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    1.  

      Staff Travel: Celebrity EDGE Naming Ceremony

      It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but the Celebrity EDGE is finally here. Our Cruise Business Development Director, Catriona, was lucky enough to be invited along to her recent Naming Ceremony. Here are her thoughts on the futuristic new ship.
      Did you know that the 5 points of distinction of Celebrity Cruises are:
      Destination Culinary Accommodation Design Service On Celebrity Edge all 5 are not only met but exceeded.

      The design of the ship is unlike anything I have ever seen in that the attention to detail in everything they do is exceptional. The ship feels like a Luxury Hotel at Sea. Their position of Modern Luxury is unique and ‘on point’.
      The ship feels like a hotel. The ceilings are higher and the flow of the ship is easy and everything is accessible. The soft furnishings are exquisite and - if you were inclined - you could spend your entire holiday just looking at the artwork, the sculptures and the chairs.

      The accommodation and ‘Edge balconies’ are not the traditional builds and that is what makes them so special. The staterooms look longer and more spacious. At first, I have to say I wasn’t sure but you know what? I love this design.
      The food is exceptional and the venues are entirely different and special from each other.

      This ship is so different: it pushes the boundaries of cruising. So who is it for? Luxury land lovers looking for a new experience or experienced cruisers looking for a blow-your-mind experience.
      You need to see this ship, once the secret is out I’m sure it will be inundated with guests trying to secure their ‘Edge experience.
       

    2.  

      Cruise Comparison: NCL vs Carnival Cruises

      If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly mega-liner that is available for budget cruisers, you can’t do go wrong with Norwegian Cruise Line or Carnival Cruises . Both cruise lines offer a generous selection of onboard activities ranging from waterslides to adult-only restaurants. When deciding which cruise line is right for you and your family, the difference really is in the details.  
      The Ships

      Carnival Cruise Lines currently owns 25 cruise ships, with another two due to set sail next year. Their newest ship is the Carnival Horizon, which cruises to the Caribbean and is homeported in Miami. Its stand-out amenities are the Havana Pool & Bar, IMAX Theatre, Dr. Seuss WaterWorks, Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, Cloud 9 Spa, and Lip Sync Battle. Many of these features are new, but older ships are regularly going back to into dry-dock for upgrades (Carnival Legend, for example, has just returned from dry-dock).
      NCL has a smaller number of ships at just seventeen. Their newest is Norwegian Bliss, which sails around Alaska and will move onto the Caribbean. And next year the Norwegian Encore will set sail for the first time and will sail around Bermuda and the Caribbean. Full details haven’t yet been announced, but we know the ship will be home to a 180-degree Observation Lounge. NCL’s ships also regularly enter dry-dock and all its ships have been refurbished within the last 5 years.
      Entertainment

      Both cruise lines boast nightly entertainment, with plenty of variety to keep your eyes and ears wowed throughout your time on-board.
      On-board NCL you’ll enjoy Broadway-style shows, theatrical performances from ballroom and Latin dance company Burn the Floor, dinner while acrobats dance above you, bars with live bands, and comedy from the Levity Entertainment Group (who have worked with Daniel Tosh, Amy Schumer, Gabriel Iglesias and Jeff Dunham). What is exactly available will depend on the ship and the itinerary.
      On Carnival, it is much the same though there is more shows aimed exclusively at children. Depending on the ship, there’s a combination of Lip sync Battle, murder mysteries, The Punchliner Comedy Club, the 4D Thrill Theatre, movies on the pool deck, Broadway-style shows, karaoke, and bars with live music. Children will also love the live-version of the Hasbro board game.
      On-board activities

      Both cruise lines are famed for their adventurous on-board activities, and it’s unlikely you’ll get bored on any of the ships in their fleet.
      Norwegian Bliss is NCL’s newest ship, released earlier this year. On-board you will find the largest race track at sea, as well as laser tag, mini-golf, fitness centre, casino, and Aqua Park. While its sister ship Norwegian Escape is home to the fastest waterslide at sea, a multi-level Sports Complex and The Plank - which extends 8 feet over the side of the ship!
      Carnival doesn’t boast anything record-breaking, but still has much of the same type of activities. For the adrenaline-junkies, there is the SkyRide (a bike ride high above top deck – but you’re strapped in), mini-golf, a water park, IMAX cinema, basketball, and a video arcade. They also offer low-key activities such as cooking demonstrations, bingo, art exhibitions, a spa, and a library.
      For kids

