Future Yachts

June 26, 2017

Malcolm says: I just cannot decide which model to buy!

Is Meraviglia a bit of a Flop?

June 23, 2017

Meraviglia/Barcelona – Disembarkation above, customer services queue below (Source Unknown).

MSC’s Meraviglia (‘Wonder’ in English) has been called their most exciting ship yet. She is certainly their most expensive yet and biggest, in terms of gross tonnage and passenger capacity.

Meraviglia is 171,598 gross tonnes and carries up to 5,714 passengers. She is part of a rapid expansion of MSC’s fleet comprising of three new classes of ship: Meraviglia, Seaside and The Word Class.

A few weeks ago she complete her maiden cruise.

The internet is now receiving reviews form Meraviglia’s maiden cruise and her subsequent cruises.

I’ve not been on the ship myself and I’m unlikely to be welcomed on-board after writing this.  However if you ‘google’ “Meraviglia Reviews”, you will find that many  passengers feel that the ship is genuinely ‘wonderful’,  but there also comments suggesting that everything is not well.

Now I fully appreciate all reviews are very subjective, but certain criticism are appearing again and again.

Below are a few lines that I have borrowed form some pubic reviews on the net:

  • The ships public area interior is stunning visually but the whole experience was disappointing, due to amateurish dining service and failing IT systems. We know cruise lines have issues in the early days, but queuing for hours on board should never happen daily, new ship or not.
  • For the Brits on board there is the additional problem with the lack of control on any queue – so much so that I had queued at the Cirque de Soleil desk for about 20 minutes, just got to the front when a MSC rep said I had queue jumped and needed to go to the back of the queue which stretched a further 20 yards by this time.
  • BUT the most significant failure was the IT system and inadequate contingency planning as it impacted the dining, billing and bar service. Our MSC app never worked on board.
  • Throughout the cruise we never saw the Customer Services queue take less than 1 hour, morning, noon and night.

(MSC )

A Flop?

Meraviglia is currently under media, industry and public scrutiny.

It’s not so unusual for a new ship to have teething problems. There is normally a mixture of experienced and inexperienced crew members, all working in a new environment, all trying to form an effective team.  Some service issues are not uncommon, such as slow and/or inaccurate dining room and bar service.

All reviewers agree that Meraviglia  has some excellent ‘hardware’ (the ship itself), but many feel that the ‘software’ (crew/service) has some serious issues. These have been highlighted again and again, in early reviews. Nevertheless, some reviews still have good star ratings, but NOT all.

personally I would be able to turn a blind eye to the number of issues and the scale of the issues, reported on-board Meraviglia in recent reviews. There include poor on-board organisation, poor crowd-control, resulting in queues and congestion.

I never  want to visit customer service during a cruise. If I do, something has clearly gone wrong for me. If passengers are queuing for an hour at Meraviglia’s customer services desk, that must mean 1)The staff are inefficient and/or of an insufficient number. 2) The number of passengers with problems must be considerable.

Some passengers on the maiden voyage seem to have already been put off from cruising on Meraviglia again or even MSC as a whole.


Meraviglia is now just one of many family-orientated/high-energy ships available from a number of different cruise lines. MSC are competing with mega-ships operated by Carnival, RCI, NCL, P&O, Princess, Carnival and Costa .

In the past decade ‘Royal Caribbean’ and the ‘Norwegian Cruise Line’ have been very successful at introducing a variety of big new ships into service, such as Oasis, Epic and the Breakaway class. I’m not suggesting that their respective maiden experiences were all perfect, but they often managed to avoid serious service issue from the very start, including handling the large numbers of passengers that their mega-ships carry.

In the case of the ‘Oasis’ class which currently carries the largest number of passengers afloat (up to 6,296) the ship generally feels spacious and not overcrowded, even during embarkation, disembarkation and in the ports of call. So how was this achieved?

Well firstly the ‘Oasis’ class has a better space-to-passenger ratio (more room per passenger) than Meraviglia: 35 Oasis, 30 Meraviglia, based on all berth occupancy.

Secondly the ‘Oasis’ is very well designed with few bottle-necks.

Thirdly RCI have build big dedicated cruise terminals and new docks at Oasis’s ports of call. Swiping on and off in the ports of call take place on the shore-side, rather than on-board.

Fourthly RCI’s on-board organisation is excellent.

MSC have some stiff competition.  Meraviglia represents a $1 billion investment so MSC cannot afford to get it wrong for too long.

Flop…Or Not?

I’m not completely heartless.  I can forgive a new ship and its crew for minor service issues on a maiden cruise.

However early reviews suggest that Meraviglia’s has many issues, some of which sound quite major.

I would expect even the cheapest cruise to have elements of luxury about it. The on-board experience should NOT feel like a last minute shopping at a big mall on Christmas Eve. Nobody should have to tolerate their cruise being an ‘experiment’ or ‘training ground’, unless it’s free!

