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So You Think You Know the Canary Islands?

29th January 2018

Cruising in the Canaries is hugely popular among holidaymakers for a number of reasons. The islands offer some stunning scenery, delicious food, relaxing beaches, and a whole world of interesting anecdotes, traditions, and snippets from history! While many Brits have been to at least one of the islands, there are so many things that remain unknown to its visitors. You may think yourself an expert on the Canary Islands, but did you know these ten interesting facts?

 

 

1. The word ‘Canaries’ has derived from the Latin word, ‘Canaria’, meaning dog. It’s thought that the name was attributed because early European settlers found wild dogs on the island, or Roman explorers chose it because of the nearby seals - which they called sea dogs.

2. The most popular sport in this part of the world is known as Lucha Canaria – a form of traditional wresting. Dating back to the 15th century, Canarian wrestling can still be seen in full swing in many venues across the islands.

3. While the small, yellow Canary birds are native to the islands, many people don’t realise that it is they who are named after the land, rather than the other way around.

 

 

4. The total population of all the Canary Islands is just over 2 million, but this popular holiday destination generally sees more than 12 million tourists every year!

5. Admiral Lord Nelson is most famous for his military action against the French, but it was actually in the Canaries that he lost his right arm – at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797.

6. At the time of writing, La Palma is home to the world’s largest working telescope. It’s situated at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, and has a mirror of just over 34 feet (10.4 metres) in diameter.

 

 

7. Various parts of Spain – including Tenerife, La Palma, and Gran Canaria – maintain the ‘Burial of the Sardine’, or ‘Entierro de la sardina’, tradition to end carnival events. This ceremony dates back many centuries, and involves a symbolic portrayal of burning or burying a fish.

8. The aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands are known as Guanches, who hailed from the North African Berber people. It’s thought that they migrated to the islands in around the year 1000 BC.

9. The Canary Islands were a common stop on journeys between the Americas and Europe. This means that there are culinary influences here from all over the world, and produce such as potatoes, beans, and avocados were all introduced from South America.

 

 

10. The ancient whistling language of La Gomera – known as Silbo Gomera – is still used and even taught in schools here today. It was originally created to help communicate across the hilly terrain.

There is much more to the Canary Islands than first meets the eye, but take the time to explore it, and get to know some of the locals, and you will find a land of intrigue and rich history. Take a look at our range of cruises to the Canary Islands and discover more on your next holiday.


Top Tips for Cruising the Caribbean

12th January 2018

Many people deem the islands of the Caribbean to be among the most idyllic and relaxing places on earth. There you’ll find just what many of us want when on holiday; warm weather, white sandy beaches, friendly locals, and great food. Sounds perfect, right? Well, just to make sure you have the absolute best Caribbean holiday possible, we’ve put together this list of tips to consider.

 

 

Choose the right cruise ship

 

You’ve made up your mind and your heart is set on the Caribbean, so next you need to think about which cruise line and ship is right for you. Fortunately, due to the popularity of this destination there are many cruise lines that cruise the Caribbean. If you like traditional British-style cruising P&O Cruises could be your ideal choice, for families Marella Cruises and Royal Caribbean are a great option, or for a little bit of luxury, consider Azamara Cruises. Remember that you will be spending a fair amount of time onboard, especially if you have opted for a no-fly cruise.

 

Choose your islands

 

With over 26 islands to choose from, it can be tricky to narrow down the top spots you want to see on a Caribbean cruise. It’s important to do your research and figure out what you’re interested in – maybe you just want to lie on a beach and relax, or do some snorkelling, or see some history. There are plenty of options when it comes to things to see and do, so depending on what you’re interested in you might prefer one island to another.

Some cruise lines even have their own exclusive island for guests onboard Caribbean sailings, such as Virgin Voyages, Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and more. These stunning locations are designed to offer plenty of opportunities for relaxation, delicious dining and activities for the adventurous. Whether you're a family of four, a laidback couple or going solo, there are plenty of islands to choose from. See our concise guide of some of the best islands to visit.

 

It will be hot!

 

You can rely on the islands to have sunny skies just about all year round, so when it comes to what to pack for a Caribbean cruise, your simple shorts, tees, sun dresses and the like are a safe and easy option. As well as appropriate clothing, you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared for bright skies and beaming, strong sun. Be sure to remember:

 

• High-factor sun lotion

• After-sun lotion – just in case!

• Cap or sun hat

• UV-Protective sunglasses

 

When is the best time to cruise in the Caribbean?

The ideal time to cruise in this tropical destination is between December and April. If you go in this period you should miss the majority of the rains, and will see warm temperatures averaging 26°C. Also, remember that cruising in these months means you’ll escape some of the cold and wet winter weather in the UK. If you want to find out more, check out our blog on the best time to cruise the Caribbean.

