Cruise People – Sheri Griffiths Cruise Tips TV




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.

Sheri Griffiths - Cruise Tips TV enjoying the beach with her son
Sheri Griffiths – Cruise Tips TV enjoying the beach with her son

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.

Sheri Griffiths Cruise Tips TV with the Captain on the bridge of Star Princess
Sheri on the bridge of Star Princess

Do you have any tips for people thinking about starting their own You Tube channel?

Tip #1:

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!

Tip #2:

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.

Tip #3:

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.

Tip #4:

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.

Sheri Griffiths - Cruise Tips TV and her son in Ketchikan, Alaska
Sheri with her son in Ketchikan, Alaska

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!



Making A Splash At The Cruise Show





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.

Hell Bunny Salina Navy Blue Nautical 1950s Vintage Retro Swing Holiday Dress
Hell Bunny Salina Navy Blue Nautical 1950s Vintage Retro Swing Holiday Dress

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.

Vivienne Westwood & Melissa Women’s VW Ultragirl 19 Open-Toe Heels

 

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.

Plain Square Chiffon 50s neck Scarf available in 25 different colours

 

 

Enjoying a glass of bubbly with Dan Corrie from Lanson Champagne.
Marks and Spencer Gold Button Jacket in Navy

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 – Cruises For People Who Don’t Cruise




It’s All About The Destination

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.

I took this photograph of Azamara Quest from Voyager of the Seas in Venice. You can see we were docked much further away, with the other ships.

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.

I took this onboard Norwegian Epic in Barcelona from the main cruise terminal. As you can see Las Ramblas is in the distance. You need a bus or taxi to get there.

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).

Azamazing Evenings

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.

To view itineraries and for more information visit azamaraclubcruises.co.uk



Free Tickets To The London Cruise Show 2018

free tickets to the 2018 cruise show





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

Is It For Me?free tickets to cruise show 2018

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

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

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

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

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

Win A Cruise

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

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

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

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

Plan Your Day

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

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

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

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

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

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



Cruise Me To The Moon On Independence of the Seas





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

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

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

How Does It Work?

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

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

Join Us Onboard

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

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

Or check out Royal Caribbean’s DEALS OF THE WEEK

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


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



Ocean Liners Speed and Style – V & A Exhibition 2018





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertising and Promoting The Ocean Liner

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

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

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

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

The Geeky Bit

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

Politics and War

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

Glamour and the Grande Descente

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Six Star Cruises Event with Azamara Club Cruises

Six Star Cruises Azamara Event at Burhill Golf Club




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

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

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

Azamara Pursuit

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

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

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

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

Maiden Voyage and Christening

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

Suite Accommodation

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

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

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

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

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

Perry Golf Partnership and The Masters

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

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

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

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



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Stacy Shaw – Virgin Voyages VP Business Development




“I do work pretty hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes Virgin Voyages stand out from other cruises?

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

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

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

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

What was your last holiday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your hobbies?

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

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

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

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

I would say take a voyage instead. 🙂

Stacy Shaw Virgin Voyages

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Take an MSC Cruise To The Taj Mahal

Cruise To The Taj Mahal




Have You Ever Fancied A Cruise To The Taj Mahal?

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

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

Discounted Shore Excursions

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

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

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

  • Abu Dhabi – THE LOUVRE MUSEUM & ABU DHABI EXPLORATION      

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

  • Bahrain – BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT IN A 4X4  

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

  • Muscat – MYSTICAL MUSCAT     

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

  • Qatar – DESERT SAFARI AND RELAX AT THE BEACH

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

  • Goa – CROCODILES, MANGROVE & RIVER CRUISE  

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

  • Mumbai – OVERLAND TO THE TAJ MAHAL       

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

  • New Mangalore – Jain & Udupi Temples

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

Free Status Match

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

MSC Cruises



The Big Debate – Should I Prepay Gratuities?

Should I Prepay Gratuities





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

Would You Do It In A Hotel or Restaurant?

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

Is It Cheaper To Pay Gratuities or Give Cash Directly?

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

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

Who Gets The Tips?

