With barely two weeks until the European Championships kick-off, I thought I'd take a took at which cruise lines have announced they are showing the games and where the best places to watch the matches onboard will be.
As football, and this summer's main tournament Euro 2012, is popular among the rest of the world — especially us Brits — the cruise lines have bucked up their ideas and will be showing the games. This is great news for those us looking forward to Italy, Spain or Germany winning another tournament, but not so much for the England fans out there. Oh, and the non-football fans — though I'm pretty sure the spa area will be soccer free!
So, who is showing the footie?
P&O Cruises, Britain's favourite cruise line, will be showing all of the games onboard their entire fleet. I can see a few deck parties happening — obviously of the sophisticated variety — should England do well.
Cunard Line, Britain's 5* cruise line will also be showing all the games. Afternoon tea while cheering on the likes of Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll has a certain amount of irony to it.
Royal Caribbean has announced that their 11 European based ships will be showing the games, so great if you are sailing around the Med or Baltic. Not so great if Caribbean sunshine or Alaskan fjords are currently in your plans.
Celebrity Cruises will be showing the quarterfinals, semi-finals and final onboard their five European ships. If it's anything like the World Cup, the England team might be taking a cruise holiday themselves by then!
Unconfirmed are Fred. Olsen, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Cruise & Maritime, though I suspect their European based ships will be showing the games in the sports bars onboard — it may be worth checking with the cruise line before you leave and setting your SKY/TiVo box to record the games!
Also, with MSC and Costa Cruises both Italian cruise lines filled with European passengers, you can safely assume they will be making a fuss of the football — unfortunately they haven't revealed their plans as yet.
The most popular cruise lines cruising out of the UK or offering cruises to British passengers will be showing all of Euro 2012's games therefore, while relaxing on your cruise, you won't have to miss a minute of the action.
Note: Football matches will be subject to satellite signal.
As spring kicks into gear we are often invited to visit many of the cruise ships based in the UK for the summer. These days visits onboard are hosted by the cruise lines and are a great way for members of the Iglu team to familiarise themselves with the vast ships on offer, or to refresh their memory.
Earlier in the month Royal Caribbean invited members of our sales team to see Independence of the Seas in Southampton, offering a great opportunity to visit the largest cruise ship based in the UK. Robin, one of our sales consultants, went along for the visit, and here's what he thought of the experience onboard Indy:
Well, what can I say about this ship? I think the first impression you get when you walk up to the terminal is one of awe as you realise quite how big this ship is! Now, one of the misconceptions I have always had of the ship is that it's is very much geared to the UK market and is in some ways a little shabby and abused, and this is reflected through the reviews on Cruise Critic. I can honestly say that seeing the ship all of these misconceptions have been dispelled.
We boarded the Indy at around 10am, with most ship visits it's a case of being taken around the ship and shown all the main areas, lounges and then the state rooms, and sometimes it can all be a bit of an information overload! Royal Caribbean — being the innovators of cruising — decided to bring this attitude into their ship visits and created for us The Royal Quest. This turned out to be a kind of treasure hunt, where the aim was to see the entire ship, take photos of various things onboard and picking up bits such as teeth whitening kits from the spa, a cookie from Ben & Jerry's and also an ice cream cone.
We ended up running around the ship, seeing all the main lounges such as the On Air Bar, where we made a cocktail, and the ice rink, where we posed for a photo and had a bit of a laugh. We found the pharaohs in the Pyramid lounge and had boogie in the Labyrinth Night club. I think going around the ship the way we did gave us a true idea of how big, yet functional the ship was — with all the areas interlinked by the Royal Promenade down the middle of the ship. The rock wall is impressive, as is the Flow Rider which is literally the width of the ship, kind of gives you an idea of how huge Oasis of the Seas must be as she has two of them!
We also saw some impressive staterooms. We started with a Promenade stateroom — cabin 6305 — which is known as the Ben & Jerry's suite. It is above the ice cream shop on the promenade and those who stay in the room get free ice cream all cruise — which is a winner in my book. We also visited a disability-access promenade stateroom and a junior suite — both of which were huge — as well a large ocean view — sleeping four — which was very large as well. The best cabins I saw were an E1 grade cabin at the stern on deck 6, even though you have the beam at the stern with the Royal Logo, the balcony is a lot bigger than other cabins and the view is not that obstructed. The piece de la resistance however had to be the owners suite, and WOW is the only word I could use, with a lounge area, walk-in wardrobe and your own bar — this was the ultimate luxury.
