Friday, November 24

Cruising Myths and Misconceptions

The main reason why cruising is still one of travel's best kept secrets are to do with the myths and misconceptions. Getting someone on their first cruise is the hardest part, but most of the people that do try it, continue to cruise for many years after. All it takes is one cruise before all of the myths are quashed.

Here are examples of some of the cruising myths people believe:

I’ll get seasick
This is one of the more valid concerns, yes, people do occasionally suffer from motion sickness however, today's modern ships are all stabilized to reduce rolling which is the side to side motion, and are designed by sophisticated computer aided design equipment to minimize pitching, which is the up and down motion.
There are things you can do to minimize the chances of any discomfort with many simple and inexpensive remedies like wearing a sea band - little wrist band that features a "bump" that is positioned to affect a pressure point on the underside of your wrist. There are no side effects and the best part is they're inexpensive, you can usually find them in any pharmacy or in the gift shop onboard. There are also several medications and herbal remedies which are also effective, should you need them.

I’ll be bored
Cruising is not the sedentary holiday it used to be, unless that's what you choose to make of it. Every cruise ship publishes a daily newspaper and activity schedule to keep you busy and entertained while on board.
By day you'll find numerous activities (depending on the ship) such as Bingo, trivia games, lectures on topics such as art collecting, politics, world affairs and investing not to mention the ports you'll be visiting and shopping; exercise classes, wine tasting, cooking classes, shuffleboard, card tournaments and good old-fashioned relaxing in the sun by the pool or catching up on all those first run movies you never have time for at home. Then there are other alternatives you'll find on some ships such as golf simulators, miniature golf courses, putting greens, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. You can treat yourself to a day in the spa or in the ships’ onboard fitness centre, massages, facials, hair and nail salons, a sauna or a session with a personal trainer on the state-of-the-art exercise equipment. (But do watch out for activities that carry extra costs!

In the evenings you have all of the bars and lounges at your disposal for mixing, mingling, dancing or people watching. There may be lavish production shows and cabaret acts, comedians and the late night disco to keep you going into the early hours.

Everyone on a cruise is old

That certainly DID used to be the case and in SOME instances, it still is, but cruising is becoming more and more appealing to younger passengers as it gains mass appeal.
The cruise lines are catering to younger cruisers like never before by offering more and more variety, options and excitement. In fact the average age of cruiser is dropping year on year.

Cruising is too regimented
On the contrary! Cruising has never offered more options, variety, choice and informality than it does today. The cruise lines realise that today's passengers do not want or need regimentation on their holidays because they already have an overwhelming amount of it in their daily lives. Passengers are now afforded the option to choose when, where and with whom they dine, what types of entertainment they partake in and a more varied array of shore excursions besides the normal bus tours. There is an increasing emphasis on passenger comfort in terms of dress and informality in the ambiance.

Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are all leading the charge and now pushing the boundaries even further in this arena and NCL has just recently announced its new "Freestyle Cruising" concept which will offer open seating dining in the main restaurants, several alternative dining venues and an overall more loosely structured environment to encourage choice and informality.

You don’t need to dress up every night in a tux or attend formal dinners as it had been in the past. But the cruise lines will and still do offer you the choice of a more "traditional" experience complete with assigned seating at dinner, formal nights and an extensive list of scheduled activities if you enjoy such sophistication.

All there is to do is eat!
Once again, this is a very common misconception. It used to be that a cruise revolved around eating. Early riser's Danish and coffee, a light breakfast on deck, full breakfast in the dining room, mid-morning snacks, buffet lunch on deck, hamburgers on the grill, full lunch in the dining room, afternoon snacks, ice cream and cookies, afternoon tea with pastries, hors d'ouvres, dinner, the midnight buffet and late night snacks served every day! You would get bloated just thinking about it.

With the trend towards healthier living and eating habits today, the cruise lines have adapted to this shift. Yes, you may still partake in all of the above offerings, but the cruise lines are also offering the public what they want, which is healthier foods, lighter meals and spa cuisine. You'll now find lighter selections on the menus every night and many even list the calories, fat content, protein and other pertinent information right on the menu.

But should you choose to eat, eat, eat you can work off all of those excess calories by using the fitness centres and climbing stairs instead of using lifts.

Single Parent Family Cruise Holiday Options

Single parents can set sail too - News report 24/11/2006

The second ship to be deployed by casual cruise line Ocean Village is to cater for single parents. The ship Ocean Village 2, which enters service next April, will have 100 specially designed three-berth cabins for single parents with two children.
The cabins will consist of standard twin beds and a specially designed bed which folds away when not in use. The line has seen a 26% rise in single parents travelling with two children in the last year and an 8% increase in families of one adult travelling with one child.

Research by Mintel reveals that work pressures are forcing many families to holiday separately, with one parent taking the children on holiday while the other remains at home, working. A third of holidays taken by a single adult were taken by married couples too busy to holiday together in 2004.

Ocean Village managing director Peter Shanks said: "Our kids' and teens clubs and night nursery give single parents the benefit of much needed "me" time whilst our relaxed style on board and upbeat activities ashore create a very friendly atmosphere for families. "Over the coming years we expect to welcome increasing numbers of single parent families on board and we'll continue to adapt our offering to help cater for them."

Tuesday, October 10

Entertainment onboard Ocean Village

The entertainment was a little hit and miss when it concerned timings - some days you couldnt fit it all in and others were a bit quiet. The singers were all very good - my favourite shows were the Robbie Williams and The Queen tributes. Nothing short of brilliant, i couldnt stop dancing and singing - much to the amusement of my husband.

The Moon Show which started about 10pm on the Saturday night, on Deck 14 was amazing. Very well choreographed and thoroughly enjoyable. A feast of singing, dancing and acrobatics - its hard to describe and better seen in the flesh. Many of the acts we had seen snippets of through the week performing in the Village Square, such as jugglers and acrobats but that still didnt prepare us for the breathtaking spectacle we witnessed that night!

Connexions bar was always a buzzing hive of activity and got very busy in the evenings - rightly so with its daily offerings of comedians, quizzes, singers and karaoke. My favourite night was a medly of TV quizzes including Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Blankety Blank, the audience participation was great and after a few drinks the answers just got funnier and funnier, it was alot of fun. My advice is to get there quite early to bag a seat if you don't wish to stand.

If you wanted to carry on partying, The Bayside Club was the place to be. By day this is a gym then it's sectioned off and becomes a club. If you prefer quieter eveings then the Blue Bar was perfect, i enjoyed drinking here as it was the only non smoking bar on board and they served fabulous cocktails too.

Being a movie buff - I was particularly impressed with the Movie Drome. They usuallly showed 4 films each day, the seats were really comfy and it didnt pack out at all so the overall experience was comfortable. We watched Poseidon, The Da Vinci Code and Nacho Libre which are all fairly recent films. There are also some good films shown in your cabin daily if you dont feel like venturing out.

There really was something for everyone on board Ocean Village - there were even several art auctions onboard throughout the week which seemed very popular. It was nice to see all the artwork dotted around the ship even though we didnt indulge oursleves.

We spent a few evenings in the casino which was quite fun even though we lost £100. Between 7pm-9pm the min bet was reduced to 25p so you could play roulette for longer - we managed to drag £20 out for 2 hours! Bingo in the Marquee also proved to be very popular, i expected it to be full of ladies but how wrong was i? Well there were at least 25% and the average age was 40 so i was very wrong!

James Martin did a cookery demonstration in the Marquee on the Thursday daytime which went down a storm. He had a little kid helping and they were quite a double act - James if you're reading this, you could have a career in comedy should the cooking fall through! The Marquee was full to the rafters!

