London Cruise Show 2018

free tickets to the 2018 cruise show





The London Cruise Show is just days away and I am so excited. I will be like a kid in a candy shop having all my favourite cruise lines under one roof. You will have the opportunity to visit all the cruise lines at their stands. They often have members of the Senior Management Team so you can meet them in person, plus all the latest brochures will be available for you to take home. In addition to the cruise line stands there are three theatres for interesting and informative talks, and a tasting area.

Is It For Me?free tickets to cruise show 2018

If you have never been to a Cruise Show, you are in for a treat. This year, Europe’s Largest Cruise Show, celebrates is 10th anniversary and has more to offer than ever. They have cruises for adventurers, explorers, foodies, singles, families, romantics, and even for people who don’t cruise. Yes that’s right, cruises for non cruisers. Well you will have to step onboard a ship, but Azamara Club Cruises are all about destination and experience. Don’t take my word for it, go and speak to them in person.

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

It doesn’t matter, no one is going to force you into booking. In fact those people who do want to book at the show, usually have to get in line. The Cruise Show is a great place to do your research, ask questions, collect information and get an idea of what cruising has to offer.

Maybe you want to know more about a river cruising? Get a great overview by attending the talk on river cruising in Ask The Experts Theatre at 2.00pm. It is on both Saturday and Sunday and you can also visit them at their stands to ask about itineraries, facilities and special show offers.

The Expedition Theatre offers talks on those off the beaten track cruises – from Antarctica to the Amazon. Meet The Cruise Lines allows you to take a seat while a panel of cruise experts talk to you and answer your questions.

Win A Cruise

Some of the stands will be running competitions which range from luxury gift packs to cruises. What’s the catch? There is no catch, it just means you agree to sign up to their mailing list in return for a competition entry. You can always unsubscribe if you feel you are getting too much mail from them.

I will be at the show on Saturday so will tweet about any competitions I find out about.

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

If you do want to book a cruise, I would suggest getting there early and get it done, so that you can enjoy the rest of the day. The offers at the show will be the best available for the year. You will be face to face with an expert who can guide you through the process. They will be able to go through the deck plans and help you pick the room you want.

Plan Your Day

You will get much more out of the show if you plan your day in advance. The Cruise Show has given me 25 free tickets, so you can book yours now and start planning what you want to do. This is my plan for Saturday 17th February. If you are coming along please let me know, I would love to meet you there. You can follow me on twitter on the day @flaviagray

10.00 – Say hello to the cruise lines, meet friends and enter competitions.

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

1.00 – Gin Tasting with G’Vine (see website for times and registration)

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

The London Cruise Show is offering readers of Ships & Champagne the chance to pre-book FREE tickets to the show with no added fulfilment fee or booking fee. Use exclusive code SHIPSANDCHAMPAGNE at checkout at https://cruiseshow.co.uk/london



Cruise Me To The Moon





It wasn’t so long ago that having an iPad on a cruise ship was innovative, but the latest thing to have now is a SkyPad. If anyone was going to do find a way to take you to the moon on a cruise ship, it was Royal Caribbean.

This incredible new feature is going to appear first on the UK’s favourite ship, Independence of the Seas which will shortly be undergoing a major multi-million pound refit. She will arrive in Southampton in May with new staterooms, waterslides, laser tag, a fish and chip shop, sports bar and much more.

Independence of the Seas will be fitted with the SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline
Independence of the Seas will be fitted with the SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline

How Does It Work?

The SkyPad combines a bungee trampoline park with a virtual reality experience. Guests can choose to walk across moon craters and enjoy the feeling of zero gravity. They can compete in inter-galactic games or simply enjoy a top deck view of the ocean without wearing the headset.

There will be no charge to use the SkyPad initially, but this could change depending on popularity. Royal Caribbean have already started charging guests to use the North Star which is featured on the Quantum Class ships, which was complimentary at first.

Join Us Onboard

Why not try this for yourself on the 3 night sailing on 17th May calling at Cherbourg. Josh and I will be onboard and would love you to join us.

The current price for an OCEANVIEW cabin is just £359pp (it has increased by £10pp in the last few days and is likely to go up or sell out). Here is a link to the cruise on the Royal Caribbean International website BOOK NOW

Or check out Royal Caribbean’s DEALS OF THE WEEK

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas will also feature the SkyPad
Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas will also feature the SkyPad


BUY ONE ALL INCLUSIVE CRUISE FARE, GET ONE HALF PRICE ON SELECTED 2017 SAILINGS FROM UK AND EUROPE



Ocean Liners Speed and Style





The romance of the golden era of cruising is something most of us can now only imagine. So, I was honoured and thrilled to be invited to the private view of Ocean Liners Speed and Style at the V & A last week.

This new exhibition is being sponsored by Viking Cruises, and gives an insight into the history of some of our most loved ocean liners through the decades. If, like me, you love the elegance, grandeur, opulence and extravagance of cruising, you will be in your element.

It’s not all about the glamour though. The curators have also shown the dangerous aspects of cruising in those days. Items on display include belongings that have been recovered from wreckages or salvaged before disaster struck. These include a Cartier tiara saved from the Lusitania which sank in 1915, and the the exhibition’s final piece is a panel fragment from the first class lounge on Titanic, where the ship broke in half. (See bottom of page for video)

Photo: Piers Macdonald
Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

As you step inside the V&A’s Ocean Liners Speed and Style exhibition it feels like you have travelled back in time.