However some reviewers still gave Meraviglia  4 or 5 stars (out of 5). This is their prerogative of course, but this is over generous, given the content of their reviews.

For me to give a ship to give a ship 4 stars (out of 5) most aspects of the experience would need to be “very good”.  Likewise for me to give 5 stars (out of 5), most aspects of the experience would need to be “excellent”. I could not ignore long queues and disorganisation on-board, happening on a regularly basis.

Before I get flamed by MSC fans: Of course it is too early to call Meraviglia a ‘Flop’ and probably far too sensationalist. However it’s not been the great start that MSC had  hoped for.

Remedial Action

Fortunately service issues and on-board organistion are much easier to rectify that if the hardware had been wrong.

I suspect many of the crew on board Meraviglia are on a steep learning curve.

I would imagine that MSC  are already making improvements to the various service issues, particularly the passenger-flow.

I bet ‘Geniuses’ are looking at all those unreliable IT systems very carefully.

I’m sure that the management will be doing everything within their power to turn Meraviglia’s early reputation around.

The lack of infrastructure (a suitably big cruise terminal at Barcelona for example) would not have helped Meraviglia’s disembarkation/embarkation. However I believe MSC have plans to invest in new cruise terminals, in homeports.

However Meraviglia is too expensive for MSC to let her ‘Flop’.

Lesson must be quickly learned. MSC also have  more big ships on the drawing board, including the even bigger ‘World Class’.

The ‘world Class’  will carry up to 6,850 passengers, that’s around 554 more passengers than RCI’s ‘Oasis’ class, the world’s biggest cruise ship. However the ‘World Class’ will be some 25,000 gross tonnes (12.5 per cent) smaller.

MSC really need to get it  right.

(If you don’t agree with me, or even if you do, please post a comment.)

Meraviglia Review

Guest contributor, Tony Barraclough (UK), was on  Meraviglia’s maiden voyage.

In fact Tony did a back-to-back itinerary: Le Havre to Genoa, then Genoa to Barcelona. He occupied two different grades of cabin.

Tony has done ten MSC cruises, as well as ten with other cruise lines, so he knows what he is talking about.

Tony  has written two straight-talking reviews which feature many positives and negatives.  He has kindly given me permission to share his reviews with you.

MSC Meraviglia review: HERE


Ritz-Carlton Goes Cruising

June 22, 2017


As part of the newly created Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the five-star hotel brand will launch three small, ultra-luxury ships.

These luxury ships are expected to cost around $220 million each. The first delivery is in 2019, followed by two sister ships in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The ship’s design is a radical departure from traditional cruise ships, inside and out. Its exterior is meant to capture “the Maserati effect,” which begs onlookers to see what’s inside.

Fredrik Johansson, owner and executive project director of Tillberg Design of Sweden said that the Ritz-Carlton project represents the first time he’s designing a cruise line’s maiden ship and from scratch. To that end, he drew inspiration from other superyachts — as well as Maserati—rather than from his competitors.

He thinks of the 190-meter (623-foot) vessels as hybrids between ultra-luxury small ships and yachts. If small cruisers carry about 650 passengers, on average, and a typical superyacht can hold a couple dozen, these are right in between, with 298 passengers in 149 suites.

Most small luxury ocean liners that are currently sailing—are being built or reconfigured as expedition ships to meet the demand of a the adventure cruise sector. They’re largely heading to the polar regions of Antarctica and Greenland and the Scandinavian fjords.

So Ritz-Carlton saw an opening in the market: small-ship cruising along the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and New England. They’re classic destinations that are popular with cruisers—yet they’re exclusively serviced by mega-ships that overwhelm the regions’ biggest ports.

The Barreras Shipyard, Vigo, Spain-based shipyard is rumored to be building the three vessels for Ritz-Carlton. It has not previously built cruise ships, but has experience in mega ferries and container ships.


Keel Laid for Celebrity Edge

June 21, 2017

(Courtesy STX)

Today, the ceremonial keel laying took place for Celebrity Edge in Saint-Nazaire, France at STX France.

Celebrity Edge will homeport in Fort Lauderdale, FL., making her inaugural sailing on December 16, 2018.

The Ship

(Courtesy Celebrity)

Celebrity revealed that ‘Celebrity Edge’ has an “outward facing design”, which is a quest for a better connection with the sea.

Edge has a Magic Carpet, staterooms with infinite verandas, designer suites and a Rooftop Garden with artificial trees.

The Magic Carpet, by visionary architect Tom Wright, is a platform the size of a tennis court that’s cantilevered from the side of the ship. It serves as a lounge-like tender embarkation area where travellers will be taken ashore via Edge tenders.

The Magic Carpet can rise from sea level all the way up to Deck 16, where a ‘Dinner on the Edge’ experience for up to 90 people will be unlike any other. Or, when alongside Deck 14, the Magic Carpet becomes an extension of the pool area. And, at Deck 5, it provides alfresco seating for the restaurants.

