Tag Archives: Viking-Cruises

Flavia Gray Cruise Blogger sitting in Coast Beach Bar in Barbados

Viking Sea Cruise – Last Day – Barbados

The last day of a cruise is always a sad one. However when it’s your first time in Barbados, it’s hard to be anything but completely excited.

During my cruise on Viking Sea I had met many lovely people. On my second day in Puerto Rico, we were gathered in the terminal to depart for our horse riding adventure, and Julia bowled up to our group to join us. Looking the part in her cowboy boots, I immediately took to Julia and her bubbly personality. We chatted non-stop on the drive to the stables. It turned out that Julia was working onboard Viking Sea as HR Manager. When I told her I was looking to get some amazing beach photos, she kindly offered to help and arranged the whole thing!

I met Cassie Wilcox, Senior Writer for Viking Cruises UK, in the check in queue at Heathrow. After a few days on the cruise, Cassie told me she was desperate to get that soft white sand between her toes asked if she could join us.

TAXIS EVERYWHERE

If you’ve never been to Barbados on a cruise, it is worth knowing that as you emerge from the terminal building you are greeted by hundreds of taxis. There seems to be one person managing the operation. They will ask you where you want to go and find the driver for you. They seem to prefer lots of passengers on shorter journeys, so for three of us looking for a two hour trip we were not getting any takers.

Thankfully Julia sorted it all out and a lovely retired gentleman name Marson said he would be our driver. I needed to be back to the ship by midday as we were flying home, so we didn’t have a lot of time and I wanted to see as much as possible.

BROWNES BEACH

Marson was a real charmer and told us some great stories of his ballroom dancing. The first beach he took us to was Brownes Beach just 15 minutes from the cruise terminal.

Pristine white sand and crystal blue water at Brownes Beach.

Dress: M & S Linen Blend Sleevless Tunic Dress

It certainly ticks all the boxes for that dreamy Caribbean beach. We arrived around 9.30am so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. Apparently it can get extremely busy so my advice is get there super early and head back to the ship when it gets too busy. All of the beaches we visited had sun-loungers and umbrellas for hire.

Julia and Cassie were really good fun to hang out with.

A big smile from Cassie as she gets that powdery sand between her toes.

I love this photo of Julia laughing at me.

That’s why she’s laughing

What a great shot, even if I say so myself.

From there, Marson drove 5 minutes south to Needhams Point. We stopped at the Hilton Barbados Resort to take in the views and have a quick wander around the grounds.

The hotel has several gorgeous pool areas, it’s right on the beach and offers stunning views.

If you fancy staying there, you can check pricing and availability for the Hilton Barbados Resort here.

I love this hotel.

Get the outfit: M & S Woven Vest Dress, Mia Tui Jennie Bag and Sparkly Fit Flops.

Next stop was Worthing Beach just 10 minutes drive away. Since Marson had told us so much about his passion for dancing, I asked if he would show me a few moves. He kindly obliged.

The best taxi driver in Barbados. Marson Craigwell shows off his moves.

We wandered along the beach and found a great place to stop and reflect.

We stayed there for a while, just soaking up the beautiful atmosphere. What an incredible place Barbados is. I want to go back at the first opportunity. Maybe a Christmas cruise?

Dipping my toes in the water for the last time

Outfit: M & S Wide Leg Beach Trousers and Sparkly FitFlops

There is a great restaurant and bar on the beach called Coast. We met the owner, Anna who bought the bar 4 years ago when she moved over from her home town of Milan, Italy. If you are visiting Barbados, make sure this is on your list of places to visit.

As you can see, I was far from ready to leave. What a gorgeous place. Barbados! I’ll be back!

The clothes in this post are my own and purchased by me. I have not been paid or gifted to endorse any of the products listed below. These affiliate links mean I will earn a small amount of commission on any purchases made via these links, at no extra cost to you.

  1. M & S Linen Blend Dress
  2. Black Beach Dress
  3. Sparkly Fit Flops
  4. Beach Trousers
  5. Hilton Barbados Resort

Recommended Reading: Viking Seas Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Five – St Lucia

It looked like we were in for another gorgeous day in the Caribbean as I enjoyed breakfast on my balcony. I woke up early again, partly due to jetlag, but also because of my excitement for the day ahead.