The collection consists of over 250 objects spanning the years 1850 – 1970. A simply mesmerising exhibition that covers all aspects of the ocean liner, including engineering, safety and design, promoting and advertising through the eras to high society lifestyle and fashion.

Ships featured in the exhibition include; Queen Elizabeth, QE2, Titanic, Bremen, The Great Eastern, Canberra, Normandie, Queen Mary, Olympic, France, Lusitania, Mauretania, SS United States and more.

Advertising and Promoting The Ocean Liner

An enviable 1:48 scale promotional model of Queen Elizabeth made for Cunard in 1949, is the magnificent centrepiece of the first room at the exhibit. The walls are adorned with posters advertising grand voyages. This one (above) offers a first class return ticket to Australia for £140. Sounds affordable until you realise that would be over £7000 today. The ports of call from London would typically be, Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. So that is proof that cruising is much better value for money these days as for as little as £3,000 more you can see the whole world.

"The Largest Steamers In The World" poster for Olympic and Titanic, White Star Line 1911.
“The Largest Steamers In The World” poster for Olympic and Titanic, White Star Line 1911.

A selection of posters adorn the walls of the exhibition. Our obsession for the ill-fated Titanic is well catered for with plenty of pieces to capture the imagination.

A poster advertising the first sailing of the Titanic
Eerie: This poster advertising the first sailing of the Titanic that tragically never happened.

The Geeky Bit

If you are more interested in the technical side of things, there is a lot for you to get your teeth into. An entire section is dedicated to shipbuilding materials, engines, propulsion, hull design, speed, safety and comfort. Detailed design drawings and models of engine systems will captivate and fascinate you.

Politics and War

Footage of Adolf Hitler walking the decks of the Robert Ley in 1939, and details of how ships were designed to be able to quickly convert into armed merchant cruisers, serves as as a reminder of how important these vessels were in times of political unrest.

Glamour and the Grande Descente

The Grand Staircase on Olympic, with the Honour and Glory Crowning Time panel in situ c.1911
The Grand Staircase on Olympic, with the Honour and Glory Crowning Time panel in situ c.1911

Making an entrance was an important part of the cruise culture for the First Class passengers. The Ocean Liners grand staircase leading into the dining room, was the perfect place for them to show off their most fashionable evening wear. This pre dinner ritual was often referred to as the Grande Descent.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald
Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

There is so much to see at the exhibition that I haven’t even touched half of what is there, but go and see it for yourself. This really is a charming, fascinating and enjoyable exhibit that will appeal to all ages. I am already planning a return visit with my son.

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style will be open from 3 February until 17 June 2018, at the V&A in London. It will then move to the V & A Dundee opening on 15 September 2018 until 24 February 2019.  Please purchase your tickets in advance to avoid disappointmen and are available at vam.ac.uk/oceanliners.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald
Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald



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Six Star Cruises Event

Six Star Cruises Azamara Event at Burhill Golf Club




The sun made a surprise appearance last week, which was well timed with the Six Star Cruises event at Burhill Golf Club in Surrey. The stunning mansion house was the perfect place to talk about luxury cruising.

I was excited to find out more about Azamara Club Cruises, their newest ship Azamara Pursuit and their exclusive golf cruises in partnership with Perry Golf . Beth, from Six Star Cruises had told me that Richard Twynam was going to do a presentation, so I knew we were in for some great insight into the cruise line.

My friend Donna, and I  were welcomed with a glass of prosecco and a lovely goodie bag. Beth gave us an insight into Six Star Cruises and told us about the amazing Concierge service they provide to their customers. She said they had one guest who was so comfortable with her agent at Six Star, that when she was on her cruise ship, she called her agent to ask directions to another part of the ship! Now THAT’S service!

Azamara Pursuit

“It’s the first time in maritime history that the Carnival Corporation has sold one of their ships to the Royal Caribbean Corporation. It’s never happened so it’s quite historic” – Richard Twynam

The first thing everyone wanted to know, was about their new cruise ship, Azamara Pursuit. The addition of a third ship to their fleet will increase the cruise lines’ capacity by 50%. Azamara Pursuit will introduce a total of 61 more destinations. These will include 41 late nights and 26 overnights in port, allowing guests to truly experience their destinations. Bookings are open for sailings up until 2019.

Richard Twynam told us “[we] tried to do the deal three times to buy this ship. We thought the second time it had gone that we’d never be able to get her, and then out of nowhere it popped up and we were able to close the deal very quickly.”

He continued, “For any cruise aficionados, it’s the first time in maritime history that the Carnival Corporation has sold one of their ships to the Royal Caribbean Corporation. It’s never happened so it’s quite historic. She has had a very well known life. Before she was Azamara Pursuit some may have sailed on her as Swan Hellenic Miverva II, she was also Adonia and then she became Fathom, then she went back to the Adonia and then she’s becoming Azamara Pursuit. We get hold of her in Freeport in the Bahamas in the middle of March and we will take her out of the water and the first thing we are going to do, I cant wait, is spray her hull Azamara Blue so she will look pretty, and we will then sail her across with Captain Carl Smith to Belfast.”

