Tag Archives: Azamara-Club-Cruises

Azamara Club 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.

Las Ramblas, Barcelona.

River Cruising

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. Richard Twyman spoke to guests at a recent event with Six Star Cruises. He said that Sydney is the most congested cruise port on planet Earth. Their 3 cruise berths which are full until 2023, and that Azamara Club Cruises have secured their place 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. The guests visited a private set of castles that overlooked Florence, accompanied by an Historian as their guide. When they entered the grand hall, the historian told them they were standing in the room where Michaelangelo carved David. Guests were treated to a tuscan buffet outside, as the sun set over Florence.  The Three Tenors from the Florence Opera House gave a private performance.

Azamara were the first cruise line to offer private performances of the original Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. These unforgettable experiences are offered all over the world including Rio De Janeiro, Ephesus, St Petersburg and Wellington.

Win a pair of Azamara Gloves

Azamara Club Cruises have given 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

Six Star Cruises Event with Azamara Club Cruises

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 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 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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Interview with Stacy Shaw – Virgin Voyages

“I do work pretty hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stacy 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 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. 🙂

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Cruise Line Winners of the 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.

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!

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.”

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

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

Richard Twynam – Azamara Club Cruises

In Pursuit of Richard Twynham

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

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

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

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

A Professional Golfer.

What makes Azamara Club Cruises stand out from other cruises?

We have a single minded focus on destination first.

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

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

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

What was your last holiday?

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

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

A long Christmas break to visit our family in California!

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

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

So we have a couple of simple rules.

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

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

What are your hobbies?

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

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

The Cook Islands and a drive across Canada.

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

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

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

Cruise International Awards 2017 at The Ritz Hotel, London

So as if it wasn’t a shock enough to be shortlisted for Cruise Agent of the Year Award for the second time, it was even more surprising when I received my invitation to the Awards ceremony. I checked the date was ok for my Mum to look after Josh and after agreeing she asked me where it was being held. I hadn’t checked the invite as these things are usually held in a nice hotel in London and I was sure this was no exception. Mum was still standing there waiting for the answer, so I rolled my eyes and checked the email.

I read the email again and grinning, I looked up and Mum and said “It’s at THE RITZ!” Mum’s jaw dropped and we turned into a couple of crazy ladies. It was so exciting. It’s times like this when you think, what other job could a single mum possibly have, that would give her the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon at the most famous and poshest (yes I said poshest), hotel in London?

Getting There

I decided to drive up to town. Mainly because I had experienced a weekday 6pm train journey from London Waterloo to Weybridge. I am sure we achieved a new world record for the amount of passengers on a train that day.  Anyway, I was not prepared to put myself through that again. So for a few extra quid and a bit of traffic, I decided to drive.

Delays

I know the traffic can be heavy in Knightbridge, but it took me 20 minutes of sitting outside Harrods to realise that the only reason the traffic was moving slightly, was due to cars turning away from the queue and trying an alternative route. I like to be early and was on track to arrive at the Ritz at 2.45. The event started at 3pm and the awards ceremony at 3.30pm, so I had plenty of time. In my mind, I had planned on having a sneaky gin and tonic at the bar somewhere before anyone else arrived. However, the sudden road closure put pay to that and it was now 3.15! Queue the brown paper bag.

Trying to stay calm and positive, I did a u-turn and drove around the back of Harrods. hoping the satnav would work things out for me. As I got closer I knew I would have minutes to spare if I was lucky, so my plan was to pull up outside the hotel and jump straight out of the car. Then I pictured the front of the Ritz and couldn’t recall there being anywhere for cars to pull up. I was frantic. How could I be late to such an event. I am shortlisted for a prestigious award at the best hotel in London and I am going to be late.

