittings are extremely well made and high quality. The split bathroom offers a separate bathtub/shower with sink and mirror, all with Spa H2O bath products, and then there is a separate W/C with sink. Thoughtful, convenient and a boon to most families.

The Family Staterooms are a touch wider and deeper, and bunk beds for the kids are a great idea (no more sharing a double bed!). We also had a look at the famous inside cabins with their Disney-unique 'virtual' window (a clever porthole-shaped video screen that relays live views from outside the side of the ship, along with a few clever 'extras' such as various Disney characters appearing periodically, like the Starfish from Finding Nemo and dancing hippos from Fantasia!).

Our quick ship tour also took in the Concierge level, a separate, gated accommodation area that evokes memories of the traditional former First Class style of maritime travel. Inside, it conjures up more than memories, as it is a truly gorgeous and classic piece of design, highlighted by rich dark-wood panelling that is straight out of the Golden Era of cruising in the 1930s.

All the cabins have a much higher level of finish, using that dark-wood style to complete the image of the glamorous yesteryear in sea-going chic, and there is also a separate Concierge Lounge and exclusive deck area, plus private entry to the Spa.

It is very much an area that many cruise lines have been moving into in recent years - this ship-within-a-ship style and extra exclusivity - but this is the first time I have seen it carried through to such a warm and traditional style, almost straight from the pages of the Queen Mary or Normandie in the 30s.

As if to complement this feeling of 'grown-up' largesse, the adults-only Cove Pool and Cove Cafe are also much richer and more classical spaces, and will surely appeal to cruisers well beyond the usual Disney reach.

It all made for a very satisfactory and inviting first look at the ship. But there was more in store. Much more....

Wine tasting excellence from $29 per person

Royal Caribbean International is launching a series of beverage programmes to on-board wine aficionados through an exclusive new partnership with renowned French winemaker Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). The programme debuted in December aboard Allure of the Seas, and will be deployed fleet-wide by the end of March. The hour-long Lafite Wine Experience features a tasting of four wines from the winemaker’s Reserve Speciale series and is available to guests from just $29 per person.

Guests will sample four Reserve Speciale wines, beginning with Reserve Speciale Bordeaux Blanc and Rouge, progressing to Reserve Speciale Medoc, and finally culminating in Reserve Speciale Pauillac. Led by a Royal Caribbean International Cellar Master, the Lafite Wine Experience aims to expand guests’ understanding of several of the growing regions in Bordeaux and how its soil cultivates the grapes and elevates the wines’ bouquet. Along the way, guests will learn the perfect food pairings and be able to purchase a special two-bottle gift set to take home in addition to the information kit they will receive during the programme.

The Lafite Wine Experience may be booked on-board or in advance through www.RoyalCaribbean.com/PreCruisePlanner.

The Big Firework Finale!

Nobody does fireworks quite like Disney!

Disney Dream Photo Extravaganza

Just one more photo from the Naming Ceremony - the 'champagne bottle' gets lifted into position...

Friday, 21 January 2011

Disney's 'Wow!' Event

Almost 13 years ago, Disney startled the cruise world with their debut vessel the Disney Magic. They followed up a year later with Disney Wonder, and everyone sat back awaiting the next Big Thing from the fledgling Disney Cruise Line.

And waited. And waited.

It seems DCL was in no hurry to 'push the envelope' until they were absolutely sure the market was ready for some more Disney sea-going Imagineering. And this year, the market was right.

I have already detailed the preamble to the launch festivities of the new Disney Dream, and, on Wednesday, it was time to see the finished work for real. Along with a whole heaped helping of that Disney style and entertainment to go with it.

So, after a 7.45am start from the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World, off we all set in the Art Deco DCL buses for Port Canaveral and the naming ceremony.

Disney has its own (Art Deco) terminal at the port, and the quayside was all set up with a huge stadium-style seating area, complete with a stage more than 50 yards wide and backed by a huge video screen. The ship herself sat at anchor in the harbour, away from the terminal and with a small attendant barge, with a huge (think about 20ft tall) 'champagne' bottle sitting on top.

Now, we fully expected a Big Show. Disney are renowned for putting on a visual extravaganza for all their significant events.