The resort deck, also by Wright, features a Rooftop Garden with artificial trees and plentiful cabanas .  Continuing the quest for a better connection to the sea, the resort deck has sun-loungers which face outward, overlooking the ocean. At night, the space will transform for live music and movie/meal area.

The design of the Edge Staterooms addresses what passengers have always asked for: bigger bathrooms, bigger beds, more storage, more living area and a closer connection to the sea.

The Edge staterooms (900 of them, with 16 for single passengers) will have infinity verandas, making them 23% bigger than the industry standard.

The veranda have elegant French doors, when opened make the veranda a seamless part of the room. When those French doors are closed, creating a separate veranda area, the top of a floor-to-ceiling outside window can be lowered to the open air. (As on board many European river boats).

Celebrity Edge more than doubled the number of suites compared to the industry standard. The Retreat, featuring a private pool, lounge and the exclusive restaurant Luminae form a new, exclusive suites area.

Two suite categories are new. The top grade: a pair of ‘Iconic Suites’, positioned above the bridge. These are over nearly 2,600 square feet with two bedrooms and two baths, panoramic windows and a 700-square-foot veranda with 270-degree views.

Also new are the six split-level Edge Villas, with stunning views from two stories of windows, private plunge pools and direct walk-out access to The Retreat Sundeck.

(Courtesy Celebrity)

The 146 Sky Suites were redesigned with beds that face the balcony, and each has a rocking chair. The bathroom bath has a large oval tub with shower and a view of the sea.

All suites and double occupancy staterooms are fitted with plush king-sized cashmere mattresses, with queen-sized mattresses in the solo rooms.

In all accommodations, small touchscreens control temperature, ‘scenes’, such as romantic mood lighting, curtains, a ‘green’ mode and service request icons.

Celebrity Edge’s maiden revenue cruise sails Dec. 16, 2018. Reservations open today. The ship will alternate weekly cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.

The 2,900-passenger, 129,500 gross tonne ship will be based at Port Everglades’ Terminal 25, which is being designed with a tailor-made experience especially for Edge.


Video tour of Infinite Veranda stateroom HERE

MSC: Cirque du Soleil At Sea

June 20, 2017


MSC Meraviglia is the first cruise ship ever to feature a custom Entertainment Lounge designed in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil to create a unique experience at sea.

In addition, this long-term partnership will be extended to MSC Meraviglia’s three sister ships, which will be launched in 2019, 2020 and 2022. Six nights per week, Cirque du Soleil’s outstanding artists will deliver two unique shows – created exclusively for MSC Cruises – before audiences of 500 guests.

This magical entertainment experience will take place in the purpose-built 1,000 square-metre aft lounge, where guests will be able to enjoy dinner or cocktails whilst witnessing spectacular performances.


Carousel Lounge – built specifically for CDS shows (MSC)

VIAGGIO, the first of the two shows, is the story of a passionate and eccentric artist who hears the call of his Faceless Muse. Mysterious and seductive, she beckons him into the vivid world of his unbridled imagination to complete his masterpiece. With each stroke of his paintbrush, the Painter reveals the details of his grandiose tableau. Electrifying colours fill the space with intriguing motifs and rich textures. Majestic acts transform the theatre into a living canvas. Before our very eyes, a masterpiece comes to life with sound at its heart.


SONOR – the second show – takes guests on an auditory adventure with dancers, acrobats and characters, all moving to the rhythm. It conjures a world of unique sensations, astonishing sounds, bold music and immersive projections and culminates in a grand finale for the senses.



Malcolm says: It’s nice to see the major cruising offering entertainment beyond the normal ‘flesh & feathers’ type.

MSC ‘World Class’ Movie

June 16, 2017

MSC/STX official movie:

Here is how two of the biggest ships in the world measure up:

Stats Harmony Of The Seas MSC World Class
Year built 2016 2022
Builder Saint-Nazaire (STX France) Saint-Nazaire (STX France)
Building cost USD 1,35 billion USD 1,125 billion
Owner Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd MSC Cruises
Class Oasis World
Speed 23 kn TBA
Length (LOA) 362 m / 1188 ft 330 m / 1083 ft
Beam (width) 46 m / 151 ft 47 m / 154 ft
Gross Tonnage 227000 gt 200000 gt
Passengers 6780 6850
Crew 2193 TBA
Decks 17 TBA
Cabins 2747 2760

Meraviglia+ Duo To Showcase Original Masterpieces

MSC Cruises is set to showcase masterpieces of classic art, such as original works by Renaissance and Impressionist artists, in an on-board Museum of Culture, on the pair of Meraviglia-Plus ships delivering in 2019 and 2020.