Maiden Voyage and Christening

Azamara Pursuit’s maiden voyage will depart from Southampton on the 1st August sailing a 13 day  Norwegian intensive voyage. She will then sail to Iceland for 15 days then returning on the 28th August. Her Christening will take place in Southampton after which she sails off to Bordeaux for a wine cruise on the 30th August.

Suite Accommodation

Club Continent Suite – this is the entry level suite. Since the reimagination of the fleet, they have added a large vanity area with a lit mirror and hairdryer.  Forty percent of the club continent suites have bathtubs, the others have good sized rain shower.

Club Continent Suite #8066 Azamara Journey
Club Continent Suite #8066 Azamara Journey

Club World Owners and Club Ocean Suites have a huge wraparound living space and balcony. There are many added benefits included in these suites including butler service, welcome champagne and fruit basket, a bottle of the premium spirit of your choice in your suite and $200 on board credit.

Club World Owner's Suite #8091 Aft Azamara Journey
Club World Owner’s Suite #8091 Azamara Journey

A new suite has been introduced to the fleet. There are only two Spa Suites on each ship. Each one has an open plan bathroom and living space, and include a hot tub with a panoramic view of the ocean.  As well as the other suite benefits, guests can enjoy spa credit and their very own ‘Night Under The Stars’

Perry Golf Partnership and The Masters

For Golfers who have dreamed of playing private clubs that are closed to the public, Azamara Club Cruises have made it a reality. They are the only cruise line offering a Cruise and Masters option for 2019, and Six Star Cruises are the first partner to do this with Azamara.

The Partnership with Perry Golf means you turn up at the port on the first day of your cruise, Perry Golf will take your golf bag from you where they tranport it by land, while you go by ocean. The next time you see it will be when it’s sitting on the back of a golf buggy on the first tee.  They arrange all after game drinks, groupings, handicaps (doesn’t matter if you dont have a handicap), or if you want to play on your own or as a couple, Perry Golf take care of everything.

Most of the golf cruises are made up of 50% non golfers. For these guests, Azamara can arrange spa days for  or other experiences.

For more information call Six Star Cruises on 0800 107 1279.



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Stacy Shaw – Virgin Voyages




“I do work pretty hard.

It’s just that I don’t usually notice because I’m having a good time.” Stacy Shaw

Stacy Shaw is the Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Virgin Voyages, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When Stacy and I met at the #Shiptease event in Genoa last year, I asked if she would answer some questions for my Cruise People series. Thankfully she agreed, so lets find out more about Stacy Shaw.

How did you come to work in the Cruise Industry and what was your first job?

After grad school, I moved from West Virginia to Florida… I was pretty tired of winter weather and wanted to be near my sister. We had been prepped by the Dean of Business & Economics, that it may take time to find a job. So I reached out to a recruiter as soon as I arrived, with the idea that I would wait tables for a while and enjoy some down time.

He sent me for an interview right away for an Accounting position that happened to be at a cruise line. I didn’t intend to start working in a office so quickly but it sounded pretty glamorous (the cruise line part), so I changed my plans. I lasted in that particular job for about six months before I got a little bored (sorry, Accountants) but it was the start to what would become a 23-year (and counting) career in travel and hospitality.

If you could have chosen anything else as a career what would it be?

I love animals so if I was better at science, I might have been a veterinarian. I always knew I would work in some sort of business, I just didn’t know what. Before I started in this industry, I had traveled to five states … never once out of my time zone.

I’ve now visited many states in all US times zones and more than 65 countries. I have found the education that comes from learning about other people and cultures invaluable and I think it made me a better person. I’m very happy with how things worked out!

Stacy Shaw with Boy George at the Virgin Voyages Shiptease
Stacy with Boy George at the Virgin Voyages Shiptease

What makes Virgin Voyages stand out from other cruises?

People often ask which cruise line we will be most like and I find it impossible to answer that question. Our goal is to be unlike any other … to create a new category and be the only one in it. We’ve looked more to cool, hip hotel and land experiences for inspiration, so I think you’ll find it very easy to see what makes us stand out … when we can talk about that.

As VP of Sales and Business Development for Virgin Voyages, what is an average day like for you?

We’re a start-up so every day is pretty busy and very different. I try to learn something about Virgin or the other Virgin companies however and whenever I can. We have some great resources in the company who have worked for other Virgin brands, so I’m like a sponge around them. For now, we’ve been putting a strong foundation in place.

So I’ve been working on things like sales and distribution strategy, org charts and operating budgets … thinking about how we can be irresistible to our partners! I’ve also been working on finding a rock star leadership team in sales so there’s been a lot of Skype calls and interviews. We’re so fortunate to have a lot of interest when we post our gigs and we’re very focused on finding the perfect fit for every role.

What was your last holiday?

I tend to do more mini-holidays or weekend getaways than long vacations. I love exploring new places, most recently I went to Nashville for the weekend. It was great … the food, the nightlife, the music, the service, the people … I can’t wait until Virgin Hotels Nashville opens. I’m definitely going back.

I also did my first river cruise last year over New Years with a group of friends and loved that. Prague to Budapest on the Danube with AMA Waterways. We visited four countries that I hadn’t been to before (Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany and Austria) … all amazing. I would like to do another river cruise to the wine regions in France. And I love going to Spain any chance I get.