      Both cruise lines offer great amenities for children, with little difference between the two.
      On-board Carnival you can drop your little ones off at Camp Owl, a kids club that is split into three age groups:
      Penguins (2 to 5 years) Stingrays (6 to 8 years) Sharks (9 to 11 years) Run by experienced counsellors, your mini-me will enjoy activities like arts and crafts, songs, games, toys, dancing, movies and video games. The kids also eat together and get their own menus. There’s also an evening crèche so the kids can stay up late while the parents enjoy a night at the bar.
      Kids (and even adults) will also love the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Sea, Hasbro Game Show, and Cherry on Top candy store.
      But Carnival’s unique family-fun feature is Seuss at Sea, which includes a special onboard character parade, interactive story time, arts & crafts activities, and breakfast featuring their favourite Dr. Seuss characters.  
      Over on Norwegian Cruise Line, families are also well catered for.
      Their complimentary youth programme is split into five age groups: 
      Guppies Programmes (6 months - under 3 years) Turtles (3-5 years) Seals (6 – 9 years) Dolphins (10 -12 years) Entourage (Ages 13 – 17) Depending on which age group your little ones fall into, they will enjoy a wealth of activities ranging from circus skills, arts & crafts, sensory play, treasure hunts, and video games. There’s also a nightclub for teenagers.
      There’s also a Late Night Fun Zone where parents can leave their kids between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. This involves a fee and the centre will close if no kids are registered by 11:30pm.
      Dining

      NCL have long been champions of Freestyle Dining with no fixed times, while Carnival offers both fixed and flexible dining. But all ships in NCL and Carnival’s fleets offer numerous dining options.
      Norwegian boasts one of the industry’s largest selections of onboard restaurants, with as many as 25 dining choices. Complimentary choices include buffets, supper clubs, and standard pub grub. But, if you’re willing to pay a fee, you can choose from Japanese teppanyaki grills, steakhouses, Italian spots, Brazilian restaurants, French, sushi bars, and Asian noodle houses.
      Carnival also offers 20+ dining options, though it will depend on which ship you are on. Complimentary dining includes the Main Dining Room, a Mexican cantina, a burger joint, a salad bar, pizzeria, ice cream parlour, room-service and a Mongolian restaurant. Complimentary restaurants include a Dr Seuss themed restaurant for kids, a sushi bar, a coffee bar, and a steakhouse.
      Carnival also has a partnership with American chef Guy Ramsay Fieri. He has opened three different restaurants on-board Carnival Cruise Line ships: Guy’s Burger Joint, and the Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse. Both of these restaurants are included in the price. There is also a Brewhouse that is an additional cost.
      Cabins

      Both NCL and Carnival offers a range of room and suite types.
      On board an NCL cruise, you can choose between the following (depending on the ship):
      The Haven by Norwegian® Concierge Suites Suites and Penthouses Spa Staterooms Mini-Suites and Balconies Oceanview Inside Studios for solo cruisers Connecting staterooms The first option, The Haven by Norwegian®, is a yacht-with-a-ship concept where can enjoy the perks of an exclusive area with butler and concierge service but still reap the benefits of a superliner. Inside the Haven there is a lounge, restaurant, and sundeck with small pool. There are also six room types to choose from in The Haven, but for something extra special there’s the 3-bedroom Garden Villa that can fit up to 8 guests and comes with an outdoor terrace with a hot tub and a private dining area. 
      Carnival takes a more no-frills approach to their staterooms with four basic categories: Interior, Ocean, Balcony and Suite. Connecting rooms and wheelchair accessible rooms are also available. There are, however, four other options (depending on the ship) for families who need extra room and couples looking for something special: 
      Family-friendly Staterooms Cloud 9 Spa Staterooms Family Harbour Staterooms Havana Staterooms Carnival doesn’t have their own version of The Haven by Norwegian® or any penthouse suites.
      Itineraries