Take your phrasebook

If you intend to explore the islands and perhaps meet some locals, you might need to practice a few choice phrases before stepping into port. While English is likely to be the first or second language most of the time, French, Spanish, and Dutch are also spoken on various islands. Making an effort to learn some basic language – such as please, thank you, and hello – can go a long way toward making friends in new places.

 

 

Other things to pack for a cruise in the Caribbean:

 

• Swimwear

• Sandals or flip flops

• Comfortable shoes, if you plan on doing active excursions

• Thin cardigan or shirt for the evenings

• Formal wear, if your cruise line hosts formal nights

• A small bag for days spent in port

• A camera!

If you're new to the game, or even just want to make sure you're in the new when it comes to getting the most out of your cruise holiday, take a look at our top tips for first time cruisers.


So You Think You Know the Mediterranean

8th January 2018

With the Mediterranean remaining the number one choice of destination for UK cruisers, we thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of the preconceptions, and indeed lesser known facts about this popular part of the world.

 

Home to the Original Shopping Mall

Holidaying in the Mediterranean will inevitably involve some souvenir-buying, and most tourists will visit local markets and bazaars for these. But did you know that today’s large, commercial shopping malls actually originated in the Mediterranean? The first complex of this type was constructed in Rome by Emperor Trajan, in the early part of the 2nd century. His emporium is thought to have been filled with all kinds of wares, from spices and foods, to clothing and material.

 

The Same Festivals Celebrated Differently

Festivals like Easter and Christmas are celebrated in most Mediterranean countries. At these times you’ll notice traditions like those in the UK, such as street parades and glittering decorations, but there also some less familiar customs:

• In Valencia, Spain, for instance, you might see flour-throwing on December 28th – The Day of the Innocents

• On Easter Saturday in Corfu you’ll need to keep your wits about you, to avoid injury during the popular pottery-smashing ritual

The Med is Home to some of the UK’s Favourite Foods

Most visitors to the Mediterranean like to explore new foods and try all the best local cuisine, and it may come as a surprise to learn that in fact, many of the most popular foods we eat in the UK have origins here. It’s no secret that favourites like pizza and pasta hail from Italy, but there are also some treats that might not be expected:

• Fruit cake and bacon are thought to have first been introduced by the Romans in Italy

• ‘Fish and Chips’ actually originated in Portugal and Spain

• It’s thought that the creation of pies began with the Ancient Greeks

 

Mediterranean Languages Have Influenced English

Many European languages have borrowed words from one another throughout history, and the English language itself has been shaped by a great number of words from the Mediterranean.

• French - we have France to thank for words like ‘menu’ and ‘restaurant’

• Spanish - Spain has given us the likes of ‘mosquito’, ‘patio’, and ‘vanilla’

• Italian - we use ‘camera’, ‘temperature’, and ‘zero’, from Italy

• Greek - ‘Phobia’, ‘ethos’, and ‘plethora’ all have origins in the Greek language.

Over 20 Countries and States Have Mediterranean Coast

When we think of ‘The Mediterranean’, it’s not uncommon to mention the likes of Spain, France, Italy, and Greece, but in fact, more than 20 recognised states enjoy the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea on their shores. Here are a few more to explore on a Mediterranean cruise:

1. Gibraltar

2. Spain

3. France

4. Monaco

5. Italy

6. Malta

7. Slovenia

8. Croatia

9. Montenegro

10. Albania

11. Greece

12. Cyprus

13. Turkey

 

Cruising in the Mediterranean

As a long-standing, popular holiday destination, and with plenty of pretty ports to choose from, it makes sense that a great number of cruise companies offer itineraries in this part of the world. The UK’s favourite cruise line, P&O Cruises, offers a brilliant range of itineraries in and around The Med. This could be a great option for families, not only because of P&O Cruises’ onboard features, but also because Mediterranean countries are just a short flight from the UK. Or, if you’d prefer not to fly however, P&O Cruises also offer no-fly cruises departing from the UK.

Family Cruising in the Mediterranean

What makes P&O Cruises perfect for a family cruise in the Mediterranean?

 

 

5 ships in P&O Cruises' fleet of 8 have been designed with the wants and needs of families in mind, which means that they offer some of the best activities, entertainment, and family-friendly dining options at sea. Children are welcome in all onboard restaurants, each serving a wide variety of foods to cater for guests of all ages. The entertainment on the ships has also been well thought out to appeal to everyone. The stunning Once upon a time show is a particular favourite among families.

If you do fancy spending a special evening together, without the little ones, be sure to take advantage of P&O Cruises’ onboard kids club: The Reef. This is split into four age groups thereby ensuring that each child can access activities and entertainment materials suitable for them. This might be a soft play area, puzzles, books, or video games for example.

