Tag Archives: Cheap-Cruises

Grand Princess at Sea

The Princess Sale offers fares from £499pp

Disclaimer: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post, but only recommend products that I would buy or have bought myself.

The Princess Sale for 2021

Princess Cruises is offering reduced fares on more than 800 voyages departing from December 2020 – May 2022 as part of ‘The Princess Sale’, with 7-night sailings available from £499pp.

The Princess Sale is open to book from today, May 1 – June 30, 2020, and includes cruises from the UK, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Alaska.

Low Deposit

Offering a low deposit of £50pp means guests don’t have to pay their balance until 90 days before departure.

The applicable voyages departing from the UK are throughout spring, summer and autumn next year. They sail to destinations across northern Europe, southern Europe, the Mediterranean and the British Isles.

The Princess Sale voyages include:

A 14-night Mediterranean Adventurer cruise on Grand Princess, departing July 24, 2021. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton calling at Seville (Cadiz), Barcelona, Marseille, Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Sardinia (Cagliari) and Ceuta. Prices from £1499pp.

·        A 7-night Scandinavia cruise on Grand Princess, departing November 15, 2021. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton calling at Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Kristiansand. Prices from £679pp.

Nyhavn buildings in Copenhagen, Denmark.

·        A 12-night British Isles cruise on Crown Princess, departing 26 May 2021. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton calling at Guernsey (St. Peter Port), Cork (Cobh), Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow (Greenock), Orkney Islands (Kirkwall), Invergordon, Edinburgh (South Queensferry) and Paris/Normandy (Le Havre). Prices from £1199pp.

Here’s a little video of Josh and I arriving at South Queensferry during a UK cruise on Ruby Princess.

As previously announced, guests booking a Princess cruise of three nights or longer can choose to add the ‘Princess Plus’ simplified onboard savings package for £35 per person per day. The package covers premium drinks, unlimited WiFi and gratuities – which is worth over £70 for guests who pay for these items in advance of their cruise, or onboard.

For more information or to book visit www.princess.com

Recommended Reading: Sapphire Princess Cruise Part One

Essential WAVE Season Survival Guide

What Is Wave Season?

It’s the time of year that the cruise industry goes into overdrive.  January and February (fondly referred to 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 irresistible booking incentives. These are very generous and vary greatly from cruise line to cruise line. Some offer between £20-£100 per booking on a pre-paid MasterCard (in addition to the usual commission). Others will tempt agents with the opportunity to win free cruises, or gain access to special events. Or they might be in with a chance of getting 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 inevitably 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?

When is the best time to book a cruise? This has to be the most frequently asked question other than Should I prepay gratuities? I can only give you my opinion on this, based on my 10 years experience as a cruise agent.

The answer is YES if;

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

You are travelling in peak seasons 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 cost and know the cruise line will look after you if there are any issues with the flights.

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

Your party wants to dine at a specific time.

The answer is NO if;

You want the cheapest cruise fare no matter what.

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 more than two alcoholic drinks per day (on a cruise that is).

What Happens After Wave?

The honest answer to this question is that no-one really knows. I imagine a handful of top executives have 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 Is My Advice To Booking A Cruise

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 the sake of saving money.

Secondly, you may have decided on which cruise you would like, 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 waiting to see if it will go down in price, and hoping there will still be availability, think about the fact that you could get the booking done and then relax in the knowledge that you are going on a cruise.

My Advice to Cruise 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 with 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.

Free Tickets To The London Cruise Show 2018

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

Is It For Me?

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

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

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

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

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

Win A Cruise

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

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

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

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

Plan Your Day

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

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

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

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

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

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

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.

MSC Magnifica Cruise Ship Review

The Med Way of Life aboard MSC Magnifica

This was my first cruise with an Italian Cruise Line and the value for money was incredible.  I couldn’t have stayed in a Travelodge for £105 for 3 nights, let alone take a cruise. We topped up with the Allegrissimo drinks package which was around £25 per person per day.  It included Prosecco, speciality coffee and gelato.

MSC Magnifica

Not A Great Start

After a hellish flight with a wriggly, impatient toddler, an absent A2B transfers driver and a journey to 2 wrong destinations, we FINALLY arrived at the cruise terminal.

It All Changed

As we stepped onto the pavement with our cases, pushchair and bags,  we were approached by a lovely Italian lady who kindly checked our cases were labelled correctly and showed us where to leave them.

We connected with my friends’ friend and her 5-year-old daughter and joined the rather long queue for check-in.  We were given priority boarding having the pushchair with us and checked in.  A handsome young man in a blue blazer greeted us and said “see you onboard”. I was already impressed.

As we boarded the ship, wristbands were put on the children. After the journey we were hungry so we headed straight to the restaurant. The buffet-style restaurant on the MSC Magnifica was by far the largest I have EVER seen. Spread into 2 rooms with fruit and salad stations at each end.  By the time I’d seen everything, I’d forgotten what was at the start. Having said that, once I knew how good the freshly made pizza was……….. nothing else mattered.  The plates are huge as well so you end up putting a lot more than intended on your plate.