What we got was an absolute eye-popping spectacle of the first degree, a 30-minute theatrical production of non-stop colour, movement, song, dance and special effects. A complete entertainment pageant with every bell and whistle Disney could muster.

While the senior Disney executives introduced the event, it was left to Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and the rest of the gang - along with a cast of hundreds of performers, dancers, singers, band members (including the US Navy's SouthEast Band) and giant, stilt-like characters - to make it a cavalcade of pure fun in the best traditions of Walt himself.

We watched, entranced, as this huge cast took us through a series of set-piece features designed to fill the big 'champagne bottle' with enough 'dreams' for the official launch. We had Captain Jack Sparrow and a pirate 'invasion,' a host of Disney Princesses, the 'Wildcats' of High School Musical and a marching band, culminating in the ship's godmother, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson (and a former Disney Cruise Line entertainer!) appearing on a riser behind the stage to join with Mickey and the Fairy Godmother (naturally) in performing the time-honoured ceremony.

With the vast stage filling up once more with everyone who had already taken part in the earlier scenes, a helicopter appeared to lift up the big 'champagne bottle' and carry it over to touch it to the ship's hull - at which point the fireworks show took over and we were truly bowled over by a daytime pyrotechnic finale.

With all that, it was time to return to the Terminal and sip a glass of celebratory champagne ourselves, prior to embarkation on the Disney Dream and the next part of the inaugural festivities - a two-day cruise on the ship itself.

More soon...!

Grab An Early Booking Discount With Star Clippers

By Steve Newman

Book by January 31 and receive up to 20% early-booking discount with tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers, who are offering the spectacular saving off all 2011 cruises in the Mediterranean PLUS all 2011 sailings in the Caribbean and Central America if booked by April 30.

You can save £177 per person on a six-night Caribbean pre-Christmas cruise on the 170-passenger Star Clipper, departing St Maarten on December 17 and calling at some of the smaller, more exclusive Caribbean ports inaccessible to big ships. The itinerary includes either Nevis or Saba (depending on the wind), Iles des Saintes, Falmouth Harbour in Antigua and St Barths. Now from £708 per person, cruise only.

Save £206 per person on a seven-night Costa Rica sailing on the 170-passenger Star Flyer, departing Puerto Caldera on December 11 and exploring rainforested islands, remote bays and beautiful beaches, with plenty of chance to spot the incredibly diverse wildlife of the region. The ship calls at San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; Playa del Coco, Costa Rica; National Park of Santa Rosa; Samara; Puerto Carillo; National Reserve of Curu; and Isla Tortuga. Now from £824 per person, cruise only.

Save £168 per person on a short break, five-night Mediterranean sailing on board Star Clipper, departing Athens on October 8, and calling at the unspoilt Greek ports of Monemvasia and Pilos; Siracusa in Sicily; and Valletta, Malta. Now from £672 per person, cruise only.

All prices exclude port charges.

Passengers can enjoy the romance of sailing on board a true tall ship in a relaxed atmosphere with high standards of service provided by an attentive crew. All three ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, a convivial Tropical Bar on deck and a comfortable piano bar and are large enough to offer first class accommodation and dining, but small enough to call into intimate ports, untouched by large cruise ships.

For more information, visit www.starclippers.co.uk or check with the UK's leading adventure cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cabin Upgrades on Offer

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Want to do something different in 2011 and fancy some extra savings? Hurtigruten has launched a special offer giving free cabin upgrades on selected voyages spread across a wide variety of cabin categories for anyone booking by March 31.

Available on specific Spitsbergen and European voyages, the offer enables you to book and pay for a cabin and then enjoy an upgrade into the next cabin grade for free.

Offer applies to:

6-Day Spitsbergen Polar Encounters – 31 July and 4 August – from £2283pp for a voyage around the northwest coast of Spitsbergen. Price includes an upgrade from an N to U cabin worth £110pp, five nights’ full board on the ship and return flights between Oslo and Longyearbyen. Based on two sharing,

9-Day Spitsbergen Polar Encounters – 17 August – from £2830pp for a voyage around the whole west coast of Spitsbergen. Price includes an upgrade from an N to U cabin worth £160pp, seven nights’ full board on the ship, one night’s B&B in Longyearbyen and return flights between Oslo and Longyearbyen. Based on two sharing.

