Wednesday, February 28

Mobile (cell) phones at Sea

Many of today's cruisers can't the thought of leaving their technical toys at home and having no connection to friends and family, even at sea.
Increasingly, major cruise lines are offering a number of high-tech guest options - from Wi-Fi hot spots to cabin data ports, from mobile phone service to iPods and computer classes. Silversea Cruises reports 65 percent of its guests use some form of onboard Internet access, while 50 percent are using their mobile phones at sea. But spare a thought for your fellow travellers amongst all this technology.

Only a couple of years ago, the world news could only come via newsletters that were printed onboard and placed under cabin doors. The enjoyment of cruising was the fact that you could leave the rest of the world behind for a few days and not be stressed out. Cruising had always been a very relaxing way to travel. Since the innovative introduction of mobile phone use onboard many cruise ships, that feeling being unreachable is a thing of the past.

The biggest complaint of late is that some mobile phone users can be rude and inconsiderate. Speaking loudly and leaving their phones on no matter where they are, be it at the dinner table or in the theatre during a show. After a backlash from many cruise customers, some cruise lines are looking at placing restrictions and reminding passengers to turn off phones in areas like the restaurant, theatres, etc.

There are many benefits to this kind of mobile technology; the good thing about internet access and hotspots is that they are usually in given areas, areas that you don't have to visit, should you wish not to. With mobile phones its different, since the user can roam where they wish, disturbing the peace should that dreaded ‘crazy frog’ ring tone start up! I know I will certainly make use of mobile onboard my next cruise but I will limit my use to my cabin – besides, why would I want anyone listening into my conversations anyway?!

Gay Cruise Holiday Guide

Gays and lesbians are among the most enthusiastic cruise passengers around, with no shortage of choices available when it comes to booking the ship or itinerary to suit. Nearly all of the larger cruise companies want to attract gay cruise customers, although some are more gay-friendly than others. They can be a more attractive option than all-gay charters especially for cruisers who want to go somewhere different, or to have a more exclusive experience.

Many cruise operators now include social meetings for their onboard gay community referred to as ‘Friends of Dorothy’ or ‘FOD’ meetings. The term ‘FOD’ now appears on some ships' daily programs - but there's no guarantee you'll see one when you step onboard. The entertainment director onboard can decide to add or withdraw the meetings at any time, at their discretion.

The larger lines such as NCL and Princess cruises will include FOD meetings on most of their ships. Other cruise lines generally hold the FOD gatherings upon passenger request; large popular lines like Holland America, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean generally fall into this category. You won’t usually find them on the ultra-premium luxury lines like Cunard (QM2 is an exception), Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Sea Dream, Silversea, Yachts of Seabourn. Because of their small size, they rarely feel the necessity of offering FOD meetings. Just because a cruise line doesn’t hold official meetings, doesn’t mean that gay travellers aren’t welcome on board, that’s not the case at all.
If you don't see an FOD meeting scheduled on the first couple of nights onboard (the meetings are customarily held on one of the first sea days) and you would like to meet some new gay friends, ask for one! Make your request known to the cruise entertainment director early on. Do bear in mind that the length of the cruise as well as how port-intensive the itinerary is can affect whether there is room in the schedule for an FOD meeting.

Many of the cruise lines have trained their staff in sensitivity regarding homophobia, and have learned to extend the same accepting, friendly courtesies to gay passengers as they do to straight guests. This basically means you needn’t feel worried that you’ll be treated any differently by staff members simply because of your sexual orientation.

When it comes to public displays of affection, most people aren’t keen on watching someone sticking their tongue down the throat of their husband/wife/partner/lover at the dinner table, gay or straight. However, there is nothing wrong with a quick kiss, an arm around your loved one, or even holding hands. Just remember, that there will definitely be people who will take notice and disapprove but it’s your holiday and as long you're OK with it, then go ahead and stroll arm and arm along the promenade deck under the moonlight and have a great time!