As always with these things, after going around the ship and absorbing all the information, we finished in the main dining room for lunch, which was awesome. We were treated to steak followed by chocolate cake, all washed down with a few glasses of house wine — we do have such a hard life sometimes! The food was very good and the service was definitely attentive — even if we were only travel agents — you still got a very good idea of what guests would receive.
All the crew we came across were friendly and knowledgeable about the ship and were always happy to help and direct you to where you were aiming for onboard. After seeing the ship I would consider cruising on her in a balcony stateroom or, if I could afford it, the owners suite!
Currently there are some awesome deals on the Independence sailing from Southampton, all the way through the summer holidays.
Cruises are fast becoming the most popular way to visit the stunning city of St. Petersburg, and with the trip often taking in the rest of the Baltic's highlights as well as covering your visa requirements — as long as you take the cruise line's organised excursions — you can see why.
As a destination steeped and history and filled with charm, it's an obvious port of call when heading on a cruise to the region, but once you are there what are the real must see aspects of the city? With St. Petersburg being such a special destination I have enlisted the help of some of the team who have had the pleasure of visiting the city, to bring you their top tips and experiences.
Heather, from the sales team, has enjoyed a couple of visits to the city, and here's what she had to say on the matter:
St Petersburg is an experience NOT to miss! Whether exploring on your own or taking advantage of an excursion there is so much culture to take in and many iconic places to visit.
Both times I've visited St. Petersburg I've been lucky enough to have clear blue skies, so visiting the Savior on the Blood Church (or the Church of spilt blood as I knew it) with its bright colourful roof domes — which reminds me of dolly mixture — was a fantastic opportunity. It's not just a hot spot for tourists to visit, it was also surrounded by couples who had just got married having their official photographs taken outside, so girls... a great place to get ideas for wedding dresses! Also there are some great market stalls nearby, where it is a necessity to buy a Russian Doll or five — depending if you count the ones inside.
You also can't go to Russia without seeing the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace. I personally didn't go inside, I was too busy making the most of the sun on a river cruise, seeing the sights with the luxury of sitting down listening to the guide explaining the country's history. This I highly recommend.
I visited while working on board P&O Cruises' Aurora and again while working onboard Artemis as a photographer. We were there for two days both times. Many people took advantage of an evening trip to visit the ballet, a once in a lifetime opportunity for some.
Simone Clark, Iglucruise's Managing Director is a well-travelled cruiser, visited the Baltic onboard Celebrity Constellation a couple of summers ago. Here are her thoughts of the culturally rich city.
I travelled on Celebrity Constellation on a Baltic Capitals Cruise, which included two days and one night in St Petersburg in the middle.
Some people on our cruise had pre-booked a private guide for a few days as a small group, but we opted to book excursions with the cruise line. You can't just get off the ship and wander round on your own unless you’ve pre arranged your own visa, so booking excursions is essential to make the most of the city.
I booked a City Tour, which was combined with a visit to The Catherine Palace, which is huge with its beautiful rooms packed full of gold. We also took in the astounding art collection at the world famous Hermitage Gallery. I also booked a half day tour to Peterhof — another palace, famous for its beautiful gardens, full of waterfalls and fountains.
The Catherine Palace
Famous things to buy as souvenirs are copies of Faberge eggs, icons and baboushka dolls (Russian dolls) — however, they can be extremely expensive and we found similar products for sale on board the ship after leaving St Petersburg for a fraction of the price.
St. Petersburg is filled with history, from its days as St. Petersburg under the rule of the Tsars, to Leningrad during the reign of the Soviet Union, before once again being known as St. Petersburg. As mentioned by Simone, the safest way to see the city is with the cruise line's pre-arranged tours, as this way you are covered by the ship's blanket visa. Unfortunately, if you wish to discover the city for yourself you will need to arrange your own visa with the Russian consulate before you join the cruise.
St. Petersburg is a charming city and a fantastic place to visit, and the tips mentioned above are only a tip of the iceberg. My hit list would have to include Catherine's Palace, a visit to the Russian Imperial Ballet and of course, some souvenir shopping. What would you get up to if cruising to St. Petersburg? Let us know on the Iglu Cruise Facebook page or at @iglucruise.
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