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

What Do You Think?

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



WAVE Season Survival Guide for Cruisers and Agents




What Is Wave Season?

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

How Does Wave Season Work?

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

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

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

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

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

Is It Best To Book In Wave Season?

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

The answer is YES if;

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

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

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

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

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

You want to dine at a specific time.

The answer is NO if;

You want the cheapest cruise.

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

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

You can go last minute.

If you don’t drink alcohol.

What Happens After Wave?

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

Here’s My Advice to Customers

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

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

Here’s My Advice to Travel Agents

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



Who Should I Book My Cruise With?

Who Should I Book My Cruise With




Who Should I Book My Cruise With?

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

Book With A Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Member

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

Who You Gonna Call?

If you have no idea what you are looking for, or need two or more options, this is going to take some agents longer than others. If your agent has suggested they get back to you with some details, make sure you mutually agree a deadline, to avoid any confusion. Everyone’s idea of no rush is different. Something to bear in mind is that call centre cruise agents will be on a basic wage plus commission, therefore regardless of whether you book with them or not, they will still get paid at the end of the month.

When I was an independent agent, we worked on a commission only basis. The majority of these home working independents will be lucky to walk away with 5% of the cruise fare in commission, after taxes and splitting it with their agency. Plus they have overheads such as franchise fees and marketing costs. 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 and most importantly, they are not covered by ABTA. Secondly their office hours are not in sync with the UK so getting hold of them may be an issue.

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

My Recommendation

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



What Is a Guarantee Cabin on a Cruise Ship?

Guarantee Cabin




What Exactly Is A Guarantee Cabin?

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

Check the Deck Plan

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

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

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

I’ve Been Told I Might Get A Free Upgrade

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



Can My Cabin or Flight Change Without Consent?

Can My Cabin or Flight Change Without Consent?




Can My Cabin or Flight Change Without Consent?

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

Changing The Cabin

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

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

Changing The Flights and Deposits

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

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

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



Cruise Line Winners of the Globe Travel Awards 2018

Globe Travel Awards 2018




11 January 2018 – Grosvenor House, London

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

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

Three Wins For Royal Caribbean

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

Best Mainstream Cruise Company – Royal Caribbean International

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

Best Premium Cruise Company – Celebrity Cruises

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

Best Specialist Cruise Company: Azamara Club Cruises

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

Richard Twynham – Azamara Club Cruises Managing Director UK and Ireland

River Cruise Awards

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

Best River Cruise Company – Uniworld

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

Favourite Ocean Cruise Company – P&O Cruises

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

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

Best Luxury Cruise Company – Silversea

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

Best Insurance Provider – Holiday Extras

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

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

Best Airline – Emirates

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

Travelling First Class with Emirates

Best Attraction (worldwide) – Walt Disney World Resort

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

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

Outstanding Achievement Award – Steve Dunlop

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

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

Steve Dunlop Photographer with Marco Pierre White
Photo by Steve Dunlop

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

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

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

Innovation in Travel Award, sponsored by Travelport:
Zen3

Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Avis:
Steve Dunlop

Consumer awards, sponsored by Mail Brands UK

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

On the Water, sponsored by Traveltek

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

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

Destination sector, sponsored by Travelzoo

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

On the Move, sponsored by P&O Ferries

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

Flying, sponsored by The Holiday Team

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


Long-haul, sponsored by Air Travel Guide

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

Short-haul, sponsored by Hurtigruten

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

Serving the industry, sponsored by HolidayPirates

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



Where Did Forrest Gump Run? This Vet Finds Out




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.

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump
Rob just before he started his challenge.
Rob Pope as Forrest Gump - Support Team Nadine and Jenny
Nadine and Jenny – Rob’s support team

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.

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump
He just kept on running – Rob with Pramsolo

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.

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump
Rob Pope recreating one of the famous scenes from the film Forrest Gump

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.

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump arriving at Marshall Point in Maine
Rob arrives at Marshall Point in Maine.

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!

Rob Pope
Rob in his day job as a Veterinarian.

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!

