Thinking Of Booking A River Cruise?

February 21, 2017


Are you a keen ocean cruiser?

Are you thinking of trying your first European river cruise?

The high fares that are charged for many river cruises is the main stumbling block for many would-be-river cruisers.

River cruises are often called ‘good value’ by the river cruise lines, but their definition of ‘value’ is quite different to mine. (A million pound diamond on sale for half-a-million pounds is very good value, but I will not be buying one.)

You can easily pay twice the price for a river cruise, when compared to an ocean cruise – but will it be twice as good?

I made the swap from ocean to river about a year ago. My latest/second river cruise review is available to read.

My review helps explain the differences between the two genres and highlights some truths that the glossy brochures and web sites fail to tell you.

Amadeus Elegant ship review HERE


Saga’s Project Olympic Comes To Life

February 20, 2017
Project Olympic Dining Room (Courtsey Saga)

Project Olympic Dining Room (Courtesy Saga)

It’s an exciting time for Saga Cruises, as work is well underway on the planning and design of our first purpose-built cruise ship, to be delivered in Summer 2019. (There an option for a second ship to be delivered in 2021).

Carrying fewer than 1000 passengers (55,900gt), she will retain the intimacy and personal service for which we are renowned. There will also be single-sitting dining in a choice of speciality restaurants, a selection of bars, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, fabulous library, signature Britannia Lounge and much more – all with a fresh and contemporary twist on the traditions of classic Saga cruising.

The cabins are going to be a real showcase – spacious and modern, the ship’s design also means every one will have a balcony. In addition, around 15% of the accommodation will be for solo travellers, with a choice of single cabin grades.

David Pickett, who is spearheading the project says: “We are currently liaising closely with the Meyer Werft shipyard in Hamburg, and every day is full of exciting developments”.

Andy Yuill, an expert in creating cutting-edge designs for the world’s finest vessels, says: “I think people are going to be surprised by what Saga will deliver with this ship – expect the unexpected! We are maintaining the best bits of the existing brand, but introducing new and unexpected elements. It’s a ship built for a British company, with the customers at the forefront”.


Malcolm says: It’s nice to see a new smaller ship being built. The renderings show an extensive Promenade Deck. Inside there is an impressive atrium and a double-height restaurant.

The windows above the Bridge Deck must surely be a forward-facing observation lounge or maybe an alternative dining room with a view?

St Helena Bucket List Cruise Reprieve

February 18, 2017

One of the world’s great bucket list travel experiences is getting a year-long reprieve – all thanks to an ill wind.

The 6,767 gross tonne cargo liner RMS St Helena, one of only two remaining Royal Mail Ships, is to continue serving the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, where Napoleon was exiled from 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo to his death in 1821.

The Royal Mail Ship St. Helena was built in Aberdeen in 1989 specifically to supply the island of St Helena, a remote British Territory located 1,200 miles off the West Coast of Africa in the South Atlantic. She is British registered (London), 6,767 gross tonnes and has berths for a maximum of 156 passengers plus 56 officers and crew.

For the last 26 years RMS St Helena has been the only means of access to the island of St Helena.

She was due to be decommissioned once the island’s £285 million airport opened for commercial flights last spring, a scheme aimed at making the 47 sq mi British Overseas Territory self-sufficient and boosting tourism.However that has been delayed indefinitely because of concerns about dangerous weather conditions known as wind ‘shear’, which make it unsafe for large jets to land.

St Helena's troubled new airport cost £285million of taxpayers' money (Photo: PA)

St Helena’s troubled new airport (Photo: PA)

Scheduled British Airways services from Johannesburg were due to start on May 21 last year but have been suspended, meaning the RMS has had a reprieve from the breakers’ yard so she can remain as the 4,000 islanders’ (they are known as Saints) essential link to the outside world.

It may be an ill wind for the airport, but now travellers with three weeks to spare can still make the voyage by ship up to next February; they will need to travel to South Africa, spend 10 days at sea and eight days on the island, which is 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa and known for its isolation, scenery and rare wildlife.

They hope once the wind ‘shear’ problem is resolved commercial air services will begin.

(Daily Mirror)

NCL – Upto Six New Ships

February 16, 2017
Bliss (Courtesy of NCL)

Norwegian Bliss (Courtesy of NCL)

The Norwegian Cruise Line has announced it has reached an agreement with Fincantieri to construct the next generation of ships for the brand.

Four ships are on order for delivery in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025, with an option for two additional ships to be delivered in 2026 and 2027.

The four 140,000 gross ton ships will each accommodate approximately 3,300 guests.

The new class of ships will build upon NCL’s most recent Breakaway-Plus Class ships and feature a host of innovative designs that will further elevate its guest experience.

A priority of the prototype design is energy efficiency, with the aim of optimising fuel consumption and reducing the impact on the environment.

The contract price for each of the four vessels is approximately €800 million per ship.

Details on the ships’ many innovative guest-facing and first-at-sea features will be announced at a later date.


Innovation! (Norwegian Joy)

Innovation! (Norwegian Joy)

Malcolm says: So a change of shipyard from Meyer Werft, Germany, to Fincantieri, Italy.  Meyer werft  must be disappointed, they have built most of NCL ‘s current fleet including their ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Breakaway-Plus’ ships.

This change of shipyard is not so surprising. In the past, new NCL CEO, Frank Del Rio, ordered some of the  Regent and Oceania ships from Fincantieri. (Del Rio was previously chairman and CEO for Prestige Cruise Holdings, Inc., the parent company operating both Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.)  He obviously has a good relationship with the Fincantieri shipyard.

Interestingly this new class of ship is based on a prototype developed by Fincantieri, and NOT by NCL, as in the past.  I guess this truly approach guarantees a new design of ship.


NCL CEO Frank Del Rio (Courtesy NCL)

If accurate, the new ships size is slightly smaller (6,000 gt) than NCL’s existing ‘Breakaway’ class and almost 25,000gt smaller that their ‘Breakaway-Plus’ class. They have effectively down-sized their design a little, when most other major cruise lines are up-scaling.

I would not surprise me if the new NCL ships resembled MSC SEASIDE, also a Fincantieri design.

I was expecting NCL to move to 200,000 gross tonne vessels in the next five years, like their competitors are: Carnival/Costa/P&O, MSC and Genting.  Obviously NCL have decided that bigger is NOT better.

It’s hard to imagine what “….a host of innovative designs “ might be.  I assume the vessels will still be packed with multiple dining rooms, due to the nature of NCL’s ‘Freestyle Dining’ system.  I believe the ships will NOT be LNG powered, like some other lines future newbuilds will be.

However, I think it will be a very long time  before more details will be made available.


(Courtesy Fincantieri)

Norwegian Escape Review HERE

Norwegian Bliss – Observation Makes A Comeback HERE

st of NCL’s current fleet, including

Quintessentially One

February 15, 2017

Not so much a superyacht, but a luxury cruise ship at 46,800 gross tonnes:

Now Carnival Cruises To Cuba

February 14, 2017
(Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

(Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Carnival Cruise Line has now received approval to sail to Cuba.

Havana will be added to select Carnival Paradise voyages from Tampa beginning in June 2017.

The overnight visits to Havana will be featured on 12 four- and five-day cruises aboard Carnival Paradise departing from the Port of Tampa starting June 29, 2017.


Malcolm says: Carnival joins the other major players (RCI and NCL) in offering cruises to Cuba.

CroisiEurope’s Elbe Princesse

February 13, 2017

CroisiEurope’s remarkable paddle-wheeled river ship, designed for the shallow waters of the Elbe.

MS Sudan

February 11, 2017

Here is a feature on a classic river vessel:


(Click to enlarge)

M/S Sudan Nile Cruise Is like being on no other cruise ship on the Nile, build at the dawn of the 20th century, the steam ship Sudan brings turn-of-the-century travel on the Nile to life again.

