Royal Caribbean’s Elevated Cruise Experience

Royal Caribbean's North Star views of Alaska





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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.

Royal Caribbean 2019-2020 Deployment Guide

Open For Business

Royal Caribbean 2019 – 2020 on sale dates are as follows:

  • 13 November – 7 Night Caribbean Cruises
  • 20 November – Short Caribbean Cruises
  • 4 December – Northeast, Canada and Bermuda Cruises
  • 11 December – Europe Phase 1 and Alaska 2019
  • Spring 2018 – Remaining Deployment

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

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Virgin Voyages Keel Getting Laid in Genoa

Virgin Voyages Keel Laying Coin





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After a month long countdown to the #ShipTease, I still can’t believe the day I had at the keel laying ceremony with Virgin Voyages. Thank goodness I invested my time and money in going to the event. Now I feel I have a much clearer picture of the vision intended for the new cruise line.

Somehow I ended up in a VIP group hosted by Stacy Shaw, Vice President of Sales and Business Development. We were taken to a conference room at the Fincantieri offices. CEO and President of Virgin Voyages, Tom McAlpin greeted us and asked us if we wanted a glass of champagne. Silly question. With that the sliding doors rolled apart. There stood Sir Richard donning an officers jacket, wheeling a trolley loaded with champagne on ice. What a wonderful surprise!

Sir Richard Branson serving champagne to Travel Agents at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa
Sir Richard Branson serves champagne to Travel Partners at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, to celebrate the keel getting laid in Genoa.

Working With Travel Agents

There has been much speculation as to whether Virgin Voyages will be working with Travel Partners on this, and although nothing has been announced, Sir Richard did say that he had been told by Tom that the group in the room (apart from me) were very important and that he had to make a good impression. With that, he got down on his knees and pretended to kiss the feet of one of the guests. Take from that what you will, but why spend all that money on flying people from the US over to Genoa, putting them up in a five star hotel and plying them with champagne, if you have no intention of working with them?

Over 18’s Only

So the next big thing that has everyone talking, is the over 18 policy. Although it has been reported as adult only, Virgin Voyages is keen to use the term Adult By Design. Why? Because the term “adult only” conjures up the image of a strip club, and that could not be further from the vision of a holistic, sophisticated, sanctuary at sea that offers a place for rejuvenation, relaxation and exploration.

It’s understandable that some people may feel a bit disappointed that they can’t take their kids onboard. I felt the same at first. When I travel for pleasure I take my 4 year old son with me. An over 18 policy makes it challenging for me to go on one. But then when I started to imagine the reality of a cruise with no kids onboard, it made me think that actually I would LOVE the option to go on a cruise without kids. If I can’t do it now, then it will be something to look forward to, but think of all those people who CAN go.

In fact this morning I saw comments in a Facebook fan group for one of the major cruise lines, where people were saying they thought it was a great idea, and wished the cruise line they were “loyal” to, would do the same. Virgin said they had taken the decision based on customer feedback, so clearly there is a demand for it. Whether those people are existing cruisers or existing Virgin Holidays customers, I don’t know, but either way they are definitely onto something.

Does It Look Like A Ship?

Well did the first car look like a horse and cart? This is NOT a cruise ship. Forget everything you/we know of cruising as it is today. Virgin Voyages’ First Ladyship is more of a mega super yacht with it’s smoked glass and silvery-grey hull. The cruise line are also declaring their commitment to the happiness of their crew, with better accommodation than any other cruise ship. I wonder if they will include gratuities in their fares (ooh don’t mention gratuities!)

Clime Onboard A Cleaner Ship

I want to talk about how these ships are going to be so much more energy efficient than ships out there at the moment. I want to tell you how the Swedish company Climeon have found a way to make these ships save masses of CO2. All I know is that they have discovered a way to turn waste hot water into energy and that it may be a good time to buy shares in Climeon. This video will give you a better idea of what they have designed.

What A Night!

To those of you that follow my blog you will know that this event was my first official press gig. That could be a problem because I don’t think there is likely to be anything like this again, well at least for another year, and I will probably be banned from that one after they see my video.

All I want to say is, what a way to start! I hope you have enjoyed reading about it and that you will take a look at the video I have put together in an attempt to capture the vibe.

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Richard Branson Finally Gets His Ship Together

Virgin Voyages Richard Branson Gets His Ship Together Ships and Champagne





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“I have never been on a cruise, and never wanted to – they sound stuffy and dull. “But I would love to go on a Voyage – they sound adventurous, exciting and glamorous.” Richard Branson

We are just days away from the Virgin Voyages Keel Laying Ceremony. Taking place at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Genoa, Richard Branson has promised to reveal more about the new cruise line.