First Impressions

In desperation, I pulled up outside the front door and looked for a Concierge. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the front of the Ritz Hotel, there is no where to pull over. You simply stop dead in the middle of a busy dual carriageway, surrounded by understandable angry Uber drivers. I guess the black cab drivers are used to it. The concierge was inside the door, on the phone, facing the other way! I had no choice. I bibbed my horn and waited a few seconds. Nothing. The glass on those front doors must be pretty thick. I was so embarrassed, this was the worst thing I could have done, but I couldn’t think of any other way. After a few more beeps the Concierge turned around. I shouldn’t think they are used to guests arriving like this. I pleadingly beckoned him over and he reluctantly walked towards the car. In hindsight, I am surprised I didn’t end up being arrested. I asked him where the valet parking was. He looked at my car and it’s driver and questioned “Do you want the hotel ma’am?” I said “yes” and explained. The Concierge directed me to the hotel entrance.

I’m Late For A Very Important Date

I looked at the dashboard clock, it was 3.25. I had one shot at this otherwise I was going to be embarrassingly late. I sped down the round, turned around, apologised to a few black cab drivers and flew down the turning. It didn’t look right but I followed the instructions. Then I saw it! The entrance of the hotel and two immaculately dressed and well composed doorman in top hat and tails, standing at the top of the steps greeting guests. I quickly pulled in, oversteering and mounting the kerb. So now they had noticed me but were keeping their distance. I beckoned them over whilst bending down changing my shoes. The bravest of them approached the car with caution. I put the window down and said “I need valet parking, I need to be in there at an event and I’m late”. The poor guy, who obviously stayed polite and professional at all times, and called me ma’am, stood by the drivers door as I handed him a rather worn car key card, held together with parcel tape.

It’s De-Lovely

Finally I had made it. Many London hotels are plush but the Ritz is that and more. Walking into The Ritz makes you feel like you are royalty and is hard to put into words. For anyone looking for a memorable visit to London, afternoon tea at the Ritz has to be top of the heap.

Everything about the Ritz is legendary and fairytale-like at the same time. The grandeur, the opulence and the Britishness.

This is where afternoon tea is served.

The Music Room

I was directed to the appropriate part of the hotel, and as I entered the room I was greeted by two smiling ladies holding trays of champagne.

The guest speaker was the one and only International Award Winning Wine Writer and Broadcaster, Oz Clarke, also known for his collaboration with Celebrity Cruises. Oz was extremely funny and I thoroughly enjoyed his cruise anecdotes.

 

Whilst sipping champagne and nibbling on finger sandwiches, I couldn’t help notice the beautiful chandelier, the stunning ceiling and huge draped curtains framing the wall to ceiling windows. I had a wonderful afternoon at The Ritz and it was great to meet new people as well as catch up with a few familiar faces.

And The Winners Are…

Best Cruise Line

Princess Cruises – Winner

P&O Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Luxury Cruise Line

Seabourn – Winner

Regent Seven Seas Cruises – Highly Commended

Best River Cruise Line

Viking River Cruises ­– Winner

Riviera Travel – Highly Commended

Best Luxury River Cruise Line

Viking River Cruises – Winner

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection – Highly Commended

Best for Onboard Activities

Royal Caribbean International – Winner

Norwegian Cruise Line – Highly Commended

Best for Families

Disney Cruise Line – Winner

Royal Caribbean International – Highly Commended

Best for First-Time Cruisers

Princess Cruises – Winner

P & O Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Adventure

Silversea – Winner

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Value for Money

Thomson Cruises – Winner

Saga Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Boutique Cruise Line

Azamara Club Cruises – Winner

Silversea – Highly Commended

Best for Enrichment

Saga Cruises – Winner

Holland America Line – Highly Commended

Best for Wellbeing

Holland America Line – Winner

Oceania Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Food

Oceania Cruises – Winner

Viking Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Onboard Entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line – Winner

Disney Cruise Line – Highly Commended

Best New Ship

Silver Muse – Winner

Seabourn Encore – Highly Commended

Best Product or Service

Ultimate Balcony Dining by Princess Cruises – Winner

VIP Home Departure Service by Titan – Highly Commended

Best Escorted & Specialist Tour Operator

Titan – Winner

Riviera Travel – Highly Commended

Best UK Port

Southampton – Winner

Liverpool – Highly Commended

Best Destination (Europe)