Food & Drink onboard Ocean Village

There are 4 restaurants on board Ocean Village - The Waterfront, Plantations, La Luna and The Bistro.

The Waterfront is situated on deck 7 at the back of the ship next door to the bistro. It has a large indoor seated area and a smaller outdoor deck area. This restaurant is buffet dining and had quite a variety of foods to keep your taste buds happy. There was always a good choice between hot and cold dishes as well as light or heavy meals and watch out for the desserts, they were ALWAYS divine! I don't usually like buffet dining but the food was always fresh out and piping hot. I know some other reviews have said the food was warm not piping hot but i didnt encounter this at all during the week i was onboard. This restaurant is not open 24hrs so its wise to check your daily newsletter though i found it was usually open from 7am - 9.30am for breakfast and 6pm - 10pm for dinner and a few lunchtimes.

Plantation restaurant, situated on deck 12, was also buffet dining and very similar to the Waterfront though smaller, it also feels a bit more like a cafe than a restaurant.
They are open 24hrs a day and ran a timing system for their dishes - whatt i mean by this is that for example, you would have Chinese dishes from 6.30pm - 9.30pm and Mexican dishes from 7.30pm - 10pm. These were just the specialities and there were many other foods available too. The late night snacks were always quite dangerous as they had hotdogs and burgers (which smelt soooo good!)as well as cheese and biscuits or sweets etc.

James Martin Celebrity ChefThe Bistro is Celebrity Chef, James Martin's restaurant, which was booked solid as James Martin was actually onboard that week. We were lucky enough to get in while he was there and even luckier that he came to our table and posed for a photo. What a lovely man! His menu is mouth watering and very difficult to choose from but whatever you do pick, you wont be disappointed. The food is served quickly and is worth every penny of the £12.50 per head supplement - also if you book your table for between 6pm - 6.30pm you could take advantage of the Early Bird offer of only £9.50 each. It is open from 6pm - 10pm each evening.

La Luna is on deck 12, half of it is inside and half outside so that you can dine under the stars if you wish (you need to state this when booking your table). The menu here is very good and also well worth the money. It is open lunch times and eveings - lunch is free with a few chargeable items and the evening meal carries a supplement.

Opposite La Luna is the kids' favorite eating place, Sunweavers Ice Cream Bar, which sells ice creams, cold drinks and coffees.
Drinks were no more expensive than in the UK on a night out. Expect to pay:

  • £3.60 for a glass of house wine

  • £2.60 for a pint of Stella

  • £2.20 for a pint of Boddingtons

  • £2.40 for a bottle of Bacardi Breezer or Smirnoff Ice

  • £2.50 for a spirit but then you need to add 70p for the mixer

  • Most fizzy drinks are 95p with exception of Redbull at £1.80

  • £16.45 for a bottel of Rioja

  • £19.45 for a bottle of Chateauneuf de Pape

  • £12.45 for a bottle of Piesporter Michelsburg

  • £32.45 for a bottle of Moet

One thing you cannot do - if you want to eat - is take refuge in your cabin. There is no room service on this ship, though tea and coffee making facilities are available in your cabin.

Monday, October 9

Ocean Village Cruise Review 2006

I have just returned from a week cruise onboard the Ocean Village in the Mediterranean. Thankfully although the end of summer in the UK, the Med was still steaming hot so i return with a full belly (from all the lush food) and a nice tan!

Ocean Village imageWe flew with Thomas Cook airlines and arrived in Palma at lunchtime. Everything went very well and ran smoothly. One thing to bear in mind is that Palma airport is huge, its a 15 minute walk to reclaim your luggage at Palma airport, so if you have walking difficulties speak to the rep and get a buggy ride to the baggage reclaim area. Once we have collected our bags we were met by an Ocean Village Rep who directed us to a fleet of buses ready and waiting to take us on the 20 minute ride to our ship.

This is when your adrenaline starts flowing - if you've never cruised before, the size of the ship takes your breath away. (Though admittedly its not the largest i have been on)

This was the last time we saw our luggage until we reached our cabin. Once we got off the bus we queued for a few minutes in the port building where we were given our cruise cards and register our credit card etc. From this moment on everything you pay for gets paid with your room card which in turn is deducted on the last day from your credit card. Anyway, by this time you could see that everyone was getting excited and couldnt wait to embark. Once past the photographer (who, believe me, you will encounter a lot on your cruise) it was a blast of alcohol gel on the hands (another thing you will get used to every time you go into a restaurant or gym on the ship) and up the gangway. This took us straight to deck 5 where the main reception area is. Ready and waiting were many stalls set up with information of various facilities. Here you could book your table at the Bistro or take leaflets for the Karma Spa etc.

Ocean Village Cabin GG WindowWe didnt actually get access to our cabin until 3pm so we spent the first 3 hours getting to know the ship, this in itself was a little tricky as we had to carry our hand luggage round with us. At 3pm to tannoy said our cabins were ready so off we went to find it. When we did we were really pleased, the cabins are massive. We booked a GG grade cabin on the lowest deck which is P deck. I was slightly concerned at first as i had always thought that the lower down you were on a ship, the noisier it would be due to engines etc - but I was very pleasantly suprised at the peace and quiet. The cabins are extremely spacious, plenty of storage space - even the shower is large enough for two people. I couldnt fault the maid service at all, our room was cleaned daily and i looked forward to the handmade biscuits we were left each day!!

The itinerary we covered was their 'Beaches & Basillicas' itinerary.

  • Day 1: Fly Uk to Palma, Majorca

  • Day 2: At sea

  • Day 3: Tunis (La Goulette), Tunisia

  • Day 4: Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy

  • Day 5: Genoa, Italy

  • Day 6: St Raphael, France

  • Day 7: Barcelona, Spain

  • Day 8: Palma, Majorca, Spain

The first evening when you set sail there is a sort of 'sailaway party' where they play music and everyone goes out on deck as the ship leaves port. Its quite nice and gives you a real buzzz to start the holiday off with.

Ocean Village bikingEveryday you will bump into at least one of the ship's photgraphers whether you are coming down the gangway to spend the day in port, dining in the Bistro or watching the Moon show! Its free to get your photo taken and its always a good idea to just pose and smile. There's no obligation to buy, you simply take a look at the photos that go up in the gallery the day after and if you like any you can buy them, if not, no problem. We actually had about 9 photos taken and only one we liked (because the others were me without make-up and not a pretty sight!) it was about 8x10 inches and we had it framed all for £15 which i thought was an absolute bargain.

Waking up each day in a new place is a very exciting experience, i'm not using the type to wake up early and fling the curtains open but i just couldnt wait to see what each day brought. You usually get into port at around 7.30am daily and set sail again around 6pm although this varies from port to port and is usually outlined in more detail when you book. There's not much chance of forgetting anyway as you get a daily newsletter every evening which contains everything you need to know about the next day. Eg: where you dock, how long for, what the main sights are, local transport, any excursions, onboard entertainment, special offers, restaurant opening times - basically you name it, its in there! It always came in very handy, they even had a map of the port town with all the sights marked off if you were not joining an excursion.

Blu Bar on Ocean VillageThe ship itself was great. Very comfortable and definately became a home from home while we were there. The staff were all very friendly and proffessional and you could tell they actually enjoyed their jobs. You never had to look far, when you needed a query answered there was always someone there to help. I'm not going to go into massive detail on the food, entertainment or excursions in this post as i'll do that next in detail on separate posts.

My only moan was that on our last day we had to be out of our cabin by 8.30am and our flight was not until 6.15pm which mean carrying your hand luggage around the ship with you all day. This meant it was difficult to get off ship and wander round Palma and equally as difficult to lay in the sun or swim due to needing a shower afterwards. There was no entertainment that day which meant time just dragged. We spoke to some other guests later that day who had been able to keep their cabin until 11am by tipping the maid 10euros and just asking her - i wish i had thought of this!