The daily countdown to the event, branded #ShipTease has reminded the social media world how the Virgin Group do things differently. Richard Branson is the peoples’ person and rather than sit behind a desk giving corporate interviews about the direction of the brand, he chooses to re-enact the famous scene from Rocky, by running up the the 72 stone steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Not bad for a man of 67, but then again that’s nothing considering an example of a Richard Branson family holiday is an eight day mountain hike starting at the Matterhorn in Switzerland, then cycling 100 miles a day through the mountains from the northern most point of Italy to the southern most point. From there, swimming to Sicily, followed by another bike ride, and a marathon which would take them to the top of Mount Etna. This family are certainly not afraid of taking on a challenge!

The World’s Most Gorgeous Ship

Richard Branson has dreamt of starting a cruise line since he was 27 years old, and now he’s making it a reality. Virgin Voyages have placed an order for three mid sized cruise ships, which ties in nicely with the brands’ vision about being the best rather than the biggest.

Although Virgin Voyages have remained tight lipped on ship renderings, let’s see what we can imagine based on the experiences the cruise line have promised to deliver so far;

  • To build a bold new cruise line
  • The World’s most gorgeous ships with irresistible style
  • It’s all about you, the sailor
  • Far from ordinary
  • Mission to bring “true sea change” to cruising
  • Ports offering “unique and very sociable experiences”
  • Commitment to launch one of the cleanest fleets at sea
  • Celebrate curiosity not force you to follow one itinerary
  • Sailing beyond the World thats known on the ship of things to come
  • The Creative Collective, a unique team of Designers and Architects known for creating trends not following them

Don’t Miss The #ShipTease

There was such high demand for people to attend the Keel Laying Ceremony in Genoa, that Virgin Voyages were unable to cover travelling expenses. That has prevented a lot of people from going, but I will be there. I have scraped everything together to fund this trip as I believe that it will be a truly memorable occasion. I live and breathe the cruise industry, but my own personal values match that of the Virgin brand, free spirited, customer focused, honest, fun and to be the best. So for these two to come together, makes me really excited for the future of cruising.

For those not going in person, it will be live streamed from 1900 GMT on their Facebook page 

You can also follow any of my social media channels for photos and news from the evening.

Don’t know what a Keel Laying Ceremony Is? Click here to find out.

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A New Chapter As a Freelance Travel Writer

Flavia Gray Freelance Travel Writer





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It’s Anchors Away for Flavia Gray

It’s an exciting day in the Gray household today as I’m embarking on a brand new journey. I really hope you will come along for the ride, as I promise there will never be a dull moment.

This means that I am now officially a Freelance Travel Writer. I no longer have any ties or affiliations with Travel Counsellors or any Travel Agency. The reason I have decided to make the move into journalism is because I am passionate about cruising and travel, but I have never wanted to be in sales. I believe that if there is an element of sales involved, then it can cause bias in what is said and I want to be honest and impartial. I was also prompted to take the leap of faith after the sudden and tragic loss of my writer hero John Honeywell.

It’s Not About The Money

The first thing my customers and friends said to me when I told them the news was “How are you going to make any money?” Well to be quite frank, I wasn’t making any money as a travel agent. I am rubbish with figures, spreadsheets, finances, admin and all of that stuff. Another contributing factor, is that cruise agents seem to be in battle with each other and I refuse to get into a dutch auction. I have read on many forums how people are confused about the variation in pricing. Well I am in the process of putting together a free guide for my subscribers, which will give you everything you need to know to understand how to beat the system. It’s actually very simple and once you know what is going on behind the scenes the power will be in your hands.

So back to the question about making money as a writer. Well the ads you see on my website are hosted by GoogleAds. I get about eight pence for every 1000 views. Not a lot is it? So you can help by sharing my posts with your friends if you think they are interesting, or by letting me know what sort of thing you want to read about. I would love you to leave a comment at the bottom of the page too, so I know you have stopped by and what you think of each article.

All of my travels are self funded unless otherwise mentioned, which means I need to do other work to help raise money for the website. One of them is as a background artists, and I will be sure to let you know if I am scheduled for a tv appearance.

Services and Collaborations

I am a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. If you have a website or publication that you would like me to write for, please email me at shipsandchampagne@gmail.com

If you are a blogger, please feel free to leave any comments with links to your blog and I will be sure to check it out and comment.

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Cruise People – Marc Walker – Cruise Director

Marc Walker Cruise Director





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What’s Life Like For A Cruise Director?