Have you got your next holiday booked and what/where is it?

I do. I’m going on a safari in South Africa with the same group of friends this summer. We’ll also spend a few days in Cape Town and visit some beautiful wineries. I did a safari in Kenya years ago but it was a site inspection with clients. Still, it was one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken but I’m very excited to do it again with people I love. That will be really special and a lot of fun.

Stacy Shaw Virgin Voyages Shiptease with Cruise Planners and ICE
Stacy hosts VIP Travel Partners at the Keel Laying Ceremony in Genoa.

Your job role must require organisation, focus and a lot of energy? Do you have any lifestyle / personal management tips you can give us?

I feel very lucky to be in an industry that I love and working for Virgin is a dream come true for me. It’s hard to think about what I do as “work”. I get paid to do the most amazing things and to think about ways that our company can make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, I do work pretty hard. It’s just that I don’t usually notice because I’m having a good time.

At Virgin Voyages, we’re creating something really special and I’m surrounded by the most creative, inspiring group of people. It’s hard not to be excited about anything I do in that environment. I would say the things that have helped me most in my career is a never-ending desire to learn, genuinely caring about the people involved with our business, always delivering on commitments, being respectful and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done without hesitation. Oh, and coffee, that helps a lot with focus and energy!

What are your hobbies?

I read and research a lot. More articles and historical info than novels … most everything online. I like to start my day with time to read (and drink coffee). I love learning new things and I like to understand a variety of viewpoints. Obviously, I love to travel and I do as much of that as I can. I’m interested in languages. I speak Spanish fairly well and know bits of Italian and French that I’ve picked up through travel. I find that people genuinely appreciate an attempt to speak to them in their language even if it isn’t perfect. I also enjoy trying local food and drinks wherever I am … always looking for a great restaurant.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

Well, I think I’ve got the career and travel things covered. And I’ve met Richard Branson. So I guess the only thing left is an epic love story.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking their first cruise?

I would say take a voyage instead. 🙂

Stacy Shaw Virgin Voyages

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MSC Cruise To The Taj Mahal

Cruise To The Taj Mahal




Have You Ever Fancied A Cruise To The Taj Mahal?

Now you can with MSC Cruises who announced today that they will be doubling their offering from Dubai and Abu Dhabi by having the totally refurbished MSC Lirica join MSC Splendida for the 18/19 Winter Season. This comes after continued growth and strong demand for cruises in the region.

MSC Lirica will offer brand new 11 and 14 night itineraries with longer stays in port. There will be an overnight stay onboard in Dubai, but the real jewel in the crown is the introduction of three new destinations, New Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai. With an overnight stay in Mumbai, this allows guests an opportunity to truly explore the treasures of India.

Discounted Shore Excursions

As if the new amazing itineraries and excursions weren’t enough, MSC Cruises are offering 20% discount on shore excursions booked in advance. The new excursions on MSC Lirica are pretty jaw dropping and include:

  • Dubai – EXCLUSIVE DUBAI: BURJ KHALIFA & LUNCH AT BURJ AL ARAB     

Taking in iconic symbols of Dubai, such as Dubai Mall, Burj Al Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Dubai’s famous gold souk

  • Abu Dhabi – THE LOUVRE MUSEUM & ABU DHABI EXPLORATION      

 Guests can tour the “Manhattan of Arabia,” with a visit to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.

  • Bahrain – BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT IN A 4X4  

A real adventure as guests blaze through the Bahrain International Circuit in the Sakhir Desert.

  • Muscat – MYSTICAL MUSCAT     

Guests will have the opportunity to experience Oman’s spiritual and cultural heritage. The tour takes guests from the Grand Mosque, through to old Muscat and the traditional Omani market, Muttrah Souk. They will stop at the Bait Al Zubair Museum, and view the archaeological find along with the traditional dress and jewellery of Oman.

  • Qatar – DESERT SAFARI AND RELAX AT THE BEACH

Guests can experience an exhilarating ride through Qatar’s surrounding desert across the rolling sand dunes, ending up at Gulf Adventure camp which is an oasis of tranquillity located in the Arabian desert, kissed by the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf.

  • Goa – CROCODILES, MANGROVE & RIVER CRUISE  

This one-of-kind river cruise, allows guests to discover Goa’s verdant landscape. As they head down to the mangroves where the Cumbarjua River flows; the will be impressed by the magnificent birdlife and freshwater crocodiles.

  • Mumbai – OVERLAND TO THE TAJ MAHAL       

This incredible three day tour, takes guests through Mumbai, New Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra – where guests will experience the breath-taking Taj Mahal – and Cochin. They will experience an express tour through some of India’s most famous and memorable landmarks and get to spend two nights in luxury hotels.

  • New Mangalore – Jain & Udupi Temples

From the 15th Century Moodbidiri temple, to Udupi’s Krishna Temple, guests will visit the famous Jain temples of Mangalore.

Free Status Match

MSC Splendida will be offering 7 night itineraries in the region, and now is a great time to book. MSC Cruises are currently offering to match your loyalty status with them, to that of your regular cruise line. Not only that but they have an all in drinks offer and as always with MSC Cruises, kids go free. You just pay for port taxes.



