Check Out Our Recent Advertising Of Exclusive Ocean and River Cruises From Cruiseco in the “Daily Mail” and “Daily Telegraph”

Celebrity EclipseCheck out our Cruiseco Exclusive Cruises as advertised in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph over the past month – covering a 5-night May bank holiday:cruise from Southampton to Cherbourg, Le Havre and Zeebrugge in Celebrity Eclipse (above), luxury river cruises on the Irrawaddy, the Mekong and the Ganges, as well as the Rhone and the Danube, and extended month-long and longer cruises in Europe and North America on board the 682-berth Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest:

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Mail” February 14, 2015

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Mail” February 7, 2015

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Telegraph” January 31, 2015

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Mail” January 11, 2015

For further details on any of these cruises please feel free to call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450, book online at our cruises web page or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Azamara Club Cruises’ Cruiseco Charters – Pullmantur Changes UK Agent (Again) – Funchal Cancels 2015 Season

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 16th February 2015

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Azamara Quest leaves Nice for Southampton via the Baltic on May 28 and has some balcony staterooms remaining from £5,129 pp for 37 days. Apply through Cruiseco agents.

This week we have a look at the relationship between Azamara Club Cruises and the rapidly growing Cruiseco cruise agents consortium in Australia, an entity that is now expanding into the UK. Meanwhile, Pullmantur Cruises is on its fourth UK agent in the past several years, having now appointed a division of Fred. Olsen Travel to look after its business in the UK. And Portuscale’s Funchal, having had her 2015 cruise season cancelled, is now available for long-term charter.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                                 (See previous columns)