I recently had the opportunity to meet Marc Walker who is currently the Cruise Director onboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. I’ve always thought it would be such a great job to do, but after speaking to Marc in person, I think I’ll stick to sipping cocktails by the pool while someone else does all the hardwork.

How long have you been a Cruise Director?

I was promoted to Cruise Director in January 2001 after being with the company for 4 years. This is my 22nd year with Royal Caribbean, 17 of them as Cruise Director.

How did you end up working onboard Royal Caribbean ships?

I was a DJ back in England, and when I worked at Butlin’s I met people who worked for Royal Caribbean. At that time there were only 12 ships in the fleet, and there was no no such thing as the internet. So it was purely word of mouth and sending resumes off. A juggler, who still works for us, told me to apply to Royal Caribbean as a DJ. I had never heard of Royal Caribbean, I said Royal who? This was in England and they weren’t even in England at that point, they were just sailing out of the Caribbean. So I got a job interview in London, I was offered the job as cruise staff which is what you do. You call bingo and you socialise, you start at the bottom. My first ship was the Viking Serenade in 19 July 1996.

Marc Walker Viking Serenade
1996 Marc’s first contract as cruise staff, with Fernando Castro on Viking Serenade
How long do you spend onboard the cruiseship at a time?

We usually do four months on two months off, but depending on business needs or if you have a holiday request it can be longer or shorter. I am doing four months on here then I am going to take only five days off, then I go to our bigger ship the Harmony of the Seas. At the end of the year I’ll be going to our brand new ship the Symphony of the Seas and will take the ship to Miami for the Inaugural Christening.

Do you get to see your family at all when you are working?

Never when I am working because my wife and two kids live in Florida. But they are going to be cruising at the end of November for a one off cruise. Lily will be in school and she is five, so she can only come a few times a year. But they usually have to wait until I get home, which will be January for five days.

I keep reading on social media that you are Roy ‘Catchphrase’ Walker’s son. Is this true? 

I’ve actually met Roy, he does a few comedy shows onboard. He is really nice but I am not related despite the same name.

What is the average Day In The Life for you when you are at work?

8 o’clock every morning my day starts, that’s seven days a week and I usually take a couple of hours off in the afternoon. We call it international nap time where crew members have to sleep for a couple of hours in the day. Then my shift starts again at 4pm until midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning. So 8am until about 1 or 2pm is paperwork and meetings, then the evening is shows, socialising, being out there.

Have you met any Celebrities onboard, and if so can you give us some names?

John Travolta came onboard once. We looked after him for 4 days. He is a really nice man. And Donny Osmond in 2004.

What is your favourite meal onboard?

I should eat salads but I don’t. On this ship I like the roasts because you don’t get them in America. So I go to the Windjammer and have my roasts whenever I can. And then when I go Stateside I just have to have the Mongolian stir fry.

What is your favourite port of call?

Geiranger Fjords.

Geiranger Fjord Norway

Do you have any hobbies?

I do flight simulator. I have the joystick, the yoke and the foot pedals and I bring them with me. So I do transatlantic flights when I go to bed at night, and when I wake up I’m landing (laughs). Its very soothing. It sends me off.

Your job is very demanding. Do you have any tips you can share that help you stay energetic, healthy and in shape?

You have to pace yourself especially at my ripe old age of 46. It gets harder the older you get and the ships are getting bigger which is harder to handle, harder to manage. So it’s all in the mind. You can get so stressed out so quickly and it will kill your career. You just have to really take a step back, focus on what the most important things are and then keep everything in a waiting file, don’t do everything at once. But the most important thing is being out there with the guests. If you’ve got that covered then everything else will follow. But we have two jobs, we have administration and we have front of house. There’s no job like it, you have to be good at everything.

If you could do any other job, what would it be?

Television. I actually have a part time job with Home Shopping Network it’s QVC. So when I’m in Florida for a few weeks I tell them I’m coming and they give me a couple of shows. I love it because you are on live television to 97 million people.



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Cruise People – Michael English

Michael English





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Michael English Talks About The Importance of Teamwork and Communication

Celebrity Cruises recently scooped a massive four awards at this years TTG Awards Ceremony in London. Add this together with the industry buzz around the brand new Celebrity Edge, and I wanted to find out what life is like for the Celebrity Cruises Business Development Team at the moment. Here’s Michael English, Head of Business Development UK & Ireland to Summit up!

As Head of Business Development, what is an average day life for you?

The first thing is that no two days are ever same in my role.