Should I Prepay Gratuities?

Should I Prepay Gratuities





Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this one, so here is mine.

Would You Do It In A Hotel or Restaurant?

Would you? So why would you do it on a ship. Can you imagine calling a restaurant to make a reservation and they ask if you would like to prepay your gratuities? The same goes for a holiday booking. You wouldn’t pay extra if you were booking an all inclusive holiday would you? So why is it any different on a cruise ship?

Is It Cheaper To Pay Gratuities or Give Cash Directly?

This depends how many people are in your cabin and how old they are. If I am travelling with both of my kids, pre paying gratuities seems like quite a lot of money for one adult and two children. In this case, I prefer to tip the stateroom attendant and waiters myself. Also, my kids won’t eat with me in the main dining room and there is a lot more work for the stateroom attendant with three of us in a room.

When I am travelling with just my son I tend to pre pay gratuities, because I will use the dining room a lot more with him when it is just the two of us as I don’t have someone to help me watch him in the buffet area. I need to be able to sit down and watch him while the food is brought to us. I think generally when travelling as a single parent, you rely much more on the staff in all areas of the ship.

Who Gets The Tips?

Who knows! The staff aren’t allowed to talk about it, the cruise lines say it is shared out equally among the staff but I had one stateroom attendant tell me something quite interesting. He said that when they are guaranteed a minimum wage which factors in the anticipated prepaid gratuities. If that minimum is not met, then the cruise line have to make up the difference. So, lets suppose that no-one prepaid their gratuities, would the cruise line then have to dig deep and make up the wages? Would that then mean that the cash received directly by the staff would be extra money? I don’t know. I guess they have to declare it. But the truth is, the staff risk losing their jobs if they talk about it so I say that gratuities should be included in the price and we have the option of leaving an additional tip onboard if we wish.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you if you have some evidence of what actually happens with the tips.



WAVE Season Survival Guide




What Is Wave Season?

It’s the time of year that the cruise industry goes into overdrive and it’s the first time in 8 years that I have not been part of the frenzy. January and February – aptly dubbed as Wave Season – are the biggest booking months of the year. Many cruise lines and cruise agencies impose a holiday embargo on their staff during this period as they want all hands on deck. Why? Because what happens in these two months, will have a huge impact on the sales strategy for the rest of the year.

How Does Wave Season Work?

It’s no surprise that the objective of any cruise line is to sell every cabin on every sailing at full price right? So, that is the aim of Wave Season. Here are the 4 key steps to ensuring its success.

1. Cruise lines create a sales strategy otherwise known as a Wave Campaign. This consists of booking incentives for customers and sales incentives for travel agents.

2. Travel Agents are bombarded with information daily if not hourly, about the offers and deals from cruise lines and seduced by irrisitable booking incentives. These are very generous and can vary from £20-£100 per booking on a pre paid MasterCard (in addition to the usual commission), to free cruises, special events, the latest Apple device, concert tickets, shop vouchers and more.

3. Direct and electronic mail is sent out by cruise lines and travel agencies, to coincide with tv, radio, newspaper and social media adverts. With a multi channel approach, they inevitibly generate enquiries from potential customers.

4. The result is, the customer is prompted to call a travel agent or cruise line as they have seen an offer that they like, the agent is looking to get that incentive so does everything in their power to turn that enquiry into a booking with them. The customer gets a great deal on their cruise, the travel agent gets the incentive and the cruise line has one less cabin to sell. Win, win, win. Or is it?

Is It Best To Book In Wave Season?

Ah now this has to be the most frequently asked question other than “Should I prepay gratuities?” I can only give you my opinion on this, which is based on 8 years experience in booking cruises for people. Please feel free to voice your own opinion in the comments below. Sharing our experiences really helps the community as a whole.

The answer is YES if;

There is only one particular cruise you want to go on.

You are travelling in peak season such as school holidays or Christmas.

You MUST have a particular cabin type; i.e non obstructed, accessible, midship. (See Can My Cruise Cabin or Flight Change Without My Knowledge?)

You want to guarantee the flight route, flight cost or airline.

You want to have as much included in the price as possible, such as drinks, parking etc.

You want to dine at a specific time.

The answer is NO if;

You want the cheapest cruise.

You are happy to book a guarantee cabin. (See What Is A Guarantee Cabin)

You don’t mind what time you dine in the main dining room.

You can go last minute.

If you don’t drink alcohol.

What Happens After Wave?

The honest answer to this question is that no-one really knows. I imagine a few top executives have a few plans in place depending on the outcome of Wave, but the travel agent (see Who Should I Book My Cruise With) that you speak to has no idea what is coming until the day it arrives. The top cruise agencies and cruise line staff may be told one or two days in advance about an offer at best, but the truth of it is, the next offer will depend on how many cabins have already been filled.

Here’s My Advice to Customers

I believe there are two things to think about before you make your final decision to book your cruise. Firstly, if you can’t make your mind up between Cruise A or Cruise B, I always suggest imagining that both cruises are free. Then you can find out which one you REALLY want. I believe it is worth paying a little bit extra for the cruise that you want, rather than comprising your total satisfaction for a few quid.

Secondly, you may have reached a decision but think it will be better to hold off to see what happens with the prices. Before you decide to put yourself through months of checking prices, the stress of hoping it will go down in price, and that there will still be availability, think about the fact that you could get that cruise booked right away and then relax in the knowledge that you are going on a cruise.

Here’s My Advice to Travel Agents

If you give your best to your customers, the rest will follow. Don’t be distracted with the carrot of a freebie or the temptation to feed your ego and be at the top of the sales chart. Think about your relationship to your customers. If you can gain a trusting relationship with one customer, they will be yours for life. Not only that but they will tell their friends about you. In the long run, you will have a solid business which you can take with you anywhere. This will give you value as an employee and longevity in the business, as well as respect within the industry and amongst your customers. Reputation is key.



Who Should I Book My Cruise With?

Who Should I Book My Cruise With




Who Should I Book My Cruise With?

I think the most important thing to ask yourself is what do you want from your cruise agent? If you know exactly what you are looking for and are shopping around, then I would be really upfront with your agent and say “I know what I want, this is the cruise and the cabin and this is the best price I have. Can you beat it?” That way, you are saving yourself and the agent a lot of time and that means the agent is more likely to be willing to discount the cruise.

Book With A Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Member

First and foremost you need to make sure your agent really knows what they are talking about when it comes to cruises. The way to ensure that is to look for their CLIA accreditation badge. Once an agency or individual becomes a CLIA Member, they have the option to train to become a CLIA Master. This means the agent has completed a more in-depth level of training on a wide range of cruise lines as well as some written work. This is my badge from 2016.

Who You Gonna Call?

If you have no idea what you are looking for, or need two or more options, this is going to take some agents longer than others. If your agent has suggested they get back to you with some details, make sure you mutually agree a deadline, to avoid any confusion. Everyone’s idea of no rush is different. Something to bear in mind is that call centre cruise agents will be on a basic wage plus commission, therefore regardless of whether you book with them or not, they will still get paid at the end of the month. When I was an independent agent, we worked on a commission only basis. The majority of these home working independents will be lucky to walk away with 5% of the cruise fare in commission, after taxes and splitting it with their agency. So for a £1400 cruise booking they will make around £70. That may sound like a lot but when you take into account the time they spend on the phone to cruise lines with booking queries, checking for upgrades, making requests, taking balance payments and the unsociable hours, it is not a lot. Plus they are paying premium rates for calls rather than you, so that is saving you time and money. This does not take into account any discount you may be expecting your agent to offer. When they discount your fare, that comes out of their commission.

On the plus side, if you know exactly what you want and you speak to an independent agent and tell them you are ready to book right now, they are in a position to make a decision there and then as to what they can offer. If you need a lot of information about the cruise line and ship, then it’s a good idea to call the cruise lines directly as they have in-depth knowledge of their own products. Also bear in mind that call centre calls are recorded, so agents are not entirely free to say what they think. Independent agents aren’t always using a system that records conversations and in many cases are happy to give you a mobile number to call.

Things To Avoid

I would avoid paying large deposits, even if it means you get a lower price. I know of an incident where someone paid a huge deposit and intended to take the cruise. There was a communication problem between both parties and the guest missed the deadline to pay the final balance as they were overseas. The travel agency cancelled their booking, which was in line with their booking terms and conditions, and the customers lost their cruise and deposit.

Another thing to watch out for is something the cruise lines refer to as cross border selling. In the UK we should only be able to book with a UK agent. Some travel agencies have found a way around this, which means they can sometimes sell a cruise at a cheaper price. There are two problems with this. Firstly they are IATA bonded which is not relevant in the UK. Secondly their office hours are not in sync with the UK so getting hold of them may be an issue.

I am not saying DON’T book with them, all I am saying is be aware of the potential problems that can occur.

My Recommendation

My advice is to find an independent cruise specialist that you can trust. Someone you have a rapport with and enjoy talking to. If you keep loyal to them, they will be happy to give you discounts and give you the best service too. They will want to make you happy so that you will refer your friends to them. That is what makes their business a success.



What Is a Guarantee Cabin on a Cruise Ship?

Guarantee Cabin




What Exactly Is A Guarantee Cabin?

Everyone is looking for a deal, so it’s easy to be seduced by the offers that include free drinks, wifi, speciality restaurants, free parking, free flights and anything else that the cruise lines can think of to throw in. But if you are not particularly bothered about where your cabin is on the ship, you may find that you are better off getting a guarantee cabin. The word guarantee can be confusing. It does not mean you are guaranteed a particular room. So let’s take a look and see what it does mean. A guarantee cabin means that if you book a balcony cabin, you are guaranteed to get at least a balcony cabin. In other words you would not get an inside cabin. This sounds pretty straightforward but there are exceptions to the rule and here’s how to figure them out.

Check the Deck Plan

When you are booking your cruise, take a look at the deck plan. It is best to view this on the website of the cruise line itself to ensure you are looking at an up to date version. Check that the dates of the deck plan apply to the date you are sailing. In some cases you may only have one option, but if the ship is due to enter dry dock, there will be two sets of deckplans, before the refurbishment and after. Make sure you select the one that you will be cruising on. Familiarise yourself with the different categories of cabin on the ship and what they mean. This is where you will see what is classed as an upgrade. For example some cruise ships have suites that do not have a balcony. So you may have your heart set on a balcony, book your guarantee but get an amazing upgrade to a suite, only to find there is no balcony. You might find you can live without that balcony after all! This means that a guarantee inside is a bit pointless because you can’t get a lower cabin type than that, but it is going to be the cheapest cruise fare for that sailing, so well worth a try. The really important thing to remember about the guarantee cabin, is that you are agreeing to accept any cabin the cruise line gives you within that category or above. Expect it to be right at the back or right at the front of the ship because it probably will be. It might be noisy, it might be obstructed or have an overhang, but by booking a guarantee cabin you have agreed to accept whatever the cruise line offers you.