Tuesday, February 6

How to book a Cruise deal online

There are a few ways to book your cruise:
  • Visit your local travel agent

  • Phone a call-centre cruise agency

  • Book online

No one particular way is better than another, it comes down to personal preference in the end, although its always a good idea to do your homework first whichever way you choose.
If you have not booked a cruise before, i recommend doing your research first and then consult a cruise expert either in a call centre or face to face in a local travel agency. If you are a cruise veteran and know your stuff, the Internet is crammed full of offers that can save you bundles of money!

Why is this so I hear you ask?
Because the internet gives you instant access to the top cruise agencies, those who sell high volumes of cruise and can therefore offer bigger discounts. The fact that human-interaction has been subtracted usually means that the agencies can survive on smaller profits and therefore pass savings and benefits onto the customer. This means basically you get the same cruise and same service for less – what you don’t get is to talk to someone in person when you book – but if you know your cruise onions this shouldn’t be an issue at all.

So what is an ‘online’ cruise agency?
Online cruise agencies are real companies with real staff, in most cases some of the most experienced and knowledgeable cruise sellers you could ever find – it’s just that the actual booking you make is an automated process. This doesn’t usually mean that there is no-one to take your call if you have a problem – however, its always good to double check that an online agency displays their telephone number and address clearly for piece of mind. If you find an agency that has no contact details other than an email, I recommend that you steer clear – the best agencies wont hide their contact details from you.

How to bag a cruise deal
First of all you need to decide on the criteria that you want your cruise to fulfil, with a set date or cruise line in mind, you are then prepared to take the next step and ‘surf’. Take a look at a few different websites and compare prices, look out for extra discounts for booking online which many companies do. Some companies also offer a price match guarantee so if you do find the cruise you want at the price you want – but with an agency you just don’t want to book with – ask other agencies if they will match the price you have been offered. If the price you give is genuine, most agencies are happy to oblige – beware though, agencies know the available margins on a cruise and can therefore spot a fictitious price from a mile off!

Is buying a cruise online secure?
Always look for a security certificate, when you enter any personal details the following should happen:

  • A padlock symbol should appear in the bottom right hand corner of the browser bar

  • The web address should begin with https://

Every legitimate cruise agency should have at least two affiliations: ABTA and PSARA. Before you book your cruise you should verify the agent’s legitimacy by asking the agent for their professional credentials: ABTA and PSARA identification numbers. Then go to the web sites for these organisations and check the agent's credentials.

Good luck and happy cruise shopping!

Unveiling Ventura – The UK’s largest cruise ship

P&O Cruises have managed to excel the high standards that they are renowned for with what promises to be the most anticipated cruise ship launch for the company. Plans for the £300million super liner, designed specifically for us, British holidaymakers, will be the largest ship ever built for the Southampton based cruise line.

Ventura will be launched in April 2008 and will have an emphasis on fine dining, modern and contemporary art and family entertainment.
Marco Pierre White, the world’s youngest to win three Michelin stars, will create a signature fine dining restaurant on board Ventura - to be called The White Room. He is also acting as a dining consultant to P&O Cruises, training staff and designing menus, in the build up to Ventura’s maiden voyage from Southampton.

Ventura will be a floating showcase for the very best in British contemporary art, with 7,000 different pieces from 55 artists will be exhibited onboard thanks to the Tate Modern. These art themed cruises will give passengers the chance to attend seminars, presentations and even take part in practical art classes on board.

The Ventura is going to be a visually stimulating ship , designed by British designer Nick Munro. Nick is renowned for his unique furniture, ceramic and home ware designs and Ventura will be creating bespoke items designed specifically for contemporary British tastes

The Ventura will also be geared towards families with a facility that will be comprised of four activity areas, a family restaurant, and kids & parents-only pools. For the first time, P&O Cruises has designed an area specifically for parents to supervise their children aged less than two years old. Noddy will make periodic appearances on board Ventura throughout the year to bring enjoyment to Ventura’s younger passengers at character breakfasts and during playtime. Older children on Ventura will be offered lessons in how to become a rock star, learning how to play guitar, keyboards and drums.

P&O Cruises have designed Ventura for those who may have not previously thought of cruising as their holiday. Ventura hopes to be an introduction for those who usually choose land-based holidays although families, younger couples and experienced cruisers will all enjoy this big, modern ship.

See for yourself! Take a look at the Ventura virtual tour