9-Day Spring in Western Europe – 7 April – from £1031pp – calling at Lisbon, Porto, La Coruna, Bordeaux, Sark, Guernsey, Honfleur and Dover. Price includes an upgrade from an N to U cabin worth £240pp, eight nights’ full board and transfer from Dover to London Heathrow. Based on two sharing.

11 Day Pearls of the Baltic Sea – 25 April – from £2511pp – calling at Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Gudhjem and returning to Oslo. Price includes an upgrade from an N to U cabin worth £220pp, 10 nights’ full board and transfer from Dover to London Heathrow. Based on two sharing.

8 Day Climate Voyage – 21 July – from £2603pp – a special voyage, themed around climate change from Iceland to Spitsbergen via one of the world’s most isolate islands – Jan Mayen. Price includes and upgrade from N to U cabin worth £130pp, seven nights’ full board on the ship, return flight from Longyearbyen to Oslo. Based on two sharing,

For more information, visit Hurtigruten's website or call the adventure cruise specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd on 0800 008 6677.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Disney Magic Before The Dream

We suspected Disney would throw a pretty amazing party as the start of all their inaugural events for the new Disney Dream, and we were right.

Not only did we enjoy a wonderful evening at their Magic Kingdom theme park here in Orlando, but they also provided an excellent presentation into their marketing and creative thinking, and then put it all into practice for us with a superb show on and around Cinderella's Castle.

A group of roughly 2,000 media and media guests were treated to special access to the theme park, starting with a special forum with Disney's top executives and 'Imagineers' detailing a lot of what was in store.

For Disney fans in particular (of which Susan and I are certainly two!), they unveiled a lot of the design process and forthcoming attractions of the major new Fantasyland redevelopment, which is currently under way and will begin to open in late 2012.

There has been a lot of secrecy and rumour over the content of the new 'land' in the park, but we can now say that it will be a truly extensive makeover, more than doubling the size of the existing Fantasyland area and bringing in two major new rides, including a Snow White-themed indoor roller-coaster that will have all-new ride technology for a more dynamic ride experience.

Other highlights include the Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride, a new Dumbo attraction, a Princess meet-and-greet area (replacing the current Snow White ride), a Beast's Castle area (including a major new restaurant) and Belle's Cottage, which will be a fully interactive area with the character from Beauty and The Beast.

More importantly, there were a good few hints about what's in store for us later today with the Disney Dream naming ceremony, and we will shortly be heading off for Port Canaveral for the inauguration itself at 10.40am local time (3.40 in the UK).

With typical Disney efficiency, our luggage will be transported separately from our hotel room here in the Grand Floridian resort so we don't need to carry or tote anything and it should all turn up in our cabin after our arrival.

The naming ceremony (10.40-11/05am) will be followed by a gala lunch onboard - and the chance for our first proper look at the ship.

More importantly, everyone who can't be here can follow the whole thing online, on a special Disney webcast, on this link:

www.disneycruise.com/dream

You can also follow on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/DisneyCruiseLine - and Twitter - http://twitter.com/DisneyCruise.

Finally, last night concluded with a truly memorable and eye-catching debut of the new 'The Magic, The Memories and You!' show on the Castle, with the Wishes fireworks show (above) immediately afterwards.

This really has to be seen to be believed as it involves state-of-the-art cinema projection on the whole of the Castle and creates an absolutely stunning effect of illusion and creativity.

Now, on to Port Canaveral...!

Adventure Cruising Payback

By guest blogger Steve Newman

Regarded by many as the leader in eco/adventure cruising, it has become a new tradition of Zegrahm to make a donation—in the name of their loyal travellers, travel advisors, and friends—at the end of each year to an organisation that is doing charitable work in a region the company visits, or for a cause they support.

This year, they decided to leave the decision-making up to their guests. Zegrahm chose three organisations and asked their travellers, via e-mail, to choose their favourite cause and then divided up the donation dollars based on the number of votes each one received. They are pleased to announce the following allocations for their 2010 “World of Thanks” donation:

• Children in the Wilderness – 46%
• Henderson Island Project – 22%
• Save Our Seas – 31%

More information about the company, its cruises and their World of Thanks charities can be found on http://www.zeco.com/ or for more information on adventure cruising, contact the specialist at The Cruise Line Ltd.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Countdown to Disney Dream - T-Minus 1 Day!