Our Cabin

I must admit to looking for the ‘catch’.  I was expecting to find something that would explain the low cost of this cruise.  We went to our rooms to see what they were like. They were lovely, spacious, nicely decorated, nothing wrong with that at all, in fact on a par with the other mainstream cruise lines and better than some.  The bed was comfy, pillows lovely and plump, a good amount of hanging space and drawers for your clothes.

Baby Club

I familiarised myself with the baby club and made sure I checked Joshua in for the drop off times.  For under 3’s they offer baby drop off onboard MSC Magnifica which is one hour at 1 pm and one hour at 6 pm. Perfect for parents to indulge in some time in the jacuzzi in the afternoon or a spa treatment, and an hour to get ready for dinner in the evening.  There is no charge for this and you can access the baby club all day if you want to let your little one run wild.

This was Joshua’s 3rd cruise and I had taken my daughter 4 times prior to that.  As a single parent, you can often feel like you are on the outside watching everyone else have fun.  I do believe that the best holiday you can have as a single parent is a cruise, but there are still some activities you feel you cannot be part of.

Family Fun

As I was walking through the main lounge known on MSC Magnifica as the Tiger Bar, a member of the entertainment team invited me to join them for the sailaway party.  I couldn’t think of anywhere else I needed to be, so I pulled up the pushchair put my bag down, ordered a drink from the waitress standing nearby, took off my jumper and sat down. Joshua took great delight in walking around the lounge, so with Prosecco in hand (mine), I followed him.

People were really friendly and by their friendly reaction, you would have thought they’d never seen a baby before.  One thing I will say about Mediterranean cultures is that they embrace the presence of children which is refreshing.

The entertainment team got up on stage and the music started. People of all ages took to the dance floor, so I picked up Joshua and joined them.  He loved it, I loved it. I couldn’t believe it was 6 pm and the party was in full swing, what a great bunch of people.  My friends came along and we all danced together.  My friend and I both looked at each other and agreed that this was fantastic.

Early Dinner

So now I was in the holiday frame of mind, and I’d danced off the stresses of the day, it was time to get ready for dinner.  We didn’t have long so I figured we would just freshen up, grab dinner and an early night.

We met in the main dining room and did our best to get through 7 courses including steamed mussels, salad, soup, an extensive choice of delicious entrees, cheese and biscuits, dessert and coffee.  Joshua was grumpy as it had been a long day and I was exhausted, so we ate what we could and we went back to our room.

One of the many benefits of cruising is that you end the evening when you are ready rather than have to do everything as a group.

Exploring Magnifica

The next two days were spent enjoying quality time with Joshua, eating whatever I wanted, meeting new people and chilling out.

My three favourite areas of the ship were the pool with its retractable roof, the Tiger Bar and the nightclub, which didn’t start until 11 pm but Josh and I went in during the day and had a good look around.  There are plenty of lounges on board and they all have great and varied entertainment to offer.

 

Tips For Cruising With A Baby

I found it worked best to give Joshua breakfast in the buffet first. Then I would go to the coffee and chocolate bar for a speciality coffee where Joshua could run around safely.  After that I would push him around in his pushchair until he fell asleep. Once he was off I could go into the main dining room for my favourite dish of eggs benedict.

Lunch was in the buffet. After the first two nights, I decided it was better for us and other guests if we also had dinner in the buffet.  The problem with eating at the buffet is that you can go back for more.  But afterwards, I would let Joshua fall asleep in his pushchair and sit in the evening by the undercover pool and read and relax with another glass of prosecco.  My friends always seemed to find me and would join me for a while and then they would go off and do their thing.

To sum up, my short cruise on MSC Magnifica far exceeded my expectations.

You really get the feeling of the Mediterranean way of life. The people are friendly, positive and ready to enjoy themselves.  It’s a place where age means nothing, old people don’t act old, in fact they act younger then the youngsters.  They are living life to the full with the people they love and it shows through. For more information go to MSC Cruises


Recommended Reading  7 Ways MSC Cruises Is Reducing Plastics

Haven by Norwegian – Luxury Cruising

If you like the idea of a large family ship but want that extra special luxury and a VIP area to get away from it all, look no further than The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line.

The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line

With keycard access, this private, ultra luxurious area has been a place for Celebs such as Oprah Winfrey and the well loved Donny and Marie Osmond.  24 hour butler service, a courtyard with private swimming pool, sun deck, loungers (some in the pool to cool off and refresh), fitness room and sauna are some of the features and benefits of this wonderful area.

