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.