Is it me or does there seem to be a new cruise blog every week? It’s still a niche market compared to travel and lifestyle blogs, but as the cruise industry attracts more and more guests each year, so does the appeal to become a cruise blogger.
So how do you know which ones are worth following? Well the answer really depends on what you are looking for. Do you want facts and news updates? Are you looking for cheap tricks and tips? Do you want to know what the onboard experience is like? Are you focusing on a particular cruise line? These are all important factors to consider when researching blogs. What is right for one person, is not necessarily right for others.
To help narrow down your search, Feedspot have created a list of top 50 cruise bloggers. Yes that’s right, top 50! This is a completely unbiased list as Feedspot use a variety of metrics which determine the list order, including social media following.
I am thrilled that Ships and Champagne is included in the top 50 cruise blogs and looking at the list, I am honoured to be in the company of the cruise industry’s finest including Cruise Miss and Tips For Travellers.
Feedspot have designed a website that makes it easier for you to follow and read your favourite blogs all in one place. They cover all industries and interests so you don’t have to keep looking up new websites and blogs. You can also create daily alerts, so that you are notified when your favourite blogger publishes a new post.
For more information and to check out the list of Top 50 Cruise Bloggers you can visit their website here.
My Penthouse Veranda stateroom was on the starboard side which gave me the best views of the ocean in Puerto Rico. I sat down on my balcony to enjoy a coffee and the sun rising above San Juan and noticed a cruise ship in the distance. I love watching ships come alongside, so I was thrilled to see three other cruise ships entering the port, all from the comfort of my stateroom.
It was time for breakfast and to see the ship in daylight.
Time For An Adventure
After a quick tour of the ship we headed out for our horse riding trip. There was no queuing to disembark the ship and we were offered chilled bottles of water to take with us as we left.
We took a mini bus to Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park located in Luquillo. Our driver gave us an entertaining guided tour during the 20 minute journey. However I had met a lovely lady named Julia, who works onboard the Viking Sea. We didn’t stop talking for the entire journey, so I missed the commentary, but made a great friend.
Everyone in the group was matched to a horse depending on their experience. Horse riding is second nature to me, so I was matched with Vulcan for the ride.
It was a blazing hot day, so we took it easy and just walked. We stopped to rest and cool off by the river.
It was a fantastic experience and the guys that took us out were great fun and really looked after us. We rode back to the farm, grabbed a beer and returned to the ship.
Thank goodness we were on a Viking Cruises shore excursion as we arrived back dead on 4.30, which was the all aboard time. That was cutting it fine. Had we been delayed though, the ship would have waited for us, unlike if we were doing the trip on our own.
Five o’clock was time for muster drill, so I had just enough time for a much needed shower. Being a 930 passenger ship, the drill took no time at all and we were soon sipping cocktails and watching the sunset.
Our group met in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. Viking’s ocean cruise ships all have an Explorers theme encapsulated in their interior design.
For our first night, we decided to have dinner in the main dining room.
After dinner we headed to the theatre for the Captains Welcome Aboard Speech.
There was not a spare seat in the house as Cruise Director Mark and the Viking Band kicked off proceedings with a wonderful rendition of Hello, Young Lovers.
The Captain was introduced to the stage and from the outset he was very funny. There was a lighthearted approach to introducing the rest of the senior management team as they walked onto the stage to the music of Pirates of the Caribbean.
By this time the travelling, jet lag and horseriding had made me feel extremely tired. So it was time for bed to be ready for more exciting adventures tomorrow.
If you want to visit a different picture perfect Caribbean Island everyday, a cruise from Puerto Rico will deliver this and more. However, there are no direct flights from the UK to San Juan so flying to Puerto Rico puts people off for many reasons. When Viking Cruises invited me to be their guest on Viking Sea, I didn’t think twice about the journey, but I did learn things from it that will help you to get the best experience possible.
Originally we were flying with BA via Philadelphia. However the reports of snow were making it likely that we would not get out of Philly for our connecting flight to San Juan. Luckily for me, Viking Cruises took care of everything and rebooked us on an American Airlines flight via Miami. However, this is a really important thing to consider if you are making your own flight arrangements. Flying via Miami also means your airbourne for a shorter period of time, however the stopover is longer so door to door, it will take longer.