The 5 suites and 18 cabins are laid out between the two decks, off broad passageways where the passengers can sit, relax and read in the evening, or enjoy a drink. Each cabin proudly bears a name linked to Egyptian history.

On the upper deck, the Agatha Christie and Lady Duff Gordon suites, at the prow of the vessel, benefit from spectacular views over the river. The Aida and Queen Victoria suites nestle spaciously in the gentle curves of the stern. The warm-toned wooden panelling, gilded and copper bed-frames, classical furniture and distinguished parquet floors bestow a definite period charm, revealed in every detail, such as the bathroom fittings.

A Legendary boat

A boat inhabited by the memory of the King Fouad who received it as a gift in 1885, the memory of the Belle Époque travellers who used it, or that of Hercule Poirot who Agatha Christie had walking its decks in her writings. (The BBC’s ‘Death on the Nile’ with David Suchet, was filmed on-board).

Almost one hundred years old, the Steam Ship Sudan is the last witness to the Belle Epoque days of Nile cruising. In its wake floats the visionary spirit of Sir Thomas Cook and the history of cruises on the legendary river.

Poirot (Courtesy BBC)

Poirot on board Sudan (Courtesy BBC)

Sudan Web Site: HERE


1869 The Suez canal is created, opening the maritime trade route between Europe and Asia. Egypt’s economy and tourism immediately benefit. Thomas Cook, the visionary British entrepreneur, seizes the opportunity to explore a country boasting thousands of years of history and a uniquely comfortable climate and way of life.

Convinced that this potential would appeal to the British aristocracy, Cook and his son (Cook & Son) organise the first cruise on a boat rented from the Khedive, or vice-roy.

1876 Egypt becomes a British protectorate. Cook further develops his Nile cruises. In 1880, he obtains the concession for all tourism-related river sailing. In 1884, his vessels are requisitioned for the military campaign in Sudan, and return seriously damaged. The British pioneer therefore launches his own fleet of steam ships. Prince Abbas, Tewfik, Rameses are built in Scotland, and the parts later assembled in Cairo.

1899 Cook extends his empire along the Nile banks with the construction of the Old Cataract Hotel at Aswan, designed to cater to cruise passengers obliged to stop off on their way to the great temples of Upper Nubia, reached on another ship. The Aswan dam, inaugurated in 1902, changes the situation, and the numbers of tourists rises constantly.

1911-1921 Cook builds a new fleet of faster steam ships, composed of the Egypt, the Arabia, and the Sudan. They reduce the length of a Cairo-Aswan voyage to 20 days, and eager tourists flock on board.

1922-1935 The Sudan and Nile cruising in general enjoy a golden age. Diplomats, businessmen and archaeologists pay handsomely to discover the fabulous sites of Ancient Egypt. In 1933, Agatha Christie embarks, accompanied by her husband, on an archaeological mission. During the cruise, the grand dame of mystery is inspired to write Death on the Nile.

1939-1991 The Second World War rings the death knell of tourism in Egypt. The Sudan lies abandoned and docked for more than 50 years. In the early 90s, with the advent of more democratic tourism and a new boom in Nile cruises, an Egyptian shipowner relaunches the Sudan for a German tour operator, but the vessel is once more abandoned.

2000 Two directors of Voyageurs du Monde discover the Sudan in a pitiful state. They join forces with the Egyptian owner and after six months of refitting work the vessel is ready to sail.

2017 – onwards: This classic boat continues to charm its many passengers.


Malcolm says: Here is a slide show from my Nile cruise, on-board  a more modest boat than Sudan:

Donald Trump’s Breathtaking Yacht

February 10, 2017

It would have been very impressive, but it never did get built…

NCL Adds Cuba Sailings

February 8, 2017
(Courtesy NCL)

(Courtesy NCL)

The Norwegian Cruise Line announced that it will extend its offering of weekly roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba.

Together with the five previously announced cruises, 25 additional cruises have been added.

Norwegian Sky will sail four-day roundtrip cruises from Miami each Monday, commencing in May, until December 2017.

Each cruise features an overnight stay in Havana as well as a day-call to Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in the Bahamas.