The long list of benefits and amenities reads as follows:

  • Exclusive access to The Haven Courtyard area with private pool, sun deck and fitness area as well as a private restaurant on some ships
  • White tablecloth in-suite dining
  • 24-hour certified butler service
  • Distinctive platinum key card for shipboard recognition
  • Concierge service and Courtyard valet
  • Priority embarkation and disembarkation
  • Escort to your Suite on embarkation day
  • Priority boarding of tenders
  • Complimentary private car from pier to airport for guests in Garden Villas*
  • Champagne, custom selection of liquor, fruit, bottles water and soft drinks on embarkation day for guests in Garden Villas and (Deluxe) Owner’s Suites
  • Sparkling wine, bottled water and fruit on embarkation day for guests in Family Villas, Spa Suites and (Courtyard) Penthouses
  • 24-hour room service with exclusive Haven menus
  • Mini-bar and espresso/cappuccino machine
  • Gourmet treats delivered to your Suite each evening
  • Invitations to an exclusive breakfast and lunch
  • Cocktail party with ship’s officers
  • Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress
  • Fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu
  • Plush bathrobes, slippers and over sized towels

*Not available on cruises shorter than three nights

Photos of Family Haven Villas which sleep up to 6 people.  These were taken recently on Norwegian’s newest ship Getaway.

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Ship Review

So the day had finally arrived. Wow! What can I say this ship is amazing.  As we drove through Dock Gate 10 to City Cruise Terminal in Southampton, I saw the most incredible sight I had seen, since I my visit on Independence of the Seas here three years ago.

With my cruise virgin friend Alex in tow, we embarked the brand new Norwegian Breakaway and headed to the buffet to beat the crowds. There was a fabulous selection of foods on offer, so I endulged in a bit of everything. From salads to burgers, stir fry’s to curries, hot dogs, filled croissants, a carvery, freshly made pizza and chilli, the hardest part was choosing what to eat. Then came the desserts. Freshly sliced melon, fruit salad, no added sugar deserts, gluten free jelly, chocolate praline cake, passion fruit cake, apple pie and an ice cream parlour with sprinkles, it was heaven.

We took on the marathon challenge of trying to see as much of the ship as possible before settling down at the bar for a well deserved drink. Alex seemed to fair better with his sense of direction which I put down to beginners luck. So we managed to see the aqua park and sports complex, The Haven by Norwegian, Mandara Spa with barbers and hairdressers, thermal suite and fitness centre. Splash Academy kids club, Breakaway Theatre, Maltings Beer Whiskey Bar and a selection of staterooms.

Having seen as much of the ship our legs could bear to take us, we sat by the pool on deck 15 and enjoyed a nice cold drink. If only this was my office everyday!

That evening we headed down to the Atrium for a pre-dinner aperitif and enjoyed the sounds of one of the regular duo performing acts.  The bar was buzzing with people and had a great atmosphere. Some people were dressed up to the nines and others had taken a more casual approach. But they all had one thing in common, a smile, great conversation and a glass of something nice in their hand. 

The Atrium is a great place to meet up before or after dinner with friends. I can imagine on one of the Southern Caribbean cruises, it would be a place where people would exchange their experiences and views on the port of call they have visited and perhaps giving tips they may know about tomorrow’s port.

After our drink we headed for the Manhattan Restaurant where we were greeted by friendly, first class waiters. There was no doubt that Norwegian Cruise Lines had picked the cream of the crop from the other ships, to work on their latest pride and joy.We were lucky to get a table by the window in the main restaurant.

The selection on the menu was fantastic and as it was so difficult to chose I opted for two starters a main course and a dessert, whereas my guest, Alex save the double servings for pudding.
For main course I chose the surf and turf which was lobster tail and steak, however not being too much of a meat eater but a huge fan of lobster, I asked if I could instead have surf and surf and replace the steak with a second lobster tail. “Of course Madam” was the waiters reply.
 I would like to thank Norwegian Cruise Lines for a wonderful day and evening, and for the opportunity to experience this wonderful ship.
We laughed and joked with the head waiter and his assistant throughout the meal who gave an excellent service whilst remaining friendly and relaxed. The cost of the meal?… well those of you who cruise frequently will know the answer, nothing. This is all included in the cost of your cruise.
Following our delicious meal, we took a stroll around the ship and decided we would visit Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Bar. By this time it was around 9.30pm and on entering the bar we found it was full of people of all ages seated at tables enjoying the music and singing along. It was really like a smokey old Jazz Club only without the smoke. Great atmosphere, great band and great choice of music. I really felt like I had stepped back in time and was experiencing something that I would never have done otherwise. For more information on the band have a look at their website www.slamallen.com


At around 10.30pm I was flagging and I had to leave Alex in the bar to enjoy the rest of his evening and go off to bed. Knowing that I had such a comfortable freshly made bed waiting back in my room for me, made it a very easy decision to make.

I would like to thank Norwegian Cruise Lines for a wonderful day and evening, and for the opportunity to experience this wonderful ship.