Weekly Sailings From Vancouver To Alaska With The Pacific Princess

Pacific Princess at SkagwayOne of our good clients has sent us this review of their late May Alaska cruise on board Princess Cruises’ 30,277-ton Pacific Princess (left):
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If you’re going to sail from Vancouver on an Alaska cruise then by all means stay at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel before sailing. This art deco hotel, completed in 1927, has a complimentary classic Bentley limousine that can deliver you in great style to Canada Place to catch your ship.
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Because the Pacific Princess carries only 680 passengers, the boarding process is more relaxed than for one of those behemoths with between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers. There are eight of this smaller class of ship in service, all having been built between 1999 and 2001 for the defunct Renaissance Cruises. Three operate for Oceania Cruises, two for Azamara Club Cruises, one for P&O Cruises and two, the Pacific Princess and the Ocean Princess, for Princess. Having travelled on sister ships with three other lines, we quickly found our way to our balcony stateroom. What better way to see Alaska than this, on a small ship with no crowds and a private balcony for whale watching?
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The standard balcony cabins are slightly short on space at 173 square feet (216 including the balcony) compared to some other ships, but quite suitable for a 7-night cruise. The closets feature real wooden coat hangers but this class of ship has never overcome the colliding doors of its closets and the en suite shower directly opposite. Princess’s bathrobes, meanwhile, leave a little to be desired, all seeming to have shrunk from too much washing. They could hardly stretch around a standard-sized person, let alone someone who might be fond of eating. The balconies on the Princess ships are finished in blue plastic marine decking rather than the teak found on Oceania.
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But other than such small quibbles, this is a great little ship and the service is enthusiastic. Getting to know the crew later, we found that the Pacific Princess’s officers are mostly Italian and the crew International. Assigned to the same table for dinner each evening, we got to know our fellow passengers, but also our waiter and station captain who thrived on coming up with special requests such as the Indonesian hot chili sauce Sambal Oelek we requested to go with our lobster the next night. Duly consulting the Indonesian sous-chef, they came up with a gravy boat full of this specialty sauce that our whole table enjoyed. I doubt we would have got the same service on the larger ships in the Princess fleet.
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Pacific Princess Club-Like Interiors
Pacific Princess’s public areas have been well maintained and live up to their original reputation as country houses at sea (left), the grand staircase still being at the centre of the ship. There is a modest cabaret lounge for this number of passengers, a great view forward from the Pacific Lounge atop the ship, main dining room in the stern and two alternative restaurants above, as well as the buffet restaurant on the pool deck that features an open air area overlooking the stern, not to mention the very classy library at the top of the main stairwell overlooking the pool from its aft perch. And on the main passenger deck, in addition to the photo gallery and two shops, there is a casino with its attached but separate Casino Bar with nightly entertainment as well as the Club Bar next to the main restaurant.
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Once aboard, there is quite a lot of pressure to buy a wine package as well as a ticket for the next day’s wine tasting session, but there is no drinks package on Princess’s two small ships. Nevertheless, compared to some other lines it is possible to get a drink for between $5.75 and $7.50 plus 15% gratuity, and a bottle of Chianti for $30 (plus 15%) for dinner. The drinks bill for two for our cruise was $305 and the wine package $185 for 7 nights, totalling $490, or $35 per person per day including gratuities. By comparison, the drinks package on Oceania Cruises runs to $50 per person per day.
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More quibbles: Internet on Pacific Princess ran to $204 for a week for their most extensive package. The extra tariff restaurants now charge $25 per person. The public washrooms could use more frequent service. And the music could be updated by three decades from 1950s-70s to 1980s-2000s.
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Overall, however, with the passengers she attracts, the Pacific Princess is a pleasing ship. The crew is solicitous and friendly and, with no crowds, the passengers are interesting and not loud. Many had actually booked this cruise because they had tired of larger ships. Canadians (182 passengers or 27.8% of the ship) formed the largest group on board and Americans (157 and 24%) came second, while there were many Brits (113 and 17.3%) and Australians (117 and 17.9%), making it a sort of Commonwealth at sea. The Americans were mostly Californians and Midwesterners plus some Texans and there were also 85 (13.0%) of other nationalities (of which there were 29) with quite a few Chinese. Total passengers: 654.
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White Pass steam train on Skagway dock
The ports of call on our cruise were Juneau, Skagway, cruising Glacier Bay and Ketchikan. While there are plenty of helicopter, float plane and glacier tours available, by far the most interesting for us was the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow gauge railway excursion (left at Skagway, dockside), which runs from Skagway through the White Pass into Canada before returning to Alaska. Built at the time of the Klondike gold rush, the railway reopened in 1988 as a seasonal tourist attraction and now serves about 370,000 passengers a year between May and September.
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The White Pass, which operates on the first 67½ miles (Skagway to Carcross, Yukon) of the original 110-mile line to Whitehorse, is today Alaska’s most popular shore excursion. The line rises 2,865 feet in 26 miles of steep grades and cliff-hanging curves on the way up from Skagway to the summit and passengers experience a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and maybe even the odd bear. All this while riding in the comfort of vintage parlour cars equipped with open platforms at each end.
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The White Pass rail fleet includes twenty diesel-electric locomotives, seventy open-deck parlour cars and two steam locomotives. The steam train excursion takes four hours and when purchased ashore costs $159, the diesel-electric ones three to three-and-a-half hours and $119. Trains come right alongside the ship at Skagway docks.
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Aside from the White Pass, there was Glacier Bay and its many different glaciers, Orcas and humpback whales aplenty and seals and eagles, and in Ketchikan, Annabelle’s on Front Street cannot be missed for its fine seafood chowder! Among the four ports and points of interest this makes for an excellent cruise with lots of variety (apart from the ubiquitous jewellery shops at all the ports of call). And the air is very fresh.
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On our return to Vancouver we were followed into port by sister ship Regatta, one of the three of this class of ship owned by Oceania, which after disembarking her San Francisco passengers moved over to Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock Co Ltd for an 11-day upgrading to bring her to the same standards as that line’s newer ships, the 1,250-berth Riviera and Marina. Nautica and Insignia have undergone the same refit.
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The Pacific Princess offers eighteen 7-night cruises from Vancouver to Alaska this summer, every Tuesday until September 9, the first time Princess Cruises has offered round trip Vancouver-Alaska sailings for about a decade. On September 16, she sails for Hawaii on her way to the South Pacific. Oceania Cruises’ Regatta offers six 7- to 10-night Alaska cruises from Seattle, one 10-night Alaska cruise from Seattle to Vancouver, one 9-night Alaska round trip from Vancouver and a 10-night Alaska cruise from Vancouver finishing in San Francisco.

For futher details or bookings please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk or in North America 1-800-961-5536 or e-mail cruise@thecruisepeople.ca.

The Battle For Southampton 2015 – More Large Ships For Star Cruises and MSC – Costa Voyager Goes To Bohai Ferry

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 17th February 2014..Britannia Atrium

Last week, P&O Cruises’ new 141,000-ton Britannia was floated out at Monfalcone, marking the first step towards a battle for cruise supremacy at the UK’s major cruise port of Southampton, to take place in 2015. Just five weeks after Britannia enters service, Royal Caribbean’s 167,800-ton Anthem of the Seas will join her at Southampton and the contest will begin. Above is Britannia‘s stylish three-deck Atrium, while below is Anthem of the Seas‘ more casual Two70 lounge, which overlooks the stern.

Anthem Two70 Lounge

This week, we look at the scene and compare the ships. Elsewhere, Star Cruises has confirmed an order for a second 3,364-passenger cruise ship from Meyer Werft while MSC Cruises is negotiating a larger order for four mega ships at STX France. Meanwhile, Costa Cruises’ Costa Voyager has been sold to China’s Bohai Ferry Co Ltd, who intend to enter the Far East cruise market through a new Hong Kong-based subsidiary.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                        (See previous columns)

Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises Win Hands Down In Cruise Critic Readers’ Awards, With Oceania Cruises Next In Line

Azamara QuestSister lines Celebrity and Azamara walked away with the top positions in the Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice awards last week. Looking at the top five ships in three categories in the US and UK polls, Celebrity scored nine firsts and Azamara eight, followed by Oceania and Thomson with six each in the categories we chose.