I visited St Lucia with my family back in 2009. We had such an amazing time there and we still talk about it now.

Room Service Breakfast in St Lucia

For those of you who regularly read my blog posts, you will already know how much I love being in, on or by the water. When I saw the option for whale and dolphin watching in St Lucia, I didn’t hesitate to book it. Although it is worth mentioning at this point, that the excursion was full and had it not been for the gorgeous Becky Wiggins (English Mum) letting me take her place on the trip, I would be looking at her photos instead of mine. So a HUGE thank you Becky for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Like most cruises, shore excursion groups meet in the theatre at the time specified on the ticket. Once everyone has arrived, they are escorted off the ship to meet their tour guide. The great thing about this trip is that the boat is a five minute walk from the cruise ship. So before we knew it, we were all aboard and sailing out to sea.

We sailed three miles off the coast while the two crew members made us feel welcome. There was plenty of room on the boat for people to move around and a choice of seating downstairs in the open or covered, and upstairs in the open or under cover. The crew frequently offered us refreshments which included Rum Punch and the most incredible bananas. I know you would expect St Lucia to offer great tasting bananas, but they were so delicious I turned to my neighbour and said “you don’t get these in Tesco’s do you?”

There was a fair bit of movement in the boat, so it is not for those of you prone to motion sickness and your safety is really down to your own common sense. This is a trip for the semi adventurous. It’s not exactly mountain climbing (Michael English), but if you are someone who always thinks the worst is going to happen, I’d suggest giving this one a miss.

The Time Of My Life!

I told one of the crew members that I would be videoing the experience for my blog and could he give me an idea of the best place to stand. Well be careful what you ask for, because no sooner had I said that, I was following him along the side of the boat to the front. I sat up on the ledge for a while and took in the breathtaking view. This was an experience that I will never forget. It was one of those moments when you just can’t believe it is really happening. One where you feel truly alive and you want to try and share it with the world.

The trip lasted four hours in total. I moved to the upper deck after a while where I felt better positioned to enjoy a rum punch. During the trip we saw dolphins, pilot whales and a rare spotting of false killer whales. Here is a short video which condenses the sightings and hopefully gives you an idea of the incredible experience it really was.

If you are visiting St Lucia without a cruise, you can book this excursion directly with Captain Mike’s.

Last Day Onboard

Back onboard for what was to be our last afternoon on the Viking Sea. I grabbed some more of the delicious food at the Pool Grill for a late lunch and met with the rest of our group by the pool. A steel band came onboard to entertain the guests. They were very good and did a great rendition of Take On Me by Aha.

I love the fact that the pool area is used in many different ways. All the seats were turned towards the band, similar to the set up for when they have a  movie night.

Final Sunset and Sea View

It was that time that we all dread, that last day of the cruise, but inevitably it had arrived. I took one last wander around the decks while the sun was setting. Desperately trying to capture the feeling of that moment in a photograph, which is impossible. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? All cruisers do.

With bags packed, it was time for dinner. We had chosen to try another alternative dining venue. This time it was Chef’s Table, a five course wine pairing menu.

First Course – Lobster and Chicken Shu Mai

Having tried a variety of dining options during our Viking Sea cruise, I have to say that my two favourites were the main dining room and the seafood and sushi buffet. However, there is no additional charge to eat in alternative restaurants, so you can choose whichever you feel suits your palette.

Woah – It’s Not Over Yet

So the last day had finally come to an end and it was time for bed, but with one consolation – Barbados tomorrow!

Have you read Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four – Exploring The Ship

Good Morning St Kitts

Despite the forecast of rain, it was still warm and balmy as I stepped out onto my balcony onboard Viking Sea, to take a look at St Kitts.

I will forgive you for thinking I was crazy not getting off the ship in St Kitts. However, I really wanted to get to know the Viking Sea a little better and this was the only port I hadn’t booked an excursion for.

As there was no rush to be anywhere, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in bed.