See full ‘Seatrade article’: HERE

CMV’s New Flagship – Columbus

June 12, 2017

Columbus Departs Tilbury (Courtesy CMV)

Cruise & Maritime Voyages welcomed their new flagship Columbus into their fleet last Thursday, at a glittering naming ceremony at the London Cruise Terminal in Tilbury. The 64,000 tonnes ship will carry up to 1400 people and will be cruising year round from London – Tilbury.

The Godmother to Columbus, who named the ship at the ceremony, is TV personality Angela Rippon CBE. Whilst naming the ship, within the splendid Palladium show lounge, she told a delighted audience of the media, travel trade and VIP customers “I look forward to offering Columbus the same respect as my own godchildren.” Angela reminded the audience that Columbus discovered the New World of America on the 12th October 1492. “12th October is my birthday” she said.


Angela Rippon names Columbus (Courtesy CMV)

Chris Coates, Commercial Director at CMV said “When we introduced Magellan to our fleet just over two years ago, I suggested that it would be a game changer for us. Indeed it has been, and now we begin a new chapter as we proudly introduce our new flagship, Columbus, enabling us to respond to growing customer demand for traditional style cruising on board mid-sized cruise ships. The arrival of Columbus means we are on course to carry 100,000 passengers in 2018 cruising from the UK, which is 10% of the market.”

Columbus set sail from Tilbury yesterday, Sunday 11th June,  on her maiden three night cruise to Amsterdam and Antwerp. In glorious sunshine,  a brass band and confetti cannons bid her bon voyage!

The season  continues with cruises to the Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Iceland, Baltic Cities, Canary Islands & Madeira, Scottish Highlights & Faroes, Spain, Portugal, France & Gibraltar and a spectacular 46 night voyage to Cuba, Central America & the Caribbean.


Columbus Ship Review: HERE

Symphony Of The Seas Floated Out

June 10, 2017

(Courtesy RCI)

Royal Caribbean’s newbuild, Symphony of the Seas was floated out at STX France earlier this week.

The 230,000 gross tonne, 6, 860 passenger ship enters service in April 2018.

The French ship-yard will work ton the interior of the ship.


My Extensive ‘Oasis’ review: HERE

Magellan To Homeport In Acapulco

June 9, 2017

Acapulco, Mexico,  has announced it that it will be the homeport for Cruise and Maritime Voyages ‘Magellan, starting in the winter of 2018. The roundtrip cruise will depart from Acapulco and make stops in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas.

Cruise and Maritime executives also announced that the first stage in the company’s plan for expansion will focus on this route on the Mexican Pacific, while a second stage will include the Panama Canal and the Mexican Caribbean.

Magellan became Cruise & Maritime Voyages  new flagship in March 2015.  Formerly Carnival’s MS Holiday, she entered service in 1985.

Magellan is  46,052 gross tonnes, so CMV’s biggest vessel, carrying  a maximum of 1,452 passengers.

At 32 years old (in 2017), verses Azores at 68 years, the Marco Polo’s 52 years and Astor’s 29 years, makes Magellan their second youngest ship.


Read my Magellan ship review: HERE

Marco Polo Stays & New Ship Talk

Marco Polo from the deck of Magellan – Click to enlarge

CMV management have now said:  “We are actively looking for new ships, expect an announcement very soon.”

“Marco Polo will remain in the fleet and that 2019’s programming is underway.”


My Marco Polo review HERE

Sailing Yacht ‘A’ Meets Motor Yacht ‘A’

June 8, 2017

Sailing Yacht ‘A’  (Image by KarleHorn )

Russian oligarch’s new £360 million Sailing Yacht ‘A’  moored overnight in Monaco last month, alongside his £240 million Motor Yacht ‘A’.

The images are worth looking at if you want to see how the ‘other half’ live!

Mail Online images: HERE

Regal Princess, Hi-Tech Makeover

June 7, 2017

The Regal Princess (Princess cruises) will set sail this November 2017, with a new “Medallion Class” Hi-Tech makeover.

The ship is 142,714 gross tonnes and carrying 3,560 passengers.

MSC Christens Meraviglia

June 5, 2017

The MSC Meraviglia was christened in a ceremony in Le Havre by Sophia Loren.

At 171,598 tons, carrying around 4,500 passengers, MSC Meraviglia is the biggest ship to be built by a European ship owner and also the biggest ship to enter service this year.

Saga Pearl II To leave The Fleet

June 3, 2017

From news about a mega-ship, to news about a small one:


(Courtesy Saga)

Saga Cruises have confirmed the Saga Pearl II will embark on its final Saga Cruises voyage in 2019.

The 1981-built Saga Pearl II at just 18,627 gross tonnes and carrying 512 passengers was originally launched into service as the Astor. Her final voyage, will take passengers to South Africa, Gambia, Namibia and Mozambique.

The  Spirit of Discovery will be  joining the fleet as the line’s first newbuild in summer 2019 and will  sail alongside the Saga Sapphire.


Malcolm says: Another small-‘classic’ ship finds herself fleet-less. Let’s hope another cruise line buys her and saves her from the scrap heap of Alang.  Her sister is also amazingly charming.

A review of Saga Pearl’s sister: HERE

Introducing MSC’s World Class

June 1, 2017

World Class – click to enlarge (Courtesy MSC)

MSC Cruises has now confirmed their order for up to four LNG-powered cruise ships of 200,000gt at STX France and released the first rendering of their new design.

The total order is valued at €4.5bn.

The delivery schedule is 2022 and 2024, with the options in 2025 and 2026. Each ship will have 2,760 staterooms and accommodate up to 6,850 passengers—the highest capacity of any cruise ship.

Click to enlarge (MSC)

MSC Cruises said the Y-shaped profile will enable panoramic sea views and increase the proportion of balcony cabins. The ships’ G bow—vertically positioned at a 90-degree angle—has been designed to improve stability for passenger comfort and hydrodynamics for fuel efficiency.

Click to enlarge (MSC)

Other innovations include family-friendly ‘villages,’ a panoramic aft and a glass pool lounge.


Click to enlarge (MSC)

Malcolm says: Wow, she certainly looks original from the front, although the rear split superstructure is of course RCI Oasis style. The thought of 6,850 passengers will scare many people. That’s around 554 more passengers than RCI’s ‘Oasis’ class, the world’s biggest cruise ship, yet the ‘World Class’ will be some 25,000 gross tonnes (12.5 per cent) smaller. She sounds ‘busy’!

One of her innovations is a ‘square’ cabin design. We have yet to see the renderings of the cabins.




Circular Runways – The Future?

May 30, 2017

Not cruise related, but travel related:

Could circular runways be the future of air travel? Aviation expert Henk Hesselink of the Netherlands Aerospace Centre believes so.

(BBC News)

Porsche Superyacht

May 28, 2017

£360million Yacht Puts Sails Up For The First Time

May 28, 2017

Sails down. (Image by KarleHorn )

Pictures exclusive to MailOnline reveal the superyacht’s sails up on its 300ft masts for the very first time:

See Daily Mail Images: HERE

Celestyal Cruises New Website

May 27, 2017

Celestyal Crystal (Courtesy Celestyal Cruises)

Celestyal Cruises has launched a completely new version of their  website http://www.celestyalcruises.com

The company said it is now compatible with all browsers and mobile devices, offering visitors a faster, simpler booking process and a comprehensive introduction to the company’s cruises, services and unique selling points.

Celestyal specialise in around-Cuba and Greek cruises.

The cruise line operates three ships (see the web site for more details).


Aerial Shots – MSC Seaside Under Construction

May 26, 2017

MSC Want To Build Barcelona Terminal

May 26, 2017


MSC Cruises wants to invest in a massive state-of-the-art cruise terminal at the port of Barcelona, according to Pierfrancesco Vago, the executive chairman.

There are no further details or a timescale as yet.


Introducing AIDA’s Helios Class

May 24, 2017

AIDA Cruises has issued renderings and some details for its next class of ships, the Helios-class.

These ships are aimed at the German market and will be in excess of 180,000 gross tons and carry 5,200 passengers (lower berths), powered by LNG.

The first AIDA ship will be delivered from Meyer Werft in late 2018, the second in 2021.

The ships design will have 21 stateroom categories, ranging from penthouse suites to family, veranda staterooms and single cabins.

There will be 17 restaurants, including the traditional German self-service options, a-la-carte restaurants and five speciality options. Among the speciality options will be French Kiss, Casanova and the Brauhaus. (Apparently the German’s like buffets and there will be a good choice of them on-board).

(Image Courtesy AIDA)

(Image courtesy AIDA)

Deck 16 will be an activity deck with a waterslide, water park, mini golf and a ropes course.

The pool deck will have a light-weight retractable glass roof, making the ships suitable for deployment in Northern Europe, in the winter. This will feature AIDA’s popular beach-club as on-board AIDAprima.

(AIDA Cruises)

The Costa version  (Courtesy Carnival)

Malcolm says: We have now seen renderings of the Costa Cruises version of this amazing Carnival design, the P&O version and a leaked model of the Carnival Cruises version.

The P&O version

Although AIDA is aimed at the thriving German market, it looks as if the P&O and AIDA versions of this ship share a ‘Dome’. The Costa version does not appear to have this feature, but I guess she will spend much of her time in the hot Mediterranean. In the case of the leaked Carnival model, it is unclear as yet if she does have a dome or not – but I guess not, as she will probably be deployed in the Caribbean.

The deck space/prom looks to be extensive, rather like MSC’s ‘Seaside’ and NCL’s project ‘Leonardo’. Did you notice the two level prom deck, seen clearly in the AIDA renderings with an extremely long/steep staircase linking the two levels. It looks far from ideal!