I believe I have the best role in the sales team having so much variation. My role can include anything from dealing with our top producing accounts, working with our award winning sales team – to working on new initiatives to get more new guests to cruise with Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity Cruises walked away with an incredible four TTG Awards this year. Luxury/Specialist Cruise Line of the Year, Ocean Cruise Line of the Year, Supplier Sales Team of the Year, Travel Company of the Year. Can you give an insight into what you believe drove the success of Celebrity to achieving so many awards?

First of all I must say a huge thank you to every trade partner who voted for Celebrity Cruises and the awards are a true reflection, recognition and direction that Celebrity Cruises are taking. Working with Travel Partners is vital to our success as we look to bring cruises holidays to a new groups of guests.

Michael English Flavia Gray Jane Cowley Paula Malon

What was your last holiday?

I’m writing this on my flight down to Miami with my son, where we are spending the weekend catching up with friends and attending a couple of sporting events there.

It very important to me that I have the right balance between work and personal life – so this is Dad and son weekend in Miami.

How did it feel to win the CLIA Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry award?

This was a huge surprise! It was a real honour to be presented with the award. To be recognised by your colleagues and travel industry partners is a very special award.

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

Listen – to what people are saying. God gave us two ears and one mouth not two mouths and one ear.

Communication – Is key to every solution.

What are your hobbies?

I’m on a quest to continue to climb various mountains summits. So far I have completed Snowdon, Ben Nevis, Scarfell Pike, Kota Kinablua/ Kiimanjaro/ Island Peak Nepal/ Mont Blanc/ Machu Picchu/ and next one will be India highest summit.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

Summit Everest and Sky Dive

Michael English

To get the latest news on Celebrity Edge and find great offers go to celebritycruises.co.uk

Cruise People – Richard Twynam – The MD





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In Pursuit of Richard’s Quest To Achieve A Happy Journey in Life

Find out how Azamara Club Cruises’ Managing Director Richard Twynam took 70 flights in a year and still managed to find time for exercise, family and golf.

How did you end up working in the Cruise Industry and what was your first job?

I applied for a job in the Sunday Times to be Managing Director of Virgin Holidays Cruises in 2010, which somehow I got.

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

A Professional Golfer.

What makes Azamara Club Cruises stand out from other cruises?

We have a single minded focus on destination first.

As Managing Director of Azamara Club Cruises, what is an average day in the life for you?

What I like is that there is no average day if you like. But most Tuesdays are made up of one to ones with the sales folks in the morning, followed by trading meeting at lunchtime, followed by various internal meetings in the afternoon. Then there will be events to attend every week.

I travel a lot in my role throughout the UK, Europe and to HQ in Miami, so am on a plane most weeks, I did over 70 flights for work last year which was exceptional.

What was your last holiday?

A week in Crete with my family in May, and staycation with the family in September.

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

A long Christmas break to visit our family in California!

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

Key things for me are balance and I’ve learned this year the power of fitness too, thanks to my wife who is a yoga teacher.

So we have a couple of simple rules.

No tech upstairs at home.  No phones, no tv’s, no tablets. Bedtime is about switching off.

There is always time for exercise. We have 2 tiny children, so we have a trainer come to the house at 7am whilst the kids eat their breakfast!!

What are your hobbies?

Being a dad, golf when I can and keeping fit. We have a large garden so I love tinkering with that.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

The Cook Islands and a drive across Canada.

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

It’s like any holiday, don’t over complicate it, keep it simple, choose your destination first, and then what type of cruise, and always use a travel professional that will sell you what is right for you.

To browse the beautiful itineraries Aramara Club Cruises have to offer, go to https://www.azamaraclubcruises.com/

Cruise People – Gary Bembridge





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Gary Bembridge Talks About What Makes Cruising So Magical

Having recently picked up yet another award for his blog Tips For Travellers, Gary Bembridge tells us how he became hooked on cruising and gives some vital tips for newcomers.

How long have you been writing Tips for Travellers?

I started Tips For Travellers as a podcast in September 2005 and soon added a YouTube channel when that opened in 2006, followed by the blog around the same time.

What made you start it?

I had a global marketing job for a multi-national (Johnson & Johnson) and was travelling all over the world for around three weeks a month. I would try and stay a day or two either side of my work in every place I went to. As I had so little time there, I would research the destination like crazy before I went so I knew what to see, do and how to get around. I thought since I had all the content overlaid with my experiences that I should share it as it would likely be helpful to others. It took off quickly as there were not a lot of travel podcasts or content on YouTube back then. As of today my YouTube channel has 30.2 million views and the podcast over 1.5 million downloads.

Wow, that’s an incredible achievement. So what is an average day in the life for you?

