Richard Downs, Iglu's CEO, last week witnessed the unveiling of a new ship as part of the Carnestoltes carnival parade, at the annual festival in the Catalan town of Premia de Dalt, just north of Barcelona. Could this be the prototype for a new line of Princess ships?
The ship, named Pacific Princess — nicknamed the Love Boat — was created by the local school as an integral part of the carnival parade. The kids followed the ship in full nautical wear and the parents followed dressed as cruise customers — adopting the '70s fashion from the original iconic TV series 'Love Boat', which was filmed onboard the original Pacific Princess.
Cruise buffs may remember that the Ruby Princess, launched in 2008, was named by 'Love Boat' Captain, Gavin MacLeod. 'Love Boat', the series, was a big hit not only in English speaking countries, it was a huge hit in Catalonia.
You've got the day in Bruges, arguably the greatest beer city in the world. A cruise is all about relaxing; you won't want to rush around trying to do everything. You want to pick a spot, sit back and take in the atmosphere. So where's good to head for a beer? We've picked three of our favourites. It's enough for a short tour around the city, or just pick one and soak it up. Either way, they're all great locations, so you can't go wrong.
Image: Staminee De Garre
Staminee De Garre
Generally open from midday, this hole in the wall is tricky to find. It's down a narrow alley, in fact it's supposedly the smallest street in Bruges and you can easily just walk right by it if you don't look out, as it just looks a bit like a door to a house. However, find it and you're in for a treat. It's a treasure trove of ales and is an authentic Belgian delight.
Its charm comes from its off the beaten path location and secretive feel. It's small and cosy with a local, friendly vibe. Despite being off one of Bruges' busiest streets, most people don't even know it's there. Highly recommended.
We Recommend: Tripel de Garre (11.5%). This house draft beer is rarely found anywhere else. It's brewed especially for this bar and it has a seductive aroma and a silky, orange body with a refreshing, creamy taste. You wouldn't think we were talking about a beer with vocabulary like that, but that's just how good it is.
With a pleasant tavern-like wooden interior, Bierbrasserie Cambrinus (Aka the King of Beers) is a lovely place to sit for a drink. It's not too small, so it's not packed with people and likewise it isn't oversized, so it has plenty of character.
The beer menu in this place is like an encyclopedia. It's simply stuffed with exciting beers and it's incredibly heavy. On our last visit they claimed over 400 beers, which is quite possibly the biggest selection in Bruges. They have tables down the left side of the pub, which on busy days require a reservation. Though, we recommend simply pulling up a stool and chatting with the bartender about what beer they have, whilst enjoying the surroundings.
We Recommend: Rochefort 10 (11.3%). A simply divine, special dark Belgian beer. It has a lively, fruity and almost sour taste that fizzes on the tongue. It'll also only take one bottle to get you merry.
We admit it, 2be sounds like some sort of student pop club and the website is a retro blast from the past. But don't be put off, this is a gem of a spot. It does have a decent range of beers — many displayed on the now famous "beer wall" outside — but 2be goes beyond that. It has one of our favourite spots to sit in the whole city. If you go through the bar to the outside balcony and around the corner, they've got a long table beside the canal. It's secluded, it's beautiful and it's free of crowds. You can sup your beer and watch the canal tours float by.
On top of that, it also has a great range of table beers which are the perfect size for sharing and also a bit of a fun novelty to try.
We Recommend: Tripel Karmeliet (8.4%). A gorgeous, golden abbey beer, with touches of vanilla and citrus. Despite its strength, it's a real thirst-quencher in the hot sun and 2be has the huge 750ml bottles to share.
Bonus: 2be bottle shop
And it doesn't end there. On your way out of 2be, before you reach the main street, look left and check out the shop. You can stock up on a few bottles to take back on the ship (just make sure your cruise line allows it first, as many don't) or simply for some to take back home.
What cruise should you take?
We've picked two crackers to visit Bruges in 2013. One at the end of April with a good chance of sun, and one in October where the cold nights will be drawing in. Bruges is beautiful all year-round and the seasons really bring it out differently, so whether lazing out in the sun or enjoying a cosy pub by the fire, you'll still fall in love with it. These two short breaks both cruise from (and back to) Southampton, so no faffing about at the airport. Let's take a look:
3 Night Bruges & Guernsey Break on P&O Azura
Cruising at the end of April to Zeebrugge (a short ride from Bruges) and coming back via Guernsey, this is a great short break and has a last minute price to boot. P&O's Azura is a wonderful ship with plenty of amenities, including the highly regarded Sindhu restaurant and their fine wine bar, The Glasshouse. You can grab an inside cabin for just £239 per person, which is a steal really to get on such a lovely ship. Given the time of year though, it might be worth a treat to take a balcony cabin, which come in at just £369 pp.
Paris & Bruges on Independence of the Seas
Visiting Bruges in October and coming back via Paris make this one a great romantic break. Perfect for anniversaries or birthdays, you get two of the most romantic cities in the world for one. Insides will go from £339 pp and it'll come a few months after Independence gets her upgrade, which will include ship-wide Wi-Fi, as well as their brand new Cupcake Cupboard. What could be better?
Peter Shanks, Cunard Line's President and Managing Director, takes time out of his busy schedule to share three of his favourite cruises with us. Here are his insider tips for a truly iconic Cunard experience.
Iglu are one of Cunard Line’s top travel agents — so I was delighted to be asked to pen a blog for them.
The choice of cruises out of the UK is greater than it has ever been. No matter what type of holiday or cruise you may be looking for there is a cruise line, a destination and an experience waiting for you. Iglu play a really important role in recommending and reassuring people in making the right holiday choice, including the Cunard experience, and here are three cruises for 2013 I'd like to share with you.
Queen Victoria & The Norwegian Fjords:
If you are looking for a week amongst beautiful scenery, then I would recommend a seven night fjords cruise on Queen Victoria. You have to experience the beauty of the fjords to believe it - and seeing that experience from the comfort of your own ship is the only way to do it. Cruising from Southampton is a big advantage for those who don’t like to fly, and of course there's the opportunity to take as much luggage as you like.
Queen Elizabeth & The Med:
If you prefer warmer climes, then one of our fantastic 12 night fly voyages down to the Mediterranean could be what the doctor ordered. By flying it means you don’t have to spend two days getting to the Med and another two days returning. Instead, you find yourself in the warmth, on a port rich cruise visiting both wonderful cities and calm and relaxing islands. A little tip - I would ask Iglu to book you a couple of nights before the cruise in Venice, for example, so that you can explore the city before you board the ship.
Queen Mary 2 & Transatlantic New York:
Every cruiser should experience a Transatlantic crossing to New York onboard Queen Mary 2 — our most iconic ships and the world's most historic cruise. Each night the clocks are put back an hour, ensuring you arrive jet lag free, perfect if you are planning a few extra nights in the Big Apple. Three nights a week onboard Transatlantic voyage's there is a wonderful formal night — it’s an elegant experience where everybody dresses up, enjoys a cocktail or two, before the fabulous gala dinner.
The arrival into New York is definitely the highlight of the trip — with the sun rising as you approach the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan .
Hopefully that has given you some ideas. There are many cruise lines who offer a fantastic experience at incredible value for money — but there is only one, in my view, that can offer you that unique mix of a legendary experience, beautiful surroundings and exceptional White Star Service.
We look forward to seeing you on board a Cunard ship in the future.
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