The great QM2 will embark on her 250th Atlantic crossing in November this year

The Queen Mary 2 will embark passengers today for an historic Atlantic crossing- her 250th such voyage since she first entered service in January of 2004.

The great liner will sail from the Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn, New York, on an eight day eastbound transatlantic crossing this afternoon.

Following her arrival in Southampton on December 3rd, the Queen Mary 2 will conclude her 2015 season with three additional sailings; a twelve night round trip cruise to the Canary Islands will be followed by a return, seven night crossing to New York departing on December 15th.

Following her scheduled arrival back in New York on the 22nd December, the Queen Mary 2 will sail her customary, round trip Christmas and New Year’s cruise to the Caribbean, before embarking once more for Europe on January 3rd, 2016.

Next summer, the Queen Mary 2 will embark upon the most complete and comprehensive refit since her aforementioned debut. Carried through by the SMC Design company, the work will see the installation of some forty five new cabins; thirty new Britannia Club balcony cabins, and a long overdue, dedicated fifteen single cabins.

Also of note is the transformation of the current Winter Garden into a new venture called the Carinthia Lounge. Located on Deck 7, the redesigned venue will hosts breakfasts and light lunches, as well as champagne afternoon teas, and evening entertainment.

Elsewhere, the interior of the liner will be refreshed to give her more of a classic Art Deco feel, a process should help to emphasise her North Atlantic heritage.

The refit is slated to be carried through in Hamburg over the period from May 27th to June 21st 2016, inclusive. Queen Mary 2 will then resume service with a ten night, scheduled transatlantic crossing from Hamburg and Southampton to New York.

The extent of the refit makes this the most eagerly anticipated refurbishment of the 2016 cruising season so far announced. No doubt it will also prove to be the most extensively scrutinised one as well.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.



Dear blog reader;

By popular demand, our esteemed guest reviewer, Mrs. Myrtle Ethel Lardburger III is back to regale us with another of her- ahem- uniquely incisive reviews.

Here, she reviews the cuisine sampled aboard a recent mega ship cruise somewhere ‘out there’. So, without any further ado- it’s over to Myrtle… 


Our guest reviewer was not moo-ved by the on board food…..

Hi there folks!

I am so diluted to be back here to share my considerisms on cruise ship food with you all!

We’d best start with breakfast in the buffet restaurant, I guess. Really, these plates need to be bigger, I’m afraid.

By the time I had put on my bacon, sausages, ham, toast, hash browns, eggs, waffles, jelly donuts and ice cream, the damned plate looked like a sculpture of Mount Everest. Then the ice cream melted and ran all over the bacon. Some damned fool tried to plant a flag on top of it and then claimed it in the name of some banana republic. Didn’t even have the courtesy to offer me a goddamn banana, even.

Well, I can overlook lots of things, but those kind of bad manners are most definitely not to my taste, let me tell you!

We tried the so called special new ‘Chinese breakfast’ one morning, and this took forever. We ordered the Chinese style Corn Flakes. It’s damned hard work picking up milk with chopsticks, let me tell you.

One day, we had lunch in the main dining room. I asked for the Vichysoisse to start with.

This was disappointing, sorry to say. Had to ask three times for them to take it back into the kitchen and heat it up. Waiter didn’t understand simple English. And I’m often assured that my spoken English is very simple, indeed. Go figure!

They had Angel Hair pasta on the menu. Herb always says that my hair makes me look like an angel so, of course, I ordered it.

Sad to say, that pasta was a disasta. Damn thing looked like something that had crawled off the top of Donald Trump’s head. I stabbed it with a fork and it scuttled off the plate, ran clean across the room, and crawled up the inside leg of some guy on another table. Guy sat there for the rest of lunch with a stupid grin on his face. Wasn’t grinning when I bitch slapped him across the face with a slice of Dover Sole, mind you. Myrtle one, pasta thief nil.

One night, we got to have dinner in the very posh, extra pay restaurant. I think it was called Il Tarantulato, or something like that.

Well anyway, it started very badly. The Maitre D’ was a real snob; the sort of guy whose nose is so far in the air that he sneezes on low orbiting satellites. Had the nerve to demand that Herb cover up his wife beater and take off his best Steelers cap. This, of course, did not bode well for the evening.