I retired from corporate life in 2012 when I turned 55 and so I do not have a very typical day nowadays, and I can pretty much do as I please which is fantastic. I travel quite often of course and so that is never typical, but if at home I tend to go to the gym in the morning around 8 / 8.30, head to Starbucks and have a coffee while catching up on emails and then head home and spend a few hours writing, editing videos or doing podcasts and then binge watch TV before getting evening meal ready for my partner and I (as he still works full-time as a corporate lawyer and works long hours).

When was your first cruise? Which ship was it and where did you cruise to?

My first cruise was a work one. I was invited to speak at a marketing conference being held on board P&O Cruises Aurora. The ship was chartered every year and hosted marketing directors and marketing services companies. We sailed from Southampton and docked near Guernsey. It was just two nights but as we sailed down the Solent and out to sea I realised what was magical about cruising.

What made you book your first cruise?

I was one of those that thought cruising was not for me. So having been “made” to try it through the conference I was speaking at on board “Aurora” I realised it was fantastic. Since a boy I had ways wanted to travel on iconic transportation and so once I realised I like being at sea I immediately booked a crossing on the QE2.

What did you like/dislike about your first cruise?

The feeling of heading out to sea and the peacefulness of being at sea. That as a revelation to me. Gliding through the ocean with nothing around thrilled me. There were only a couple of things I disliked. One was the  fixed time and seating dining, so I now try and only cruise where there is open seated dining.  The other thing is the constant selling. I soon realised that the model for many lines is to get people on ships at attractive fares and then sell and add on charges and you have to keep getting your cruise card out. I tend to prefer and try to cruise more on all-inclusive lines if I can.

What is the best cruise you have been on and why?

Silversea Silver Explorer to the Arctic. It was incredible. Sailing right into the polar ice cap and exploring places hardly any people go to felt special, unique and we saw amazing wildlife. I am a keen photographer and like photographing wildlife and landscapes and so this was just perfect for that. It was also a luxurious and an attentive way to see the place. There were 120 passengers and basically the same amount of crew, with 15 being the Expedition team.

Sounds absolutely amazing. What is it that appeals to you about cruising in general?

Travelling has become very stressful and time consuming. Flying especially. I like to see lots of places when on a trip rather that staying in one place as I want to see and do so much, and so cruising makes that easy and much less stressful. I mostly like cruises that take me to regions and places I have not been to so I can get a flavour of them and decide where to go back to explore much more. I also like that cruises can take me to and let me experience things you cannot really do easily other ways like the Arctic, Alaska, Panama Canal, Antarctica and so on.

Do you have a bucket list of places you want to visit?

Antarctica, Alaska (going there in May 2018) and Polynesian Islands

What’s the first thing you do when you step onboard a cruise?

Eat! Usually one boards after my usual lunchtime and so am starving after travelling there. Then I run about the ship taking it all in. I love exploring ships and finding out what they have to offer.

What items do you always take with you on a cruise?

My music and speakers. I love music and have to have it playing all the time and so always take my portable BEATS speakers so I can have good quality music through the cruise. I also always take earplugs and eye shades as I sleep best with them. The other item I always take is a tooth repair kit as while you can get medical help on board, there is no dentist and it can be an ordeal if something goes wrong on sea days or based on the ports and days of week you are calling on. It has helped me big time!

What was your last cruise and what did you like/dislike about it?

Windstar Gaelic Explorers from Edinburgh to Dublin. I prefer being on small ships and this is a luxury experience but very informal and friendly. The cabins are huge, food good and really interesting people and crew. Getting into smaller and more unusual places is another plus. Dislike was probably that the fitness centre is a bit dated and has low ceilings so they cannot fit a cross trainer in which is my cardio of choice!

What is your next cruise? What are you most looking forward to?

Heading off shortly on Avalon Waterways Rhine cruise from Cologne to Amsterdam. I have only been on a handful of river cruises and keen to see what they offer and how they are different. River cruise lines do seem to be fairly similar and offer much the same thing and so eager to try different ones and see what they do well. This is something that my followers and audience also like to hear so I know it will be welcome content for them too.

What is your dream cruise?

I did 10 weeks of a world voyage in 2016 and we want to do a whole world cruise in the next few years. It was such a remarkable experience and we met and made some great friends as there were such interesting people and crew. doing the world voyage.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying a cruise but is worried they will feel trapped on a crowded cruise ship?

You won’t! Everyone thinks that and once they go they all come back saying their biggest frustration was not having time to do everything there was to do. I always say that if you are worried, remember that the longest you will spend on most ships will be from about 6pm to 8am and during that time you will be eating, drinking, watching shows, partying and sleeping. There will be no time to feel trapped.