When I was ready I headed out to explore the ship. Unlike other cruises I have been on, I found myself meeting and talking to other passengers. Maybe it was because we had met on the shore excursions, and the fact I didn’t have my son in tow. I think it was partly to do with me wanting to explain to people why I had a GoPro strapped to my head! I was also surprised to meet so many British passengers onboard.

Who Were The Vikings?

In keeping with the authentic experience Viking Cruises pride themselves on, there is a Viking Heritage Museum on deck two.

The impressive display of antiquities feeds the imagination of times gone by.

The people we now call “Vikings” were not a unified group or culture. Rather, they were the Norse peoples of Scandinavia – modern-day Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Principally they existed as farmers, but they also were settlers, traders, crafters, explorers and raiders.

Nordic Chic

Making my way outside, I walked through the Aquavit Terrace, which feels fresh with it’s nordic chic decor.

This leads you out to Viking’s signature infinity pool at the aft of the ship. I wasn’t the only one wanting to enjoy the onboard luxury. There were a few people in the pool and the hot tub.

Making my way upstairs to wander around the top deck, the view of the St Kitts mountains was stunning.

Lunch by the pool

Having missed lunch the last two days while off exploring, I didn’t want to miss it today. I had heard great reports about the Pool Grill which serves food until 2.30. It was getting close to that time already so I went to the main pool to get a closer look.

There was a lovely salad bar which included a gluten free Artesian Salad with Potato and Eggplant, a Marinated Fennel and Tomato and Prawns which was also gluten free. Although the food selection changes daily, I could have eaten the Eggplant salad every day. Burgers, hot dogs and fish are cooked to order at the grill and are served with coleslaw, red onion jam and a selection of toppings.

After lunch I found a great spot to top up my tan and relax for a while.

The bag I was using is a the Alex Folding Travel Bag by Mia Tui. They come in a wide range of designs including black, polka dots and multi coloured.

Afternoon Tea

Athough I was still full from lunch, my travelling companions were meeting in the Wintergarden for afternoon tea at 4.00pm. I popped by as I knew I would be off the ship the following afternoon.

It was a good job they had saved me a seat. Afternoon tea is hugely popular with the guests and I can see why. A classical trio created the perfect quintessential atmosphere for enjoying the delicate sandwiches and cakes. Fresh scones were served by hand and complimented by an extensive drinks menu including a wide range of teas. I opted for the mango tea, which was very refreshing.

A Perfect Moment

As we departed St Kitts, I jumped into the infinity pool to enjoy the view. I remember when I first saw an image of the Viking Cruise ships, and thought how much I would love to be in that infinity pool. I never imagined it would actually come true.

The Beauty of Cruising

From one stunning view to another. I returned to my room to get changed and enjoyed the sunset from my balcony. It never ceases to amaze me the constant beauty you experience when you look out over the ocean from a cruise ship.

Feeling all tanned and refreshed, I took a walk to the atrium to see what was going on. A very handsome guitarist sat playing classical guitar. The sound was beautiful and he smiled at me. (Ok I was pointing a camera at him, but just let me have this).

The World Cafe

I went to take a look at the seafood and sushi in the buffet, as I had been advised not to miss it and I wasn’t disappointed.

I started with the seafood and a nice chilled glass of chardonnay. Wine and beer is complimentary with lunch and dinner, although I had the silver spirits beverage package which allows you drinks throughout the day for an additional $19.95 per guest per night.

This was the best sushi I have ever had.

After dinner, I took another stroll around the ship. As the Viking Sea was now sailing, the shops were open. There are not many shops onboard Viking Cruise ships, but the ones they do have are worth a visit. If you are looking for a jumper for extreme cold, this is the place to get one.

As you can imagine, everything is Nordic themed including the jewellery, ornaments, books and these cute but slightly scary viking head stuffed toys.

Why not take one of these little chaps home with you?

Movie Under The Stars

The main pool on the Viking Sea has a retractable roof so people can use the pool in the evenings. They also have a movie screen which is not used during the day, but some evenings they transform the space into a movie theatre.

Before people started to arrive for the movie “A Dog’s Purpose”, I took this short video of the room set up. What a lovely place to relax and enjoy a film, whilst you are sailing to your next destination?