For purposes of its polls, Cruise Critic defined a medium-sized ship as carrying between 1,200 and 1,999 passengers, with anything above that being defined as large and anything below as small. The results are laid out below for the best five ships in each category for each of the UK and US, as well as the best ship in each category for dining, entertainment and service for the UK and US. The actual ships’ scores are given in brackets. Some of the surprising results: are given below.

Cruise Critic Cruisers Choice awards 2013 - Scores courtesy of Cruise Critic

       Cruise Critic Cruisers Choice awards 2013 – Courtesy of Cruise Critic

Celebrity EclipseThe most interesting outcome was that of the forty-eight results laid out above, Royal Caribbean brands collected eighteen of the top spots, compared to only four for Carnival brands, despite being severely outnumbered. Proof of a good design and concept, Celebrity’s nine wins were all by 2,850-berth Solstice class ships (Celebrity Eclipse pictured above) except for 1,814-berth Celebrity Century positioning third in the UK medium ships category. Celebrity also took the UK’s top three large ship positions.

Azamara did proportionally even better in that with only two 684-berth ships, it managed to pick up eight of these awards. The other Royal Caribbean win was the 5,408-berth Allure of the Seas, which took third-best large ship in the US results.

oceania_marinaOceania managed six wins in the categories we have chosen, all by its two newest ships, the 1,258-berth Marina and Riviera. But the real surprise was Thomson Cruises walking away with six awards, not only from their own market in the UK but also from US voters. We can think of only one reason for that and that is that the UK results must be included in the US ones, but the website is not clear as to the methodology.

Certainly, with Thomson selling off brands, such as its ski operation, Neilson, and contemplating unloading others to pay down £1.6 billion in debt, any aspiring bidder might look at Thomson Cruises as a possible acquisition. That its older ships should have achieved tops in the mid-size awards for entertainment in both polls and also outscored Carnival’s brand-new 3,690-berth Carnival Breeze makes Thomson worth a look.

Actual cruisers were polled here and of the Carnival brands only one ship from each of Carnival, Cunard, Holland America and Seabourn managed to score in this sample, and none from P&O or Princess. What makes it even odder is that Carnival Breeze won her spot in the UK survey and not the US one. In the US, Disney managed to score as many wins as all Carnival brands combined.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Crystal each achieved three places, but Azamara’s two ultra-premium ships taking eight places to only three for Crystal’s two ultra-luxury ships is an interesting surprise.

To book an Azamara or Celebrity cruise and to book an Oceania cruise please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Celebrity & Azamara Top Cruisers’ Choice Awards – Nassau Forgot the Epic Was Coming To Town – Two More Ships Going All-Inclusive

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 4th March 2013

Celebrity Eclipse

Last week, Cruise Critic announced its UK and US Cruisers’ Choice Awards for 2013 and Celebrity and Azamara came out at the very top of all the lines, for large and small ships, respectively, while Oceania took top prizes for its medium-sized Marina and Riviera. Disney also captured top places, but only in the US, and a surprise winner on both sides of the Atlantic was Thomson Cruises. You can see the detailed results in this week’s Cruise Examiner. Meanwhile, Nassau forgot one of its regular callers last month and didn’t have a spot for the Norwegian Epic when she arrived for her usual visit the Friday before last, and we take a look at the incursions that the all-inclusive concept is making into the cruise market.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

The World of Cruising According to Condé Nast – Argentina and Falklands Conflict Calms – And A New Home For Queen Elizabeth 2

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 4th February 2013

Silver SpiritCondé Nast Traveler rates both the 540-berth Silver Spirit (above) and the 2,092-berth Queen Elizabeth as medium-size ships, while Berlitz more logically calls the Silver Spirit small and the Queen Elizabeth large.
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Last week, US-based Condé Nast Traveler magazine released the results of its 2013 best cruise ships poll, dividing the fleet into small, medium and large cruise ships plus river cruisers. Among the winners are names such as Azamara, Celebrity, Crystal, Cunard, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn and Silversea, as well as some lesser known cruising names such as Grand Circle and National Geographic. Meanwhile, from Silversea comes news that the situation in Argentina seems to be calming down, with their ships again calling on both Argentina and the Falkland Islands. Elsewhere, we have news of a new future for the iconic Queen Elizabeth 2, in a major Asian city yet to be announced.

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THIS WEEK’S STORY
                                     (See previous columns)