Hi there, I’m Melanie Charnley and I’m a Cruise Consultant here at Barrhead Travel. Recently I decided to book myself and my mum our very first river cruise . I choose the Enchanting Rhine itinerary from AMA Waterways, which is seven days and took me from Basel to Amsterdam. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised by the luxury surroundings and the fascinating excursions. This is what I got up to during those seven days.
Day 1 – Embarkation and welcome party
We flew with KLM from Manchester to Basel, via Amsterdam arriving early evening. After collecting our luggage we went to find our transfer to take us to our river boat. Not really knowing what to expect, my mum and myself were surprised to spot a pristine looking gentleman holding our names and ready to privately escort us to the AmaKristina, our home for the week.
We were the last to arrive and board the ship. Unfortunately we missed the majority of the welcome reception, but we were soon filled in on the important information we needed to know. We were escorted to our cabin that was on the lower deck. Our cabin was number 110. It was very comfortable with twin beds, a table and 2 chairs, a good size bathroom with walk-in shower, wardrobe and a desk with a mini fridge and TV. There were 2 large windows (shoulder height) that let in plenty light and were good for taking in the great views.
After settling into our cabin, we were then invited up to the lounge to catch the end of the welcome party where we were given a glass of bubbly, and then onto the welcome dinner in the restaurant. After tucking into an array of culinary delights (which didn’t disappoint), we then had a wander up to the sun deck and watched as the ship set sail. We then retreated to the lounge for a nightcap and listened to the talents of the ship’s pianist Nikola, who was superb, before heading back to our room for what was going to be a fantastic night sleep with not one disruption of noise or motion considering we were sailing (after we had eaten the chocolate left on our pillow!).
Day 2 - Exploring the vineyards of Riquewihr
This morning we woke up in Breisach. Excited for the day ahead and still undecided on which excursion to choose, we went to breakfast to fuel up on the wonderful choices of fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, cooked breakfast and omelette, not to mention the options available to order on the menu, and the pastries.
We had another look at the daily cruise newsletter which explained both trips available for us to do. We could either go to Riquewihr, which is a little Alsatian town surrounded by miles of vineyards, or we could go to Freiburg which is a trade town between the Danube and Rhine, calling at the Freiburg cathedral. We opted for the Riquewihr trip with regular walking (you could choose gentle, regular, or active).
The drive to Riquewihr was lovely with loads to see along the way. We were soon surrounded by miles of vineyards in which Riquewihr is situated in the middle of. The tour guide we had was very friendly and knowledgeable and the whole trip was very well organised.
She led us through the medieval hamlet, untouched since the 16th century. We walked up the cobbled street with the running commentary through our Quietvox box in our ears explaining the history of the hamlet and certain buildings. When we arrived at the Dolder gate, we were let loose for some free time before returning to the coach to go back to the ship for lunch. It was the perfect amount of free time to sit outside a bar and sample a glass of local wine.
When we arrived back at the AmaKristina, it was lovely to be greeted by the crew handing out warm flannels and a glass of ice tea to freshen up. Intrigued by what was available for lunch we went straight to the restaurant. Salads and pasta were available on the buffet today, along with the made to order menu that consisted of soup, steak sandwiches and chicken ciabattas. Spaghetti Olio was a firm favourite for me that day!
We set sail at 2pm up river towards Strasbourg and, as the weather was glorious, the only suitable thing to do was sit in the hot tub on the Sundeck with a Rose wine. The perfect relaxing afternoon.
It was my mum’s birthday that day, and she made me promise not to tell anyone as she doesn't like to be the centre of attention. That evening it was taken out of my hands as a familiar birthday celebration song came over the speakers. To then see the Cruise Manager David and restaurant staff approaching our table… it was soon apparent it was all for mum’s benefit and a lovely fuss was made with lots of well wishes from crew and guests alike - along with a birthday cake for her! Promising my mum I hadn’t told anyone it was her birthday, David said they have our dates of births and there was no hiding from being made a fuss of!
After a fun-filled day, we went to the lounge for a few vinos, before retreating to the cabin to recharge ready for the next day! (After eating another chocolate left on our pillow). It was lovely going back to our stateroom when the fabulous housekeeping team have been looking after it all day as well as turning down your beds ready for your night’s sleep. The cabins were very well looked after and kept spotlessly clean and stocked with toiletries and drinking water!
Day 3 – Strasbourg City Tour
After another nutritious breakfast and vitamin shot, we once again had left it until last minute to decide what excursion we wanted to do. We looked at the daily cruise planner and we could either do a guided city tour of Strasbourg, or a bike tour. We opted for the city tour where we were guaranteed to see a number of sights.
At 9am we met at reception and were guided to our coach. The coach tour took us around Strasbourg where the sights we could see included the Place de la Republique, the European Parliament, with all its flags up on display, and the Orangerie which is the town’s oldest park which houses a zoo and a palace.
After the coach tour, we were dropped off in the centre of Strasburg on the ‘Island’. This area of Strasbourg is called ‘Petit France’. It is an area of medieval half-timbered houses and sandstone buildings, situated on the Grand Ile (the main island). It is surrounded by canals which come from the River Ile. The entire town centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour continued on foot at this point, we walked along the canal, again with the running commentary through our Quietvox box, whilst taking in the scenery of the beautiful old houses and shops.
Our tour ended at the Notre Dame Cathedral where the main attraction is not only the size and the Gothic architecture but also houses the Astronomical clock. At 12:30pm every day there is a film played explaining how it was made and you can watch the clock chimes and witness all the elements of the clock in action. After some free time, we were picked up by our coach and taken back to the AmaKristina for an Alsatian-style lunch.
Boarding the ship we were again greeted by the wonderful smiles of the crew handing us a refreshing drink and flannel to freshen up. We soon realised this was going to be the norm on our return every day and personally I felt so overwhelmed with how personal and intimate this cruise was going to be. Not like any other holiday I have been on; I felt like a respected person board and not just a number amongst hundreds of guests in a hotel.
We chilled out in the lounge this afternoon but there were shuttle buses provided to take you back into Strasburg if you wanted to go.
When I thought the cruise couldn’t get any better, we walked into our spotlessly tidy cabin after the housekeeper George had been in to get ready for the evening, there was a gift box placed on each of our beds. Thinking it was a box of chocolates, we opened it to find a limited edition scarf along with a note from the president of the company, Rudi Schreiner, welcoming us on board and wishing us a marvellous stay.
The evening meal yet again didn’t disappoint: plenty to choose from and if you didn’t like the chef's choice there was always chicken, steak and salmon to order. After the meal we went to the lounge for a while and watched the evening entertainment which was ‘Armand and Muriel’, performing French songs and music. We set sail at midnight tonight and made our way up to Mannheim.
Day 4 - Mannheim
We docked at Mannheim at around 8am. The second largest river port in Europe. As the daily cruise newsletter is left in your cabin the evening before by the housekeeping team, we had already looked and decided to go on the Heidelberg excursion. The alternative choices were Medieval Speyer, Philosophers Path Hike or a guided bike tour.
After breakfast, we travelled by coach to Heidelberg, one of Germany’s oldest university towns. We had an escorted tour around Heidelberg Castle that is situated on a hillside 300 feet above the old downtown, overlooking the Necker Valley, the Old Stone bridge and Heidelberg below. Whilst we were at the castle, we were able to visit ‘The Great Vat’, a wine cask that can house 49,000 gallons of wine from the 18th century. It even had a dance floor on top!
Our tour guide was able to explain the history and stories behind the castle and its stone carvings, and even its link to the British Monarchy and the visit Prince William and Kate had made a few weeks before. After the castle tour, we were taken downhill by cable cart. We had a walk around the town centre and were left with some free time to discover the town at our own leisure.
Our coach picked us up and took us back to the ship for lunch on board. We sailed at 2pm that afternoon up river towards Rudesheim. That afternoon called for another dip in the hot tub with an obligatory rosé wine while watching the fabulous views pass by.
Every day there was a briefing in the lounge with the Cruise Manager David where he explained the following day's program and, on this occasion, what was in store for this evening when we arrived in Rudesheim.
At the end of our evening meal, we docked in Rudesheim. Shortly afterwards we all met at reception ready to be picked up by the ‘Choo choo train’ to take us up into the town. We stopped at the Siegfrieds Music Cabinet Museum, where our group split in two. Some of us went there and the remainder of us went to the Schloss Rudesheimer to sample the local Rudesheimer coffee. The bar had a fantastic atmosphere with live music playing, and the girls working there were dressed in traditional attire.
We watched as the Rudesheimer coffee was prepared. Asbach brandy is the special key ingredient, which was set alight and stirred, then mixed with coffee, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles! Our tour group were soon up dancing and having a fantastic time. Our Cruise Manager David escorted us along this trip and made sure everyone was having a fantastic evening. When our time at the Schloss Rudesheimer was over, we walked back up the cobbled street with bars either side, to meet the ‘Choo Choo Train’ to take us back to the AmaKristina. We went past the AmaSonata which was also in port this evening. Fantastic day!