I stayed to watch some of the movie. It featured a dog, so I knew whatever happened in the end it would have me in tears. I left early to avoid the inevitable blubbing, and went to bed. St Lucia tomorrow!!

Have you read Day Three – St Croix

If so, why not go to Day Five – St Lucia

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Three – St Croix

Waking Up In St Croix

There’s nothing better than having a balcony when you cruise, and on Viking Sea every room has one. Not only did I get a great view of the coastline, but I also got a partial view of the Bridge.

It was warm and sunny outside with temperatures forecast for the high 80’s. I had booked a snorkelling excursion and was excited to try it for the first time.

Waking up to a beautiful view of St Croix

As my body was still on UK time, I felt really hungry as soon as I woke up. I needed to eat something quickly, so I ordered breakfast in my room and enjoyed a delicious feast before getting dressed.

Simple, Beautiful St Croix

I wanted to have a look at Frederiksted before leaving for the Buck Island trip. Thank goodness I did. St Croix is unlike any other Caribbean Islands visited by cruise ships.

There is no big terminal building, you simply walk along the pier into the quaint town of Frederiksted.

The Viking Sea docked in St Croix

As you reach the Customs and Immigration building, there is a small welcome party where you can taste the local rum while the DJ plays Caribbean music.

A warm welcome in St Croix

And if that doesn’t get you in the Caribbean mood, this lady will.

A vibrant welcome to St Croix

Frederiksted Historic District

There is a lovely area just at the end of the pier with benches facing the sea. The red building is Fort Frederik which was built in the 1750’s to guard the island from pirates. It now houses a museum and art gallery which can be visited for a small entrance fee. A clocktower overlooks Emancipation Park where in 1848, Danish Governor Peter Von Scholten emancipated the slaves.

I thought this was a really pretty place and not busy at all. There are a few tents set up with local sellers offering a range of local products but no big tax-free jewellery stores or designer shops, which I find is a refreshing change. It might be different when one of the larger cruise ships visits. If you have any experience of this please let me know in the comments below.

Driving To Christiansted

We were the second trip of the day for our driver Stephen.

Religion is a very important part of Island culture and it wasn’t long before I had a sign from God.

Thankfully it was just the shadow of a window sticker on my leg. Or was it?

The drive to Christiansted, the largest town on the island, took around 20 minutes. En route I was surprised to see an oil production plant on the island, recently sold and renamed Limetree Bay Terminals LLC. More in keeping with the area was the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery, which has a visitor centre if you fancy a look around.

Arriving in Christiansted we gathered on grass area to meet our Caribbean Sea Adventures Crew. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the colourful buildings around us.

Our Buck Island Adventure

The sun-kissed crew from Caribbean Sea Adventures, gathered our group together.

We headed to our boat.

Once onboard the boat, it became apparent that I was the only person on board that had never snorkelled before. Many people had brought their own equipment.

Buck Island is a protected National Monument. Two-thirds of the island are surrounded by a coral barrier reef. This provides the perfect ecosystem for a variety of marine plants and animals including endangered species.

I didn’t go too far from the boat for my first snorkel but what I saw and experienced was something I will never forget. It is hard to put into words the peace and tranquillity I experienced even just putting my face into the water, but it moved me to tears when I emerged from the water.

Here is a 3-minute video that I have put together to give you an idea of what it was like. Have you tried snorkelling? If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. If you like the video please visit my YouTube channel and give it a thumbs up and subscribe to help me get famous :-). I hope you like the song as much as I do.

Back On Board

Back onboard the Viking Sea, you are handed a much needed chilled flannel to refresh yourself, and a warm smiley welcomes from the crew who greet you by name.

After our wonderful day trip, I was thirsty and needed to cool off a bit. I ordered myself a Margarita on the rocks, no salt, at the Aquavit Terrace Bar, and headed to the infinity pool.

I watched the beautiful sunset as we sailed away from St Croix.

Then it was time for dinner in Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant.

Manfredi’s starter – Calamari

Followed by melt in the mouth Surf n’ Turf

The meal in Manfredi’s was delicious but I was so exhausted after another action-packed day, I could barely stay awake to eat it. So as soon as I finished dinner I headed back to my room and flopped into the incredibly soft, comfy, cosy bed.