Jesus, the menu was bigger than Pavarotti’s ass. I kid you not, people. And everything was written in this kind of fancy foreign scrawl. Who knew that there were so many different ways to write ‘Burger’ in Portugonese, for crissakes?

Anyway, I decided on the Gateaubriand for a main course. Piece of cake, you might think. But no. Not with this troupe of clueless clowns.

Out comes this whole slab of roasted cow, wheeled out on a trolley. I knew just how it felt, poor thing. After five margaritas, I usually have to be wheeled out on a trolley, too. But I digress.

When I pointed out that this was not what I required, I was informed that ‘my pudding will follow’. Well, that is a disgraceful way to describe my husband! Herb may be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, and he may be a touch flabby around the jowls, but referring to him as a ‘pudding’? I at once went and made an official complaint to Captain Speaking, of course.

His reaction was to start repeatedly stabbing himself with his fork, while banging his head off the table at the same time. I get it; if I had such an incompetent Maitre D’ to apologise for, I’d bang my head off the table as well.

So no, this kind of dining left us definitely wanting more, I’m afraid. We were not impressed with either the food or the service. Damned waiters were all like extras from The Walking Dead. I’ve seen more animation at an undertakers’ convention.

We are sorry, but we have to give this one the thumbs down. Safe travels, y’all- we’ll be back with more real soon.

Love, H+M





The stylish Carnival Splendor is Bermuda bound in 2016

Over the past couple of decades, the summer Bermuda cruise season has become more or less dominated by a ‘big three’ composed of Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International.

So complete is this dominance that many potential Bermuda bound passengers overlook other possible options for travelling to the island from a number of different American ports.

For 2016, Carnival is offering no less than ten ex-USA sailings to Bermuda on five different ships, each of which offers at least one overnight stay, and some offer two. Like most ships these days (exception; the four 2016 sailings by Holland America Line), all ten of these calls will use the main mega ship berth at King’s Wharf, on the western side of the island.

So, for those of you that might want to add a little ‘Fun Ship’ style and frivolity to the peace and beauty of Bermuda, here are the options available to you throughout 2016.

Carnival Pride is offering  a brace of five day cruises from Baltimore, Maryland. Sail dates are April 10th and October 26th.

She will also offer a pair of seven night cruises from the same port, departing on September 4th and 18th.

Carnival Sunshine will sail a five night itinerary from Norfolk, Virginia, on October 23rd. Prior to this, the same ship will sail on a seven night itinerary from New York on October 1st.

From Charleston, SC, Carnival Ecstasy showcases a pair of seven night sailings to Bermuda, departing on May 12th and November 6th, respectively.

Carnival Victory offers a southern twist on the classic Bermuda cruise experience, with a one off, eight night sailing that departs from Port Canaveral on May 19th.

Last, but not least, the Carnival Splendor features a nine day Bermuda cruise, sailing from Miami on May 26th. This cruise features a single overnight stay in Bermuda, and additional Caribbean calls at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, and also Grand Turk, in the Bahamas. This one is a particularly lovely combination.

For the UK market, many of these cruises can be packaged with stays in landmark cities such as Miami and New York. And, for something more than a little different, you could combine a Bermuda cruise with a stay in the genteel, old world pace and grace of beautiful Charleston.

All of these cruises present good options to enjoy this beautiful, still very much off the beaten track destination, at the best time of the year.




Holland America blends traditional ocean going luxe with modern standards of cleanliness and hygiene

Holland America Line’s MS Eurodam scored an unparalleled, ninth consecutive 100  per cent cleanliness score in an unscheduled United States Public Inspection (USPH) at Fort Lauderdale on October 25th.

The 86,000 ton, 2,100 guest Eurodam was in the course of a turn around for a seven day Western Caribbean cruise. As it happens, this blogger was one of the 2,100 passengers embarking that day.

Holland America Line ships have always been historically spick and span. Back in the 1920’s, the well travelled wit and raconteur, Basil Woon, wrote in his book, The Frantic Atlantic, that ‘a speck of dirt on a Dutch ship might be enough to make the Chief Steward commit suicide.’

Despite this magnificent achievement- and I can personally attest that this snap inspection resulted in none of the  embarkation delays sometimes associated with USPH inspections at Fort Lauderdale on October 25th- Eurodam is far from unique in the Holland America fleet for attaining a perfect score.

In recent years, fleet mates Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Ryndam, