The New Year has arrived, the mince pies have all been eaten and it's time to take a look into the horizon. 2011 has all the potential to be another exciting year in the world of cruising with new ships, innovations and destinations the main highlights.
2010 may be seen as the 'year of the cruise ship', having bought us the impressive Allure of the Seas, the elegant Queen Elizabeth, the stunning Celebrity Eclipse, the Azura and the entertaining Norwegian Epic. 2011 may be in the shadows of a huge year for cruise ships but we still have a 4,000 passenger Disney ship, a new intimate P&O Cruises offering, a sister ship from Celebrity Cruises and Oceania Cruises' latest country club offering.
The Disney Dream is the ship everyone is talking about for 2011, it's the first ship Disney have built in a decade and at 130,000 tonnes, 4,000 passengers and nearly 1,500 crew and is by far their largest. With Royal Caribbean enjoying their partnership with DreamWorks, Disney are stepping up their game in an attempt to stamp their authority on the family-themed market. For example Disney have designed the most incredible water slide at sea, they have HD cameras screening images throughout the ship and of course there is Mickey Mouse.
Having brought us the Ventura and Azura in the last couple of years P&O Cruise have gone down a different route for 2011 with their latest ship the Adonia. She may be a completely refurbished Princess Cruises ship, but she offers a welcome retreat for those looking for a more intimate, almost boutique experience and small, less accessible ports. The ship may be smaller but P&O Cruises are promising their usual high standards in food, service and entertainment.
Oceania Cruises may be relatively new to the British market, having joined forces with Iglu Cruise earlier this year, but they are taking the club cruising market by storm. They prefer the tag line of 'country club casual' opposed to luxury, yet boast the finest food budget and Egyptian cotton at sea and their newest offering the Marina will surely be one of the classiest ships in it's class.
Sister ship of the Celebrity Eclipse the Celebrity Silhouette is the next offering in the Solstice class. Boasting some new venues along with the current favourites we are looking forward to more of the same superb standards, with some subtle differences and different itineraries.
The Costa Favolosa is another sister ship, set to follow on from the Costa Pacifica and Costa Serena. The latest offering in Carnival's Italian-style cruise line boasts a real Mediterranean feel and a fantastic selection of onboard innovations. With a 4D Theatre, Grand Prix Simulator and Playstation World to add to the superb entertainment already offered by Costa, the Favolosa looks like a winner. Throw in speciality dining with menus from Michelin-starred chef Ettore Boccia and you have one of the most exciting ships in European cruising.
This year we are also looking forward to some pretty exciting new destinations, departure ports and new ships in old destinations. Here are a few of our favourites.
Monaco F1 Grand Prix
Azamara got the ball rolling with their four day F1 cruise to the French Riviera, taking in race day in Monaco, St. Tropez and the stunning port of Portofino. Okay so the cruise doesn't include tickets to the race but offers a superb way of enjoying the race weekend and includes an overnight in Monaco to enjoy the post-race party atmosphere.
Back in October last year MSC Cruises announced a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority that will see the world's fastest growing cruise line using Abu Dhabi as a home port in 2011. From October 2011 the MSC Lirica will be based out of the new cruise terminal for the winter season, offering 19 cruises over five destinations in the region.
Freedom of the Seas & Harry Potter
Okay, so the Freedom of the Seas cruise & stay holidays to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter may have started in 2010, but with Freedom of the Seas updates and Harry Potter's constant growth in popularity, these deals are an exciting prospect for summer 2011. Combining a cruise to the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas with a world class theme park.
Again Alaska is hardly a new destination but 2011 will see Disney Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises' first forays into the region. Add in more ships than ever and there are bound to be some superb offers to North America's most stunning coastline.
With the huge growth in ships over the last couple of years everyone from Thomson Cruises to Princess Cruises have seen the sizes of their ships growing. This has seen itineraries taking in larger more accessible ports. 2011 will be all about the smaller ships to more unique destinations. P&O Cruises have added their smallest ship in years with the Adonia and both Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises have seen the popularity of their country club cruising growing in the UK. With ports such as Portofino and Monte Carlo more accessible to these ships, those looking for something a little different and a little calmer will have a wealth of choice for 2011.
All in all 2010 was the year of the cruise ship but 2011 looks like the year of the new cruiser. There are more options then ever, from 650 to 7,000 capacity ships, new and revisited destinations available to suit all tastes. If you were thinking of trying your first cruise, booking another cruise or coming back to cruising after a break, 2011 is the year to do it.
With the date set for Prince William and Kate Middleton's Royal Wedding how can you make sure you won't miss the big event, yet take full advantage of the stacked up bank holidays for an early summer break?
If you are thinking of booking or have already booked your cruise fear not, you can enjoy that extended holiday, without hammering your holiday time, and still see the special day as a whole host of major cruise lines have already announced their plans to broadcast the event.
So with the January deals looming and the thought of escaping those April showers for warmer or more exciting climates, fear not it is all under control. Most ships now enjoy TVs in all cabins and have plenty more in the bars dotted around the ship so the Royal Wedding will be easy to watch wherever you are. Sailing around the Med relaxing with a cocktail or enjoying the stunning Caribbean weather and waking up in your cabin, as long as there is satellite cover you won't miss the couples special day at St. Pauls on the 29th April.
Official engagement photograph of Prince William and Catherine Middleton taken by photographer Mario Testino on 25th November 2010 in the State Apartments of St. James’s Palace, London, 11 December 2010.
© 2010 Mario Testino
I have put together a list of which cruise ships will be making the most of the event and will update this as more information comes to light.
As you would expect the quintessentially British Cunard Line have announced plans to show the ceremony onboard in the Royal Court Theatre's big screen. As all their ships will be at sea there will be a special commemorative menu at dinner and a champagne toast to the newlyweds. The understated glamour and elegance will surely make for a wonderful day of celebrations onboard.