Although these are not the biggest ships in the world (in terms of gross tonnage) some say that they will be the most crowded in the world!

Eurostar To Amsterdam

May 24, 2017

Siemens e320 (Courtesy Eurostar)

Eurostar will launch direct services from London to Amsterdam, taking four hours,  by the end of the year.

A direct route to Rotterdam is also said to be “final stages”.

The company has unveiled a preview of its new e320 trains set to run between London and Brussels, which will be introduced over the next 18 months as part of a £1 billion investment.

The new fleet has 20% more capacity than present Eurostar services and will have wifi plus 300 hours of on-board entertainment streamed to customer devices.

The e320 trains have been operating on the London-Paris route since November 2015.

The company hopes to entice some of the three million passengers who travel between London and Amsterdam by air each year.

(Kent Online)

Malcolm says: this service will make it a little easier to travel  into Europe for those Brits who can reach London.  I believe Eurostar will later be introducing non-stop services to Germany and France. These train routes could be useful for cruise passengers who do not want to fly, yet want to join ships (and river boats) from European ports.

Balmoral Cruises From Newcastle Again

May 23, 2017

Balmoral (Courtesy Fred Olsen)

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral will be starting her second cruise season from the Port of Tyne, Newcastle, on May 25.

The 1,350-guest Balmoral will be setting sail on a total of 13 voyages from Newcastle in 2017 – an increase on the 11 departures offered in 2016.

(Fred. Olsen)

My Balmoral review: HERE

Legend Becomes Discovery 2

May 22, 2017

Time-lapse video.

TUI Discovery 2′ is the former Royal Caribbean ship ‘Legend of the Seas’. The ship which entered service for RCI in 1994 is a modest 69,130 gross tonnes and carries 2,074 passengers.

Malcolm says: I do like what Thomson have done to the livery, It make this mature ship look quite contemporary.

My review of sister ship ‘Splendour of The Seas’: HERE

Fred. Olsen Moves Into River Cruising

May 17, 2017


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has announced the launch of its new dedicated cruise programme by river boat, unveiled in its new ‘European River Cruising by Fred. Olsen’ brochure.

Fred. Olsen River Cruises is now offering European river cruise holidays, between 5th April and 3rd November 2018, on board 156-guest river boat, Brabant, to go on general sale from 26th May 2017.

Fred. Olsen will be operating its new river cruise programme – taking in some of Europe’s most beautiful rivers, including the Danube, Rhine, Main and Moselle – on a total of 30 departures in 2018, on duration’s ranging from five to 25 nights, complemented by a selection of high-quality chargeable shore excursions, designed to enhance guests’ experience of the destination.

Fred. Olsen will be bringing its unique style of ‘destination exploration’ to the river cruise market, with exciting itineraries visiting some of Europe’s most stunning rivers, canals and valleys. Guests can choose to sail the breath-taking Danube, taking in the major cities and wildlife-rich Danube Delta; savour the highlights of the heart of Europe, along the twists and turns of the Moselle, Rhine and Main valleys; or enjoy a ‘taster’ cruise to Amsterdam, when the tulips are in full bloom.

Importantly, Fred. Olsen has also incorporated a large amount of scenic cruising in daylight hours into its new river cruise itineraries, so that guests can make the most of the spectacular scenery on offer at the best time of the day.

Justin Stanton, Sales and Marketing Director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:

“At Fred. Olsen, we specialise in creating a ‘home-from-home’ atmosphere on our ocean cruises, and we are proud to be bringing our many decades of expertise and rich sailing heritage to the river cruise market for the very first time. In fact, the name Brabant harks back to Fred. Olsen’s historic passenger ship of the same name from the 1920s.

“Guests can rest assured that the new Fred. Olsen river cruises will be underpinned by the usual high standards, award-winning customer service and understated elegance that they have come to expect of our ocean-going offer. We firmly believe that we have crafted the perfect formula to ensure that our new river cruise guests are able to get the most out of their holiday with Fred. Olsen.”

Fred. Olsen’s new river cruise itineraries on board Brabant for 2018 include: Düsseldorf, Germany to Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Düsseldorf to Nuremberg, Germany; Nuremberg to Budapest, Hungary; Budapest to Hirsova (Bucharest), Romania; Düsseldorf to Basel, Switzerland;and Hirsova (Bucharest) to Düsseldorf.

Three Amadeus vessels – Danube (Click to enlarge)

Built in 2006, 110-metre-long Brabant is a stylish and comfortable river cruise boat, and has everything that guests will need to make their holiday a memorable one: from bright and spacious public areas, to well-equipped bedrooms and ample deck space, from which to enjoy the superb views. With just four decks – Haydn Deck 1, Strauss Deck 2, Mozart Deck 3 and Sun Deck 4 – and fewer than 80 rooms and suites, staffed by 40 crew members, Brabanthas the intimate and friendly feel that Fred. Olsen’s guests know and love.