Day 5 – Rudesheim and Castle Cruising
Catching the ‘Choo Choo train’ again to take us into Rudesheim, we met the Gondola which took us uphill over acres of vineyards. When we arrived at the top, we went to the great Niederwalddenkmal statue overlooking the entrance of the Rhine Gorge. Next stop was back on the Gondola downhill to partake in wine tasking with Adolf Stozel – a local wine expert. We sampled 3 different wines and in-between each taste we had a pretzel to clear our palette. It took place in a traditional old style wine cellar.
After the wine tasting, we had some free time to explore before the railway picked us up to take us back to the ship for lunch. There was a traditional German lunch on board that day, along with the standard buffet and made to order menu, followed by an ice-cream party in the lounge before departure.
This afternoon was one of the highlights of the cruise for me, the sun came out and we all hit the top deck for an afternoon of Castle Cruising up the Rhine Gorge. Captain Jan navigated us up the river, while David provided the commentary along the way as we sailed past each castle. The Rhine River is the only river famous for the number of castles along its banks. There is in excess of 30 castles to watch, along with the famous Lorelei Rock. The Rhine Gorge was added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 2002. Halfway through the Castle cruise, we were served with a hot mug of Rudesheimer coffee.
We continued sailing this afternoon until we reached Koblenz, a town at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers.
We arrived at Koblenz early evening and were quick to leave the ship to have a short guided tour of the town with David before returning back to the ship for the evening meal.
Tonight’s entertainment was brilliant. We had a singer on board named Matt Williams who sang a variety of songs ranging from Elvis to Robbie. He certainly got everyone in a good mood and up dancing.
Day 6 – Cologne
We sailed from Koblenz at 7am upriver to Cologne, arriving at around 1300. After breakfast, we retreated to the lounge to relax and watch the sites as we sailed. We sailed past the collapsed bridge of Remagen. We had the commentary in the lounge explaining the bridge’s history and its collapse on the 17th March 1945.
At 1030 Fruhschoppen was served in the lounge. This is a traditional German 2nd breakfast consisting of sausages, pretzels and beer. An early lunch was then served before our arrival into Cologne, or Koln as it is called in Germany. Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city with a population of just over 1 million.
We made our own arrangements today and walked into Cologne. Minutes away from the ship is the Central station, Theatre and Cathedral, it was very easy to navigate around. We stopped by the Cathedral and had a brief walk around and a coffee before returning to the ship to get ready for the Captain’s cocktail party and farewell gala dinner.
Tonight was an occasion to dress up. We made our way to the lounge and was greeted with a Cocktail and welcomed by David, the ship’s Cruise Manager, and Guido, the ship’s Hotel Manager. It really was a brilliant night, we met Captain Jan and were introduced to the entire crew of AmaKristina. Captain Jan gave a good overview of our sailing and long stretch we were about to sail that evening up to our final port in Amsterdam. Our glasses were constantly topped up and at the end of the cocktail party we made our way down to the lounge for the Gala Dinner.
Dinner was fabulous, probably the best yet and each evening you would think it couldn’t get any better. After our meal, we went up to the lounge for a few more drinks. Music was playing and guests were dancing, and then the evening mellowed down and the boat musician Nikola played and sang along with the Piano.
After an hour in the lounge, we went back to our cabin ready to wake up and make the most of our final day.
Day 6 – Amsterdam
We woke up in the Netherlands sailing through the Dutch waterways on route to Amsterdam. We went for breakfast and then relaxed in the lounge or on the sun deck taking in the views. It was a long stretch we sailed and the views were glorious.
We arrived in Amsterdam after lunch and got into our groups ready for our excursions. We opted for the city tour and canal cruise. We boarded our coach and drove through the city seeing iconic sites along the way. When the couch tour came to an end, we then had the canal cruise, which was fantastic, cruising through what is described as the Venice of the North. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out all the houseboats, tilted houses and other points of interest including Anne Frank’s house.
We had some free time in Amsterdam to browse the markets, canals, and museums before we met the tour guide to take us back to the boat. On our way to meet the coach, he took us through Begijnhof – one of Amsterdam’s hidden courtyards occupied by only women and he explained the history behind the convent.
When we got back to the boat, we got ready for our final evening meal on board. The dining experience on board was fantastic. The Maitre’D Daniel, the chef and restaurant crew were superb in making sure your evening meal was served efficiently, cooked to your liking and your wine/drinks glass was always topped up, all served with happy smiles and conversation throughout the evening. All of the meals on board were skillfully prepared and requests were duly noted and carried out where possible.
The evening entertainment tonight was a classical concert with La Strada. It was relaxing and easy listening to the guitarist and violinist playing in unison exquisite classical music. It was a lovely wind down from an amazing holiday.
Day 8 – Home Time
We had to vacate our staterooms by 9am this morning, which was ample time to get ready and close our cases. Breakfast is served until 9.30am and then pastries were always served in the lounge from 9.30 onwards so even if breakfast was missed, there was always a snack on offer to make sure you didn’t go hungry.
We vacated our room and then went to breakfast. Check out was very well organised, we were given luggage labels to pop on our cases and we had to leave these outside our room. The crew then collected our cases and then they were looked after until our transfer arrived. We were getting picked up at 12.30 and were welcome to stay on board and make the most of the hospitality until we left.
Everything was very well organised and the Cruise Manager was aware of everyone’s transfer when it arrived. Our luggage was then carried out by the crew and we were escorted to our transfer by David where well wishes and thanks were exchanged. It was very hard leaving as we had such a fantastic time, met some wonderful people (both staff and fellow guests).
My holidays have always been a typical beach holiday where I do very little. The river cruise has totally changed my perception on holidays and made me realise there is so much more of the world to see and how enjoyable a more active holiday can be. I didn’t know what to expect on board, but it really did go over and beyond my expectations. Now to plan my next river cruise…….
Launched in 2008, the much-loved 3,634-passenger Independence of the Seas is the third and final incarnation of Royal Caribbean's ground-breaking Freedom-class ships - once the largest in the world before the launch of Oasis of the Seas and its sister ships. For most of her career, this leviathan has been offering a series of summer-long cruises from Southampton and as such has gained a loyal following amongst cruisers who know when they’re onto a good thing.
In 2013 the ship underwent a $7 million upgrade that added features such as a cupcake shop, an Italian trattoria called Giovanni's Table, and a Royal Babies & Tots Nursery. The spruce-up included a massive poolside screen showing latest-releases, new digital signage and Wi-Fi was upgraded to the line's Voom system. As she approaches her tenth birthday, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas is having a multi-million dollar makeover. Few details have been released yet but what we know so far is that there will be a host of attractions for active cruisers and daredevils alike.
Apart from a trampoline park, an escape room, and laser tag, it’s a sure-fire certainty that the ‘Perfect Storm’ will make an appearance having proved such a phenomenal success on Harmony of the Seas. Designed for adrenalin-junkies, this ride consists of three seriously fast slides ranging from 170- to 328-ft long which, bunched together, become the ‘Perfect Storm’. The ‘Cyclone’ and ‘Typhoon’ send revellers through twists and turns at more than 20 mph while the ‘Supercell’ rockets them into a bowl-shaped basin that they circle around before dropping into a final slide. The launch platform is on Deck 18, high above Central Park more than 100 feet below.
The action continues after dark in the Alhambra Theatre where a full-scale production of ‘Grease’ keeps audiences entertained for well over an hour. Studio B, the onboard skating rink, is open for skating lessons and free skating during the day; whilst by night this venue stages a spectacular ice show. With a cast of sixteen professional skaters, it is one of the most enthralling shows at sea. On the upper decks, there’s a FlowRider for surfing and body-boarding, rock-climbing wall with 11 challenging routes, as well as two large hot tubs cantilevered out from the sides of the ship.
Kids are also in their element during the Dreamworks Parade when characters from ‘Madagascar’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ are the main attraction. One thing’s for sure, families are never bored on board Independence of the Seas and with the new enhancements, it’s going to be difficult to fit it all in. For more details of what this exciting ship has to offer, call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
The multi-award winning river cruise company AmaWaterways will launch a new river vessel in 2019 that is set to be the largest in Europe. To be named AmaMagna, the behemoth will have the same length, height and draft as the line's other vessels, but at 72 feet it will be twice as wide, allowing for larger cabins and a capacity for 194 passengers. This much-anticipated ship will sail on the Danube – the only river in Europe where a vessel of such proportions can operate.
Described as ‘a game-changer’, AmaMagna will be the first vessel in river cruising to have an open-water marina sports platform. The aft-located facility features canoes, Zodiacs and watersports equipment. There will also be a gym large enough for small-group classes and a wellness complex with spa and fitness room. In addition, a large heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, Sky Bar, walking track, deck games area and shaded area are planned for the Sun Deck.