Tip: If I were doing the trip myself, I would stay overnight in Miami and then fly to San Juan on the day of the cruise, or possibly book another overnight in San Juan. Also, book early and you may get a great deal on an upgraded seat and always, always, always have an airport lounge booked. For details on how to get the best deal for lounges read my Christmas In Florida blog post.
Standing Room Only
We weren’t the only passengers that had been re-routed to Miami, and this was clear by the lack of space on our flight. I managed to get my preferred window seat, however this meant I was trapped for 9 hours. When you travel with family, you don’t mind having to move them out of their seats, but as I was sitting next to an elderly couple, I didn’t want to keep disturbing them.
There was only one thing for it. A glass of white wine, sunglasses and music on, and sit back and relax. For those of you who are thinking of flying on an American Airlines aircraft (check to see if you are on a codeshared flight), the wine and beer is complimentary, but spirits are $8 each. Cash is not accepted, so you must have a credit or debit card to hand. It wasn’t long before the wine and beer was gone, leaving no alternative than to abstain or pay up. Which one do you think I chose to do? Leave a comment below.
American Airlines do have wifi onboard, which was great news, however I couldn’t get mine to work. When I asked a crew member about it, she told me I had to have downloaded an app. It does state in the in-flight magazine that you can simply connect onboard, however my new iPhone X was having none of it.
As we began our decent into Miami, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Fort Lauderdale coastline. To my frustration the clouds covered Port Everglades, so my ship spotting would have to wait for another time. We then passed Miami Beach and I took this picture of the iconic crescent shaped Fontainebleau that was a well known favourite hotel of Frank Sinatra’s.
Feel The Heat
In case you don’t know already, I LOVE Florida! We had four hours to wait for our connecting flight, so I went and sat in the little park area across from the main terminal building. I could feel the heat in the air as soon as I stepped out.
It is a long time to wait in an airport for a connecting flight which is why I recommend adding on a stay in Miami. I mean why wouldn’t you want to? Just jump in a taxi to a beach hotel. Kick off your shoes, grab a sunset cocktail and enjoy the view.
So by the time we were boarding our second flight, everyone was feeling a bit jaded. However the excitement of the cruise and the Caribbean was keeping spirits high.
We touched down in San Juan around 11.30 pm local time and collected our luggage. We were met by Viking Cruises representatives who checked us onto the transfer coach. The process was very quick and easy. The drive to the ship was no more than 20 minutes.
As we stepped onboard, the ship looked beautiful. I headed straight to my stateroom. I had a Penthouse Veranda on deck 5 which was easy to find on a ship that holds just 930 passengers.
The room was a welcome sight. The extra touches that Viking Cruises offers were very appreciated after the long journey.
It felt so good to be onboard. I dumped my bags in the room and had a quick look out on deck.
Although it was nearly 2am, the air was warm. I just couldn’t wait for tomorrow.
But now it was time to get some sleep to be ready for horse riding in the morning.
Sheri Griffiths is the face of Cruise Tips TV. A huge fan of cruising herself, Sheri provides cruisers with answers to all their questions in her YouTube show. She has a great personality and I wanted to know more about her life off camera.
When was your first cruise?
My first cruise was onboard Carnival Ecstasy in 1991. My Mom accompanied me on a Caribbean cruise as a high school graduation present, along with my little brother. I loved the experience, but longed for the time when I’d be able to cruise with my future husband. The best part of the cruise was the resort scuba dive in Grand Cayman. My Mom let me go alone (with a ship sponsored excursion), and it was one of the highlights of my “under 20” life.
Finally, that next cruise happened in 2003 (or so) after my husband I had been married for about 6 years. I was so excited to share the experience with him after scraping and saving for years, but WOW, had cruising changed. Diamond Princess was HUGE, and he was instantly hooked. We’ve never looked back, and cruise as often as we can. We still DO love a good land vacation on occasion as well.
How many cruises have you taken so far?
Somewhere around 28 total to The Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Canada & New England. We’ve sailed with Carnival, Princess, Holland America, NCL, and Royal Caribbean.
How long have you been doing Cruise Tips TV?
We’re in our 5th year of production. We have just over 350 videos for cruisers, ranging from packing tips to ship tours, and cruise vlogs.