What If I Really Don’t Like The Cabin I’ve Been Given?

If you really don’t like the cabin you are in then I would suggest you check the prices of other cabins around 50 days prior to sailing. This is when the cruise lines generally reduce the prices and you may be able to upgrade to another cabin for a little bit extra.

I’ve Been Told I Might Get A Free Upgrade

Yes that is true. There are cases where people have booked a guarantee inside and ended up in a balcony cabin. It does happen. But don’t take it personally if it doesn’t happen to you and don’t expect it. In most if not all cases the selection is purely at random.



Can My Cabin or Flight Change Without Consent?

Can My Cabin or Flight Change Without Consent?




Can My Cabin or Flight Change Without Consent?

In some circumstances the cruise line can change your cabin or flight without your permission. The golden rule for customers and travel agents is to RECAP. The importance of this cannot be emphasised enough. Before you take or make that deposit, check the details. Apart from the obvious details, it is worth checking to see if the cruise line can change your cabin. This may be ok with you or not, depending on the policy of the cruise line, but please just check.

Changing The Cabin

So for example, P & O will automatically upgrade you if they wish, unless you say otherwise at time of booking. This works for some people, but not for others. You may want a low deck midship cabin and have booked an oceanview, but get upgraded to a balcony. The trouble is it may be right at the front of the ship on a high deck. Not a problem for some people, but if they have walking problems or motion sickness, this is a no no.

MSC used to have a policy that the cabins could be changed at anytime, but I am not sure if this still stands. Terms and conditions change, so please don’t presume things are the same as they were last time you booked. Ask the question even if you feel silly, because it’s your money, your holiday. Likewise if you are a travel agent or work for the cruise line, make sure your guest is aware of these things, otherwise you will lose the most important thing of all, trust.

Changing The Flights and Deposits

Flights also deserve a mention as I have seen first hand what can go wrong with these. I booked a fly cruise for my family a few years ago. I was the customer and the travel agent in this case. I booked a cruise with free flights. I paid the deposit and presumed the normal terms and conditions applied as far as non refundable deposits and cancellation policies were concerned. Apparently this is not the case. A free flight is not a free flight. What actually happens is that the cruise fare is reduced by the cost of the flight. So when you go to cancel your fly cruise within the allocated time, the tickets for the flights may have already been issued. This means you are liable to pay that money. There is a way around this, and that is to make the request for the cruise line NOT to issue the tickets. the drawback of this is that the flights may change or increase in price.

One of my customers also had a situation where the direct flights were changed to indirect. The problem with this was that there was a family group travelling with an adult with special needs. This caused a huge amount of stress to the family as well as the fact that they had medication in their checked in bags which they had no access to at their connecting airport.

So make sure to check everything before you make that booking and ask your travel agent to make a note on the booking of what has been agreed.



Cruise Line Winners of the Globe Travel Awards 2018

Globe Travel Awards 2018




11 January 2018 – Grosvenor House, London

The Globe Travel Awards 2018 were celebrated in style at the Grosvenor House last night. With the Wave Season in full swing, the event gave the travel industry elite an opportunity to celebrate their achievements of 2017 and let their hair down for the night.

Lucy Huxley, Editor in Chief of the Travel Weekly Group was joined by comedian Harry Hill, to reveal the nights winners to an audience of over 1300 travel agents.

Three Wins For Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean and her sister brands, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, were winners in all of their categories.

Best Mainstream Cruise Company – Royal Caribbean International

Ben Bouldin, UK and Ireland Sales Director “This is the one award that we really cherish. It’s the most important one. It’s voted for by our agents, and the trade is critical to our success.”

Best Premium Cruise Company – Celebrity Cruises

Jo Rzymowska, Managing Director UK and Ireland “We never take it for granted to win this award. We have won it for many years now. It means so much every year. We try to make sure that we stay on top of our game.”

Best Specialist Cruise Company: Azamara Club Cruises

Richard Twynam, Managing Director UK and Ireland “This is the travel industry equivalent of scoring a hat trick at Wembley or winning Wimbledon or the British Grand Prix. It’s all about destination, and the trade clearly recognise that. The competition is amazing so to win it three times is amazing.”

Richard Twynham – Azamara Club Cruises Managing Director UK and Ireland

River Cruise Awards

Favourite River Cruise Company – Viking River Cruises
Viking Cruises added another award to their coveted collection. The company are sponsors for the incredible Ocean Liners: Speed and Style Exhibition at the V&A which opens on 3rd February 2018. Click here for more information.

Best River Cruise Company – Uniworld

Unique in many ways, Uniworld cater for families and teens whilst maintaining an outstanding level of quality and service. No two ships are the same, as each one has been cleverly decorated to be an extension of the region it calls home.