Multiple dining venues include a stylish glass-enclosed al fresco restaurant with floor-ceiling windows. The company has been inducted into the La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a prestigious international gastronomic society dedicated to fine cuisine, so you can be sure the food is going to be outstanding. Nowhere will this be more in evidence than in the Chef’s Table. This one of a kind restaurant offers a unique culinary experience at no extra charge. Here a small number of guests each night can watch the chefs create a memorable tasting menu accompanied by superb regional wines. Another unique facet of AmaWaterways is the all-day tapas menu which changes daily and offers a variety of healthy treats and decadent desserts.
There will also be mould-breaking live entertainment in the evenings, a bar lounge, library and themed onboard activities as well as a lift connecting all decks. The 98 standard staterooms will come in at over 300 sq ft making them some of the largest in river cruising. In addition, there will be four suites and one Owners' Suite.
AmaWaterways has garnered a host of awards including the 2016 Cruise Critic Editor’s Picks Award for the ‘Best River Cruise Line’ as well as having received the ‘Highest Rated River Cruise Ship in Europe’ accolade by Berlitz Guide to River Cruising in Europe. More details are available from our helpful team of river cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States after the Missouri River. From northern Minnesota, ‘Ol’ Man River’ flows for 2,340 miles and passes through, or borders, ten different states before reaching its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. The arrival of the riverboats changed the landscape and lives of the people along the rivers of the ‘Old South’ forever. Great sugar and cotton plantations sprang up, and trade boomed along the entire Mississippi River system.
Passengers step back in time to the grand era of steam-boating on an authentic paddle-wheeler and journey to the heart and soul of America's Deep South aboard Mississippi riverboats. Visits to memorable sights crowd each other off the pages of the daily programme. These include impressive, columned mansions of plantation country; poignant cemeteries and memorials of the Civil War; early settlements of the French Acadians; as well as the bustling river ports of New Orleans and Memphis.
Situated at the southern tip of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is known as the 'Big Easy'. There’s the chance to explore this small city via historic streetcars, taking in the atmospheric French Quarter; Royal Street with its balconied, 19th century Gallier House; and the Jazz Historical Park. In Nottoway there’s the chance to visit the South’s largest, most glorious remaining antebellum mansion with a rich history dating back to 1859. This ‘White Castle’ is set amongst a natural backdrop of vibrant gardens and 200 year-old oak trees. Established in 1809, St Francisville is referred to as being ‘two miles long and two yards wide’. Creating a mystical atmosphere, Spanish moss trees grow throughout this town of unique shops, historical homes and beautiful churches.
Natchez was founded in 1716, making it the oldest city on the Mississippi. It is known for its elegance and impressive preservation of history – found on every street corner; little wonder it’s often includes in the 100 Best Towns in America. Described as the ‘Key to the South’ by Abraham Lincoln, Vicksburg carries a history unlike any other Civil War city. Founded in 1811, it grew into a vital river port city.
Located on the banks of Lake Fergusson, Greenville is at the very heart and soul of Mississippi Delta. From here it’s a short drive to Indianola, birthplace of B.B. King. In the Valley of Crowley’s Ridge, sits the small town of Helena which dates back to 1833. Once a bustling, thriving southern city, today it is regarded as a town that time forgot. This voyage back in time concludes at Memphis - known as the Blues City – as it was here Jonny Cash, Roy Orbison and Elvis recorded music; while for many the main attraction is Elvis Presley’s home of Graceland. For further information about our selection of Mississippi cruises call our cruise specialists on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
From being a holiday for well-bred golden oldies, cruising has become the holiday of choice for almost two million Brits. This is a holiday option that’s gone from hip-replacement to hip in less than twenty years. At last holidaymakers have shrugged off their preconceptions that cruising is only for the privileged few who dress up in black tie and tiaras every night. In fact cruising is now more affordable than ever but many are still reluctant to take that leap of faith and dip their toes in the briny for the first time.
Whatever you want to do, whether it’s a West End show such as Grease or Mamma Mia; wine-tasting with legends such as champagne ace Clovis Taittinger; have a character breakfast with Mickey Mouse; or zip-lining through tropical rainforests, there’s a cruise line that offers it.
One of the most important choices to make before you book a cruise is whether to sail on a big or small ship. Get it right and you’ll have a fabulous holiday, make the wrong decision and you’ll spend the cruise looking wistfully at any other ship you are docked next to in port.
Large ships tend to be lively and active; they have pool games, action-packed kids and teens clubs, multiple restaurants and top-billing entertainment. Smaller ships offer more ‘me-time’, are great for socialising, as well as offering a unique escape from the hurly-burly of everyday life.
Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes - from less than a hundred passengers to over 6,000 – and everywhere in between. So it’s important to ask yourself a few basic questions before you even think about heading into the blue yonder. First up is where do you want to cruise? Secondly what’s your budget? Thirdly, is it important to have things like drinks and shore excursions included? And just as important, are you looking for buzzing nightlife or do you prefer to head to bed after dinner and open your favourite page-turner?
Cruise lines have stepped up their efforts to entice newcomers to sample a holiday at sea. There’s no disputing short cruises are a perfect entrée to the wonderful world of cruising and old salts would argue that getting the first cruise right can mean a lifelong addiction.
It’s so easy to sail away and explore several cities and countries in as little as a week without having to repack your bags once. Our team of friendly advisors are well versed in all aspects of cruising and will ensure you’re addicted from the moment you take you first steps into the irresistible world of cruising. Give our cruise specialists a call now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Can there be a better way for first-timers to get a taste of life on the ocean wave than a short break cruise? The rise in popularity of these ‘taster’ trips reflects the trend for curious cruisers putting their toe in the water for the first time. Short getaways are also ideal if you’re tight on time and don’t want to blow a fortune on a quick holiday at sea. Increasingly these mini-cruises are proving popular with multi-generational family groups looking to celebrate a milestone birthday or anniversary as there are activities on offer to suit every age.
Short getaways are also ideal if you have a sudden onset of cabin fever yet don’t want to blow a fortune on a holiday at sea. These ‘mini-me’ getaways are every bit as pukka as their longer cousins and as a result are superb opportunities to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or the festive season. Cruise lines pack short-break cruises with many elements of a longer voyage distilled into a few days.
There are no disputing short cruises are great value for money and with a wide range of sailings ranging from two to five nights the choice has never been greater. P&O Cruises alone have scheduled 34 short cruises in 2017 and many other Brit-popular cruise companies such as Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ; Saga Cruises ; Cruise & Maritime Voyages ; Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean have a mini voyage that’s right for you.
In addition to the wealth of short cruises offered by P&O Cruises – mostly aboard the family-friendly Ventura as well as other ships in their fleet, there’s a mini-break with Cunard Line aboard Queen Victoria in November. Other options include a three-night ‘Taste of Paris & Bruges’ cruise roundtrip from Southampton in April aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas which visits Zeebrugge and Le Havre. There’s a five-night roundtrip cruise on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca from Greenock in May which sails to Fort William; Ullapool; and Invergordon combined with scenic cruising through the Hebrides. Also in May, there’s a two-night ‘Taste of Modern Luxury’ cruise sailing roundtrip from Southampton aboard the perennially-popular Celebrity Eclipse that visits Le Havre (for tours to Paris, Honfleur or Rouen).
Saga Cruises has a five-night roundtrip ‘Continental Christmas Markets’ cruise from Southampton in December aboard Saga Sapphire sailing to Bremerhaven (for Bremen’s Christmas market); Ijmuiden (for Amsterdam); and Zeebrugge (for Bruges and Ypres). CMV’s Magellan also has a three-night round-trip ‘French Christmas Markets’ cruise from Tilbury calling at Rouen and Honfleur in December. For details of taster cruises call our specialists on 0141 242 1337 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
This summer there’s the chance to sit back, relax and enjoy a glass of wine from the world’s best vineyards aboard Celebrity Cruises. Always the innovator, this company is a perennially popular choice for passengers who appreciate the company’s take on ‘Modern Luxury’. The cruise line has now developed a limited edition, interactive wine tasting experience in partnership with the acclaimed TV series ‘The Wine Show’. The show’s two presenters – Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer – take guests on a journey to discover the stories behind some of the world’s great vineyards and winemakers. Fusing film and wine, the sensory adventure educates viewers about some of the world’s most interesting wines.
Guests on-board embark on their own wine-tasting journey with a specially produced film accessed via the in-stateroom television channel before sitting back, relaxing and savouring some great wines. The accompanying film showcases inspirational footage and interviews with leading wine producers, enabling guests to travel to vineyards across the globe and learn more about each wine and its journey from grape to glass.