OK, we are fully checked in at our Disney resort (the superb Grand Floridian) and registered for the media preview cruise of the new Disney Dream tomorrow.

The check-in procedure at the resort’s convention centre (above) was extremely smooth and we were soon photographed and presented with our room keys and information packet. It bodes well for an exciting and well-organised few days.

We know Disney very well from almost 20 years of working in the Orlando area and writing about the amazing Walt Disney World resort for our various guidebooks (like the Brit Guide to Orlando and my wife’s The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World), so we have pretty high expectations of any event run by the House of Mouse.

Amazingly, among the welcome material for all the media was an individual iPod Touch, fully loaded with a special Disney Dream app to provide a self-guided tour of the ship along with a special ‘scavenger hunt’ for 15 distinctive signs throughout the vessel with a unique Mickey Mouse-shaped code ready to be scanned and unlocked!

The “Wow!” factor is already high, and we have yet to even glimpse the new ship!

But, before we can get to Port Canaveral tomorrow morning for the inuauguration and naming ceremony – to be performed by former Disney Cruise singer and now Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson – there is a party to attend.

And there's no such thing as an ordinary party with Disney. This evening's shindig will be a special-guests-only extravaganza at the Magic Kingdom, with the very first look at the new 'The Magic, The Memories And You' projection show on Cinderella's Castle, along with dinner and fireworks.

It all promises to be a superb overture to the Main Event tomorrow, and the excitement around the resort is palpable. This is no ordinary ship inauguration, folks!

Stay tuned for more soon......

Guernsey: Top Spot For Cruise Ships In The British Isles

With 76 vessels scheduled to visit this season, the islands of Guernsey hope this will be enough to once again take the top spot as the most visited British port for day calls.

In 2011, Guernsey will deliver a warm welcome to the passengers of the Queen Elizabeth, the new Cunard ship, that will make its inaugural calls to the island in September. Queen Elizabeth recalls the rich heritage of its predecessor, which bore the same name, and features Guernsey in two of its itineraries.

Situated some 140km from the south coast of England - yet only 44km from the Normandy coast of France - Guernsey is geographically well positioned on the southern side of the entrance to the English Channel.

With more than 800 years of history behind it, St Peter Port, Guernsey's capital, is one of the most picturesque seaports in Europe. A stunning location for cruise line calls, it offers quality port services and professional handling arrangements and is open 24 hours a day.

Visit Guernsey makes arrangements for a reception marquee and 'meet and greet' service to welcome cruise passengers, with a range of literature about the island provided. Cruise calls are also a firm favourite with the resident community, who offer a warm welcome to our passengers.

The new St Peter Port Trails map has proved a particularly popular aide for visitors interested in learning more about the town, with a selection of self-guided walks revealing different aspects of its heritage and attractions.

Further options for cruise visitors include exploring the island's Ruettes Tranquilles, scenic tours of the impressive 13th century Castle Cornet, visits to the beautiful sister islands of Sark and Herm, and finding out more about the Channel Islands' five-year occupation history during World War II.

For more information on Guernsey, please visit http://www.visitguernsey.com/ or, for a cruise that visits there, be sure to contact the specialist cruise agents of The Cruise Line Ltd.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Let The Disney Dream Begin!

This week marks the christening and inauguration of Disney Cruise Line's latest and grandest ship, the Disney Dream.

And World of Cruising will be on hand for all the fun and festivities, ready to provide a detailed, first-hand look at one of the most exciting new vessels of 2011.

The whole will last four days, starting with a special presentation with Disney's 'Imagineers' (that special blend of creative designer that is both an imaginative innovator and engineer) from the Magic Kingdom theme park tomorrow (Jan 18).

The event will then continue with the naming ceremony at Port Canaveral on Wednesday, followed by a 2-day media preview cruise for Disney Dream, calling at Disney's superb private island of Castaway Cay.