Dubrovnik – Winner

Norway – Highly Commended

Best Destination (World)

New Zealand – Winner

Barbados – Highly Commended

Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry

Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman, Silversea

Cruise Agent Lifetime Achievement Award

Giles Hawke, CEO, Cosmos Tours and Cruises and Avalon Waterways UK ­– Winner

Michael Wilson, Managing Director, Bolsover Cruise Club – Highly Commended

Best Online Cruise Travel Agent

Iglu Cruise – Winner

Bolsover Cruise Club – Highly Commended

Best Cruise Agency

Bolsover Cruise Club – Winner

Iglu Cruise – Highly Commended

Best Cruise Agent

Louise Thompson, Cruise.co.uk – Winner

Jane Chadwick, Go Cruise with Jane – Highly Commended

Best Blogger

Gary Bembridge, Tips for Travellers – Winner

Danielle Fear, Cruise Miss – Highly Commended

Introducing Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Cruises have kept us waiting for 10 years to find out how they could create something more impressive than a real grass lawn on a cruise ship. So what makes Celebrity Edge a revolution in cruise ship design?

Well over the coming weeks and months, Celebrity Cruises will reveal more of what’s to be expected. But for now they have done a pretty good job of making the cruise industry sit up and pay attention.

Unique Experiences

So let’s start with the Magic Carpet. This multi purpose cantilevered platform the size of two tennis courts, extends out from the starboard side of the ship.

On port days the Magic Carpet provides an enhanced tender experience for guests. This is something Royal Caribbean President and CEO, Richard Fain has been looking to improve for a long time, rather than the traditional metal gangway. However, once the idea started to become a reality, he didn’t stop at that?

The Magic Carpet provides luxurious seating, a dining area and a cool and trendy bar. During the day, the platform is positioned on deck 5 for Al Fresco dining. Later in the day guests can board the Magic Carpet off the renamed resort deck and enjoy a sunset cocktail with live music. In the evening Deck 16 is the place to be, where guests can experience evening culinary events and enjoy Dinner on the Edge.

Croydon born architect Tom Wright who’s work includes the Most Luxurious Hotel In The World – Burj Al Arab, can be credited for the design of the Magic Carpet, as well as the Rooftop Gardens, which replace the Solstice Class Lawn Club. This groovy looking space was created for guests as an area to get away from it all. The tree sculptures incorporate a small platform for musicians and dancers to provide a unique entertainment venue. With it’s own movie screen, the Rooftop Gardens is the perfect place for Celebrity’s new dining concept Taste of Film.

New Suites

No one designs cruise ships like Celebrity Cruises. The mix of sleek, contemporary luxury is what gives Celebrity it’s Modern Luxury uniqueness. To guarantee their new ship class took the experience to another level, one of my favourite female entrepreneurs, British Interior Designer Kelly Hoppen MBE, created the most luxurious areas of the ship for guests occupying a suite.

The Iconic Suites and Edge Villas have been designed to give the feel of your very own luxury home. The two 2,600 sq.ft Iconic Suites with two bedrooms and two bathrooms are located above the ship’s bridge. The panoramic windows offer breathtaking 270 degree views that will take your breath away.

The other addition to the suite class are these gorgeous six, two-storey Edge Villas. As well as stunning views, each one has it’s own private plunge pool.

Innovative and Spacious Staterooms

A new class of stateroom has been created with the introduction of the Infinite Veranda. The rooms offer 23% more footage and the bathrooms are 10% larger. The room can transform at the touch of a button. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Price Tag

Celebrity Edge’s inaugural sailing will be from her homeport of Fort Lauderdale on December 16, 2018. The itineraries will alternate 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

These one of a kind suites are being snapped up quickly, with the two Iconic Suites already booked up for the Christmas 2018 cruise.