The wine tasting experience includes a collection of four specially-selected wines for guests to sample, along with tasting notes. Footage shown in the films features the famous co-stars of the series Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode as they undertake their own vineyard adventure. The wines available to sample in 187ml bottles are: Garage Wine Company Old Vine Carignan from Chile; Chateau Tanunda from Australia; Pieropan Soave Classico from Italy; and Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse from France. The in-stateroom wine tasting experience is priced at $59 for two people.
As part of Celebrity Cruises partnership with ‘The Wine Show’, during September and October 2017, Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer will be on board selected sailings and will host a series of educational and interactive tasting experiences, including exclusive vineyard visits. Joe Fattorini will join the 11-night ‘Best of the Western Mediterranean’ fly/cruise on board Celebrity Reflection on 11 September; while Amelia Singer will be on the same ship for a similar cruise departing on 9 October. For more details call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Can there be a better way for first-timers to get a taste of life on the ocean waves, than a short break cruise? The rise in popularity of these ‘taster’ trips reflects the trend for curious cruisers putting their toe in the water for the first time. Short getaways are also ideal if you’re tight on time and don’t want to blow a fortune on a quick holiday at sea. Increasingly these mini-cruises are proving popular with multi-generational family groups looking to celebrate a milestone birthday or anniversary as there are activities on offer to suit every age.
Short getaways are also ideal if you have a sudden onset of cabin fever yet don’t want to blow a fortune on a holiday at sea. These ‘mini-me’ getaways are every bit as pukka as their longer cousins and as a result are superb opportunities to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or the festive season. Cruise lines pack short-break cruises with many elements of a longer voyage distilled into a few days.
There’s no disputing short cruises are great value for money and with a wide range of sailings ranging from two- to five-nights the choice has never been greater. P&O Cruises alone have scheduled 34 short cruises in 2017 and many other Brit-popular cruise companies such as Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines; Saga Cruises; Cruise & Maritime Voyages; Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean have a mini voyage that’s right for you.
In addition to the wealth of short cruises offered by P&O Cruises – mostly aboard the family-friendly Ventura as well as other ships in their fleet, there’s a mini-break with Cunard Line aboard Queen Victoria in November. Other options include a three-night ‘Taste of Paris & Bruges’ cruise round-trip from Southampton in April aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas which visits Zeebrugge and Le Havre. There’s a five-night roundtrip cruise on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca from Greenock in May which sails to Fort William; Ullapool; and Invergordon combined with scenic cruising through the Hebrides. Also in May there’s a two-night ‘Taste of Modern Luxury’ cruise sailing round-trip from Southampton aboard the perennially-popular Celebrity Eclipse which visits Le Havre (for tours to Paris, Honfleur or Rouen).
Saga Cruises has a five-night roundtrip ‘Continental Christmas Markets’ cruise from Southampton in December aboard Saga Sapphire sailing to Bremerhaven (for Bremen’s Christmas market); Ijmuiden (for Amsterdam); and Zeebrugge (for Bruges and Ypres). CMV’s Magellan also has a three-night roundtrip ‘French Christmas Markets’ cruise from Tilbury calling at Rouen and Honfleur in December. For details of taster cruises call our specialists on 0800 484 0314 or click on HERE
If ever there was a word that’s been battered and bruised over recent years, its ‘luxury’. This commonplace descriptor now seems to precede every utterance of ‘cruise’ and has frankly ceased to convey any decadent quality whatsoever. Advertising campaigns eulogise about luxury sofas, luxury bath oils, and luxury ice cream; but let’s face it, there’s nothing particularly luxurious about any of these products. However, in the exuberant world of cruising, the stellar array of stars bestowed on a few delightful ships really does promise panache, indulgence – and even luxury.
While many ships resemble floating mega-resorts, true luxury ships are a recherché collection that offers an indulgent experience for between 120 and 1,200 passengers. Renowned for their take on luxury, Crystal Cruises; Regent Seven Seas Cruises; Seabourn Cruise Line; SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea Cruises offer a passport to an indulgent world. From bow to stern, each of these gems dispels the myth that an abundance of personal space at sea is the preserve of private gin palaces owned by oligarchs and billionaires.
Luxury at sea is about warmth, personalisation, quality and tailored products and services. While palatial top-tier suites offer the ultimate in stylish living, all ships in the luxury bracket come with an array suites and staterooms that boast a private balcony and well-appointed marble bathroom. When it comes to cuisine, luxury ships’ restaurants often surpass over-rated celebrity-endorsed establishments on land. Even when you’re relaxing by the pool aboard this rare breed of ships, flunkies will be on hand to provide cool towels and bring refreshing drinks. On board these incomparable ships you are wrapped in a silken sheath of indulgence, yet liberated by an über-opulent lifestyle.
While the price of a luxury cruise might appear expensive at first glance, the all-inclusive concept has an inherent value beyond compare. So while luxury ships will almost always have a headline price that’s more expensive than premium ship voyages, the host of items included make these deals a steal. What’s more, you won’t have to keep signing bills for drinks and other annoying incidentals.
As travellers become more sophisticated, luxury cruise ships have had to become more inventive to appeal to them, so a butler and a great view don’t cut it any longer. As connoisseurs of cruising appreciate, smaller vessels offer a haven of hospitality that is impossible to deliver on larger ships. For more details of which luxury cruise is right for you call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0371 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk/cruises/luxury-cruises HERE
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has been refining the cruise experience for over a century and a half. As a family-operated company, they are justly proud of their lineage and heritage as much as their success. The company might not be the oldest name in cruising but it is a venerable one. Indeed most of their competitors who sailing from the UK are owned by the American giant Carnival Corporation where the philosophy is ‘big is beautiful’. With their fleet of four ships, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is a company that believes ‘small is beautiful’. They are also justly proud of their Norwegian heritage and appreciate passengers want a wider choice of cruising options than is the norm in today’s world of long flights and short sailings.
To underscore this philosophy, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 1,350-guest flagship – Balmoral - will be sailing from Edinburgh (Rosyth) for the first time ever in 2018, operating a total of nine sailings. Cruises on offer, from May to July, include a five-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ departure, a 14-night ‘Scandinavia & St. Petersburg’ Baltic discovery, and a nine-night ‘German Waterways’ experience.
Fred. Olsen Cruises are proud of their long-standing links with Scotland – indeed three of their ships are named Black Watch, Braemar and Balmoral. As these ships are smaller than today’s norm, they can take guests closer to the world’s most enchanting cities and destinations. The company’s management understands that their passengers want a more personalised experience; one where modern-day conveniences sail in harmony with traditional values.
Unashamedly British, the entertainment takes its cue from the West End rather than Broadway; the currency is the familiar pound as opposed to the mighty dollar; and announcements are made in English eschewing a babble of disparate tongues. When it comes to that most sublime cruise pastime of dining, the British palate takes precedence. Chefs ensure that the menus are metaphors for fine-living and good taste while eschewing the modern taboo of over-imagination. For more details on ex-Rosyth cruises call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0767 or click HERE
The Yangtze river is the third longest river in the world after the Nile and Amazon. At 3,553 miles long it rises in the frozen glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau and disgorges into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It stretches through China's most enchanting historic and cultural treasures; and has been an important lifeline since ancient times. Known in China as Chang Jiang (Long River), it runs eastward through Qinghai, then turns south down a deep valley at the border of Sichuan and Tibet to reach Yunnan. The headwaters of the Yangtze originate at a lofty 3,066 feet. In its descent to sea level, it cascades and tumbles to Chongqing, where it becomes more navigable.
The dream of taming the Yangtze and harnessing its prolific energy first surfaced in 1919. In the 1950s Chairman Mao gave it his blessing but it took another two decades for the construction to receive approval. The creation of the mighty 607 feet-high, 1.4 mile-long dam and reservoir is not solely for the generation of power, it’s principal raison d’être is flood control following three devastating floods which killed thousands between 1949 and 1998.
Scenic highlights for visitors enjoying a cruise on the Yangtze river include the legendary Three Gorges created by the Yangtze forcing its way through a spectacular barrier of limestone ridges. At five miles long, the Qutang Gorge is the shortest and narrowest of the three and is enclosed on both sides by high, precipitous cliffs. At Wushan, where the Daning River flows into the Yangtze, tourists board smaller boats to explore the 20-mile-long Lesser Three Gorges. These remarkable canyons are at their ethereal best when low clouds cloak the peaks and curtains of rain add to the ghostliness. Dragon Gate Gorge is the first and most dramatic, only 30-foot wide in parts. A highlight of Misty Gorge is the hanging coffins, relics of the Ba people, as well as ancient plank roads carved into the cliffs. In Emerald Gorge the chattering of monkeys accompanies a cacophony of birdsong.
The cruise along the Yangtze continues through the serene 28-mile-long Wu Gorge (known as the Witches Gorge), past the captivating Twelve Peaks. The awe-inspiring diorama persists through the 41-mile-long Xiling Gorge with its craggy rock formations.