      Out of the two cruise lines, NCL offers a wider range of destinations with a selection of Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, New England/Canada and Alaska itineraries. They also offer seasonal Mediterranean and seasonal Northern Europe itineraries. There’s also occasionally exotic sailings including South America, as well as Asia, Australia, India and the Arabian Gulf.
      Carnival Cruise Line, however, only offers standard Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii itineraries. There’s no European sailings or exotic itineraries. They do however offer the occasional Australia itinerary.
      Pricing

      Price wise, Carnival is more purse-friendly than NCL and offers some of the most competitive rates out of all the major cruise lines. For example, both cruise lines have a November 2018 Caribbean cruise that leaves from Miami. Our price with Carnival is £391.71pp on-board the Carnival Sensation. While our price with NCL for a similar cruise is £590.05pp on-board the Norwegian Getaway.
      Both cruise lines include accommodation, entrainment, and complimentary restaurants within the cost of the cruise. Guests on-board NCL who opt for The Haven by Norwegian® will also enjoy gourmet dining options in speciality restaurants, 250 minutes free WiFi per Suite, and US $100 onboard spending money per suite. NCL do occasionally offer all-inclusive sailings, but it’s not the norm.
      So which one is best for my family?
      If it’s a fun ship with exciting activities to keep your children busy that you're looking for, both cruise lines hold up. 
      The two major differences between the NCL and Carnival are the price point and the itineraries on offer. If you want to cruise around Europe, NCL is the only one between the two that offers this. However, Carnival is cheaper if you are looking for a Caribbean cruise.
      Minor differences include the accommodation options and the onboard activities. NCL offers a wide range of high-end suites and penthouses (and a 3-bedroom villa) if you are looking to treat yourself. And there are the themed Dr Seuss activities for children on-board Carnival, though NCL still has a lot to offer families.

    3.  

      Best cruises for adventurous travellers

      If you’re not a seasoned cruiser, cruise and adventure are not two words you might necessarily associate with one another. But adventure cruises – or expedition cruises, as they are more commonly known by in the cruising world – are becoming increasingly more common as cruising enters the mainstream and travellers yearn to discover more exotic parts of the world.
      Expedition ships are fitted with a high capacity for fuel and food and made with shallower hulls to ply new, previously uncharted waters. They also prove that “roughing it” and “adventure” are not synonymous, with some of the world’s most-respected luxury cruise lines owning a dedicated expedition ship within their fleet.
      But where to? Expedition ships have the benefit of being able to reach corners of the world that train or plans can’t. Unlike other modes of transport, there’s very little water or land still unchartered by the world’s many cruise lines. If you’re an adventurous traveller (or even an experienced cruiser) who has exhausted many of the usual bucket-list destinations – now is the time to explore further afield with this selection of adventurous cruises.
      Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands

      There are many reasons why the Galapagos Islands should be on everyone’s bucket list, but one stands out in particular: it is home to a vast number of endemic species. The ecological system here is so profound that it even inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Its remote location has allowed many rare species to thrive, and the lack of natural predators has brought about a harmonious relationship between humans and animals – so the animals don’t fear travellers.
      The Celebrity Xpedition sails only to the Galapagos Islands and knows the waters well. The smaller, 96-passenger ship is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring – whether it’s in the library, the sun-soaked sunrise desk, or the Blue Finch Bar on the Panorama Deck.
      South Pacific

      The Galapagos Islands are not the only beautiful cruise destination in the South Pacific. Whether it’s the famous beaches of Fuji, the aquamarine life of the Conflict Islands, whale watching in Vava'u, or the peacefulness of the uninhabited Mystery Island.
      The South Pacific isn't overrun with cruise ships, so picking one is usually a simpler task than booking a European or Caribbean cruise. It is also a popular destination for Repositioning Cruises as they switch between their Alaska and Far East itineraries. Most itineraries focus on one particular part of Oceania - usually French Polynesia, Melanesia or Micronesia.
      Mekong River Cruise