How did Cruise Tips TV come about?
Our channel was born over a dinner table conversation. As cruise lovers, we would always film our trips, shore excursions and activities and create short movies, to preserve the memories. It occurred to us (one evening over chicken casserole!) that we could also create and share information, tips and even full ship video tours, so we decided to take the plunge and chose YouTube as our platform.
Travel had always been the “prime directive” in our family, so it seemed like a natural step to bust out our film equipment and share our passion with the internet world. We’ve changed our approach, style and content many times over the years, based on subscriber feedback and changes in our lives.
How many shows do you do a week? And how long does it take to prepare for each one?
We generally produce two shows per week. Each show takes a minimum of an hour of content prep time. Some episodes can take up to 4 hours of prep time, depending on the amount of research involved. Really, it’s the editing that is time intensive. Mr Cruise Tips TV edits our content full time, and still wishes he had more hours in every day. We try to involve our son in the process when we can. He is learning basic editing skills and helps with ideas. Sometimes, we give him his own camera to vlog with on cruises. He loves the KidCam!
What is an average day in the life for you?
I wake up at 5:15am, hobble to my kitchen for coffee, and head off to my day job. My husband is self employed and works from home, so I’m fortunate to have his help with the day to day. He’s does all the laundry, cleans the house, and makes sure that our son is well cared for during the week.
When I get home from work, I squeeze in dinner with my boys, catch up on social media, take a hot bath, and get ready to do it all again the next day. On the weekend, my primary focus is to spend time with my son, get as much exercise and outdoor time as possible, and go live on YouTube every other Saturday.
Do you have any tips for people thinking about starting their own You Tube channel?
Be true to yourself. Mr. CTTV likes to say “keep your head down”, meaning, don’t look at what other people are doing to develop your content. BE YOURSELF, and don’t compare your ideas and content to others. People want to watch YOU because you offer something unique and individual. At the same time, it’s easy to delay starting a YouTube channel, because it can feel at times like “it’s all been done” already. News Flash – it has! But, you should still go for it!
Consider whether you can be of service to others. The longer we’ve been creating content through our channel, the more we’ve realized the joy in being a resource. Those people then become a great resource for YOU. Our community of cruise enthusiasts bring ideas and tips to us week after week. We also count on them for honest feedback at times.
Be Real. When we started our channel, I wanted to read from a teleprompter every episode, and sought to control every element of production. As time went by, our subscribers asked us to turn the camera around and vlog our cruises. I thought the notion was crazy. Each time the topic came up, my husband and I would look at each other and say “naaah, nobody wants to see that. It’s too real”. Then, in September of 2016, we finally jumped out of our cozy studio, and turned that camera around to capture the day to day of our cruise through vlogs.
As we’ve learned more about what our audience wants since that first cruise, one theme always surfaces. They want authenticity. They want to see when things don’t go as planned, they want to see me without makeup (aaah!). They want to be told when a shore excursion or experience falls short. They want to trust you to deliver the true experience.
Expect to evolve. Listen to your audience (not to the trolls, of course) and consider if their suggestions can work for you. You can’t make everyone happy, but the more you expect to re-invent your content often, while staying true to being yourself, the more you can experiment and land on what works.
What was your last holiday?
My last holiday was a partial transit through the Panama Canal on Caribbean Princess. It was 10 days of heaven!
Have you got your next holiday booked and what/where is it?
Our next cruise is on Carnival Splendor, to the Mexican Riviera.
Being a Mum with 2 jobs must require organisation and focus? What is one thing you do that really helps?
I’m a huge list maker. I use my iPhone to make lists for every area of my life, from packing to my weekly objectives to ideas for our next episode.
What are your hobbies?
I love hiking, Zumba, gardening and cooking.
Name one or more things on your bucket list.
A holiday to Tahiti and her islands. I must see Bora Bora. We’ve been dreaming of this destination since we were married.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking their first cruise?
I’d encourage them to research, but not to over plan. Pack comfortable shoes. Choose the right cruise line, and…watch lots of YouTube videos. We have lots of content for newbies!
As you all know I absolutely love cruising. I live for it. Cruising brings me joy like I have never known before. It makes me feel alive, free, excited and adventurous. So to celebrate that, I really wanted a special dress for the cruise show. Thanks to Amazon, I found one.