East of the controversial but mighty dam, Yichang is the first city on the Yangtze Plain. The river then continues on through Hubei province, receiving more water from thousands of lakes. The ‘Long River’ finally reaches its destination at the vibrant city of Shanghai. Most cruise tours of the Yangtze are combined with a visit to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xian. These trips also include stays in mind-numbing Beijing and dynamic Shanghai. Both add to the raptures of a Yangtze cruise experience. For further information about our selection of cruises along the Yangtze call our cruise specialists on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
The broad, meandering Irrawaddy was immortalised in Kipling’s poem of 1890 as ‘The Road to Mandalay’. The writer travelled through Burma in 1889 and was enchanted by the shimmering golden pagodas, misty rice paddies, and the gentle, charming people. It is these same qualities that make Myanmar so special today; a country that imprints itself on the memory with its vivid colours, sights, sounds and scents.
Flowing for more than 1,240 miles from the very northern tip of Myanmar to its vast delta in the Andaman Sea, the Irrawaddy - whose name is derived from the Sanskrit for ‘Elephant River’ - is fed by meltwater from the Himalayas. Puttering cargo boats convey their wares from one hamlet to another against a wistful backdrop of hills interspersed with serene stupas. Children swim as their mothers go about their ablutions before pounding their laundered clothes on the rocks. Young men in longyis and conical hats search for fish in canoes that resemble ancient coracles. It’s a time-worn scene that would be instantly recognisable to Kipling and Maugham.
It’s impossible not to be seduced by the slow, meandering passage along this mighty waterway which has shaped Myanmar’s history and is the country’s economic lifeblood. Ten years ago there were just a handful of ships operating on the Irrawaddy, now the number of cruise companies is burgeoning. These luxurious river cruise ships ply various reaches but the most popular are 3- and 4-night cruises between Mandalay and Bagan. Visitors are flocking to this ‘hot-ticket’ destination where tourism is in its infancy and democracy is being restored.
During excursions to ancient towns and bucolic settlements, it becomes evident that the winds of change are rejuvenating the Burmese people. Fresh energy and excitement beams from the very demeanour of these gracious people who now have freedom of expression after being secluded for generations in a cage of frustration. There’s no tour more anticipated than the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bagan, a serene ghost city of towering temples. There are also excursions at Mandalay to see the Paya Hsinbyume pagoda that rises in seven curved whitewashed terraces; and Sagaing, famous for its white, silver and gold pagodas of 600 monasteries.
Cruises offer the chance to spend a day or two in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). While new buildings are springing up at an alarming rate, a vision of this historic city is still evident at dilapidated colonial mansions whose faded stucco belies their former grandeur. No visit is complete without seeing the Shwedagon Temple, one of the holiest shrines in the world for Theravada Buddhists. The 326-foot-tall floodlit golden stupa, highlighted by 1,383 gemstones, – is truly humbling. For further information about our selection of cruises along the Irrawaddy call our cruise specialists on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
For many people, sea cruises are a long day’s journey into dinner, undoubtedly the main event of the day. As mealtimes roll relentlessly past, the captain has the good grace to deliver a number of countries to the side of the ship. Emphasising the ‘fine’ in fine dining, the cuisine on cruise ships has pushed the envelope to ensure the culinary experience at sea rivals the best restaurants on land. But it’s worth noting that while many hipster restaurants back home have turned their back on classic cuisine in favour of fusions of this and mélanges of that, chefs on cruise ships don’t go in for these half-baked fads and uphold the premise that if the prose is purple, the food is overrated.
Celebrity Cruises has a long-held and well-earned reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to cuisine. Their mantra may be ‘modern luxury’, but the vibe is personal choice, nowhere more so than in the speciality restaurants. Here passengers can enjoy a sophisticated dining experience in a relaxed atmosphere while the quality of ingredients and presentation is amongst the finest at sea.
Another cruise line that’s a foodie’s favourite is Oceania Cruises. There is so much emphasis placed on gastronomy that 25 per cent of the crew on each ship is employed in the preparation of the renowned cuisine. On Marina and Riviera there’s also the Culinary Arts Centre where up to 24 guests can take part in interactive cooking demonstrations. This studio offers hands-on instruction and focuses on workshops and audience participation. The state-of-the-art centre has been fitted out with food stations, complete with induction cook tops, ovens, utensils, sinks and every other conceivable cooking implement. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new 750-passenger Explorer has introduced a lavish Culinary Arts Centre.
Holland America Line’s new Koningsdam also has a Culinary Arts Centre with show kitchen boasting individual cooking stations used for cookery demonstrations and hands-on classes by visiting celebrity chefs as well as the ship’s own expert chefs. In the evening, the room transforms into a dining concept called ‘Dinner at the Culinary Arts Centre’ - an immersive experience where chefs prepare simple, artisanal dishes in the show kitchen and guests enjoy each course as it’s freshly prepared.
In recent decades cruise passengers were more than happy to select from an extensive menu that rarely pushed the parameters of culinary ambition. Today, whatever ship you chose, the choice of cuisine is as diverse as each restaurant is delicious. There’s no disputing that from a culinary perspective cruise lines walk the talk and sate the appetites of the most demanding food mavens. For details about fine cuisine on the ocean waves call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Back in 1955 Graham Greene compared Vietnam’s polished illusions to a lacquered table: lovely, but so tough it takes no scratches. Today he would scarcely recognise Ho Chi Minh City with its designer boutiques along Dong Khoi Street exuding a glistening 21st Century patina. This metropolis is also the southern starting point of a cruise along the Mekong – known as the ‘Mother River of Southeast Asia’. From its source in the glacial waters of Mount Guozongmucha in the Tibetan Plateau, the world’s 12th longest river flows for 2,718 miles before reaching the Mekong Delta where the floodwater dumps so much rich sediment that rice crops flourish three times a year.
The Mekong is the lifeblood of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. A cruise along this sinuous watercourse that connects a kaleidoscope of diverse cultures is one of travel’s most rewarding experiences. As well as thriving cities, rural communities, floating villages and thatched markets; endless rice paddies, pagodas and temples add to the enchanting pastiche of this land formerly known as Indochina.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s bustling capital city and the ‘Pearl of Asia,’ is filled with French Colonial buildings edged by a European riverfront boulevard, and huge Angkorian complexes such as the magnificent Royal Palace, where the king resides. The flip side to the palace’s grandeur is the malignant legacy of Pol Pot, whose Khmer Rouge genocide in the Killing Fields refuses to die. Further north, at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak River, the ‘Golden Triangle’ is a compact region where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, all of which can be seen from a vantage point at Sop Ruak.
Legend has it that Buddha left a 10-ft imprint of his foot as a sign of his immortality at the Wat Siphuthabaht Temple, perched on an outcrop in the centre of Luang Prabang. This city of golden temples nestles at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. Long regarded as the cradle of their civilisation, the Lao people have built dozens of resplendent palaces and venerable temples, none more evocative than Wat Chom Si with its golden stuppa, gloriously set like an aerie at the summit of Mount Phousi.
The undoubted highlights of any cruise on the Mekong are the vast Khmer temples at Angkor. These venerable monuments are the sacred skeleton of the vast political, religious and social empire that stretched from Vietnam to Burma. Built between the 9th and 16th centuries, the most spectacular temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm, each one appearing dramatically from the lush jungle. As anyone who has cruised through these tranquil lands will affirm this is a voyage filled with serendipity. For further information about our selection of cruises along the Mekong River call our cruise specialists on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
What are repositioning cruises and are they the best kept secret in cruising. Read on and discover for yourself.
From the very beginnings of transatlantic travel, when the paddle steamer Britannia set out from Liverpool bound for Boston in July 1840, competition across the Atlantic became intense. Each new ship was built to be larger, faster and more luxurious. The North Atlantic became a showcase for national rivalries as nations vied for supremacy. By the 1930s the transatlantic liner was the ultimate way to travel, but in the final decades of the twentieth century many pundits believed that the days of the great ocean liners were finally over. Fortunately they had failed to take account of the tenacity Cunard Line who built the now-retired QE2 and subsequently replaced her with the stately Queen Mary 2.
Cunard still offers scheduled crossings from the Old World to the New World but savvy travellers have another option to experience leisurely days at sea for bargain-basement prices. One of the reasons for these great deals is that cruise lines are repositioning ships from one destination to another and that translates into savings. Every year, in the spring and autumn, cruise lines sail their ships across the Atlantic and have come up with great fares to fill them.
The real joy of a transatlantic voyage is the time it offers for relaxation and indulgence. Do as much or as little as you please on board. Get pampered in the spa; take advantage of the sports facilities and work out at the gym or just relax by the pool. Sample the great entertainment, enjoy the spectacular shows and eclectic cabaret, or sit on deck looking for marine life and appreciate what an oceanic voyage truly means.