Overall it was a wonderful experience and very good value for money, we met many very nice people on the Ocean Village (and even bumped into an old neighbour!) and will certainly do it again. Thanks Ocean Village!

PS To view all my cruise photos click here!

Book Ocean Village here

Thursday, August 31

How to choose the right cruise ship

With nearly 100 ships to choose from, this becomes a very important question for the first time cruiser, especially as many of us can be very easily taken in by the glamourous & glossy brochures, clever marketing and promises of perfection. This can often leave you feeling as though every ship will be good for your needs and only the price need be a consideration. This isn't so i'm afraid! If you choose your ship on price alone, you may come back disappointed!

Firstly most cruise ships fall roughly into one of 3 categories - budget, premium or luxury. As with anything, the more you pay, the higher the level of personal experience you expect. The main difference between luxury liners and the others is usually that the staff to customer ratio is higher - meaning that those cruise lines employ more staff to attend to your personal needs - hence being able to receive butler service and the like.

The first thing i would recommend is read to read as many customer cruise reviews as you can - that way you can many different perspectives from real people who have sailed onboard the ship. Often this way, you can see a little further than the brochure discription. For example, you may read a ship has a theatre with nightly shows and feel this is adequate for you but what the brochure won't tell you is the types of shows, whether they are performed by professionals or by amatuers, how good the view or sound is, whether the theatre gets very full quickly etc.

If you have kids, look out for ships with the best activities for kids. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are some of the best family ships. Fitness fanatics have it pretty easy as all ships have spas, gyms, jogging tracks and exercise classes. Royal Caribbean goes even further than that - Its Voyager class & Freedom class ships (Voyager, Adventurer, Explorer, Freedom of the Seas) have rock climbing walls, roller blading and ice skating.

If you’re traveling with a large group of family or friends, i would look for a large ship with plenty to do for all age groups, such as Royal Caribbean’s Voyager/Freedom class ships.

If you are on your honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary, you may wish to opt for a small more intimate ship such as the Windstar ships, with their high standard of cuisine and personal service. Alternatively you may wish to have a completely child free cruise and opt for an adult only ship such as P&O's Artemis or Arcadia.

Besides going ashore, what are your personal preferences to how you spend your time onboard? While all large cruise ships have theatre shows and bands, they’re not necessarily equal in terms of quality - this is usually where reviews will help you decide.In the large ship category, Celebrity Cruises stands out in food and service or if you’re feeling flush, head for a luxury vessel like Crystal, Radisson or Silverseas for gourmet dining and personalized service. Crystal Cruises have guest lecturers and computer classes so that you may sail & lean all at the same time!

Whichever ship you choose, as long as you have researched it thoroughly, should ensure a wonderful holiday! Try for the best value cruise holidays today.

Thursday, August 3

Ship focus on Norwegian Jewel

The Norwegian Jewel is currently the newest NCL ship although that is set to change with the launch of the Norwegian Pearl later this year.
The Norwegian Jewel is brimming with amenities including 10 distinct restaurants, 13 bars and lounges, 3 swimming pools, spa and much more. I will try to touch upon the whole experience here.

Like all it's sisters, this ship offer 'Freestyle Cruising' which basically means Freedom! Freedom to dine in whichever of the 10 restaurants that takes your fancy and there are no fixed seating times. Restaurants open from 5:30 pm to midnight so that you can choose from an early dinner before the show or a later romantic dinner for the two of you. And of course there’s always the option of 24-hour room service. You’re free to dine where, when and with whom you choose. 'Freestyle Cruising' also means you can where what you want when you want, dress up, dress down its your call! For more information, take a look at the 'Freestyle Cruising' FAQ on the NCL website

Facilities onboard Norwegian Jewel

  • 10 restaurants including passenger favorites such as Cagney's Steak House, Chin Chin Asion restaurant, Tangos Tapas and NCL's signature restaurant, Le Bistro.
  • 13 bars and lounges including a Sushi bar, Karaoke rooms, Champagne bar and Corona Cigar Club.
  • 2 swimmming pools surrounded by 6 hot tubs.
  • Bora Bora Health Spa where you can relax and be pampered.
  • Body Waves Fitness centre - a state of the art gym.
  • Sports facilities including Jogging Track, Basketball/Volleyball, Tennis Court and Golf Driving nets.
  • Library.
  • Card room.
  • Splashdown kids club - read more further down the page.
  • Club Underground where you can dance til the early hours.
  • Ice Cream Bar - Ben & Jerry's to be precise!
  • Galleria shops.
  • Chapel.
  • Art gallery.

Take a look at the pool area..

With over 25 categories ranging from the ultra-spacious Garden Villas down to the inside stateroom, Norwegian Jewel’s accommodation options are practically unrivaled. New for NCL are the Courtyard Villas, ten spacious, top-of-the-ship suites. From each of these villas, the view opens onto the sea, thanks to their large, private balconies. The other, interior side opens onto a private courtyard, shared only by the other privileged passengers with Courtyard and Garden Villa accommodations. This private courtyard includes a whirlpool and its own swimming pool – luxury features unique to this ship! Plus, they share a small gym, a private sundeck and a private lounge, too!

Although dimentions and facilities can greatly differ between staterooms, each Norwegian Jewel stateroom includes the following facilities and amenities:

  • Muti channel TV
  • Telephone
  • In-room mini-safe
  • Refrigerator
  • Hair Dryer
  • In-room tea and coffee makers
  • Lower beds convertible to queen-size bed in virtually all staterooms

For further information and to book a cruise onboard the Norwegian Jewel, click here.

Keeping the kids amused
Are you looking for excellent fun and facilities for your children/teenagers? Well the Norwegian Jewel was designed with families in mind – and it shows. An entire mid-section area of Deck 12 is devoted to the little and not-so-little ones. Couple these facilities with NCL’s popular, complimentary “Kid’s Crew” youth program and you’ve got a winner!

Kid’s Crew Highlights:

  • Age-appropriate, supervised activities for kids 2 through 12
  • Use of children’s pool area
  • Pizza making,
  • Treasure search/scavenger hunt
  • Arts & crafts
  • Family activities
  • Video arcade (age 6-17)
  • Parties (age 6-17)
  • T-shirt for painting
  • Mom and Dad’s “night out”
  • Kid’s/Teen’s Crew News
  • Chef’s hat (for cooking classes)
  • Birthday party (for kids celebrating a birthday)
  • Child care center
  • Special Teen events

Splashdown Kid’s Club offers age-specific fun zones for kids. Its location near the main swimming pools and the always-popular Garden Café buffet make it easier for parents to drop off or pick up (or snoop on) their kids. There’s a Kid’s PC World Library, a Video Arcade and just outside the door, the Kid’s Pool. And right across the hall is the Kid’s Café section of the Garden Cafe! NCL has got the kid-pleasing formulas down!
NCL has the formula for teenagers, too. The Club Underground is their space; their place. In fact, it’s their 'club,' complete with dance floor and lounge seating. And teens will like its 'out of the way' location – a little farther from the eyes of curious parents, but close to those pools, the grills and the Video Arcade!

Monday, July 31

The BEST way to see Alaska

Nothing is more fun and exciting than taking a cruise. But why not go one step further and take a cruise in Alaska. It is just a matter of making up your mind that it is time to take an Alaskan cruise and see one of the natural wonders of the world. An Alaskan cruise will be a beautiful memory.
There are various ways to cruise in Alaska; here are a just few of them:
• Alaska Inland Cruise – you will have the chance to visit all the inland wonders of Alaska. You will surely be captivated with icebergs and glaciers. It is truly amazing to see walls of ice that are thousands and thousands of years old. When you see the icebergs “calving” you will be awed. The Alaskan inland cruise is offered by all of the Alaskan cruise ships.
• Alaska Day Cruise is just what it states, a tour on a day cruise. You can have a face to face with a huge wall of ice on an Alaskan day cruise. Or experience the beauty of dancing humpback whales. Of course, this is only practical for people who are doing a land package in Alaska.
• Alaska Celebrity Cruise – this is the so-called first class cruise of Alaskan ships. You will experience more royal treatment with a Celebrity cruise. On the other hand, this is a little more expensive among all the Alaskan cruises.
The usual attractions that passengers love about Alaskan cruises are the humpback whales, deep sea fishing and sailing through the Fjords and glaciers. The sights you will see will amaze you. Nothing can compare to the magic of Alaskan cruises. This is the only place where you will see the mighty glaciers and experience incredible wildlife.
The Alaskan cruise package that you choose will also determine the length of your stay. Usually, most Alaskan cruises are seven-day cruises. This is enough time for you to explore the intriguing ports of Alaska. However, the length of your stay can also be extended to as long as 14 days.
The other option is to book a day or two pre or post-cruise package where you can stay in Anchorage or even Vancouver. Many of the cruise lines run what is called land tours. This is where you take your cruise than you board a train that will take you through Alaska to places like the Denali National Park. It includes first rate accommodations and usually lasts 10-14 days including your Alaskan cruise.
Consider the size of the ship before you book your Alaskan cruise. On a smaller ship you will have less passengers and less competition for the incredible views. The smaller ships can also get into smaller coves that are less traveled.
On the bigger ships with more than a thousand passengers, it is harder for you to get out of the crowd, get a closer look, or even touch one the glaciers. But be aware that on the larger ships you will find more amenities.
Find the best Alaskan cruise that will fit your needs. When taking an Alaskan Cruise be sure to book some of the Alaskan cruise tours offered by the cruise line. Some of the tours offer amazing trips like a helicopter ride where you will land on one the glaciers. If you want to experience a real adventure, book the tour where you go dog sledding. (Book it early –it sells out fast). Go to a salmon hatchery and watch the bears eating the fish.
Nothing will ever compare with an Alaskan cruise; this will be a cruise of lifetime.
What are you waiting for?
Happy Cruising!
Copyright © Mary Hanna, All Rights Reserved.

Mary Hanna has traveled the world by Air and Ship while writing eBooks, Software Reviews and Practical Articles on Internet Marketing, Cruising, Gardening and Cooking. Visit her websites at:,, and

Friday, July 28

Brand spanking new ships!

The cruise industry certainly is booming and with that comes the need for more ships. I keep hearing about ships being ordered here and there and decided to write a list - it was only then i was gobsmacked at how many are due to be built. And imagine this - there are definately more than i know about being planned!
Take a look at the list of Cruise lines, ships and their expected delivery dates:

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Splendor - Spring, 2008
Unnamed - August, 2009

Celebrity Solstice - August, 2008
Celebrity Equinox - Summer, 2009
Unnamed - June, 2010

Costa Cruise Line
Costa Serena - May, 2007
Unnamed - Spring, 2009
Unnamed - Summer, 2009

Queen Victoria - December, 2007

Holland America Line
Unnamed - Summer, 2008

MSC Orchestra - April, 2007
MSC Poesia - March, 2008
MSC Fantasia - May, 2008
MSC Serenata - March, 2009

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Pearl - November, 2006
Norwegian Gem - October, 2007

Ventura - Spring 2008

Princess Cruise Line
Emerald Princess - Spring, 2007
Unnamed - August, 2008

Royal Caribbean
Liberty - April, 2007
Genesis - Spring, 2008
Unnamed - August, 2009

These are anticipated dates and, if British builders were anything to go by, they may be late!

Best Cruise Agency

Congratulations to all at Ideal Cruising for scooping 4 awards at the TTG Agent Awards 2006 last month! They won the coveted 'Best Cruise Agency Award' as well as Best Innovation, Best Manager & Best Salesperson. Read all about it here

Cruises - good option for disabled holidays?

Cruising for Disabled Passengers
For those who are new to cruising, it is certainly an experience you won't want to miss. With a wealth of entertainment options day and night, a variety of dining choices and an opportunity to go shopping or simply relax, you can never be bored. Not many holidays give you the chance to wake up in new destination each day! Most cruise lines have some facilities for disabled passengers, and an increasing number of the larger and more expensive cruise liners are making full provision. However, it is particularly important that anyone contemplating a cruise holiday should contact us at an early stage, both to make known their particular requirements and to be able to discuss any difficulties they may face on board or at ports of call.When selecting a ship, it's important to note that vessels built during the past five years are more likely to have purpose built staterooms, usually in more than one category and conveniently located for easy access to elevators. Please speak to one of our cruise consultants for more information on which ship would be best suited to your personal needs.

Wheelchair Friendly
Disabled adapted cabins are usually placed with better access to all public areas and lifts. They are designed with wider doorways, hand bars, low level controls, low door peephole and specially designed spacious bathrooms. Most cruise companies will also insist that passengers who normally require assistance in their daily living are accompanied by an able-bodied passenger who will take full responsibility for any assistance required during the cruise. Ship crews will help out as much as they can, but you may well prefer the company of someone who understands your specific needs.Accessibility will vary from port to port, but the only difficulty will be getting from ship to shore at the few ports which are too shallow or too small for the cruise ship to dock; you will have to transfer from cruise ship to dockside by tender. Many of these small boats can now carry wheelchair passengers, but it is always best to check beforehand.

Visually Impaired
Braille facilities are quite standard aboard cruise ships. You will find the deck numbers inside lifts and cabin numbers in Braille as well as being able to request a Braille menu at dinner.Guide dogs are permitted on all ships, with required documentation to accompany passengers with vision impairments; however, if your cruise is scheduled to visit foreign ports (as most do), you may not be able to take a guide dog ashore, depending on the country. To avoid potential quarantine, guide dogs should have their shots updated within seven days of sailing, and owners should carry the dog's valid health and rabies certificates. Hawaii is especially strict about importing animals. No dog, not even a guide dog, may step ashore without being quarantined for at least 30 days unless it arrives from an area recognized by the state as rabies-free.

Hearing Impaired
Most cruise lines have an alert kit for guests with hearing impairments which can be fitted to any cabin. These TTY kits include visual notification (flashing light in the cabin) of the door knocker and smoke alarm; also a vibrating alarm, door knocker, bed shaker and phone amplifier.

Dietary Requirements
If informed in advance, cruise lines can cope with specific diets (such as diabetic, gluten-free or fat free). However, while the latest ships are increasingly well-equipped, most cruise lines will only be able to provide the equivalent of a normal GP service whilst at sea; their medical centres are not intended for extensive or continuing treatment of ongoing health conditions, which will remain the responsibility of the passengers concerned.

Feature on Holland America Line's Accessible Cruising policy
Holland America pride themselves on their accessible cruising standards. Wide companionways throughout their ships provide accessible routes to all their onboard facilities. They have spacious elevators with Braille control panels and audible signals. You can also find Infrared systems/Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) in showrooms and theaters for enhanced enjoyment. Whichever restaurant you select to dine in, you can enjoy accessible seating, and, for guests with visual disabilities, large-print or Braille menus are available upon request.

Holland America Line is the first cruise line to offer a specially designed tender lift system that can provide seamless transfer from ship to tender to shore.
At the poolside you will also find transfer lifts for easy pool access.

Tty/tdd machines and kits for the hearing-impaired that include vibrating bed alert, visual door knocker and phone amplifier are available on request.

Holland America also welcomes specially trained service animals such as guide dogs and mobility-assistance dogs inboard. Please note, however, that many of their enticing ports of call have established strict documentation and immunization requirements. If your service animal does not have the proper papers or if there are local quarantine requirements, it may not be permitted to disembark

For further information on their accessibility standards, visit their website

Please let me know YOUR OPINIONS
I'd love to hear what you think about accessible cruising... do you have a particular view, experience or story you'd like to share? If so - please reply to this post!

Friday, July 21

Cruise Ship Sickness Outbreaks

Firstly, i like to point out that it is very uncommon to experience a sickness 'epidemic' whilst enjoying a cruise holiday - but that doesnt mean that it never happens.

We should not be so quick to assume that a cruise ship is pre 'infected' or 'dirty' when an illness affects a group of guests. Cruise ships aren't the only places where large groups of people are likely to get together and outbreaks of "flu" and the "24-hour stomach bug" are common in such places as schools, nursing homes, and even in hospitals. According to Princess Cruises, "Statistics have shown that the chance of contracting Norovirus on land is 1 in 12; and 1 in 4000 on a cruise ship."

Cruising brings together large numbers of people from different parts of the world. In confined quarters, certain diseases can quickly spread from person-to-person contact. It is even quite possible that some passengers who become ill during a cruise were infected prior to boarding and they were actually ill before their symptoms became apparent. While most people are unaware that they have contracted an illness before embarking, others know they are sick but go aboard anyway, not acknowledging their illness for fear of being denied boarding. They might not seek treatment once on board due to the threat of being confined to their staterooms. These passengers can be the beginning of a ship board epidemic! Can this be fair that other passengers and staff should suffer due to their decision to keep quiet? Is it also fair that the cruise line should suffer the tarnish to their reputation and costs too? Well i dont think so! We should all take a little more responsibility for the health and safety of others as well as ourselves. The first thing is to be aware how we can identify, prevent and treat such illnesses.

Two of the most prevalent diseases that spread through cruise ships are Flu and Noroviruses. Norovirus is often termed the "cruise ship virus," even thought the vast majority 60%-80% of outbreaks occur on land. However, it is often just more obvious on cruise ships because all sick passengers and crewmembers are treated by the same doctor, who is required to prepare a special report if an outbreak affects 2% or more of the passengers or crew.

Symptoms of a Norovirus
The symptoms of norovirus infection will begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is self-limiting and the symptoms will last for 12 to 60 hours. They will start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.

There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Prevention Good hygiene is essential and particularly in the presence of diseased people. The most important thing you can do is to wash your hands regularly. A waterless, sanitizing hand cleaner is also recommended (they are effective and come in travel size bottles). Milton Antibacterial Hand Gel is quite a good one although there are many on the market. In the event of an outbreak, the cruise line will implement basic hygiene and food handling measures and promptly disinfect of contaminated areas.

If you get sick, seek medical treatment immediately and try not to infect other passengers by limiting yourself to your cabin and avoiding public areas. If you havent travelled yet but are planning to and begin to feel unwell, it is best for all that you visit your G.P. and seek thier advice. As long as you have adequate travel insurance, in the event of having to cancel your trip, you should be covered for a refund.
(Exerts taken from the Health Protection Agency website)

Monday, July 10

Packing for your Cruise

Well, packing for a cruise sounds easy doesnt it? Hmmm, not quite! The thing with many cruises is that you face a new day in a new port - each of which may have its own climate, combined with days at sea which can be very hot by day yet very cool at night. So how do you pack to cover every eventuality without bringing your entire wardrobe?

Here are some tips to help you on your way!
  • Pack lightly, especially for warm-weather cruises. Just remember to toss in a sweater, jacket or shawl for cool evenings and hyper-air-conditioned ships.
  • If you are visiting somewhere like Alaska, wearing lots of thin layers rather than one thick one will help with the changeable climate. It may be very chilly but when the sun comes out you'll be too hot otherwise!
  • By day, casual shirts, shorts and beachwear are ideal. For going ashore and walking on deck (which may be slippery at times), flat comfortable shoes with a rubber grip are a must.
  • Although cruising isn’t nearly as formal as it once was, people still love to dress up. Some ships have a variety of Formal, Informal and Smart Casual evenings. On formal evenings, for ladies this is the opportunity to wear something glamorous and dressy such as an evening dress or cocktail outfit. For men a dinner jacket or tuxedo are the norm, otherwise a suit and tie is fine.
  • Don’t forget sun protection cream, a sun hat and sunglasses – the sun is much stronger at sea!
  • Dont forget your swimsuit! Many ships have whirlpools as well as swimming pools.
  • Gym kit - many ships have a state of the art gym, jogging track and sporting facilities so trainers are a must!
  • For hotter climes it would also be advisable to pack some insect repellent to help avoid irritating insect bites.
  • If you are taking any personal medication, please ensure you take enough to last the duration of the cruise.
  • Don't bother packing towels for your cruise - towels are provided for the bathroom. For the swimming pool, towels are usually provided at the poolside.
  • In the event that you do forget anything, on board shops are usually very well stocked with 'ordinary everyday' goods.
  • Check the baggage size and weight limit for the airline you are using. The rules are not the same on all airlines. Make very sure you have underweight luggage when you leave home, because it never seems to be that way on the way home!
  • Check to see if they have a theme night or talent show where you might need some special outfits.
  • Check whether your ship has two pin or three pin sockets and pack an adaptor if necessary.
  • Dont forget to buy fully comprehensive travel insurance and take your documents, your tickets and PASSPORT!!

Monday, June 26

Stay Safe at Sea

If you are wondering about the safety of being onboard a cruise ship or maybe you've just watched the film Poseidon and need a few reassurements then read on. Concerns for safety are perfectly natural and have become a primary concern of those planning their cruise trip. As a passenger you are encouraged to leave your troubles behind and enjoy yourself once on board the ship. The following are preventative steps that you can take to ensure a safe cruise:

  • Be sure to carry important items such as medication and expensive jewellery in your carry on luggage.
  • Photocopy contents of your wallet such as your drivers license and credit cards as well as your passport. It is always a good idea to carry a copy of your passport in your carry on luggage and leave one at home.
  • Keep luggage within your sight until handed over to the cruise line unless unavoidable eg flying. REMEMBER - Average looking luggage is less targeted for theft than expensive looking luggage.
  • Never list your full home address and telephone number on your luggage tags. A sophisticated home burglar will then know that you are on a cruise and not be home soon. Like airport security, cruise ships use metal detectors at check-in. The use of X-ray and dogs are enforced to make sure that your cruise is a safe one.

Cabin Security:

  • Never assume that your stateroom is as secure as a hotel. Since many crew members have keys to the staterooms it is always smart to check the stateroom thoroughly before settling in.
  • Do not leave valuable items out within sight. Use stateroom safes whenever possible. If your stateroom will not have a safe, be sure to use the ship safe deposit box to store valuable items, such as important papers, credit cards, extra cash and jewellery.
  • Always use all locks on the stateroom door. Do not open your sate room door to those you don't know.
  • Keep your stateroom key with you, as dishonest crew members or passengers will look for the opportunity to take a loose key or one that is left unattended.

Family Security:

  • If you are sailing with your children, be sure to set family rules in advance. Curfews and restrictions like at home are a good idea. It is suggested that teenagers not accompany crew members in non-public areas.
  • Crew members are not allowed inside staterooms. Though the crime rate is relatively low, there are still predators on board.
  • Intoxicated passengers may not always act appropriately and can become overly aggressive. Protect your children with bed checks, curfews, restrictions, and special meeting places. Stay alert and pay attention to the children that your children spend time with.
  • Make contact with your children periodically even if they are supervised. Make sure your children can identify the proper ship crew member as a contact person in case of an emergency. It is good advice to make your children familiar with where the pursers desk is and the number to which they can dial in case of an emergency.