Do you have any tips for booking a cruise

Always use a cruise agent. They will help guide you towards the right cruise line, ship and itinerary based on what you like – and also will know the best and latest deals and offers. They will also often have additional perks or benefits to include. I have been cruising for over a decade and have been developing content for that same time – and I still book through an agent.

Can you offer any onboard tips for people who have never cruised?

Before you go make sure you know exactly what is (and is not included) in your fare and prepare for everything that is excluded (especially drinks, internet, excursions, transfers, speciality dining and gratuities). Set a target budget for on board and track it. Estimate what you think you will drink, how much you will use the Internet and other items not included and then cost and compare with the packages the line may be offering. Only buy them if they will actually save you, as for example to save with some drinks packages you have to be a VERY heavy drinker! Review your bill regularly to check how you are doing.

For the latest news and information from Tips For Travellers click on the links below.

Tips For Travellers – YouTube

Tips For Travellers – Website

Gary Bembridge – Flickr

Tips For Travellers – Facebook

Cruise People – The Professionals

Cruise People - The Professionals





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You Don’t Have To Be A Cruise Fanatic To Cruise

Dave, originally from Yorkshire, and his wife Lorraine, both have office based jobs in Surrey and love to travel. Last year they took their first cruise. I wanted to get their views on cruising for the first time and to see if it is something they would like to repeat.

When was your cruise? Which ship was it and where did you cruise too?

Our first cruise was to Norway, we cruised on Celebrity Eclipse and it was at the end of August 2016.

Celebrity Eclipse Norwegian Fjords
Celebrity Eclipse in the Norwegian Fjords
What made you book a cruise?

I have always wanted to cruise to the Fjords. It was for my 50th birthday, although I had to do all the booking so it wasn’t a surprise.

What did you like/dislike about your first cruise?

We went from Southampton.  What a great way to start a holiday. No queues, fast check in.  Within 2 hours or so from leaving our house, we were on board.

I liked the variety of things to do on board, the theatre was good although some of the acts were a bit cheesy.  I’m convinced that the the comedian on the first night was made of pure gorgonzola. The best act was a Freddie Mercury Tribute act, closely followed by a British singer from The Netherlands.

It was good to go to a show and then walk to dinner.  Its like living in a ‘happening’ city centre.

I enjoyed the fact that we visited loads of different towns in Norway. Some of the towns were so small that you had to book excursions, if you didn’t you would have been stuck in a small town (although they still had loads to do on board) but I don’t think you go to Norway to stay on board. The service and food were amazing.

As we were in a cold climate, nobody was using the outside space, this meant that at lunch time the buffet was packed.  We had to find a table first, then one at a time we went to get our food.  If we both went they would clear our tables as they thought we had left.  This is the only time we felt a bit packed in.

What is it that appeals to you about cruising?

Seeing different places, experiencing different things (with the excursions), and the quality of the food/service etc.  We are not dedicated cruises but will happily go on one but will also do a different style of holiday.

Cruise People - The Professionals
The Flam Railway
What is your next cruise? What are you most looking forward to?

We are doing the Alaskan cruise.  I am looking forward to the whale watching, glacier trip and zip wire excursions.  Life on board is quite good too, I enjoy the luxury.  I am also excited about the drive around Alaska which we are doing after the cruise.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying a cruise but is worried they will feel trapped on a crowded cruise ship?

Do you feel trapped when you go into your local town?  Well the cruise ship is like a small city.  Unless you go on a rowing boat you wont feel trapped.

Do you have an general cruise tips?
  • Yes, quite soon after you set off you will be called for a muster drill.  This is where you have to meet at a certain place and have a roll call.  Before you attend this go to the bar and get a big cocktail. Take the “things to do list that should be in your cabin). When the meeting has finished sit back and relax with your drink.  If you leave at the same time as everyone else it is like being herded like cattle, you also see people at their worst.  After you have finished your drink and read the ‘things to do list’ you can then leave at your leisure.
  • Use your ‘things to do sheet’ and plan your day/evening.
  • Dont be scared to complain.  We did an excursion that was rubbish.  We complained and they offered a partial refund.  We did not accept it and was then given a full refund and asked not to tell anyone else.  We told everyone!
  • The waiters all test the food at the beginning of their shift so when they recommend your meal they are not trying to get rid of food they are really giving you what they think is the best food on the menu.
  • The waiters hold quite a lot of power within the kitchens.  If they think a dish is not up to scratch they will not recommend it and the chefs will change the way it is cooked.
  • Take the recommended wine from the wine waiter also.
Do you have any tips for booking a cruise?