      It’s not just ocean cruises that are travelling into new waters - several river cruise lines offer incredible itineraries along the Mekong River. These include AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, and Viking Cruises. Most of the itineraries take two weeks and usually include hotels stays on post and pre-cruise (it’s also the perfect excuse to book a twin-centre with somewhere in the Middle or the Far East). The majority of Mekong River cruise tours start and end in Vietnam, beginning in Hanoi and ending in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or vice versa. They include a flight to Siem Reap and a sail on the Mekong, with ports in Cambodia and Vietnam.
      Antarctica

      Antarctica is the ultimate bucket list destination – and it’s becoming more accessible than ever. Silversea, Scenic, G Adventures and Hurtigruten are just a handful of cruise lines that venture into the most southern continent of the world. Antarctica Cruises typically start in Argentina and usually stop off at a few ports in South America (including the Falkland Islands) before entering the icy waters of Antarctica. How many nights you’ll stay in Antarctica will depend on the itinerary (and how far you’ll be allowed on land).
      Northern Polar Regions

      From the most southern point of the world to the most northern. If you want to explore the Arctic, you have plentiful options – in terms of both destinations and cruise lines. Since the Arctic is not technically a landmass in its own right, Arctic cruise destinations are any country that lies within the Arctic Circle. This includes the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Russia and Alaska. Such a vast area is home to a rich array of wildlife, including polar bears (nicknamed Kings of the Arctic) whales, seals, walruses, Arctic foxes, musk oxen, reindeer and numerous birds. Saying all this, the most popular cruise itinerary is northward along the Norwegian coast toward Spitsbergen.
      In terms of cruise ships, you’d be pleasantly surprised how many cruise lines offer itineraries into the Arctic Circle. Cunard, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Costa and Holland America Line all offer cruise lines that pass over the Arctic Circle. Hurtigruten is considered the expert at Arctic Cruises, however, and provide passengers with highly immersive experiences. 
      Eastern Russia with Silver Explorer

      Remember we mentioned that even luxury cruise lines have a dedicated expedition ship? The Silver Explorer is Silverseas offering. It comes with everything you would expect from the ultra-luxury cruise line (from two high-end restaurants, Zagara Beauty Spa, and the Connoisseur’s Corner) but also comes equipped with a strengthened hull and a fleet of 12 Zodiac boats.
      The destinations it sails to are wide-spread. Most famously it visits Antarctica, with itineraries that vary between 10 days to 18 days. Other destinations include the South Pacific, Greenland, and South America. But it’s most unique itinerary is to the East of Russia. The sailings vary between 12 days to 29 days, with most of the itineraries including a stop off in Alaska and Canada – and a trip over the International Date Line.

    4.  

      10 things to know about U by Uniworld

      River Cruises have traditionally been a peaceful way to travel, popular with retired travellers looking for an easy way to explore different cities in the one holiday.
      U by Uniworld is a new river cruise line (owned by luxury Uniworld) that is bringing something new to the rivers of Europe. On-board their modern ships, you’ll find late nights bars, fluorescent accents and rooms you’d more typically associate with a hostel than a cruise ship. Also, their range of excursions varies from laid-back activities to energetic adventures. Does a river cruise now feel like something you’d want to book? Here are 10 things to know about U by Uniworld.
      1. They have two ships

      Named the A and the B, they each sail through a dedicated area of Europe. The A can be found floating along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers in Central Europe. While the B cruises down France’s Seine River. The small size of their ships also means they can dock in the city centre of most destinations.
      2. There’s solo rooms and dorms

      Anyone travelling by themselves who wants to save some money (and make friends in the process) can book a bed in one of the dorm rooms. Though if you are travelling alone and don’t fancy sharing with someone, single rooms are also available.
      3. Fully functioning dining

      The two U by Uniworld vessels both have a fully-functioning restaurant like any other cruise ship. The main dining room, called Dine, serves brunch and dinner (including vegetarian and vegan options). Then on the top-deck, you’ll find the U Lounge, which serves tapas-style sharing plates and after-hours snacks.
      4. There’s a lot included

      U by Uniworld isn’t all-inclusive, but you won’t need to reach for your wallet too often. You’ll enjoy two meals on-board per day (usually brunch and dinner) selected non-alcoholic drinks, selected daily shore excursions, and onboard entertainment. Gratuities are also included.
      5. There are bikes on-board
      More and more ships boast onboard bikes that guests can take out for a day exploring – and U by Uniworld is no exception. Each ship has 50 U Bikes onboard for complimentary use.
      6. Immersive excursions

      All the U by Uniworld itineraries have complimentary excursions, along with additional U Time excursions that were designed by local destination experts. There’s a wide range to choose from – including a mixology lesson in Amsterdam, rock climbing in Germany, classical music in Vienna, and a street art tour in Paris.
      7. There are six itineraries to choose from

      Starting with Rolling on the Rhine, Seine Experience, Germany’s Finest, and the Danube Flow – and then ending with the festive-themed Dashing Through the Danube and A Merry Little Christmas Cruise.
      But that’s not all: since Europe’s rivers are home to some incredible festivals, so U by Uniworld offers special itineraries that include them. Such as an Oktoberfest Cruise, and a Danube cruise that stops by the Sziget Festival (one of the largest music festivals in the world).
      8. There’s an onboard gym and spa

      You’ll find treadmills, TRX bands, yoga mats, free weights, and other equipment to help keep up your fitness routine while on holiday. You can then relax in the spa afterwards.
      9. U by Uniworld has charity partnerships and a sustainability pledge

      U by Uniworld work alongside TreadRight, Just a Drop and One Tree Planted to make sure that the world remains as beautiful as it is now for years to come. They also have a partnership with All Hands and Hearts, which rebuilds resilient schools in areas impacted by natural disasters.
      10. It’s open to all

      U by Uniworld has been regularly described as a “river cruise by millennials” – but it is actually open for all. In fact, it’s largely been the 40+ cruisers who are booking themselves onto these stylish boats. 

    5.  

      10 things you’ll find on-board the Disney Magic

      If you’re a Disney-mega fan then visiting the parks is not enough – you also have to take a trip on a Disney Cruise.
      There are currently four ships in their fleet: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The Disney Magic was the first one to set sail (way back in 1998) and offers a quintessential Disney experience. She’s currently sailing around the Bahamas and Caribbean, but will occasionally retreat across the Atlantic for cruises around the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
      But no matter where she visits, she’ll still have the same family-friendly amenities on-board. Here are just ten things you’ll find on-board Disney Magic that make it a great choice for Disney fanatics.
      1. Tangled: The Musical

      See this modern classic come to life in front of you with this magical live performance – only available on the Disney Magic. The live show remains true to the Disney movie, reuniting the characters of Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Mother Gothel, and, of course, the palace horse Maximus.
      2. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

      Don’t just meet your favourite characters – become them. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is owned by Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and offers both Disney Princess and Knight Packages. Little ones can choose between Disney Diva and Fairy-Tale Princess, or they can opt for something more dapper like a noble knight or sea-loving captain!
      3. AquaDunk

      Definitely for the braver members of the family! This waterslide is found at the Forward Funnel on Deck 13 and takes passengers over the edge of the ship in a 20-foot curvature. Oh, and it’s see-through (height restrictions apply).  
      4. Animator's Palate

      Treat your taste buds and eyes to a sensory overload at this unique dining experience. As you sit down to dine, you’ll be surrounded by large screens that take you through the journey of designing your favourite characters – from initial sketch to final animation.
      5. MARVEL Day at Sea

      This is only available on selected 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami in early 2018, and on select 5-night cruises to The Bahamas and the Western Caribbean in early 2019. But is worth it for the meet-and-greets, stunt shows and unique youth club programmes.
      6. Wide World of Sports
      If you want to keep up your fitness while on holiday, head to the top deck where you’ll find the Wide World of Sports. Here you’ll find a massive open-air basketball court, ping-pong tables, and general areas for moving around. Elsewhere on the ship, you’ll also find a Shuffleboard and a Running Track.
      7. Senses Spa Salon