Be Careful Buying Clothes From Amazon
Now you have to be careful buying clothes from Amazon because some of the stuff on there is nothing like the picture, but this dress by Hell Bunny was an absolute winner for me. Not just because the material and the price were great, but the design is very flattering (I think) for those of us that are going a bit appley. They have 25 different colours to choose from.
As much as I would love to have worn a pair of heels, it wasn’t ideal for walking around the cruise show. I have always struggled to find a nice pair of flat shoes, especially when I spend a day exploring a new ship. I love sandals, but they weren’t really very practical for February. These Melissa shoes were extremely comfortable and they smell so good. Made in Brazil, these plastic shoes designed by Vivienne Westwood, have a unique bubblegum smell to them.
I added a little neck scarf to give that 50’s look. This one was also on Amazon but it is not great quality, however they are fun to have and can be used to brighten up an outfit. I use mine now as a hairband which I think is quite cute.
I felt really comfortable in this outfit and I love the nautical theme dress. If you get the shoes you will fall in love with them I can assure you. I think I will make this my embarkation day outfit from now on. What do you think?
Disclosure: This post contains personal recommendations of items I have purchased and paid for myself. The links to the items are affiliate links, which means you pay the same price, but I may receive a small commission from the seller.
Azamara Club Cruises are passionate about travel. They want to help you see the world in ways that no other cruise line does. How do they do that? “With more port days than any other cruise line and longer in port than any other cruise line, allowing you to experience the destination”, says their UK Managing Director, Richard Twynam. The statistics speak for themselves with 80% of it’s itineraries in port. Out of those port days 47% are late nights and overnight stays.
Big Ship vs Little Ship
If you are looking for zip lines, surf simulators, sky diving and more, Azamara Club Cruises is not for you. These fancy features can be found on the mega ships of their sister brand, Royal Caribbean.
Their recently renovated ships, Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey and new addition Azamara Pursuit, are more akin to boutique hotels than cruise ships. Accommodating just 686 passengers, with a 2 to 1 staff guest ratio, not only is the service impeccable but getting on and off the ship is a much smoother experience. Another small ship benefit is that they are able to dock closer to places they visit. So, when other ships passengers are queuing for a 30 minute coach ride into town, Azamara Club Cruises’ passengers are already there. Venice is a great example of this and, with the new regulations in place, Azamara Pursuit will be the largest cruise ship permitted to sail along the Grand Canal.
The most popular cruise port in Europe is Barcelona and most of the cruise ships dock a few miles away. Azamara Club Cruises on the other hand, dock at the World Trade Centre which is located at the bottom of Las Ramblas.
They can also do river cruising and include itineraries that sail along the Kiel Canal, into the heart of Seville, Bordeaux and Ho Chi Min City. In Hong Kong most cruise ships moor at Kai Tack which is 40 minutes away from the city. Azamara Club Cruises dock at Ocean Terminal with panoramic view of the iconic skyline right from the ship.
Azamara Club Cruises are also offering country intensive voyages which gives guests get more than just one day in each country. These itineraries include Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Japan, Israel, France, Croatia and Australia. Speaking at a recent event with Six Star Cruises, Richard Twyman told guests that Sydney is the most congested cruise port on planet Earth, and only has 3 cruise berths which are all full until 2023. He continued to say that Azamara Club Cruises are committed to Sydney and will be there for three years. They have secured the most sought after dock, right in Circular Quay itself. So for example if you take the 15 night New Year’s Eve In Sydney Voyage, you will be able to see the opera house from your balcony (depending which way you are facing).
Lucky guests who are cruising for six days or more have a real treat in store.
Azamara Club Cruises are the only cruise line who offer these complimentary experiences known as Azamazing evenings. This is an event where the cruise line take all 690 guests off the ship, to a special event and bring them back. This in itself is a highly complex thing to do. However the experience they have at an Azamazing evening is something quite incredible, and they offer this in 70 countries all over the world.