Goodnight.

Have you read my Viking Sea Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico?

If so, why not read Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico

A Room With A View

My Penthouse Veranda stateroom was on the starboard side which gave me the best views of the ocean in Puerto Rico. I sat down on my balcony to enjoy a coffee and the sun rising above San Juan and noticed a cruise ship in the distance. I love watching ships come alongside, so I was thrilled to see three other cruise ships entering the port, all from the comfort of my stateroom.

View of San Juan Port from Viking Sea 5011.

It was time for breakfast and to see the ship in daylight.

Taking in the Viking Sea with the beautiful San Juan backdrop.

 

Walking to breakfast on the Viking Sea

 

The main pool onboard Viking Sea

Time For An Adventure

After a quick tour of the ship, we headed out for our horse riding trip. There was no queuing to disembark the ship and we were offered chilled bottles of water to take with us as we left.

We took a minibus to Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park located in Luquillo. Our driver gave us an entertaining guided tour during the 20-minute journey. However, I had met a lovely lady named Julia, who works onboard the Viking Sea. We didn’t stop talking for the entire journey, so I missed the commentary but made a great friend.

Everyone in the group was matched to a horse depending on their experience. Horse riding is second nature to me, so I was matched with Vulcan for the ride.

Not quite Lady Godiva

It was a blazing hot day, so we took it easy and just walked. We stopped to rest and cool off by the river.

Time to cool off

I could have stayed there all-day

 

With my new friends. Our guide, Jonathan and Julia from Viking.

It was a fantastic experience and the guys that took us out were great fun and looked after us. We rode back to the farm, grabbed a beer and returned to the ship.

Thank goodness we were on a Viking Cruises shore excursion as we arrived back dead on 4.30, which was the all aboard time. That was cutting it fine. Had we been delayed though, the ship would have waited for us, unlike if we were doing the trip on our own.

Sailaway

Five o’clock was time for muster drill, so I had just enough time for a much-needed shower. Being a 930 passenger ship, the drill took no time at all and we were soon sipping cocktails and watching the sunset.

The sun setting on San Juan

The waves crashing against the rocks of Old San Juan Fort – Castillo San Felipe del Morro

The dramatic San Juan coastline

Our group met in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. Viking’s ocean cruise ships all have an Explorers theme encapsulated in their interior design.

The Explorers Lounge with maps of star constellations framing the room

The Explorers Lounge Bar with star constellation mirror

Meeting in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail

For our first night, we decided to have dinner in the main dining room.

Smoked Sturgeon and Sevruga Caviar

Oriental Style Scallops and Lobster

After dinner, we headed to the theatre for the Captains Welcome Aboard Speech.

Champagne on ice to welcome the guests onboard Viking Sea

There was not a spare seat in the house as Cruise Director Mark and the Viking Band kicked off proceedings with a wonderful rendition of Hello, Young Lovers.

The Captain was introduced to the stage and from the outset, he was very funny. There was a lighthearted approach to introducing the rest of the senior management team as they walked onto the stage to the music of Pirates of the Caribbean.

By this time the travelling, jet lag and horseriding had made me feel extremely tired. So it was time for bed to be ready for more exciting adventures tomorrow.

Read Day Three – St Croix

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day One – Flying To Puerto Rico

Ever Considered Cruising from San Juan?

If you want to visit a different picture perfect Caribbean Island everyday, a cruise from Puerto Rico will deliver this and more. However, there are no direct flights from the UK to San Juan so flying to Puerto Rico puts people off for many reasons. When Viking Cruises invited me to be their guest on Viking Sea, I didn’t think twice about the journey, but I did learn things from it that will help you to get the best experience possible.

All set for flying to Puerto Rico to board Viking Sea for a Caribbean cruise.

Snow Joke

Originally we were flying with BA via Philadelphia. However the reports of snow were making it likely that we would not get out of Philly for our connecting flight to San Juan. Luckily for me, Viking Cruises took care of everything and rebooked us on an American Airlines flight via Miami. However, this is a really important thing to consider if you are making your own flight arrangements. Flying via Miami also means your airbourne for a shorter period of time, however the stopover is longer so door to door, it will take longer.