      Unwind from the activities across the rest of the ship at this high-end luxury spa. Treatments include Swedish massage, ELEMIS facials, Cellulite Reduction, acupuncture, cut & blow dry, and manicures.
      8. Disney's Oceaneer Club

      On-board the Disney Magic kids between 3-12 get to choose between four different areas at the onboard children’s club: Andy’s Room, MARVEL’s Avengers Academy, Mickey Mouse Club and Pixie Hollow.
      9. Adults-only dining at Palo

      While the younger members of the family are enjoying the many child-friendly activities on-board, the parents can treat themselves to some adult-only dining. Named after the signature long poles used by gondoliers in Venice, Palo serves up the best in northern Italian cuisine. Main dishes include butternut agnolotti, seared sea scallops, and piquant Dover sole. Palo is also open for brunch. Additional fees apply for this dining option.  
      10. Keys Piano Bar

      Another venue for the adults to unwind in, this dimly-lit space is inspired by the famed piano bars of Hollywood’s heyday. The drinks menu is also delectable, offering Martinis, scotch, single malt, tequila, cognac, port, Madeira and speciality coffees like espresso, cappuccino and café mocha.

    6.  

      5 cruise lines that offer great value All-Inclusive packages

      Ask any cruiser why they prefer cruising to land holidays and you’ll hear phrases like “great value for money” and “can budget easily”. Which is true. Within the cost of your cruise you’ve already paid for several destinations, your room and usually some kind of dining.
      Many cruise lines also sell All-Inclusive packages that offer better value for money than many hotels. Below are five cruise lines whose all-inclusive packages are amazing value for money and allow you to get on with your holiday without worrying about your bill at the end.
      Saga Cruises

      Saga Cruises specialise in small-ship experiences for the over 50s – with some of the best inclusions at sea. All meals (including speciality dining), a choice of wines with dinner, all onboard gratuities, 24 hour room service, shuttle buses and WiFi are included in the price. Most impressively however is the door-to-door chauffeur service. If you’re staying less than 250 miles from Dover, Portsmouth or Southampton, Saga Cruises they will pick you up (and even carry your bags).
      NCL

      Every passenger on board an NCL cruise will have entertainment, aqua parks, sports facilities, kids clubs and complimentary dining included. However, any passengers that opt for Premium All-Inclusive will receive no extra charges for premium beverages, speciality coffees, soft drinks, bottled water and any tips related to all-inclusive services.
      Also – if you feel like treating yourself – passengers who stay in The Haven® or suite accommodation will be treated to gourmet dining, 250 minutes free WiFi per suite and $100 onboard spending money per suite – at no extra cost!
      Marella Cruises

      Three ships in the Marella fleet are all-inclusive by default: Marella Explorer, Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2. But if you have your eye on one of their other ships, you’re still in luck. We are offering a free all-inclusive upgrade on summer 2018 cruises on Marella Spirit, and a free all-inclusive upgrade on winter 2018 cruises on Marella Celebration and Marella Dream.
      Plus upgrade to all-inclusive for only £10 per person, per night in summer 2018 on Marella Dream and Marella Celebration.  
      Regent Seven Seas

      This super-luxury cruise line might not be the cheapest at face value, but when you learn what is all included in the fare you’ll realise that sometimes paying a bit extra is worth it. The usual things like 24-hour room service, dining, WiFi, shore excursions, and gratuities are included. But with Regent Seven Seas you’ll also received complimentary access to the fitness centre, spa and speciality restaurants as well as unlimited beverages, including premium spirits.
      Most river cruises

      We’ve already mentioned Saga (who offer both ocean and river cruises) but generally speaking river cruises are very generous with their inclusions. But if it’s fully all-inclusive that you are looking for we recommend Scenic Tours , Tauck, Uniworld and Crystal River Cruises. Uniworld, for example, includes all gratuities, exercise classes, shore excursions, bicycle hire, WiFi access, onboard entertainment, in-suite butler service, all dining and premium beverages. While Scenic River Cruises include WiFi, complimentary beverages, all gratuities, and shore excursions.
      Which All-Inclusive cruise line is your favourite?