The Laws:

  • Most ships are non UK registered and sail within territorial waters where UK laws may not apply. The cruise industry does not report crime data consistently to the police and has very little within its database as to which ships have the most crime problems.
  • Prosecution of crime, in many cases, is left in the hands of the local port authority. Please know that if you or your child gets into trouble on board a cruise ship or in a port of call, you may be held accountable to the laws of that foreign country.

Life Boat Drills:

  • Lifeboat Drills are required by law. You will notice in your stateroom the bright orange Flotation Devices (PFD) or life jackets. Cruise lines take the safety of their guests very seriously.
  • Be sure to study the emergency card on the back of your stateroom door. Your muster station will be indicated on this card. Shortly before the ship sails, an announcement will be made and the lifeboat drill begins when the alarm bells are sounded. At this point you will proceed to your muster station. Crew members will be stationed at the stairwells on each deck to assist with directions. Crew members will be on hand to check your stateroom number off of their list and instruct you on how to properly put on your PFD. There are two important features, a light that activates in water and a whistle. An officer assigned to your life boat will instruct the group on the procedures to follow should it become necessary to actually lower the boat. Roll is taken and room stewards check the staterooms to make sure that everyone attends.

These points are not made to frighten you, they are made to ensure your cruise is the holiday of a lifetime for all the right reasons.

Wednesday, June 21

Guide to Shore Excursions

When you book a cruise, one of the things that are usually NOT included in your cruise price are the shore excursions. The more seasoned cruiser/traveller may choose not to take the excursions in preference of their own arrangements but many new cruisers prefer the security and ease of set arrangements.If you don't have the time or inclination to to plan your own days ashore then the shore excursion is definately for you especially as the trips are easy, safe and more importantly, insured.

If the port location is fairly remote or maybe the country still developing then shore excursions are the best decision. If you do a little research before your trip you can usually work out which ports of call are best to view as part of a group excursion. If you are a lone traveller, a shore excursion can be a perfect opportunity to socialise and meet other travel companions.

If you want to splash out, some high-end cruise lines offer excursions you simply couldnt arrange on your own - for example, Crystal Cruises' Signature Collection Excursions include the opportunity to participate in a private cooking lesson at chef Roger Verge's Le Moulin de Mougins restaurant in France or a helicopter flight along the Amalfi coast, with a landing on Capri for lunch and a trip through the Blue Grotto). Seabourn offers an evening of fine dining and vintage wines at Chateau Smith Huat-Lafitte in Graves, France and a hot air balloon trip over Stockholm.

Example Excursions (taken from P&O website) :

Venice - Introduction to Venice

Doges Palace The sight of the Gothic arches and delicate marble façade of the Doges Palace encapsulates Venice. You’ll see the vast golden staircase with gilded stucco and the Doges' private apartments, containing exquisitely decorated ceilings and Venetian masterpieces. You’ll also have a glimpse into the Palace prisons by way of the famous Bridge of Sighs.
St. Mark's Square The piazza ‘par excellence’ with its stately public buildings and elegant cafés is wonderfully animated by people, music and pigeons. The clock tower is topped by two bronze Moors who hammer out the time, and opposite is the 300-foot-tall Campanile looking out over the city.
St. Mark's Cathedral One of the most beautiful and moving buildings in the world. The Basilica’s façade consists of intricate gold mosaic arches, which rise above the carved Romanesque entrance. The five dramatic domes are reminiscent of Constantinople’s architecture. Your guide will offer commentary on this beautiful Basilica from the outside, as narration is not permitted within.
Time permitting, you’ll have a chance to indulge in a spot of shopping or to relax in a nearby café before retuning to the ship.
Sights and scenery
During your motor-launch ride you’ll be given brief commentary before splitting into smaller groups for your walking tour of Venice.

Barcelona - Panoramic Barcelona

For those who prefer touring at a more leisurely pace, this panoramic drive through Barcelona is ideal. Relax in the comfort of the coach as your guide introduces you to its main attractions.
Panoramic highlights
Your tour starts off with a drive towards the Gothic area passing by the Citadel Park, the Arch of Triumph, Roman and Medieval walls and Catalunya Square. Your informative guide will point out all highlights and give explanations along the way.
The tour continues along Passeig de Gracia, a wide boulevard which connects the Gothic Quarter to the village of Gracia and is lined with lovely Art Nouveau buildings. This orientation will also take you past highlights such as the Spanish Village, Olympic Stadium, the Miro Foundation and the Congress Palace.
Photo Stops
Church of La Sagrada Familia Despite being under construction for more than 100 years, the church still lacks complete walls and a roof. Gaudi’s magnificent nativity façade - complete with flamboyant spires, stained glass windows and sculpted figures - is an architectural masterpiece to behold. There will also be a short time available for souvenir shopping.
Mirador del Alcalde Viewpoint A short stop at the panoramic viewpoint of Mirador del Alcalde will be made, from where there are splendid views over Barcelona.

Acapulco - Shotover Jet Boat

Prepare yourself for the thrill of a jet boat ride!
Jet boat highlights
You’ll take an hour long panoramic drive across Acapulco to the southern bay of Puerto Marques. After a short safety orientation you’ll board your jet boat for a breathtaking ride. The mangroves of the Puerto Marques tropical lagoon are claimed to be the highest in the world with the tallest being around 10m (over 30ft tall). In these areas the soil is always made up of a high concentration of organic materials and it is this mixture of soils that give mangrove areas their characteristic sulphur smell.
Your jet boat driver is highly trained and skillfully pilots the boat through areas you would never have imagined possible. The boat will fly past reeds and under canopies performing complete 360° spins that are guaranteed to thrill. Shotover Jet is an eco-friendly company who has made important efforts to avoid damaging the local environment and to operate in complete harmony with nature.

For further information on P&O excursions please click here to visit their website
An excellent alternative to a group excursion is a private car with a driver/guide. Many lines can provide a car and driver. For example, Royal Caribbean offers an "As You Please" program in some ports where local taxis may not be safe or properly insured or where there may be language difficulties for independent travelers. In Bali, for example, RCI's program offers a group of four a van, personal driver and guide for nine hours for just over $50 per person (price correct at time of press).

All excusions have to be booked directly with your cruise operator rather than your travel agent as finalised tour options are usually sent directly to you nearer to your departure date.

If you are a first time cruiser and fancy arranging your own days out, there are many independant tour companies or simply type the name of each port of your itinerary into Google and see what comes up!

Thursday, June 15

Race for Life

Cruising aside for just one moment - i'd like to thank everyone that sponsored me to do the Race for Life Saturday 3rd June, i raised £840for Cancer Research! Its not alot in the sceme of things but i'd like to think it could go someway to preventing cancer in the future. It was 5km and i ran nearly all the way - not bad considering i am not particularly fit! I ran for my brother Dean, who is recovering from cancer therapy at the moment and doing very well i might add. I also want to say well done to all the other 6000 women that ran in Oxford that weekend.