The first Azamazing event ever held was in Florence. They took all the guests to a private set of castles that overlooked Florence. They were given a tour by an Historian who explained when they were standing in the grand hall, they were standing in the room where Michaelangelo carved David. As if that wasn’t jaw dropping enough, guests enjoyed a tuscan buffet outside, and as the sun was setting over Florence the Three Tenors from the Florence Opera House came out and gave them a private concert.
Azamara Club Cruises were also the first cruise line ever to do a private performance of the original Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in the heart of Dublin. These once in a lifetime experiences are offered all over the world in places such as Rio De Janeiro, Ephesus, St Petersburg and Wellington.
Win a pair of Azamara Gloves
The lovely people at Azamara Club Cruises have given Ships and Champagne readers the chance to win one of five pairs of mobile friendly gloves. Simply answer the question below to be in with a chance to win yourself a pair.
This competition is now closed. Thank you to all of those who entered.
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?
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
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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!
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.”
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:
Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Avis:
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
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
Rob Pope is AMAZING. He has a great sense of humour, an entertaining YouTube channel, he is cool, he’s a veterinarian and is running in the fictional character Forrest Gump’s footsteps, for real! He is also expecting his first child with Nadine, the love of his life for 10 years.
Rob Pope is the only person to have run across America three times in a year. The veterinarian from Liverpool wanted to do something that would “make a difference”. So he decided to follow in the footsteps of Forrest Gump and run across America. At time of writing this, Rob is two days away from reaching the ocean which will make it his fourth crossing.
Initially he started out with girlfriend Nadine and their friend Olivia as his support team. They bought a secondhand RV and named her Jenny. Unfortunately there was an accident. Although Olivia was injured, thankfully it was nothing serious. However Jenny is now off the road. Nadine and Olivia had no option other than to return to the UK. Rob is now completing his challenge alone and uses his trusty three wheeled pushchair named Pramsolo, to transport his essential equipment with him.
His achievements to date are pretty mind-blowing. Rob was the Youngest British runner in the 1997 New York City marathon. He was the Australian Men’s Marathon Champion 2015, Winner of Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon in 2015 and 2016. He is the current Oregon State 10K Road Race Champion and Winner of Prefontaine Memorial Race.
I was intrigued to find out more about this venture of Rob’s and had so many questions. Thankfully I tracked him down and Rob kindly agreed to an interview.
What date did you start running?
15th September 2016, thirty seven years to the day that Forrest started his run.
How many miles have you run so far?
13,293 miles as of Dec 17th
How many miles have you got left?
Less than 3,000 potentially…but who knows? Depends when I get tired and want to go home!
What cities that you are planning to run to next?
I’ll be running to Beaufort, SC, where they filmed a lot of Forrest Gump then turning round and heading via Atlanta, Decatur, Amarillo, Albuquerque and Flagstaff, before heading into Monument Valley, Utah.
Can you tell me a bit about your childhood?
My dad left when I was six months old, so my mum brought me up as a single parent and despite limited income, I never wanted for anything, apart from maybe when she became ill. She was fierce and proud of me and drove me to succeed, though only rarely crossed the line of an embarrassing parent.
I remember her tearing a Conservative MP to shreds when we appeared on Kilroy in an episode about single parents being the ill of society. I was sat next to her and yeah, that was one of those embarrassing things at the time that I’m hugely proud of now.
I’m proud of her overcoming alcoholism and although she didn’t quite succeed at beating cancer, she kicked its ass for a long time, including a 14 hour pioneering operation where her whole jaw was replaced with shin bone and titanium. She went back to University to study law and in her first year received the first ever 100% mark in a particular area. She became ill again towards the end of her second year and died before she could finish, but she saw me graduate as a vet, which she said was more important.
She was awarded the degree posthumously and I collected it at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool after a lovely eulogy in front of a thousand people. I was more proud of her graduation than any of mine. She was the one who told me to “do one thing in life that makes a difference”. She would have done, if she’d been allowed to follow her law career in social justice. I’m making sure that I carry that forward for her and do my job now.
I understand Sir Richard Branson flew your mum out to the US to see you run?
Yes, he was amazing. He flew her out to New York for the 1997 marathon after I was the youngest British runner in the race. She somehow managed to get through to him on the phone in a request for sponsorship. When he politely explained that Virgin didn’t sponsor individuals for things like this, he asked how else he could help and queried if she was coming to see me. She explained it was beyond her means and he solved the problem by providing a business class return, where she was even invited into the cockpit as they flew over Manhattan, in what was obviously another era of aviation!