This autumn Crown Princess sails from Southampton to New York on 2 September calling at Lerwick, Akureyri, Isafjordur, Reykjavik and St John’s, Halifax. Celebrity Eclipse heads from Southampton to Miami via Boston, New York, Bermuda and Nassau. Seabourn Quest bids a farewell to Dover on 19 August and heads to Montreal calling at Portland, Fishguard, Belfast, Staffa, Tobermory, Stornoway, Heimaey, Reykjavik, Isafjordur, Qaqortoq, Nanortalik, St John’s, Saint Pierre and Miguelon, Saguenay, Quebec City and Trois-Rivieres. The brand-new Silver Muse departs Southampton on 12 September bound for Montreal with stops at Falmouth, Waterford, Cobh, Galway, St John’s, Saint Pierre and Miguelon, Sydney, Charlottetown, Gaspé, Saguenay and Quebec.
Brit-popular ships like P&O Cruises’ Britannia heads to Barbados from Southampton on 27 October calling at Madeira, St Maarten, Dominica, St Lucia and Grenada en route; while on 5 December Fred Olsen’s Braemar also heads to Barbados from Southampton via Madeira, Antigua, St Kitts, and St Lucia. For more details of the best kept secret in cruising call our cruise specialists now on 0141 242 1337 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
The launch of the MV Britannia was a big one for P&O Cruises. Taking centre stage as the British cruise line’s new flagship vessel, she became the biggest cruise liner in their fleet – and the biggest cruise ship in the world exclusively for UK cruisers. The designers of the ship took inspiration from P&O’s traditional cruising style and infused it with contemporary elements, fit for a modern-day cruiser and their family. Here’s just 10 of the best features you’ll find on board.
1. Ten places to dine
Included in the price of your P&O Cruise are the three main dining rooms, known as the Meridian Restaurant, Peninsular Restaurant and Oriental Restaurant. As a special touch, the Classic English Afternoon Tea that is served daily in the main restaurants is also included in the price. For a casual bite to eat between meal times, passengers can pop by either Horizon (a buffet style restaurant), Lido grill (casual burgers and pizza by the pool) or Grab & Go (pre-made sandwiches and salads on Deck 16). On top of all that, there’s also 24 hour room service.
2. The Cookery Club
Learn to cook with guidance from an expert team that were hand-picked by TV chef James Martin. Classes for adults include the Best of British, where you’ll learn to create home-made favourites such as Cornish ***** and Welsh rarebit, and a chocolatier lesson including hand-prepped liqueur and truffles with ganache filling. There’s also a family class that is open to children between the ages of 8 and 17, and is a great opportunity to ignite a passion for food.
3. Strictly Come Dancing
The Britannia is the designated cruise liner for P&O Cruises Strictly Come Dancing themed cruises. There’s two itineraries for 2017, both of which take place in June with one sailing around Scandinavia and Russia, and the other sailing around Spain and Italy. The onboard venue will be The Crystal Room, a silver-hued entertainment area with rich wooden dance floors and glossy chandeliers.
4. Family and kids' clubs
The P&O Britannia is perfect for a family cruise, with a range of kids and teen clubs that will keep younger members of the family occupied. There are age specific clubs for 4 age groups, each with their own hangout room. There’s even an outdoor deck and pool area just for teenagers!
5. Designer shopping
The shelves of P&O Britannia’s shopping hub boast the likes of Chanel, Michael Korrs, Swarovski, Clarins and Pandora.
6. Five pools
Looking for a relaxing adults-only pool? A family-friendly pool? Or a serene indoor hydrotherapy pool? You’ll find each of them on board the P&O Britannia.
7. Spa and salon facilities
If you’re looking for a bit of pampering, you’ve boarded the right ship. Choose between the Oasis Spa (a luxurious experience with a virtually endless list of treatments) and The Retreat (an outdoor alfresco spa experience). There’s also the nearby Serenity, an adults only sun deck, and a fitness centre.
8. Three accommodation types
Choose between an inside cabin, balcony cabin and suite. All room types come with a TV, telephone, air conditioning, vanity desk, refrigerator and safe as standard. Suites come with their own separate living area, butler service and pamper packs from The White Company. Perfect for resting your head after a day exploring port!
9. Headliners Theatre
This modern onboard theatre is back-dropped by a sophisticated LED light screen ready to play host to performances that pull the audience into an immersive experience. Already on the line-up is The Sound of the Underground, Gravity, Once upon a Time and I've Got the Music in Me.
10. WIFI throughout
The P&O Britannia is fitted with satellite internet, and there’s three packages available depending on whether you want to use it for quick access to emails or for video streaming.
Scottish naturalist John Muir made the first of his three trips to Alaska’s Panhandle in 1879. Alaska may be America’s ‘Last Frontier’, but when it comes to untamed natural beauty its first without equals. A cruise isn’t just the best way to experience the rugged landscape of America’s 49th state; it’s practically the only way.
More than a million people take an Alaska cruise every year, making this US state one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations. It’s easy to see why. The dramatic scenery is some of the most awe-inspiring that can reached by cruise ship. Virtually all voyages navigate via the Inside Passage - the spectacular labyrinth of islands, inlets, fjords and mountains that starts north of Vancouver Island and runs to Juneau, the Alaskan state capital and beyond. With the scenery come countless opportunities for wildlife watching, a wide variety of outdoor activities and the chance to explore the cultures of the many indigenous peoples who have inhabited the region for thousands of years.
The summer-long cornucopia of voyages to this remote corner of North America includes popular 7 night sailings between Anchorage (Seward or Whittier) and Vancouver or vice-versa. There are also 10 and 14 night cruises, some of which begin or conclude in San Francisco and Seattle, as well as round-trip voyages from Seattle and Vancouver.
In Alaska, because of the remoteness and distances involved, the number of ports of call is small and the most impressive scenery is remote. Excursions can make or break any trip so to get the most out of these cruises it’s essential to dig deep and opt for seaplane and helicopter tours to the glaciers and ice fields. Other choices tend to be tame outdoor activities that are aimed at older or less mobile visitors.
The Inside Passage is a wildlife lover’s paradise, with bald eagles, bears and humpback whales offering some fantastic photo opportunities. Other great places to visit include Ketchikan Creek and Falls where there’s the chance to see moose and eagles in the beautiful wilderness that surrounds the area. The White Pass & Yukon Railroad’s narrow-gauge train is one of Alaska’s top tourist attractions in Skagway.
The Alaska cruise season runs from Mid-May to September, with the driest months being May and June when temperatures range from 10 to 18 degrees Celsius. Even at the height of the season (July and August) the mercury rarely goes above the low twenties and rainfall is frequent, so it’s wise to pack woollies and waterproofs. For more tips and advice call our cruise specialists now on 0141 242 1337 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Ocean cruises take you to countries, but river cruises take you through them. These waterways are ribbons of liquid history that form physical and psychological boundaries and river cruises allow you to slip silently, unobtrusively, through the lives of people in foreign lands. Everywhere human life is intimately intertwined with the river’s flow – you can see people growing things, catching things, making things, moving things. River cruises can take you deeper into a place or culture, and it’s this up-close-and-personal experience that’s behind the popularity of this form of holiday. Unlike ocean cruises, the only hint of being afloat on a river vessel is an occasional nudge as the flat hull will the wake of a passing cargo barge.
Saga Cruises offer a variety of river vessels, ranging from intimate ships conveying a maximum of 50 guests to larger ones that carry up to 200 passengers. Regina Rheni II, Rex Rheni II and Filia Rheni II have been chartered exclusively for Saga guests for a number of years, while Saga passengers on Douro Queen, Amadeus Symphony and Johannes Brahms share the voyage with other passengers.
There’s a wonderful selection of cruises on the Dutch and Belgian Waterways; Rhine; Main; Danube; Moselle; Elbe; Oder; Saone; Rhone; and Douro rivers in Europe. Saga also has cruises on the Mississippi, Columbia and Snake rivers in America and along the Volga from Moscow to St Petersburg. From July 2017 there are cruises aboard RV Mekong Pandaw in Cambodia and Vietnam sailing from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City. A Saga representative accompanies each cruise. Many cruises are scheduled to coincide with fascinating spectacles such as the Rhine in Flames Festival. There are also cruises to the Danube Delta for wildlife spotting; Monet’s garden in Giverny; Normandy to see the D-Day Landing beaches; as well as a Jazz and Wine cruise on the Rhine and Moselle.
You’re sure to get the most out of every destination by exploring independently, joining an excursion or signing up to visits led by a local guide. Highlights include the Keukenhof Gardens on the Dutch and Belgium Waterways’ cruises; Siegfried’s Museum of Mechanical Music on sailings along the Rhine; and the impressive Sandstone Mountains viewed from Elbe and Oder cruises.
Each vessel offers itineraries, entertainment and cuisine crafted with British passengers in mind, as well as excellent facilities and exceptional standards of service for which the company is renowned. Highly-rated cuisine is prepared by the team of onboard chefs and is inspired by the regions visited – from tempting buffet-style breakfasts to leisurely four-course dinners.