    7.  

      11 things included in the price of an NCL Cruise

      Cruises offer amazing value for money. Not only do you get to visit several destinations in one holiday, but most of your costs are included in the upfront price. Your accommodation and transport are obviously included, but many cruise lines include flights, drinks packages, entertainment, excursions and food at the cost you pay when you book.
      NCL Cruises have always prided themselves on their selection of all-inclusive cruises. Recently, however, they have launched a new Premium All-Inclusive package that brings their value for money to a new level. Here’s what is included in the price.
      Included, always
      1.  Dining
      Whether you’re looking for an all you can eat buffet, pan-Asian dining or a casual spot for lunch, you definitely won’t go hungry. Each ship has up to three main dining rooms with daily changing menus and à la carte service (there’s also 24-hour room service).
      2.   Award-winning entertainment
      Enjoy Broadway shows, live music, comedy, dancing and much more when cruising with NCL. Norwegian Breakaway there is Rock of Ages, on Norwegian Escape it is After Midnight and on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Epic you can treat yourself to Cirque Dreams – a one-of-a-kind theatrical dining experience with world-class acrobats, aerialists, musicians, and a dash of audience participation.
      3.   Aqua Parks, sports and leisure facilities
      If you want to keep up your fitness regime while on holiday, you’ll enjoy the free access to sports and gym facilities. And if you want to relax by the pool or your children want a shot on the flumes? That’s included too.
      4.  Professional junior and youth programmes
      Holidays are about family-time, but parents need time to relax. Drop your children off at one of NCL’s complimentary youth programmes: Splash Academy and Entourage.   
      Included in a Premium All-Inclusive Cruise
      5.   Premium Beverages
      Whether it’s a refreshing orange juice with lunch, or a glass of wine over dinner; all drinks are included in the price when you book a Premium All-Inclusive Package.
      6.  Selected speciality coffees during mealtimes
      At the end of all your meals, unwind with a mug of NCL’s Lavazza speciality coffees.
      7.  Soft drinks and bottled water
      If you’re heading out on an excursion, remember to grab a bottle of water. One bottle of water per person per day is provided in your stateroom.
      8.  All tips related to all-inclusive services
      NCL staff do an amazing job at looking after the passengers, but there’s no need to tip. NCL have already taken care of that.
      Included extras for guests staying in The Haven by Norwegian® and Suites
      9.  Gourmet dining in global speciality restaurants...
      Treat yourself to some delectable cuisine in one of NCL’s speciality restaurants. Cagney’s Steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Le Bistro, La Cucina, Margaritaville and Moderno Churrascaria are just a few of your options.
      10.  250 minutes free WiFi per Suite
      Upload your holiday snaps to Instagram or message your family back home with a complimentary 250 free minutes of WiFi.
      11. US $100 on-board spending money per Suite
      Spa? Casino? Shore excursion? Indulge yourself with $100 to spend as you want.
      What NCL All-Inclusive feature is your favourite?

    8.  

      Staff Travel Diaries: AmaWaterways along the Rhine

      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…….
       

    9.  

      Independence of the Seas Refurbishment

      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.  

    10.  

      Introducing the AmaMagna

      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.  

    11.  

      Cruising the Mississippi River

      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.  

    12.  

      First Time Cruisers

      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.  
       

    13.  

      Mini-Break Cruises

      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.  

    14.  

      Celebrity Cruises ‘wine show’

      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.

    15.  

      Taster Cruises

      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 
       

    16.  

      Luxury at Sea

      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

    17.  

      Fred Olsen Cruises Sailing from Rosyth

      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

    18.  

      Yangtze River in Focus

      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.

    19.  

      Irrawaddy in Focus

      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.

    20.  

      Cruises for Foodies

      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.

    21.  

      Cruise the Mekong river in Focus

      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.

    22.  

      Repositioning Cruises

      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.

    23.  

      What you’ll find on board the P&O Britannia

      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.

    24.  

      Exploring Alaska from a cruise ship

      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.

    25.  

      An introduction to Saga River Cruises

      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.

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