Brabant’s classic design is smaller than many river boats, so guests will enjoy the usual hallmarks of Fred. Olsen’s ‘closer’ approach to cruising. In keeping with Fred. Olsen’s ocean-going fleet, this smaller-scaled vessel has the style, atmosphere and elegance of a country house hotel. Cherry wood interiors and contemporary colours combine to make guests feel relaxed from the moment that they step on board. Juliette balconies with panoramic windows are a feature of many of the rooms, so that guests can enjoy expansive views of Europe’s most impressive waterways.

Fred. Olsen guests – who are predominantly British – will also feel at home on board Brabant, with English spoken throughout and all transactions conducted in Pounds Sterling. The British taste will also be reflected in the cuisine, customer service and shore tours on offer.

All holidays featured in the new ‘River Cruising by Fred. Olsen’ brochure are based on fly-cruises, and include return flights from / to a London airport and transfers to / from the boat. Cruise-only options are also available


Malcolm says: I predicted this last year when Olsen. hinted at a ‘new direction’. This is a clever move. Olsen passengers are very loyal and trust the Olsen name.  It seems that this will essentially be an ‘Amadeus’ (Luftner Cruises) product, with some Olsen tweaks like sterling as the on-board currency and British menus.

Having cruised with Amadeus twice I can vouch that they offer a pretty high standard of experience at a fare more reasonable than many.

The Amadeus experience is an international one, attracting many German and French passengers, but will equally suit Brits. All the crew speak English. The food normally served by Amadeus is arguably higher-class (better) than some of Fred Olsen’s fare. The small number of passengers on river boats should ensure excellent service. (See my Amadeus cruise reviews).

Amadeus do not have a very high profile in the U.K. so this partnership can only help them.

Olsen’s ‘Brabant’ is the ‘Amadeus Princess’ which entered service in 2006. The line has revealed that the vessel will not undergo a refurbishment before it sails as Brabant, but will receive Fred. Olsen River Cruise branding and a new livery/name.

There is already talk of a second Olsen river boat, later on.

Amadeus Elegant, my second river cruise review HERE

Thinking Of Taking Your First River Cruise?

It’s spring, so the major European river cruise lines are once again starting to operate cruises along the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Seine, Rhone/Saone and other European rivers.

River cruising is actually is the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry.

There are many myths about river cruising and many truths too.

As a brand new convert myself, I have created a short article to dispel some of the myths and confirm some of the truths. Enjoy!

River Cruising – Myth & Reality: HERE


Queen Victoria Gets A New Aft Deck

May 17, 2017

During her month-long, £30 million refurbishment, at the Italian Fincantieri shipyard, Cunard’s Queen Victoria gained a new aft Lido deck.

The deck includes a new extended lounge and additional deck space for guests, as well as more staterooms.

Queen Elizabeth, built three years after after Queen Victoria, was built with a similar designed aft Lido deck to the new addition.


Queen Victoria’s original aft design – top image. Queen Elizabeth – below. (Cunard)

Malcolm says: More cabins, more passengers, more profit – or am I being too sceptical?

American Duchess To Launch Service From New Orleans

May 16, 2017

American Duchess (Courtesy AQSC)

The American Queen Steamboat Company will launch service with its new American Duchess from New Orleans on August 14th, 2017.

The American Duchess is the first all-suite paddlewheeler on U.S. rivers, a floating, intimate masterpiece that can carry up to 166 guests through America’s heartland. The paddlewheeler, created from a 1995 hull, was completely reconstructed to become one of the most luxurious river cruising vessels in the country, featuring single-seating main dining and entertainment venues, soaring ceilings, and all of the features guests have come to expect on other American Queen Steamboat Company cruises.

Her suites range from 180 sq. ft to 550 sq. ft., allowing guests to stay in some of the largest accomodations on the rivers. Unique to the American Duchess are her spacious Loft Suites, that measure at 550 sq. ft.. The lower level features a full bathroom, small dining area, a beautiful lounge section furnished with a queen sofa-bed and desk area, along with sliding doors to access a private balcony. The loft area upstairs is a tranquil retreat with its semi-private bedroom, a full bathroom and gracious closet space.

Click to enlarge (Courtesy AQSC)

Featuring a single-seating schedule in the beautiful Grand Dining Room, dining on-board is an experience. Enjoy 5-star cuisine that blends local flavors and fine culinary traditions. A more casual atmosphere is offered at The River Club and Terrace, which can host over 80 guests who wish to dine at their own pace.

Combining the best of the old and the new, this beautiful lady of the river epitomizes the grace and grandeur that has made River Cruising a cherished American tradition for more than two centuries.