Tip: If I were doing the trip myself, I would stay overnight in Miami and then fly to San Juan on the day of the cruise, or possibly book another overnight in San Juan. Also, book early and you may get a great deal on an upgraded seat and always, always, always have an airport lounge booked. For details on how to get the best deal for lounges read my Christmas In Florida blog post.

First glimpse of the sun above the clouds after taking off from Heathrow on American Airlines flight to Miami.

Standing Room Only

We weren’t the only passengers that had been re-routed to Miami, and this was clear by the lack of space on our flight. I managed to get my preferred window seat, however this meant I was trapped for 9 hours. When you travel with family, you don’t mind having to move them out of their seats, but as I was sitting next to an elderly couple, I didn’t want to keep disturbing them.

A few of my favourite things including this Mia Tui bag in rose gold.

There was only one thing for it. A glass of white wine, sunglasses and music on, and sit back and relax. For those of you who are thinking of flying on an American Airlines aircraft (check to see if you are on a codeshared flight), the wine and beer is complimentary, but spirits are $8 each. Cash is not accepted, so you must have a credit or debit card to hand. It wasn’t long before the wine and beer was gone, leaving no alternative than to abstain or pay up. Which one do you think I chose to do? Leave a comment below.

Dreaming of the Caribbean

American Airlines do have wifi onboard, which was great news, however I couldn’t get mine to work. When I asked a crew member about it, she told me I had to have downloaded an app. It does state in the in-flight magazine that you can simply connect onboard, however my new iPhone X was having none of it.

Fort Lauderdale stretch of beautiful sandy beach.

As we began our decent into Miami, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Fort Lauderdale coastline. To my frustration the clouds covered Port Everglades, so my ship spotting would have to wait for another time. We then passed Miami Beach and I took this picture of the iconic crescent shaped Fontainebleau that was a well known favourite hotel of Frank Sinatra’s.

Aerial view of the crescent shaped Fontainbleau along the stretch of Miami Beach.

Feel The Heat

In case you don’t know already, I LOVE Florida! We had four hours to wait for our connecting flight, so I went and sat in the little park area across from the main terminal building. I could feel the heat in the air as soon as I stepped out.

It is a long time to wait in an airport for a connecting flight which is why I recommend adding on a stay in Miami. I mean why wouldn’t you want to? Just jump in a taxi to a beach hotel. Kick off your shoes, grab a sunset cocktail and enjoy the view.

So by the time we were boarding our second flight, everyone was feeling a bit jaded. However the excitement of the cruise and the Caribbean was keeping spirits high.

We touched down in San Juan around 11.30 pm local time and collected our luggage. We were met by Viking Cruises representatives who checked us onto the transfer coach. The process was very quick and easy. The drive to the ship was no more than 20 minutes.

Puerto Rico cruise port entrance and our first glimpse of Viking Sea

All Aboard

As we stepped onboard, the ship looked beautiful. I headed straight to my stateroom. I had a Penthouse Veranda on deck 5 which was easy to find on a ship that holds just 930 passengers.

My Penthouse Veranda (PV) 5011 Starboard onboard Viking Sea

The room was a welcome sight. The extra touches that Viking Cruises offers were very much appreciated after the long journey.

A lovely welcome snack and nightcap.

Viking Cruises really look after their guests by providing an in room coffee machine, golf umbrella, robe and slippers.

No need to buy bottles of water as it’s all provided in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastics.

Toiletries are provided and replenished daily.

It felt so good to be onboard. I was relieved to be able to finally put my bags in the room and had a quick look out on deck.

Although it was nearly 2am, the air was warm. I just couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

But now it was time to get some sleep to be ready for horse riding in the morning.

Products In This Post

  1. Blue Neck Scarf
  2. Mia Tui Travel Bag

Read More: Viking Cruise Day Two

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

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)

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.

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.

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

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

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

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Find Inspiration at Destinations

The internet is a great place to research destinations for your next holiday.  You have everything at your fingertips.  Sometimes however, it is nice to just be able to chat to an expert and pick up a few brochures.