Shop around to get the best deal. Pick mid ship cabins to minimise sea sickness. On the Norway cruise it was good to see the fjords from the balcony.  We spent quite a lot of time cruising in places with good views.  If you are going around the Med then I would say an inside room would be best value as the weather is warm so you can see every thing from the decks.

Cruise People - The Professionals

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Cruise People – Jenny – Cruise Specialist





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Jenny Enjoys Helping People Find Their Dream Cruise

I first met Jenny in 2009 at a bmi cabin crew recruitment day, where I discovered her sweet nature and passion for travel, as we shared our nervousness and excitement at the time. We recognised each other two years later when our paths crossed again but this time it was at the Royal Caribbean office in Weybridge. Jenny now works solely for Celebrity Cruises and I wanted to find out what life is like for a Personal Cruise Specialist.

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

I did a 2 year BTEC course in Travel and Tourism where I achieved a distinction! Straight from college I started working for First Choice in one of their travel shops and stayed there for 5 years. After that I decided to move onto selling Cruises. I worked for Teletext Cruises and then onto Royal Caribbean.

What is your job role and what do you enjoy about it?

I am a Personal Cruise Specialist for Celebrity Cruises. I enjoy talking to different people and helping them find their dream cruise. Some people have saved for a long time and need help with what to book. I have built up a good client database and have regular guests who always keep in touch, even when they are onboard.

Personal Cruise Specialist
Jenny receiving her award for Outstanding Customer Service
What is the most memorable event you have attended as a result of your job?

There have been a few but I would probably say the Emma Pontin Memorial Event onboard Eclipse sticks in my mind. She is the Godmother of Eclipse and sadly lost her life to breast cancer a couple of years ago. She was a real inspiration to me and when she passed it was very sad for all of us at Celebrity. We held a memorial onboard the ship in her honour and invited her family and friends along. We presented them with a special glass penguin that was made on the ship, as that was her favourite animal. You can see the penguin proudly standing next to her portrait on Deck 3.

Emma Pontin Memorial Event onboard Celebrity Eclipse

What challenges do you face in your day to day job role?

The main challenge is availability. We try and encourage guests to book early to secure direct flights, or specific room configurations, such as adjoining rooms, midship locations or accessible rooms. But the closer we get to the date of departure, the harder it is to find guests exactly what they are looking for.  It is disappointing for both us and the guests, when there is no availability.

What was your last holiday?

In September I flew to Seattle and went on a 1 week Alaska cruise. The landscapes there are amazing and I’ll never forget flying over the Juneau Icefield in a seaplane, just a couple of hundred feet above a glacier. There is so much to see there I think you could easily spend 3 weeks visiting different places. I would do another Alaska cruise without hesitation.

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

Currently my next holiday is a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords next September onboard Celebrity Silhouette. I have some friends coming with me as it is my 30th birthday next year. My parents are also coming as it is my Dad’s 70th. I have not been to the Fjords before so I am really looking forward to it. The pictures that I’ve seen from my guests look amazing!

What are your hobbies?

Cruising of course! I’ll try and do at least two cruises a year. I also enjoy going on country walks. I borrow two Wee-chons (Westie x Bichon Frise) from a neighbour and we walk through the fields. They love the outdoors. I like doing yoga to help me relax as working in the office can be stressful sometimes.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

I’d love to cruise around New Zealand as it looks like a beautiful country. Alaska and the Norwegian Fjords were on my list but they are now ticked off.

If you could create your dream cruise what would it be? 

I’m happiest when I go away with my close friends. I also love sailing from Southampton because you don’t have to fly and have a couple of relaxing sea days before the ports begin. My dream room would be the reflection suite that has a cantilevered shower! Or one of the new edge villas that have a private plunge pool!

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

Do it! You won’t regret it. I book so many people on their first ever cruise and everyone comes back raving about it and want to book another one straight away.

Check out the new ship coming from Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Edge

For the latest offers and promotions go to celebrity cruises.co.uk

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Cruise People – Vice President – Tony Roberts





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Tony Roberts Reveals He Wanted To Be A Lumberjack

Vice President of Princess Cruises UK and Europe, Tony Roberts, talks about his career, his favourite destinations and Henry & Roxy.

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

I started my working life in Finance, working as a Management Accountant for a Fund Management company, and then a company that made Industrial Filters. I was looking for a new challenge and within a week I was offered finance roles at P&O Cruises, Anderson Consulting, IBM and a company that made storage heaters. I took the job at P&O Cruises as I wanted to work somewhere that I could get excited about the product.