Favourite Ocean Cruise Company – P&O Cruises

With more ships operating from Southampton than any other cruise line, P & O will welcome a brand new ship in 2020. The yet to be named ship will be their largest vessel to date, with a guest capacity of up to 5,200.

ships and champagne luxury cruise blog Britannia
The stunning Atrium onboard P & O Britannia

Best Luxury Cruise Company – Silversea

The all inclusive luxury cruise line offer one of the highest space-per-guest ratios of any luxury cruise accommodation, and are expecting delivery of their tenth ship, Silver Moon in 2020.

Best Insurance Provider – Holiday Extras

For the tenth year running, Holiday Extras have proved themselves to be ahead of the competition.

Howard Dove, Managing Director “We’re ecstatic. Just wow! Last year we launched our new medical plus product which provides a better integrated service for our customers. We’d like to thank all the agents who have supported us through this time”

Best Airline – Emirates

Winning both categories, Emirates were voted Best Premium Airline Service and Best Long-Haul Airline. I was certainly impressed when I visited the Business Class Lounge at Heathrow. Check out the photos of my day courtesy of Gold Medal here:  Tour of the Business Lounge and A380 at Heathrow

Travelling First Class with Emirates

Best Attraction (worldwide) – Walt Disney World Resort

Always a favourite with the young at heart, Walt Disney World Resort, Florida came out as the Best Worldwide Attraction. The recent revamp of Downtown Disney to the quaint and quirky Disney Springs has doubled the number of venues on offer as well as creating an additional 4,000 permanent jobs. Go Disney!

Florida Disney Cruise
My kids with Tigger and Pooh at the Magic Kingdom

Outstanding Achievement Award – Steve Dunlop

Although I wasn’t at the awards in person, it was clear from the twittersphere that the travel industry LOVES this man. “not a dry eye in the house” said one tweet. You can read more about Steve in an interview I did with him for my Cruise People series. He didn’t even realise they were talking about him until the very end.

Steve Dunlop “I’m in shock. It’s the most amazing thing, extraordinary. I never expected anything like this, even when it was being read out. I only realised at the end when she said pictures followed by blonde locks.”

Steve Dunlop Photographer with Marco Pierre White
Photo by Steve Dunlop

Other highlights of the evening included appearances by DJ Trevor Nelson, a performance of Everybody’s Free by Rozalla and Giles Hawke, Cosmos and Avalon Waterways CEO, taking to the stage in a Badger costume.

Here is the full list of winners of the Globe Travel Awards 2018.

Penny Akam Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by Affordable Car Hire:
Lisa Read, Hays Travel

Innovation in Travel Award, sponsored by Travelport:
Zen3

Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Avis:
Steve Dunlop

Consumer awards, sponsored by Mail Brands UK

Favourite Airline – British Airways
Favourite Hotel Chain – Hilton Hotels
Favourite Online Booking Platform – Booking.com
Favourite Ocean Cruise Company – P&O Cruises
Favourite Escorted Tour Operator – Kuoni
Favourite Short-Haul Operator – Jet2holidays
Favourite Ferry Company – P&O Ferries
Favourite UK Operator – Center Parcs
Favourite River Cruise Company – Viking River Cruises
Favourite Long-Haul Operator – British Airways Holidays

On the Water, sponsored by Traveltek

Best Ferry Company – P&O Ferries
Best Mainstream Cruise Company – Royal Caribbean International
Best Premium Cruise Company – Celebrity Cruises
Best Specialist Cruise Company – Azamara Club Cruises
Best River Cruise Company – Uniworld
Best Luxury Cruise Company – Silversea

BUY ONE ALL INCLUSIVE CRUISE FARE, GET ONE HALF PRICE ON SELECTED 2017 SAILINGS FROM UK AND EUROPE

Destination sector, sponsored by Travelzoo

Best Tourist Board – Visit California
Best All-Inclusive Resort Operator – Sandals
Best Hotel Chain (worldwide) – Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
Best Attraction (worldwide) – Walt Disney World Resort

On the Move, sponsored by P&O Ferries

Best Rail Company – Great Rail Journeys
Best Mainstream Touring Company – Trafalgar
Best Premium Touring Service – Insight Vacations
Best Car Rental Company – Flexible Autos
Best Adventure Operator – G Adventures

Flying, sponsored by The Holiday Team

Best Short-Haul Airline – Jet2.com
Best Long-Haul Airline – Emirates
Best UK Airport – Manchester Airport
Best Premium Airline Service – Emirates


Long-haul, sponsored by Air Travel Guide

Best Long-Haul Operator (multi-destination) – Gold Medal
Best Long-Haul Specialist Operator – Wendy Wu Tours
Best Luxury Operator – Kuoni
Best Consolidator – Gold Medal

Short-haul, sponsored by Hurtigruten

Best Short-Haul Operator – Jet2holidays
Best Operator for Activities – Inghams
Best Accommodation-Only Provider – Super Break
Best Operator UK Holidays – Super Break

Serving the industry, sponsored by HolidayPirates

Best Add-Ons Provider – Attraction World
Best Technology Provider – Amadeus
Best Insurance Provider – Holiday Extras
Best Trade Sales Team – Attraction World
Best Trade-Friendly Brand – Jet2holidays



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