Tuesday, June 6

First British Wedding at Sea

Congratulations to avid cruise lovers Sue and Alan Boffey who married at sea on April 23rd 2006 on board P&O Cruises ship, Oceana. Their marriage was the first entirely British wedding at sea under P&O Cruises new Weddings at Sea programme.All the wedding arrangements were looked after by the ship’s staff the happy couple wer joined by their son, best man and Susan’s parents.
The bride and her mother were pampered in the ship’s Oasis Spa before the big event, which was held in the Captain’s Lounge where Captain Alistair Clark performed the ceremony. Following the wedding, the party were treated to a banquet reception in the elegant dining room, with a traditional wedding cake handmade on board.
P&O Cruises are the first cruise line exclusively serving British holidaymakers to offer weddings at sea. Some cruise lines offer weddings in a cruise port, such as Miami or St Thomas, but since April 2006 happy couples can say, “I do” actually at sea on board liners Arcadia, Oceana and Artemis.
The P&O Cruises Weddings at Sea package starts from £599, with an additional £199 for licence fees. This includes the venue, a ceremony conducted by the ship’s captain, VIP treatment including priority boarding (excluding Caribbean itineraries), floral arrangements for the ceremony, wedding music, wedding certificate, champagne, the services of a professional photographer and on-board wedding coordinator, invitations and thank-you notes. Optional extras include flowers, cake, photographs/albums, a champagne breakfast in bed, reception parties/dinners and spa treatments.
If you are getting married and need Wedding Accessories visit

The Lone Cruiser

If you are a single traveller, cruising is a safe and fun holiday option which enables you to travel the world and make friends securely. There are many organised activities and social events to keep you busy night and day. There are usually quiet places where you can seek tranquility too. Many ships organise singles cocktail parties and will put singles on the same dining tables where requested. Many cruise lines also offer a gentlemen host who will accompany female guests to dinner and dance.
There are no singles only cruises as yet but younger and fun seeking cruisers might prefer larger ships and cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Ocean Village though beware that single supplements might be a problem.
Some cruise lines cater better than others for single passengers. Few of the newer boats have single cabins although Costa's new ships do have them. Others set aside a limited number of twin cabins for sole use at a supplement to the normal one person fare. There are also cabin share programmes that will pair you with a traveller of the same sex to share a twin cabin. BOOK EARLY if you want one of these options - they go very quickly.
Crystal Cruises' new Serenity, and its other vessels Harmony and Symphony, are ideal for singles looking for an upscale cruise line. The company offers the best single occupancy rates in the industry though remember that the fares will be higher than other lesser rated cruise lines.

Friday, May 26

Rockin all over the World!

Who would think that a cruise ship could be cool? Think again - P&O cruise ships will be rocking to indie music more likely to be heard in night clubs rather than the onboard a cruise ship this year.

A summer programme has been designed to keep teenagers and children entertained by covers of bands such as the Arctic Monkeys and the Kaiser cheifs.The live gigs mark a shift in attitude for P&O, whose entertainment has been more traditionally based around classical performances, cabaret acts and dancing.

These 'gigs' are just the beginning of a new era to signify the changes to P&O's onboard entertainment style, showing that they can keep up with the changes in contemporary society.
A band will be onboard every Oceana cruise leaving Southampton between July 8th and August 25th 2006. P&O’s entertainment programme also includes theatre workshops by Katch 22 Productions, magicians and parties for children under 12.

Monday, May 22

Cruise Glossary

Need help deciphering all that cruise jargon? No worries, help is on the way with my handy A-Z of cruise terms!

Aft: Near, toward, or at the rear (stern) of the ship.
Ahoy: The traditional greeting onboard ships. The term originated as a Viking battle cry!
Atrium: An interior, often sky-lit, multi-deck, open area of a ship. Typically, atriums are centrally located near elevators, shops, restaurants, cafés, and guest services.

The width of a ship at its widest point. Ships in excess of 110 feet are too wide to transit the Panama Canal.
Berth: There are two definitions: the dock or pier where you embark or debark from the ship; the bed in which you sleep onboard the ship.
Bearing: The ship's compass direction, such as a "northwest bearing."
Bow: The front part of a ship. The opposite of the bow is the stern.
Bridge: The navigation and command center of the vessel. If your cruise offers a tour of the bridge, take it!
Bulkhead: Basically, a wall. A bulkhead is an upright partition dividing the ship into compartments or cabins.

Cabin: Your room. Call it a cabin, a stateroom, a suite, an accommodation, whatever - it's your personal space onboard.
Category: A price gradient of cabins, usually presented from the most expensive to the least expensive. Cabins in the same category are usually on the same deck and general location, and provide similar features and amenities. Individual cabin layouts and furnishings may differ slightly.

Davit: A shipboard device used in lowering and raising the ship's lifeboats or tenders. Stroll out onto your ship's promenade and introduce yourself to the davits.
Debark/debarkation: To exit, or the process of exiting the ship. The term "disembark" is also used.
Deck: On a ship, the different floors are called "decks."
Deck Plan: An overhead diagram illustrating cabin and public room locations in relation to each other.

To enter, or the process of entering or boarding the ship.

The rear overhang of a ship.
Fore: The front (or bow) of the ship.
Forward: Toward the fore (or bow) of the ship.

The ramp by which passengers embark or debark a ship.
Galley: The ship's kitchen. A mega-ship's galley may serve over 6,000 passenger meals each day.
Gentleman Host: A cruise-sponsored program whereby well-traveled, mature gentlemen (usually retired bankers, businessmen, etc.) are employed shipboard to serve as dance partners, conversationalists, and shore excursion escorts for single women.
Gratuities: Basically - tips extended to cabin attendants and dining service personnel.
Guarantee: Pay attention here - A "guarantee" is the cruise line's promise that the passenger will sail on a stated voyage in a specified price category or type of cabin, at an agreed rate no higher than would ordinarily apply for that voyage. Due to space and yield management requirements, a cruise line may "upgrade" guarantee passengers to a higher level of service. Passengers who choose a guarantee arrangement, however, are unable to choose a particular cabin.

Inaugural Sailing: The first "official" sailing of a ship with passengers, usually directly following the ship's "Naming Ceremony."
Inside Cabin: A cabin having no exterior-facing (sea-view) windows or portholes.
Inside Passage: The sheltered channels of British Columbia and southeastern Alaska protected from the Pacific Ocean by forested islands.
Itinerary: A ship's schedule of port stops and days at sea. Most cruise itineraries vary from 3 to 12 days.

Jacobs Ladder: A rope ladder lowered from the deck of a ship while at sea, to facilitate the boarding of crew or emergency staff.

The centerline of a ship running from fore to aft. Think of it as the spine, or backbone of a ship.
Knot: A unit of speed reflecting one nautical mile per hour, or 1.15 land miles per hour. (A nautical mile is 6,080.2 feet; a land mile is 5,280 feet, hence the speed differential.) Most cruise ships move along at about 18 to 23 knots.

Small boat carried on the vessel and used in case of emergency. By law, the total capacities of all lifeboats far exceed the total number of passengers and crew members onboard.
Leeward: The side of the ship sheltered from the wind.

M.S.: Abbreviation for "Motor Ship."
Maiden Voyage: The first sailing of a ship following sea trials.
Midship: In or toward the middle of the ship; the longitudinal center portion of the ship. Midship cabins tend to be pricier because they generally experience less motion during rough seas.
Muster Drill: A safety demonstration conducted by members of the ship's staff that instructs passengers on the route to and location of their muster station, use of their life preservers, and other important safety information. The muster drill is usually conducted before or shortly after the cruise departure.

Nautical Mile:
A distance equal to 6,082.2 feet. A land mile is 5,280 feet.

Open Seating (or Open Sitting): Access at any time to unoccupied tables in the ship's dining room, as opposed to specific table assignments.
Outside Cabin: A cabin having window(s) or porthole(s) offering an exterior view.