Why did you chose to be a vet?
I wanted to be a vet since I was eight after seeing a vet make my cat, Henry, better and letting me give an injection. I thought that was a pretty cool job and haven’t changed my mind yet. My most memorable incident was removing 6 Kinder eggs from the stomach of a Labrador. Yes, I did build the toys afterwards!
Is there a Jenny?
Yes. We named the RV Jenny. Unfortunately she was severely damaged in an accident in Nevada that also injured my friend, Olivia, who was driving. Jenny is now twiddling her tyres in a garage in Salt Lake City, awaiting news on whether she is repairable or not. Since the accident I have reverted back to pushing my trusty stroller, Pramsolo, that carries all my gear, including kit, shoes, sleeping bag and tent as well as food supplies and electronics etc.
What is an average day like for you?
I wake up at six, eat a few cereal bars or a motel breakfast before heading out about 7, or first light if I’m organised enough. I’ll run about 10 miles with the odd stretch or walking and photography before a second breakfast of oatmeal sachets, protein powder and water in a shaker. I’ll then do about 15-20 miles in a couple of runs before lunch, which depends on what is available. This is usually fast food or gas station specials, with healthy options often at a premium. My major nutritional strategy is cheap, calorific and tasty. I’ll then put in another 15-20 miles on a typical day. All the while I’ll be arranging places to stay, engaging with social media and replying to emails from engaged parties as necessary.
When I finish, I try and eat as soon as possible after stretching and try and maximise recovery. Laundry and sorting out the next day’s kit takes up time too. The quality of all of these is very variable! I’ll get to bed about 10 and get ready to do it all again!
What things would help make the rest of your trip better?
My kit is pretty much sorted now, especially after help from Nike and Sealskinz. I’d like Nadine to be out here obviously, as well as having a physio on staff, but both are pipedreams! All I want is to have a degree of support for the last month, as grateful as I am to my mate Pramsolo, I’d like to run naturally with arms swinging for the last 1000 miles.
What is the biggest challenge you face on a day to day basis?
Getting my feet out of the door and the first run or two done. Everything seems better once a good chunk of mileage has gone.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you during your challenge?
Being stopped by police who’d had reports of a lady pushing a baby down the highway is always amusing when you consider I have a foot long beard.
Is there anything about your journey that you don’t like?
I hate seeing how people often keep dogs, tied up in a yard with little social interaction and inadequate shelter. Seeing the huge amount of roadkill including some truly impressive animals such as deer and coyotes is always upsetting, especially when their little faces look wracked with pain. I can’t get accustomed to it despite it being a 10-20 times a day thing often.
Do you have any motivational stories from your journey?
I met an incredible chap called Chris Conlon, a stroke survivor at the Boston Marathon who since his stroke has completed numerous marathons and an Ironman triathlon. We’ve met up since in Chicago and I love him to bits.
We also rescued and removed (with the help of a local animal rescue and veterinary practice) a starving, mangy dog we named Hope, after she followed me for five miles, running through New Hope, Arkansas. She now lives with a family in Massachusetts and is a testament to the attitude I try to have of taking responsibility for things you believe in and following through, even though it is easier to stick your head in the sand sometimes.
Out of all the places you have visited so far, which ones do you want to go back to and which ones will you never return to?
I love the desert. From the Saguaro and Joshua Tree National Parks through Death Valley and the New Mexico border lands, I feel at peace here and find beauty in the landscapes, the hardiness of the plants and wildlife and also the isolation. Glacier National Park was also amazing despite it not being the ideal time to visit when I was there and to be fair, I could go on about so many places. City wise, I loved Chicago, Nashville, DC and Boston. The people have been lovely everywhere, though I have to give a special mention to Maine and Tennessee for a high density of friendly natives. The country is so vast and varied, very few people will get to experience and grasp. I’m just lucky to be one.
I don’t want to go to the highway in Pennsylvania where I confronted a local yob over his appalling physical assault on his dog that I witnessed. The subsequent chase by a man who had no chance of catching me but had access to a truck and possibly a gun was terrifying.
Can you offer any tips for people who want to start running but are scared?