Wi-fi permitting, we will be able to provide daily reports and feedback from the ship and make sure Time Spent At Sea readers get a real insider's look at all that's in store from this 128,000 stunner, complete with its unique AquaDuck 'water-coaster' ride (above).

Stay tuned, now...!




New Year Offers from Regent Seven Seas

FREE FLIGHTS FREE SHORE EXCURSIONS ALL-INCLUSIVE

Now you can explore the small harbours of the Mediterranean or the western Caribbean with some amazing offers from Regent Seven Seas.

ALMOST EVERYTHING IS INCLUDED...
* FREE flights & transfers
* FREE unlimited shore excursions
* ALL fine dining
* ALL drinks & beverages
* ALL gratuities & ALL activities onboard

WESTERN CARIBBEAN

Sail Date Nights Itinerary WAS pp NOW pp
12 March 2011 7 Fort Lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale £2,519 £1,637
08 April 2011 7 Fort Lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale £2,519 £1,889

MEDITERRANEAN

Sail Date Nights Itinerary WAS pp NOW pp
07 June 2011 10 Rome to Athens £4,189 £2,723
16 July 2011 10 Istanbul to Venice £4,499 £2,924
12 Aug 2011 12 Istanbul to Athens £4,499 £3,464
24 Aug 2011 10 Athens to Barcelona £3,569 £2,855
9 Oct 2011 10 Monte Carlo to Athens £3,879 £2,909
10 Oct 2011 14 Athens to Rome £5,129 £3,847
19 Oct 2011 10 Athens to Istanbul £3,879 £2,832
10 Nov 2011 10 Venice to Rome £2,939 £2,351

To take advantage of these great special deals, book by March 31, 2011.

For more information, visit www.rssc.com or the luxury cruise specialists of The Cruise Line

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Mini Med Cruise, Sail Style

Tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers is offering a new, three-night mini-cruise of the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Elba on its flagship, five-masted Royal Clipper (above), the world’s largest vessel of its kind. The cruise departs Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, on June 1, and costs from £585 per person, excluding flights and port charges.

After embarkation, Royal Clipper sails to the chic Corsican resort of Porto Vecchio, surrounded by mountains that give way to powdery, unspoiled beaches. After a sunset sailaway, the ship sets a course for Portoferraio, capital of tiny Elba, where Napoleon was exiled in 1814. There’s a whole day to explore the historic town, shop, indulge in a gelato or two, visit the island’s fortresses or simply relax over an extended lunch in one of the many picturesque squares. Finally, there’s a third night on board to enjoy the facilities of the ship before returning to Civitavecchia on June 4.

June is one of the best times to visit the Mediterranean; temperatures are usually pleasant, the sailing conditions should be perfect and the summer crowds have yet to arrive. One of the biggest advantages of sailing on a small ship like Royal Clipper is that it can access ports favoured more by yachts than large cruise ships.

For more information, visit http://www.starclippers.co.uk/ or the specialist cruise agents of The Cruise Line Ltd.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Fred. Olsen Celebrates Burns Night!

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is proud to celebrate Burns Night aboard each of its four ships - Balmoral (above), Braemar, Black Watch and Boudicca. As the ships' names suggest, the cruise line has strong ties with Scotland, and Burns Night - January 25 - is always marked in style.

Details may vary from ship to ship, but the occasion is always a 'Formal Night' on board, so guests will be in full evening dress for dinner and are encouraged to add a "Hint of Tartan" to their outfits. Of course, many Scottish guests will wear the full Scottish formal dress, complete with kilt and sporran.

The evening begins with a themed cocktail party then, at dinner, there is the 'Parade of the Haggis', and 'Address of the Haggis' by a Scottish team member or guest on board. A special flyer on the history of Robert Burns is provided to all guests, and a themed quiz held after dinner.

Marketing Director Nigel Lingard says: "Many of our guests enjoy traditional celebrations and Burns Night is always popular. The Olsen family has long-established ties with Scotland and we are pleased to welcome many Scottish guests on our ships throughout the year - and, of course, we cruise from two Scottish ports, Greenock and Rosyth, regularly."

Find out more at www.fredolsencruises.com or contact the UK's leading specialist cruise agents The Cruise Line Ltd.