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

When I was (really) young, I wanted to be a lumberjack and live in Canada.

What makes Princess Cruises stand out from other cruises?

There are lots of things I could mention about Princess Cruises, such as our fantastic food and drink, amazing entertainment, immersive experiences and our focus on bringing the destination to life. But for me it’s the warmth and hard work of our conscientious crew – they really do a fantastic job and create truly memorable experiences.

As Vice President of Princess Cruises, what is an average day in the life for you?

My job means I’m travelling or away from the office about half of the time, both in the UK and overseas. When I’m in the office, I spend a lot of time with my team and I ask lots of questions.

Tony Roberts Vice President Princess Cruises UK and Europe

What was your last holiday?

I went to Corsica and stayed in a villa for a week in August, I can recommend it. All the things I love about Southern France but with a bit of an Italian feel too.

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

I’m heading to Singapore for Christmas to go on a cruise on Sapphire Princess visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. We’re taking the whole family including my Mum so will have three generations of Roberts’ onboard.

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 try to only touch things once, rather than looking at something and then thinking I’ll come back to it. I’m also a ruthless delegator!

What are your hobbies?

I like cycling, and spending time with my family and two Cocker Spaniels.

Tony's adorable pups, Roxy and Henry
Tony’s adorable pups, Roxy and Henry
Name one or more things on your bucket list.

I want to go to Alaska – maybe in 2018.

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

I would say that they should go for it as cruising really does offer something for everyone and it’s a great way of seeing lots of places whilst being really well looked after, and only unpacking once.

Tony Roberts Vice President Princess Cruises UK and Europe

For the latest deals and special offers with Princess Cruises click here.

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Cruise People – Family Cruising – The Bruce-Low’s





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Family Cruising – Happy Kids Means Happy Parents

Iain Bruce-Low and his partner Anne-Marie own an award winning hair salon in the scenic Scottish seaside town of Oban. With their three lovely children, they find family cruising is the perfect solution to meet their needs.

When was your first cruise? Which ship was it and where did you cruise too?

It was a Western Mediterranean Cruise in 2013 with Royal Caribbean onboard Adventure of the Seas.

What made you decide to book your first cruise?

Having 3 children all different ages 15, 12 and 3, we wanted to find a holiday that had something to keep everyone happy.

Family Cruising
The Bruce-Low Family
What did you like about your first cruise?

The quality, the service and the amount of things to do for everyone.

What is the best cruise you have been on, and why?

We cruised on Anthem of the Seas in 2015 and the ship is incredible!  It is so modern and new, much more our style, and a lot more options for dining. There is an incredible amount of things for the kids to do, they were never bored!

Family Cruising
The Bruce-Low’s prefer the larger cruise ships
What is it that appeals to you about cruising?

I love the freedom and choices, you can be as active or as lazy as you want. It is by far the most you can ever do on holiday as well as being the most relaxing holiday you’ll ever have.

How do you decide which cruises to take?

For me it’s about the ship. It has to be a good enough size, we have learnt the bigger the better. Smaller ships tend to get more over crowded where bigger ships people spread out more. Having plenty for the kids means they are happy – meaning we are even happier.

Family Cruising on Anthem of the Sea's North Star
So much to do for families. Anthem of the Sea’s North Star takes you high above the ocean waves.
What’s the first thing you do when you step onboard a cruise?

We go to the Champagne Bar to pick up a drink and then go off exploring.

What was your last cruise and what did you like/dislike about it

It was a Venice and Greek Isle cruise onboard Rhapsody of the Seas. The fact that it was out of season meant the clientele were much older family cruising, and the ship was probably too small for our liking.  However, the smaller ship did allow us to explore a new area of the world, which we loved.

What would be your dream cruise if you could create your own? 

For me it would be from Greenock/Glasgow and all round the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal and on to Dubai and Asia.  At least couple of months please?

Do you have any tips for booking a cruise?

I would always recommend staying the night before the cruise, in hotel near by. It takes out the stress of arriving the same time as everyone else. Also if you prefer not to pre pay gratuities, you can tip the amount you want to the members of staff that have serviced you directly when you are onboard.



Can you offer any onboard tips for people who have never cruised?

Eat drink as much as you want and remember there is a gym, although I’ve still not seen it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying a cruise but is worried they will feel trapped on a crowded cruise ship?

I’ve heard it all before and best thing I could say is book it because you’ll never know until you try it.

For more information on Bruce-Low-Hair Boutique visit their website brucelowhair.co.uk

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

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