At the Destinations Show, held annually in London and Manchester, you can spend a leisurely day walking around the exhibits and getting your questions answered by the experts. This year’s expert speakers included Michael Palin, Simon Reeve and Blowfish, the world’s only heavy metal marine biologist. There are plenty of other things to do such as entertainment, food samplings, experiences, competitions and more.

Don’t forget to enter my competition at the bottom of the page.

Czech Baroque

First stop for me was Czech Tourism. Ok so the lure of cold beer was part of the reason I stopped, but I was also interested to know what the Czech Republic had to offer visitors apart from a city steeped in history and stunning architecture.  Well, there are 12 stunning countryside wine trails to start with, as well as cheap local beer which attracts party groups.  Another popular activity is cosmetic surgery. Apparently the procedures are much cheaper in the Czech Republic, and as they have an amazing selection of luxury spas, it seems you get much more value for money than in the UK.

Un-interesting Fact: In 1994 I was working as a Production Runner on a film called Good King Wenceslas. It was filmed just outside of Prague in a place called Brno. Stephanie Powers was in the movie and needed a costume within 24 hours. The cheapest way to deliver it was in person. So off I went for a couple of days to Brno. I was extremely fortunate in being able to have dinner with Charlotte Chatton (Titanic) and the legendary, late Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey).  It was just the three of us and it is an evening that I will never forget.

Tempting Thailand

Next stop, Amazing Thailand. I attended one of the Thailand Roadshows last year. It was held at an amazing restaurant in Guildford, Surrey called Thai Khun. If you get a chance to eat there, you must.

The fruit carvings at the show were impressive to say the least. They were offering Thai massages on the stand as well as a lady playing traditional Persian music on a Khim.

Nordic But Nice

Now that Viking have made their mark in ocean cruising, I felt it necessary to go and get more of an insight into what they are all about. I know they have three amazing ultra luxury ships, but that was it.  So what did I find out? Firstly, and most importantly, they are all inclusive. I know we have to use that phrase carefully in the cruise industry so I will elaborate.

What’s Included:

  • Return scheduled economy class flights from London and selected local airports
  • A guided tour in each port
  • All on board meals including speciality restaurants
  • House wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board
  • Music, art, cooking, dance and history classes
  • Tea and coffee anytime
  • 24-hour room service
  • Free Wi-Fi onboard (restrictions apply)

An Alternative Way to Cruise America

Despite being a lady of luxury, the idea of travelling from town to town in an RV, really appeals to me. I guess it’s my beach bum / hippy alter ego.  It seems I wasn’t the only one finding this type of holiday appealing.  After a bit of lurking and two return visits, I was finally able to talk to the representative. Once in conversation, he explained he was out of brochures and business cards. So clearly this has been a successful event for them. If you are interested in finding out more simply go to their website Cruise America.

The World Stages

The Destinations Show has four world stages split into Africa, Europe, The Americas and Asia.  With experiences ranging from rum tasting, Eccles cakes sampling to pan pipes and traditional Chinese dancing, you could really get a sense of the destinations.

Feeling A-Mused

When my two favourite things go hand in hand, I know I am in the right place. Silversea most definitely tick the ships and champagne box.  It was great to finally see a familiar face, as I heard Silversea’s Luke Clarke call my name.

Although I have not stepped onboard a Silversea cruise ship, I couldn’t have acquired CLIA Master status, without being aware of these ultra luxurious cruise ships.  In April this year, Silversea will be welcoming their new ship Silver Muse to the fleet. Spending her first summer in the Mediterranean, some of the incredible ports appearing in her itineraries include Portofino, Venice, Monte Carlo, Saint Tropez and Bordeaux. Silversea have created a ground-breaking 360˚ virtual tour for you to Discover Silver Muse for yourself here.

The Best of the Rest

Other exhibits I visited on the day were Hurtigruten, WWF, Beaches and Sandals, Palm Springs – California, Rocky Mountaineer and Via Rail.

The Destinations Show really does offer something for everyone.  Even if you are not looking to book a holiday, it is certainly a great day out.

Competition

If you found the picture at the top of this page interesting, I have some coffee table Baroque themed magazines to give away. Simply make a comment below and I will contact the lucky winners. I will let you know when the competition is closed.