(American Queen Steamboat Company)

Amazing Aerial Pictures: Titanic Replica

May 15, 2017

Amazing aerial pictures show the £105m full-size Titanic replica set to be completed by this year as a part of a grand theme park in China. It will not be a functioning ship, but a hotel/attraction.

The project is NOT to be confused with the Titanic II project where the Australian millionaire, Clive Palmer,  claimed that he was going to build a full-sized cruising Titanic replica. Well, he never did and almost certainly never will.

Titanic II – Clive Palmer Gets Cold Feet: HERE

Bodies Of 3rd-Class Titanic Passengers Tossed Overboard

Rarely does a month go by without a story about the ill fated liner appearing in the media.

Here is a recent example.

Daily Mail article: HERE

Below is a link to my article comparing the worlds biggest ocean liner  in 1912, ‘RMS Titanic’, to the biggest modern class of cruise ship ‘Oasis of The Seas’.

Titanic v Oasis of the Seas: HERE  


AmaWaterways To launch ‘Biggest River Boat’ In Europe

May 13, 2017

AmaMagna (Courtsey AmaWaterways)

AmaWaterways is to launch the ‘biggest river cruise vessel’ in Europe in 2019.

To be named AmaMagna, the vessel will have the same length, height and draft as the line’s other vessels, but at 22 meters it will be twice as wide. However she will only accommodate 194 passengers.

Its width also means it will be the only ship docked in ports that allow two-deep berthing..

The ship will sail the Danube.

President Rudi Schreiner said the ship, which will be called AmaMagna, would have more facilities and ocean style cabins.

He said: “While this new double-width concept has been on the table for some time, we believe, given the unique demand that exists, that now is the perfect moment to introduce this style of ship”.

“AmaMagna will provide guests with generous personal space, the freedom of multiple dining choices and exceptional stateroom comfort. “Combining this with our award-winning cuisine, noteworthy shore excursions and remarkable onboard service, we feel this ship is a game-changer.”

AmaMagna will accommodate 194 passengers, in 97 staterooms – the majority of which will be over 300 square feet.

Additional amenities include a large heated sundeck swimming pool with whirlpool and sky bar, spa area with new treatments, a fitness room large enough for small group classes.

The cruise line has 20 ships and is expected to launch another five by 2019.


Malcolm says: so it’s not only ocean cruise ships that are getting bigger, although AmaMagna will still be very intimate in comparison. I’m not sure if she really will be the biggest passenger-river vessel operating in Europe?  I suppose it depends how you measure ‘biggest’.

‘Crystal Mozart’ a twin hulled vessel, is about the same width as AmaMagna, yet a little longer, so she has more internal volume. However she carries less passengers – 154.  Both boats will be operating on the Danube.  These boats will only be able to navigate wider locks and will congest them.  Many larger locks can accommodate two standard river boats, side by side, but will only be able to accommodate one of these. This will slow things up a bit.

River Cruising – Myth & Reality: HERE

Malcolm says re: Poll – A river boat certainly do not feel ‘small’ when you are on-board one. There is normally one sitting for each meal and every passengers has a lounger on the sun deck. You obviously do not have the range of facilities and public rooms found on-board most ocean cruise ships. However, as there is normally under 200 passengers, you are not competing for space with thousands of other passengers.

Jade Refurbishment For UK Season

May 12, 2017

Norwegian Jade underwent a three week refurbishment in dry dock, in May 2017, as part of the ‘Norwegian Edge’ program.

£30 million has been spent replacing her Hawaiian-themed interiors, which were installed when the ship sailed as ‘Pride of Hawaii’ up until 2008.

New eateries and bars, refurbished staterooms and expanded restaurant spaces are just a few of the improvements competed.

The ship now offers 24-hour pub grub at O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill, complimentary poolside fare at Pit Stop and a 1950s-style diner where classic car themed décor, complete with vintage license plates.

Additionally, Moderno Churrascaria was relocated and now offers sea views; more seating was added to Cagney’s Steakhouse, which now boasts a virtual fireplace; La Cucina, the ship’s Italian restaurant, now features a wine wall; and the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant, along with Jasmine Garden and Garden Café all have undergone a major face-lift.

Other upgrades to public spaces include upgrades to the pool areas, the Sugarcane mojito bar and the Spinnaker Lounge; new TechnoGym equipment in the fitness centre; and the addition of Bliss Ultra Lounge, the nightclub. In the atrium, a new custom-designed chandelier hangs overhead, replacing the Hawaiian ‘lays’.

All the staterooms have received new carpet, drapes, furniture, flat-screen TVs and headboards with USB charging outlets. The Haven also features four new cabanas. In all, the ship’s staterooms display more than 2,250 pieces of upgraded artwork.

Jade has become a firm favourite with US and UK passengers alike.

Jade will arrive at in the UK, on May 13th 2017, where she will spend the summer offering cruises to the Norwegian Fjords and Iceland. There will also be some cruises offered from Hamburg, Germany.