The Panama Canal permits ships no wider than approximately 110 feet - any wider and the ship just won't fit. Ships that measure under that maximum are often referred to as "Panamax" ships.
Pitch: The rise and fall of the ship's bow while at sea.
Port(Portside): The left side of the ship when facing forward.
Porthole: Circular "window" in the side of the ship's hull or superstructure.
Port Charges: A charge levied of cruise lines by local government authorities. This charge is passed on to the cruise passenger.
Port-of-Call: A country, island or territory, or population center a cruise ship visits.

Repositioning: Typically, when a vessel moves from one seasonal cruise area to another i.e. from Alaska in the summer to the Caribbean in the winter.
Roll: Sway of the ship from side to side while at sea.

Shore Excursions: Shoreside tours operated by independent tour companies specifically for cruise passengers. An extra charge is usually applied to your shipboard account.
SOLAS: An acronym for Safety Of Life At Sea. An international convention convened whereby the design, construction methods and materials, life safety equipment, fire protection, and safety training of all cruise ships and staff were implemented. The result? SOLAS. All major cruise lines abide by all SOLAS requirements.
Stabilizers: Wing-like retractable devices extending form the sides of the vessel to reduce roll and produce a more stable ride.
Starboard: The right side of the ship when facing forward.
Stem: The extreme bow or prow of the ship.
Stern: The rearmost part of a ship.

Tender (or Launch): A smaller vessel used to move passengers to and from the ship and shore when the ship is at anchor. Some cruise ports, due either to limited docking facilities or harbor depths, require ships to anchor offshore, necessitating the use of tenders to transport passengers ashore. Passengers with certain disabilities may be restricted in their use of tenders.
Theme Cruise: Any cruise that offers or suggests a specific onboard "theme" such as sports or 70's disco music. Other themes include history, cooking, arts & crafts, or even lunar eclipses or comet watching.
Transatlantic: A cruise that crosses the Atlantic Ocean.

A ship in motion. Once your ship has left the pier or its anchorage, the ship is considered "underway."

Windward: Facing into or the direction from which the wind is coming. (Opposite: Leeward)

Friday, May 19

Cuba Trip

If you get the opportunity to go to Cuba, do it. Just once. What a great place.

I stayed in Varadero but i visited Havana whilst there. The buildings and cars in Havana really are something else, so much culture. I wish i could have seen what the city was like in its peak (in the days of Scarface) when it was a playground for the rich and famous. The people here are friendly and have a great sense of humour. Saying that, its not wise to wonder around Havana without holding on tight to your handbag, there were 3 incidents of bag snatching while we were there.
I stayed at the Blau Varadero, altho 4 star, easily the 2nd best hotel in Varadero. Beaches was next door and looked pretty tatty in comparison. The hotel backs directly onto Varadero beach which was breathtaking. It was safe to walk along the sand at any time of day or night as it is guarded (pretty heavily) to protect the tourists. My only gripe was that the Cubans press very hard to be tipped, which is fine for things like waiter service but not from a bus driver that had taken you on a 10 minute trip!
Claim to fame... Sonia from Eastenders was staying at our hotel too. Poor girl got linched by all the english holiday makers. To be honest she was a little rude. I would've thought that a four star hotel in the commercial center of Cuba would not be the obvious choice for someone famous wanting a 'quiet' holiday but hey ho, it made my day!
If you like top cuisine and experimental cooking when you go away then Cuba won't be your bag at all. They dont import much at all so their food ingredients are pretty limited making their cooking quite bland. Fresh fish is always a good option though. We spent a day fishing out at sea, I caught a Cabrilla (i think thats what he called it). The captain of the boat cooked up what we caught while we snorkled. I've never had fish on my plate that was 20mins from fresh - wow!

The poor fish didn't stand a chance...

So many cars...

If you fancy a cruise that stops in Havana click here

Wednesday, May 17

Menu Example

I picked this menu up onboard the Freedom of the Seas just to give you an example of the food available. This was an a la carte restaurant not the buffet mind!

Monday, May 15

The Biggest Ship Today!

Recently we saw the launch of the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. Freedom of the Seas towers 208 feet tall, approximately the same height as two Statues of Liberty, placed head to toe and carries 3,634 guests.

Freedom of the Seas has many never-before-seen-on-a-ship features such as:

  • The first boxing ring on a cruise ship in the Freedom Fitness Center, the largest-ever cruise ship gym.
  • The first cantilevered whirlpools at sea, suspended 112 feet above the ocean in the adults-only sun lounge.
  • Studio B the onboard skating rink open for skating lessons and free skating during the day while used to stage the original ice show by night.

  • The first FlowRider(R) it's a surfing simulator at sea, found on the same deck as the multi-coloured interactive sculpture garden found in the H20 Zone water park.
    The 32-foot-wide by 40-foot-long FlowRider® generates a thin sheet of water that flows over the ride surface, creating a wave-like shape. Similar to swimming against a current in a stationary lap pool, riders surf or body board against the waterflow of 30,000 gallons per minute, carving turns and trying tricks. Guests can try their hand (and legs) at stand-up surfing, known as flowboarding, or opt for less-balance-demanding body boarding. The FlowRider’s® design features a tensioned-fabric surface similar to a trampoline that provides a cushion to absorb the impact of falls.

Nile Cruise - A great way to start Cruising

Itinerary example offered by Ideal Cruising

7 night Nile cruise on board the Viking I
Depending on dates, this itinerary costs from £350 per person

The Ship
With 30 cabins, the Viking I is designed with comfort in mind. The main accommodation is on two decks and each cabin is 9 square metres and comes with mainly twin beds, en-suite shower and WC, panoramic windows and air-conditioning. Suites are also available and are twice the size of a Standard Cabin. Each Suite is equipped with en-suite shower and WC double or twin beds and a living area with a convertible sofa bed.

To book this cruise call Ideal Cruising on 0800 050 1093

Friday, May 12


You probably have a rough idea of what you think cruising is all about. But be prepared, chances are you'll be totally surprised once you get onboard.

Are you the type of person that would go on a cruise?
A cruise is something that can appeal to all sorts of people; from families to couples to singles. For singles who travel alone, most ships hold parties to make it easy to meet people. For families with kids, many cruise ships provide various activities such as sport, video games, clubs and swimming pools. Also in many cases, cruise lines offer reduced fares for children. For couples, newlyweds and friends, a cruise is an opportunity to get together for a special occasions like a honeymoon, birthday or anniversary.

How to choose your cruise?
You have to bear five things in mind when you are making a decision about a cruise: Where, When, Which, How Long and How Much.

Where? - Where do you want to go?
There are so many itineraries to choose from, it may get confusing or overwhelming. Perhaps write down some of the places you would like to visit and see if your cruise agent can recommend an itinerary that encompasses some if not all of those destinations. Most cruises cover a certain area, ie the Med or the Caribbean, for those that are more adventurous or have more time on their hands, a world cruise may be for you!

When? - When do I want to go?
If you want to cruise the Mediterranean, its best to choose the summer months (May - Sept), though if it's the Caribbean you prefer, you will find the weather better during our winter (Nov -Apr)

Which - Which ship should you choose?
This can be the hardest decision. You may find many ships are offering the type itineraries you like so the next thing is the compare the facilities and overall 'feel' of the ships. You may prefer a smaller more intimate ship that has fewer facilies or a larger ship with much more to do. You may have children to consider, so comparing kids facilites may be the most important thing to you. Maybe the eveening entertainment or the food is your preference, whatever advice you need, your cruise agent is there to advise you.

How long? - Itineraries vary largely, from a minicruise (1-5 nights) right through to the world cruises that can be as long as a year! Really the choice is yours, though remember that your mind may be willing but your budget may not be!

How much? - Again, this varies from agent to agent. Ideal Cruising are an independant cruise agency that recieve large discounts, easily passed on to you the customer. Visit their website here