Another great aspect of cruising with P&O Cruises in the Mediterranean is the excursions. P&O Cruises offer a fantastic range, from exploring Rome’s infamous colosseum, taking a trolley train ride in Malta, to river rafting in Croatia, there will undoubtedly be something to suit every age group. Discover just how many places you could see, and what adventures you could have with your family on a P&O Cruises' Mediterranean cruise.


The Best Time to Cruise in Alaska

5th January 2018

Cruising season in Alaska tends to run for just five months, from May to September, although some cruise lines might offer itineraries from late April to early October. In this time, the experience you’ll have in Alaska can be greatly varied, so it’s important to consider what you want to see and do, when deciding when to cruise. To help you decipher the different opportunities, take a look at our month by month guide.

 

May

An early time in the season, May is when you’re likely to get some great deals on cruises to Alaska. That being said, it’s still important to book as early as possible, as Alaska is becoming ever more popular as a cruise destination. Notorious for rainfall, those who want to avoid the wet weather as much as possible would do well to visit in May, as the average is just a 25% chance of rain. The temperature generally ranges from 3.5 – 12°C, and there are around 17 hours of daylight. The cold temperature means that the trees are not yet in bloom, making it easier to spot birds and other wildlife living in the trees.

June

June tends to be a slightly more expensive time to cruise in Alaska, however this month is still before the peak of the season, meaning crowds and families are still fairly minimal. Daylight hours are now at around 19, however on June 21st – the summer solstice – you can expect almost a full 24 hours! This is a fantastic and fascinating experience that everyone should have at least once. This month sees an increase of rainfall, and also in temperature; lows of around 8°C, and highs of 16.5°C. This warmth unfortunately means mosquitoes, so be sure to pack some insect repellent at this time of year. June can offer the chance to spot baby moose, as this is their birthing season.

 

July

Right in the middle of the season, July is certainly the busiest month to visit Alaska, and tends to be the most expensive as well. Temperatures range between 10 and 18.5°C, and rainfall remains high. Visitors will experience around 19 hours of daylight, and will have the opportunity to see plenty of wildlife. July sees an influx of salmon, which also means a higher chance of seeing bears and various birdlife. It tends to be now that many sea lions are born in Alaskan waters, so be prepared with your camera on the top deck of your ship. Like most areas of North America, Independence Day is celebrated in Alaska with great gusto – the fireworks display in Anchorage is a particular highlight.

August

Those who aren’t fazed by wet weather should consider cruising in August, when there is over 50% chance of rain each day. Temperatures are between 9 and 17°C, and daylight hours return to around 17. Not yet considered the end of the season, visitors remain in great quantity, and prices are still quite high. It’s a great time of year for seeing salmon, bears, and impressive bald eagles. The Alaska State Fair is also held in August, in a pretty town called Palmer, around one hour north of Anchorage. Stock full of fun fair rides, live music, food, and other entertainment, this is truly a fun day out for all the family.

 

September

The final month of the season, September is certainly much less busy, and it tends to be quite a bit cheaper for cruising. While there is still over 50% chance of rain, temperatures will decrease to between 5 and 12.5°C, and daylight hours are down to around 14. Visitors at this time of year tend to have more luck when it comes to sighting the Northern Lights if you’re heading towards the north. September is also mating season for moose, goats, caribou and musk ox, giving you a higher chance of seeing these creatures.

 

 

No matter when you decide to cruise to Alaska, you can rest assured that your chances of seeing some stunning wildlife – as well as scenery – are high. Cruise ships tend to stay close to the shore, meaning that you will be able to see all kinds of flora and fauna from the ship, with minimal effort. All that remains for you to do is keep your camera nearby!

 

Sail to Alaska onboard Norwegian Bliss

 

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 16th ship, Norwegian Bliss, will be embarking on some amazing cruises to Alaska in the summer of 2018. The latest NCL ship will boast some brilliant, innovative features when it comes to entertainment, dining, and facilities. After an invigorating day exploring Alaska, return to your ship for some delicious cuisine at Q, an all-American steak house, and then finish your evening in The District Brew House, where you’ll find 24 different draught beers, and 50 bottled. And with onboard activities like laser tag, the largest at-sea race track, and a beautiful spa, you can rest assured that any downtime during your cruise can be filled with fun. Find out more about cruising onboard Norwegian Bliss.


Caribbean Cruises and the Best Islands to Visit

3rd January 2018

The islands of the Caribbean have remained high on the list of top cruising destinations for many years, and it’s easy to see why. With stunning white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, great weather, and friendly locals, cruising in the Caribbean is something that everyone should treat themselves to at least once.

 

 

The Caribbean is stock-full of exciting excursion options and places to eat, drink, and relax. If you’re thinking about cruising in this spectacular destination, or even if you’re already booked and ready to go, our useful guide to some of the islands should give you the information you need to have the time of your life.

 

Choosing which islands to see

 

Because of the nature of the layout of the islands, cruises in the Caribbean tend to involve stops in a number of them. There are in fact over 7000 islands, 26 of which are recognised countries. It can be tricky to know which islands to visit, with each one offering a unique and interesting culture, and varying food, drinks, festivities, and traditions. Many cruise lines even own private islands with exclusive access to their own guests. Each island boasts sandy beaches, delicious cuisines and a range of fun-filled activities, such as snorkelling, parasailing and other water sports. Others are more catered towards adults only, such as Virgin Voyages, who offer private, relaxing cabana's, luxurious bars and wild pool parties after dark. See below for some inspiration about some of the popular stops.

What to do in Curacao

 

The Dutch island of Curacao has a distinctly European feel to it, with pretty, pastel coloured, Dutch style buildings lining the streets of the capital, Willemstad. There are fascinating museums and historical relics to see, or, if preferred, the island boasts 35 picturesque beaches where you can enjoy the clear waters and bask in the Caribbean sun. Otherwise, there are also some national parks where you can see various wildlife and incredible vistas.

Curacao was not affected by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

What to do in St Maarten

 

St Maarten offers a unique blend of Dutch, French, and Caribbean culture which captivates all visitors to the island. The port town of Philipsburg is home to some pretty colonial buildings, and is close to the ruins of 17th century Fort Amsterdam. As well as getting your history fix, here you can take part in exhilarating activities like kayaking, snorkelling, biking, and even sailing lessons. Alternatively, you could spend time on the beach, or wandering round the hundreds of duty free shops.

St Maarten is recovering from damage caused by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

What to do in Barbados

 

One of the most popular ports on a Caribbean cruise, Barbados leaves visitors with a genuine longing to stay for ‘just another few nights’ every time! Along with a wonderful array of beaches, a stop here means some mouth-watering cuisine, rum punch at every corner, and the sound of singing, dancing, and laughter almost following you. See the fascinating shipwrecks around the coast while scuba-diving or snorkelling, try all the local delicacies at Oistins fishing village stalls, or see various sites leftover from colonial times.

Barbados was not affected by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

What to do in Nassau, Bahamas

 

Well-known for being an important pirate hub in the 17th and 18th centuries, Nassau boasts a great number of interesting things to see and do. As well as the wax-work museum, today you can visit several forts that played an important part in the history of pirates. Other popular things to do on the island include swimming with pigs, snorkelling, trying out the best local bars and restaurants, and whiling away the hours in the absorbing art galleries.

Nassau was not affected by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

What to do in Cozumel

 

Off the southeast coast of Mexico lies Cozumel, a beautiful sun-kissed island that offers the perfect mix of adventure and opportunities to relax. With clear surrounding waters, and an abundance of marine life, Cozumel is a great place for scuba diving and snorkelling. Otherwise explore the island on a jeep safari tour, take a speedboat ride, or simply enjoy the perfect beaches with a book and a cocktail.

Cozumel was not affected by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

What to do in Falmouth, Jamaica

 

Found in the north of Jamaica, Falmouth is believed to hold the largest quantity of British colonial architecture in the Caribbean. In its historical district visitors can explore the streets and see Vermont House – which is now the post office – the court house, and The Albert George Market. Other things to do include chilling out on the beaches, enjoying local rum cocktails and foods, or, about a one hour drive away are the beautiful Dunns River Falls.

Falmouth was not affected by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

What to do in St Thomas

 

One of the US Virgin Islands, St Thomas is a pretty and bustling island, full of life and lively Caribbean culture. Here you will find the chance to shop ‘til you drop, try all sorts of fantastic cuisines – both local and international in style – and dance the night away in one of the many bars or clubs. Of course here too there are beaches aplenty, or for a more original view of the island, consider taking a ride on the cable car, paddle boarding, or a yacht trip around the coast.

St Thomas is recovering from damage caused by the 2017 hurricanes, and is open for tourism.

 

Who to cruise with?

 

Many holidaymakers who seek a cruise to the Caribbean often opt to do so with the eponymous Royal Caribbean. With a fleet of 26 ships, there are generally several different itineraries you can choose from at any one time. The cruise line are very family-friendly, offering an array of different dining, entertainment, and activity options onboard their ships. Some of their most popular features include the well-known FlowRider – an invigorating surf simulator that can be enojoyed by guests of all ages – the rock-climbing wall, and some amazing, fun-filled shows including Grease and Hairspray.

Take a look at Caribbean cruises with Royal Caribbean to find out which islands you can discover with them.


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