As you would expect P&O Cruises will be televising the wedding to all 14,000 passengers onboard their ships on 29th April. The Ventura will be sailing from Southampton on the day and plans are in place for a special sail-away party, full of flag waving and of course champagne.
Royal Caribbean have announced that they will be showing the wedding onboard all 40 ships across all three cruise lines. Passengers departing on the Celebrity Eclipse sailing on the 29th April can take a seat in the theatre to watch the ceremony before the ship departs, and passengers onboard the Independence of the Seas will be able to watch the ceremony in Studio B, the Pyramid Lounge and the Alhambra Theatre.
“This is the first major Royal wedding for the British people in decades, and a very good reason for a celebration on-board one of our ships,” said Dominic Paul, vice president and managing director RCL Cruise Ltd, UK and Ireland. “As soon as we knew the date, we started working to ensure our guests can relax in comfort and style whilst watching one of the most globally anticipated events of 2011”.
Both the Marco Polo and Ocean Countess will be sailing from the UK on the 29th, from Tilbury and Hull respectively. Celebrations are being planned for each evening onboard, though more details are expected.
Both Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery will be showing the ceremony live onboard through either the BBC or SKY TV, yet any additional plans have yet to be announced.
Princess Cruises have yet to announce their plans, though you would expect them to follow sister line P&O Cruises and show the ceremony onboard. Fred Olsen have also yet to confirm their exact plans, but I couldn't expect anything less than a decent screening and a flag filled party. Thomson Cruises will more than likely be getting out the flags and affordable bubbles for the day, given their British crowd.
The moral of the story is the biggest wedding of the decade will surely been shown somewhere onboard, so watch this space as more news is announced.
First time cruisers always have a wealth of questions that are never answered and over the next couple of articles I'm going to offer an alternative guide to cruising. We've all read the usual tips, stories and information about cruises. So I'm not going to tell you who has the best food, where to get white glove service and why a certain cruise line is best for you. Instead I'm going to take a look at what can you get up to on a cruise holiday that doesn't involve eating fine cuisine or 24 hour buffets, and how to entertain yourself without playing shuffle board or watching the cabaret shows.
To some people they see cruising as God's waiting room, but in modern cruising they couldn't be further from the truth. Today's ships boast rock climbing walls, zip-lines, water-park quality water riders, 3D films in the theatre and an array of on board sports, bars and shows.
Entertainment on board modern cruise ships has really gone up a notch over recent years, yes there are still cabaret shows, shuffle board and salsa classes but you can enjoy a whole host of other entertainment on board. As mentioned earlier there is plenty to do for the active souls among us. You can play 5-a-side football, basketball and use golf simulators on most 4 star cruise lines. Princess also offer mini-golf, Royal Caribbean have the wave-rider (a surfing machine), the rock climbing wall and on their Oasis class ships a zip line. NCL and Disney Cruise Lines have some pretty impressive water slides on their new, and under construction ships. There are virtually always state of the art gyms, offering a variety of classes, and of course the increasingly popular spas, which offer 'well being' without too much exertion.
Family entertainment on board ships has also seen a huge amount of improvement ranging from all day kids clubs to company tie-ups with the like of DreamWorks Animations and Nickelodeon. Cruise lines now offer families meet the character experiences, such as Disney and Royal Caribbean (DreamWorks) and offer the latest films in 3D. Princess Cruises were the first cruise line to offer 'movies under the stars' with films playing on huge screens above the pool during the evening, in warmer destinations of course and other cruise lines are now offering a similar experience.
The evening entertainment for adults has also improved, along with the good-old cabaret shows you can now see the like of Chicago: The Musical, Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever in a selection of ships theatres. For fans of casinos these range from functional to Vegas-esque, especially on ships more popular with the Americans.
Another aspect of the night-life that has received a welcome face-lift is the lounge bars on board. These were often seen as stuffy and offering dreary entertainment but these days they are massively improved. Many of the large ships will offer a large lounge bar that can double as a second theatre, such as the Vista Lounge with Princess, where you can enjoy guest entertainers including some great comedy nights. There is also more variety on board, typically you will find a traditional English pub themed bar, a Martini bar, a night club, a sports bar and jazz/piano bar. P&O Cruises have the fantastic Olly Smith wine bar the Glass House, Royal Caribbean have private karaoke booths in their sports bar and Princess have self-righting pool tables in the cigar bar - thanks to some clever gyros.
In case you are wondering the likes of Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises bar prices are no different from a city centre pub (though some ships are in US $). Cruises from the UK often offer British beers along with great wines and cocktails. Cruises further a field often offer locally brewed beers such as the Alaskan Brewery, and they are pretty good too.
One of the small touches I've always enjoyed is the small specialist displays or classes on board. Watching a flair bartender exhibit his skills whether into your glass or in front of a crowd has yet to bore me, seeing the ice-carvers create masterpieces from ice and fruit and talking about how they do it, watching a sushi demonstration or taking part in a cook-along with the head chef class is always fun too. For those who dare to ask having a tour of the kitchens mid services is an eye opener, ships today offer food from very-good through to exceptional and seeing how they feed 1,000 people fantastic food in a sitting is amazing. Whether sat by the pool, watching a show, or just chilling in the lounges you can go a whole week without having to venture to the bar for a drink.
Cruise ships have become superb resorts that offer you great destinations that either take you to new cultures, better weather or stunning natural beauty. The shore excursions you can do are a whole other article. How often can you combine the Galapagos with cocktails, a Formula 1 Grand Prix with 4 nights of relaxing in a different Riviera hot-spot each day? Forget the 'Love Boat' and think of the possibilities.
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