We know you can’t put a price on experience, but if you were looking to book an Iconic Suite today, you would have to wait until 3 February 2019 for the first available room. Yes they are all booked up until then. But based on 3 February 2019 sailing for a 7 Night Western Caribbean cruise here are today’s prices based on two people sharing.

Iconic Suite £16,979pp* including gratuities, wifi and drinks.

Edge Villa £8,079pp* including gratuities, wifi and drinks.

Infinite Veranda £1413pp* including drinks.

Interior Stateroom £1013pp*.

*prices subject to availability and change at any time. Prices correct at 0700 GMT on 16 March 2017

New Cruise Ships for Azamara?

Sister ships get Royal Treatment

Azamara President and CEO Larry Pimentel tells USA TODAY , “By April of next year we will have two ships that essentially are brand new.”

Pimentel says “the new design is the handiwork of the team responsible for new ship building at Azamara’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises who are known for some of the best designs in the cruise business.”

Tight Lipped

Azamara remain tight-lipped about the details of the enhancements but have released some of the artists drawings. This shows that these major upgrades will certainly add the modern, contemporary and brighter feel the cruise line are aiming for.

“As we continue to evolve our destination immersive offerings, we also want to ensure our onboard experience is modernized to meet guests’ every need,” said Pimentel.

“We can’t wait for our ships to come out of dry dock, as these major upgrades are going to have an instant impact on our guests’ experience. Each corner of the ships will have a new look and feel, setting a brighter, more contemporary ambiance. While the new venues will bring guests fresh experiences. We’re also investing in new onboard innovations and paid close attention to the smallest of details. We really are redefining our onboard experience in every way.”

A Runaway Success Story

I asked Richard Twynam, Managing Director UK and Ireland, a few questions about the plans for Azamara Quest and Journey.

Q.Why have you decided to invest in a major refit for both ships?

A. “Azamara Club Cruises is a runaway success story, and guests love our Destination Immersion concept and informal Club atmosphere on board. This success has justified this investment from the board.”

Q. Are you looking to appeal to a different demographic?

A. “Not necessarily, as we have over a 50% repeat guest rate. But I am confident that many guests who would normally travel on other cruise lines will want to experience Reimagined Azamara.”

Q. What changes will guests see onboard?

A. “Every single part of the ship from aft to the bow will be upgraded, from every state room, to restaurants and the spa, watch this space as we share more and more detail over the coming weeks.”

Guest Feedback

Mr and Mrs Evans from Cheshire,  have recently returned from their Panama Canal cruise on the Azamara Journey. I asked what they thought about the announcement.

“Delighted to hear of the refit plans. We thought the itinerary for our last cruise was excellent and exceeded our expectations. An improvement in the quality of the onboard experience will only add to the appeal. We think Azamara continues to offer excellent value for money.”

Dry Dock Schedule

Azamara Journey – Bahamas January 2016

Azamara Quest – Singapore April 2015

What’s A Destination Immersion Cruise?

Destination immersion cruises are a great way to see more of a destination. It does not mean a full immersion baptism in the Sea of Galilee (although don’t mention that to Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, or he will add that to the the list of Azamazing Evenings).  It means seeing the destination come to life and experiencing the myriad of cultures for yourself, creating memories that last forever.
Image source: watch.uktv.co.uk
Wildlife adventurer, tv presenter and film maker, Nigel Marven has recorded a 6 part series for Watch TV which documents his journey to the Caribbean, Scandinavia, Mediterranean, Central America, India and the Antarctic with the crew and passengers onboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.
This is a great opportunity to see another side of cruising and proves that there really is a cruise out there for everyone.  Tune into Watch on Sky Channel 109, BT Vision Channel 407 and Virgin Media 124 or 191 for HD.
The first episode airing 5 May, finds Nigel on Richard Branson’s exclusive resort of Necker Island where he find rare iguanas and goes head to head with sperm wales.
Image source: watch.uktv.co.uk

Recommended Reading Azamara – Cruises For People Who Don’t Cruise