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump
Rob Pope faces sub zero temperatures but that doesn’t stop him and Pramsolo

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.

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump still finding time to save a stray dog he named Hope
Rob rescued Hope after she followed him for five miles.

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.

Rob Pope running through Glacier National Park
Rob running through Glacier National Park

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.

Rob Pope as Forrest Gump kept on running after 12000 miles
Rob Pope as Forrest Gump kept on running even when he reached 12000 miles

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?

  • Nadine
  • My friends and family
  • Sausage dinners from Liverpool chippies.
  • Going to the match
  • Laying in
  • Driving
  • Playing the guitar
  • Nadine
  • Running fast
  • 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.

All details can be found on Rob’s website Going The Distance



21 Best Christmas Gifts For Cruisers




Cruise Themed Presents You Will Love

We all want to come up with unique Christmas gifts for cruisers to give our loved ones something thoughtful and creative.

These are my absolute favourite cruise related items for men, women, children, babies and pets that are available on Amazon.co.uk. So you don’t need to spend a day searching the shops for ideas, just a few minutes of online shopping and you will have the rest of the day free to do whatever you want.

£10 and Under

1. Cruise Ship Lapel Pin Badge £3

A great little cruise ship lapel pin gift for Adults. Kids love to put these on their lanyards too.

2. Doggie Bow Tie with Bell £5

Get your pooch in on the actions with this cute nautical themed bow tie

3.World Famous Ships Top Trumps Game £5

These top trump cards make a great Christmas Day game or to prevent boredom on long journeys.

4. Cruise Fund Money Box £5

Save those pennies for your next cruise with the added incentive of a cruise themed money box.

 

5. Belt Clip for Cruise Card £7

If lanyards aren’t your thing, then this belt clip is a convenient alternative to keeping your cruise card handy.

6. Silky Nautical Neck Scarf – £8

This nautical neck scarf will add a splash of colour to any cruise wardrobe.

7. Beaded Lanyard £10

Add a touch of class with this pretty beaded lanyard.

8. Wooden Tissue Box Cover £10

I think this is a lovely gift for the home or office. More details can be found here

£20 and Under

9. Baby Girls Sailor Dress 3 – 24 Months £11

This cute baby dress comes in white or navy and is totally adorable.

 

10. Propeller Cufflinks £11

These cufflinks just make me want to wear a dress shirt.

11. Cat or Puppy Sailor Costume £11

Let the cat join in the fun with this cute little two piece available here.

12. Captain Wine Bottle Holder £12

Put this Captain wine bottle holder on your table at a dinner party to get the conversation going on your cruise adventures.

13. I’d Rather Be On A Cruise Mug £12

Perfect for that office Secret Santa. Buy now.

14. Romper Suit 3 – 18 Months £14

Isn’t this adorable? This would make a beautiful gift. Check here for sizes.

15. Mule Slippers £15

I love these nautical slippers hint hint. Click here for sizes and styles.

16. Anchor and Compass Sterling Silver Pendant £17

Just remember we are looking at gifts for other people. But why not  grab one for yourself while you are at it. Order here to get it before Christmas

17. Anchor and Wheel Design Braces £20

Hold Up! These nautical braces will put a smile on your ship mates face. Available in two designs.

 Under £25

18. Nautical Canvas Beach Tote £22

This lovely big tote bag is not just for the beach. Take it shopping or use it for embarkation day to put your cozzie in so you are pool ready.

19.Vintage Brass Pocket Watch in Wooden Box £23

Step back in time with this classic pocket watch. This is a beautiful gift and comes in a solid wooden box.

 Under £50

20. Solid Brass Cruise Ship Desk Clock £40

This desk clock is one of my favourites on the list. This is a great gift for just about anyone who is cruise crazy.

21. Robert Harding Framed Prints and Cushions £40

Check out the huge range of cruise related imagery to choose from Robert Harding on Amazon.

 

Norwegian Dawn In New York

 

 

Sovereign of the Seas in Nassau 



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Royal Caribbean’s Elevated Cruise Experience

Royal Caribbean's North Star views of Alaska




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




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




“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




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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