Your body doesn’t want to run, however it is very good at it. It’s built for it, we’ve evolved to run. As such, it will fight you to start with. It will complain, it will hurt, you will struggle for breath. It’s only pretending though. You’re fine. After two weeks of running (even if you have to walk a bit, don’t be scared, walk) it will get bored of protesting until you up the ante again. You also ignore these protests. As long as you don’t run through pain that is increasing daily beyond a 3/10, and you’re not ill to the point of being weak/off work, you’ll be fine. Treat yourself. Get to your local running shop, get your gait analysed, get some pretty shoes and set goals. That’s the key to progressing to whatever level you want to be at. Once you achieve them treat yourself and re-evaluate. Keep things varied too, not everyone is weird like me.
Why do you love to run? How does it make you feel?
Do I love to run? I don’t know! I do sometimes, it’s just what I do. It’s such a part of my life currently I maybe take it for granted. I experience highs and lows in my running as I do in my life. When it all comes together, whether scenery, results, pace or mood is the key, it’s pretty special. People talk about the “Runner’s high” – I don’t know if I’ve ever truly experienced that. I’ve experiences highs whilst running but it was more of a holistic thing or consequence of the running. Approaching the finishing stages of the Prefontaine or my first Liverpool win were pretty overwhelming experiences to be fair.
Do you really think your fundraising can make a difference and how?
Definitely. I have to. It’s not just the money, it’s the awareness, especially for Peace Direct, a relatively new but hugely impressive organisation that will hopefully grow exponentially and continue to benefit those affected by conflict and war.
I believe that the WWF is the most important charitable organization on the planet due to the way it engages and approaches issues that if we don’t address, there are no other issues. I’m showcasing relevant projects to my social media audience and getting good engagement.
I’ll be stepping this up as we reach the end of the run. In terms of finances I don’t think I’ll be truly happy unless we raise seven figures, which is a huge ask, but then so was running five times across America. We may be approaching the end of that adventure, but the hard work is hopefully only just beginning. I hope that people will see that these charities were worth me devoting 18+ months of my life to and do what they can. I certainly still do.
What do you miss most about life back at home?
My friends and family
Sausage dinners from Liverpool chippies.
Going to the match
Playing the guitar
Running for the sheer pleasure of it
Munchies and Toffee Crisps
Rob Needs Your Support
All donations no matter how big or small will all go to making the huge difference that Rob has given up so much for. Please also follow him on his social media channels and subscribe to his YouTube channel.
We all want to come up with unique Christmas gifts for cruisers to give our loved ones something thoughtful and creative.
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Royal Caribbean have just announced that their third Quantum Class ship, Ovation of the Seas will be spending the Summer Season 2019 cruising Alaska.
It has been announced today, that Ovation of the Seas is to be based in Seattle, Washington in 2019. Having a Quantum Class ship in Alaska will offer guests a unique and exciting experience. Alaska is undoubtedly one of the most sought after cruise destinations. It’s awe-inspiring beauty and magnificent wildlife continue to attract more than a million passengers each year. Now guests will be able to experience these sights whilst being elevated 300 feet above sea level, with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountain peaks and stunning shoreline. Ovation of the Seas will sail a variety of seven night itineraries taking in much loved ports including British Columbia, Victoria and Juneau.
The best news for us Brits is that Oasis of the Seas is coming to Europe. She will be sailing from Barcelona and her itineraries will include the beautiful port of Palma de Mallorca (one of my favourites). After finishing her summer season in Europe, Oasis of the seas will undergo a massive transformation from bow-to-stern, before she repositions to Miami for the winter season. She will be joined by her three sisters; Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas cruising Caribbean itineraries from Florida.
Back in Europe and four new ports have been added, Visby, Sweden; Zadar, Croatia; Portofino, Italy and Porto, Portugal. The cruise line have not yet confirmed the ships headed for the UK or Australia.
Anthem of the Seas remains in Cape Liberty. New York continues to be a popular destination to cruise from and Royal Caribbean will be bringing Adventure of the Seas to join her.
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Royal Caribbean 2019 – 2020 on sale dates are as follows:
13 November – 7 Night Caribbean Cruises
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4 December – Northeast, Canada and Bermuda Cruises