With so much included, Saga take away any nagging doubts about what’s left to budget for. This includes a free bar; wines, ***** and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; and of course, all meals and entertainment. There’s also an array of included options such as return rail or coach travel within the UK mainland to London or UK departure point. Other perks include return economy-class flights plus any domestic flights; free car parking close to the Eurostar terminal at Folkestone or departure airports; as well as return transfers between overseas airport, train station, hotel and port. For more details about Saga River Cruises call our cruise specialists now on 0141 242 1337 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Few industry observers who watched spellbound as Celebrity Cruises revealed their transformational new ship concept Celebrity Edge on 13 March were left in any doubt that the design of this ship was ground-breaking. A new ship needs to have a ‘wow-factor’ and nobody watching the reveal in Miami or live on the internet were disappointed.
Celebrity Cruises Solstice-class ships quickly became the darlings of the cruise industry when they were introduced between 2008 and 2012, offering a sleekly cool, Zen-like ambience. Celebrity Edge has taken decadent design to a new level boasting an artsy vibe that will appeal to style junkies.
Designed completely in 3-D, and featuring the work of celebrated British interior designer Kelly Hoppen MBE, this new class of 129,000-tonne ships are as far from the cookie-cutter aesthetic as it’s possible to imagine. When the ship is introduced in December 2018, passengers will enter a brilliant set-designer’s vision of a place that might never have existed had it not been for Celebrity Cruises.
The essence of Celebrity’s Modern Luxury style is encapsulated in a revolutionary design of staterooms which adds 23% more square footage and 10% larger bathrooms than Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice Class. Boundaries between traditional ship’s cabins and their balconies will be erased. The new Edge Stateroom with Infinite Veranda turns guest accommodation into a seamless space, from the door all the way to the water’s edge. The simple touch of a button gives open-air access to the sea, bringing the outside in and the inside out. With the touch of another button, guests can take complete control of their stateroom and personalise everything from lighting, shades, temperature and service.
With Celebrity Edge, the company has more than doubled the number of available suites, adding two spectacular new categories - Iconic Suites situated above the ship’s bridge, and split-level Edge Villas. Suite guests enjoy the private aerie called The Retreat, featuring a private pool. There will also be the Retreat Lounge offering butler service as well as the exclusive Suite Class restaurant ‘Luminae @ The Retreat’.
The Rooftop Garden will lure guests to relax and play in this tropical hideaway tended daily by a resident horticulturist. There will be games and activities through the day, while at night, this will be home to live music and the outdoor movie-and-meal pairing of ‘A Taste of Film.’
Cantilevered from the side of the ship, the Magic Carpet is the size of a tennis court. This incredible engineering feat scales the 16-deck ship by day and night, positioning at four of the ship’s decks, transforming into a new and exciting experience at each one.
At the summit of the ship on Deck 16, the Magic Carpet becomes the ultimate speciality restaurant offering a special ‘Dinner on the Edge’ for 90 guests. Alongside Deck 14, Magic Carpet becomes an open-air expansion of the main pool area. On Deck 5, it extends one of the ship’s speciality restaurants into the most amazing al fresco seating imaginable, and at its lowest position on Deck 2, Magic Carpet is a key component to the Destination Gateway, a luxury embarkation station where passengers will be whisked away aboard sleek Edge Launches.
The 2,918-guest Celebrity Edge will sail from Fort Lauderdale from December 2018. Eastern Caribbean cruises visit San Juan; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and St. Maarten. The western Caribbean route calls at Key West; Costa Maya; Cozumel; and Grand Cayman. Celebrity Edge will be joined by three sister ships in 2020, 2021 and 2022. For more details of this exciting new ship call our cruise specialists now on 0141 242 1337 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
As we emerge from winter, P&O Cruises have revealed a sure-fire way to indulge in the sunny climes of the Arabian Gulf in two years time. There will be a series of five, 10-night fly/cruise from Dubai between 10 January and 4 April 2019. In addition there’s the chance to sign up for a 20-night cruise to Dubai through the Suez Canal at the end of 2018 and 14-night cruise from Dubai to the Mediterranean in mid-April 2019.
P&O Cruises forged the sea routes of Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries, now they are renowned for offering a quintessentially British cruise experience across the globe. The familiar style cannot be overemphasized in the fleet of eight mid-size and larger ships which attract a clientele that’s fiercely loyal and who revel in the traditional interpretation of cruising.
For the Arabian Gulf cruises, the 2016-passenger Oceana will be a perfect choice for cruising in these temperate seas. Although the ship entered service in 2003 there have been several refurbishments since – one is even scheduled for later in 2017.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular ships in the company's fleet, the informal atmosphere makes Oceana particularly attractive to families as well as those seeking creature comforts. There’s also a wealth of open deck space which will prove popular during these Arabian Gulf cruises when winter sun soothes and invigorates in equal measure.
The 10-night fly/cruises from Dubai will call at Sir Bani Yas Island (a nature reserve south-west of Abu Dhabi); Manama (capital of Bahrain); Khasab (on the Musandam Peninsula in Oman – often dubbed the ‘Norway of Arabia’ due to its fjord-like craggy inlets); Muscat (capital of the Sultanate of Oman); Salalah (a resort-like, lush city on the Arabian Sea in Oman); and Abu Dhabi (home to Ferrari World and some stunning museums).
There’s a wealth of excursions from these ports which include camel racing; dune-buggying; museums of contemporary and Islamic art; Arabic souks; Heritage villages; biblical sites and some of the best shopping in the world.
This carefully thought out programme of cruises will use the extensive network of flights by Emirates from London Gatwick and Heathrow; Newcastle; Birmingham; Manchester and Glasgow. These cruises go on general sale from 27 March and are certain to be in high demand. For more details call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
In the last series of the X-Factor viewers often heard the acerbic Simon Cowell ask mediocre singing acts if they used to work on a cruise ship. Obviously the pop guru has not found time in his hectic schedule to take time off and witness the sea-change in cruise ship entertainment.
More than any other, two ships have been at the vanguard of taking entertainment to another level. Always the innovator, Royal Caribbean’s ships are paragons when it comes to cutting-edge shows at sea.
Like something out of Las Vegas, ‘Oasis of Dreams’ on Oasis of the Seas and ‘Oceanaria’ aboard Allure of the Seas are staged in purpose-built AquaTheatre pools. With a sell-out crowd guaranteed for every performance, these shows call for a cast of 15 synchronised swimmers, acrobats, and high-divers and are amongst the most awe-inspiring diversions to be found anywhere on the high seas.
You’ll be wowed during full-length productions of ‘Mamma Mia’ on Allure of the Seas; ‘Cats’ on Oasis of the Seas and ‘Grease’ on Independence of the Seas. With sets, directors and some cast members transferred from West End and Broadway productions these are pure showstoppers.
There’ll be no risk of entertainment apathy aboard Norwegian Epic when ‘Cirque Dreams Epicurean’ is showcased from April; in March ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’ will be appearing on Norwegian Breakaway and in May ‘Cirque Dreams & Steam’ will be a headline show on Norwegian Getaway. These performances by acrobats, contortionists and tightrope walkers are an entertainment zinger with dinner. At the Cavern Club you can step into the legendary Liverpool club for live music and a Beatles cover band. ‘Howl at the Moon’ is probably the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Duelling Piano Show - it's contagious and unlike anything else at sea.
Princess Cruises’ bring television’s ‘The Voice’ to the high seas. The contest begins with karaoke try-out sessions for vocalists 16 years or older, then selected singers are assigned a professional mentor before performing at the live final when the audience votes for the ‘The Voice of the Ocean’.
Having performed with Robbie Williams, singer Jonathan Wilkes has brought a new stage production to P&O Cruises’ Azura, featuring songs by Michael Jackson, Coldplay, Sting, Lady Gaga, Elton John and Paloma Faith. The ‘Evolution’ show explores the diversity between the Fabricators and the Humanoids tribes. Think Mad Max meets Avatar and you’re getting close to this electrifying, hi-tech visual show. For more details call our cruise specialists now on 0141 242 1337 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Princess Cruises has always prided itself on its relaxing and invigorating on board experience. As part of its 2017 offerings, the award-winning Crown Princess ship will be welcoming numerous guest speakers on board for entertaining and informative talks. Ranging from famous football legends to soap stars to former politicians, there’s definitely an onboard speaker to interest everyone. Below we’ve rounded up the eleven speakers that have been recently announced and what cruise itinerary you’ll find them on.
Katie Nicholl is the go-to when a newspaper or television show needs an expert on the British Royal Family. Having been a royal family news correspondent for over a decade, she has been published in Mail on Sunday and Vanity Fair, and has been seen on ITV’s Lorraine show, the BBC and Sky. American cruisers will also recognise her from CNN and Entertainment Tonight.
Cruise: 14-night Mediterranean cruise that departs April 22 2017.
Combine the cobbles of Coronation Street with a 7 night Spain and France cruise. Beverley Callard is best known for playing the fiercely protective Liz McDonald on the Manchester-based soap. Having been first cast in 1989 and also making an appearance on Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, there’s not many actors more qualified to give a talk on British television.
Cruise: 7-night Spain & France cruise, departs May 6
Redknapp boasts a successful football career both on and off the pitch. Starting off as a midfielder at Tottenham Hotspur he went on to play for West Ham United and Bournemouth. In 2008 he became manager of Tottenham Hotspur, which catapulted him into the football hall of fame.
Cruise: 14-night Mediterranean cruise departing April 22 and May 13
Graham Gooch OBE
With a career spanning from 1973 until 2000, Graham Gooch OBE is one of the most successful international cricket batsmen of his generation. After 118 Tests he retired and took up coaching before becoming a commentator. In 2009 he was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.
Cruise: 7-night Scandinavia cruise, departs May 27
Peter Shilton OBE
During his 30 year career as a goalkeeper, Shilton smashed the record for the playing the most games for the England National Team than anyone else and still holds the all-time record for the most competitive appearances in world football. He’s also been featured in football video games FIFA 10, FIFA 11 and FIFA 12 in the Classic XI squad.
Cruise: 14-night North Cape and Norwegian Fjords cruise, departs June 17 on board Crown Princess
With a professional career that started in 1976, John Virgo was the winner of the 1979 UK Championship and has reached the final of many competitive snooker championships. These days he is a snooker commentator and TV personality.
Cruise: 7-night Norwegian Fjords cruise, departs July 1
During his on-pitch career as a defender, Terry Butcher captained the England national team, winning 77 caps in a ten-year international career that featured three FIFA World Cups. And has gone on to manage clubs in England, Scotland, Australia and Wales.
Cruise: 14-night Baltic cruise, departs July 8
Paul Burrell RVM
Paul Burrell entered public life as footman to the Queen Elizabeth II and later as butler to Diana, Princess of Wales. In recent years he has become a well-known television personality, appearing on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes and Celebrity Big Brother.
Cruise: 7-night Norwegian Fjords cruise, departs July 22
Mike Gatting OBE
During his career as an English cricket legend, he captained the national team in 23 test-matches between 1986 and 1988. Cricket writer Colin Bateman even once said that "talk of Gatting the batsman always evokes adjectives such as pugnacious, bold, brave and belligerent".
Cruise: 14-night Mediterranean cruise, departs July 29
Name a British soap, and Sherrie Hewson has probably been in the cast. During her career she has played characters on Coronation Street, Crossroads and Emmerdale. She has also been a panellist on Loose Women and came fifth in 2015’s Celebrity Big Brother.
Cruise: 14-night North Cape and Norwegian Fjords cruise, departs August 12
Since hanging up her hat as a British MP, Edwina Currie has become a well-known television personality and broadcaster. She has been seen on Celebrity Mastermind, Wife Swap, Strictly Come Dancing and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
Cruise: 7-night Scandinavia cruise, departs August 26
Cruises for the physically challenged are more convenient than ever with almost every ship now designed to suit specific needs, abilities and lifestyle. If you live with a physical disability or perhaps a compromising medical condition, then preparation and planning is the key to reduce unexpected problems.
Today’s cruise ships offer accessible cabins and bathrooms with handrails and emergency call buttons, while public areas have wheelchair access and lifts with reachable buttons. As well as fixtures and fittings such as wide doors, washbasins low enough for wheelchair users and no raised ‘lips’ at cabin and bathroom thresholds. Mobility equipment is often available to hire on board. Many cruise lines have ‘Oxford Dippers’ for lowering handicapped swimmers into the pools. For the visually impaired, Braille-coded cabin numbers and lift buttons are standard; while restaurant menus in Braille are available. For the hard of hearing, as well as those with speech impairments, text-messaging systems are in place for easy communication.
It is wise for passengers who are in a wheelchair to choose the appropriate dining times to avoid crowds – the late seating also allows for more time to have a shower and change after an afternoon sightseeing tour. They should also speak to the maitre d' about being seated at a table near the entrance to avoid having to thread a path between the tables. At the buffets, there are crewmembers that will help with both serving and carrying trays. At the ship’s theatre, either arrive early for seats at the front or utilise the reserved seats at the rear.
Shore excursions should be reviewed carefully since there may be some that are not appropriate for those with limited mobility. It is prudent to read the brochure descriptions and avoid those tours identified as involving stairs or with a lot of walking. The onboard Excursions Team will be only too happy to give advice about the suitability of specific tours. Try to avoid itineraries full of ports which can only be reached by ship’s tenders as they are rarely an option for wheelchair users due to the tricky nature of embarking them if there are even moderate swells.
Anyone with physical challenges considering a cruise should book early as the number of disabled access cabins is limited. If an adapted cabin is not mandatory then study the ship’s deck plans so that you know which accommodation types are near the lifts as well as venues you’ll need to access daily such as restaurants. For further assistance, call 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
Tipping is a big deal on cruises and negotiating the dos and don’ts of gratuities for the crew can leave you feeling all at sea. American passengers have tipping down to a fine art when it comes to rewarding service – some even carry a calculator to work out the percentages that should be added to restaurant bills when they dine out in flashy restaurants. On the other hand, Brits are generally not so well-versed on the thorny subject of gratuities.
Faced with the prospect of spending your cruise perplexed at who you should tip and how much largesse you should bestow, many voyagers have welcomed the finely-tuned gratuities policy that has been put in place by most cruise companies.
Some cruise lines include them as part of the increasingly popular ‘all-inclusive’ concept, but this is mostly the domain of smaller, ultra-luxury ships where staff are not allowed to accept any discreet baksheesh folded into a small envelope.
Certain companies catering solely to the British cruise market, such as Thomson Cruises and Saga Cruises, take the sting out of those ‘nasty little extras’ and include basic tips. However, these days, the vast majority of cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line have a prescribed schedule of suggested gratuities which passengers can refer to before they embark. In most cases tips are either pre-paid or added to your onboard account – these are usually in the region of between £4 and £12 per passenger, per day.
You can request to have these removed, but bear in mind that your cabin stewardess and restaurant waiter appreciate your generosity and, rightly or wrongly, your contribution goes towards augmenting their salaries. Cruise lines who adopt the ‘added to your account method’ of remuneration often issue passengers with a voucher that shows you’ve paid. You then present these personally to the smiling flunkies who have taken such good care of you. Even if you’re on a ship that doesn’t issue these vouchers you can be sure that the crew are made aware of who’s tipped and who hasn’t.
On most cruises a 15% gratuity is automatically added to all wines and bar drinks – and this is non-negotiable. Your message becomes a little less relaxing when you discover that this, like all spa treatments, comes with a gratuity added by your therapist ‘for your convenience’. But skinflints should bear in mind that service on a cruise ship is often far superior to many deluxe resorts or trendy restaurants. For more details call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.
If you take a cruise on your own, you’ll find yourself in good company – literally. On average, no less than a quarter of all cruise passengers travel unaccompanied and there are few types of holiday that offer the solo traveller more of a chance to mix and socialise with like-minded people.
Cruising certainly offers a convivial, safe haven, with pastimes for solo travellers of all ages. There are singles get-together parties as well as a wealth of organised activities, while at dinner the maitre d’ seats solo cruisers together in compatible groups at large tables, sometimes hosted by senior officers.
Unpartnered cruisers opting to sail on ships less than 20 years old have little option but to check out the often iniquitous supplements for occupying a double cabin. Surcharges vary enormously, from as little as 10 per cent to twice the fare, and can change according to time of year and availability. There is an upside, though: the single-berth cabins of yesteryear, resembling something out of a prison hulk, have been banished to the deep.
A few popular cruise lines such as Thomson Cruises; Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Saga Cruises are notable for offering a range of cabins designed specifically for sole occupancy; while Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines often have some great ‘twin-for-sole-occupancy’ discounts.
Major cruise lines got with the act when they began designing ships with solo cruisers in mind. This began with P&O Cruises’ Azura, which entered service in 2010 offering 18 dedicated single cabins. Major refits to other P&O Cruises ships swiftly followed, and its new flagship, Britannia reflects a significant sea-change in attitudes towards the solo cruiser, with the first dedicated single cabins with balconies. Cunard's Queen Mary 2 came out of a major refurbishment last year with 15 new single cabins.
Single travellers can look forward to dictating how much they want to socialise onboard. One of the most sought-after benefits for ladies travelling alone is the introduction of ‘Gentlemen Hosts’. These are impeccably well-mannered single gentlemen employed by the cruise line as roving dance partners and general social butterflies, accompanying ladies at dinner and on excursions ashore. Tales of romantic strolls around the boat deck after a couple of waltzes and foxtrots are not unknown. One thing’s for sure, there's now a ship for every traveller who prefers to sail alone. For more details call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.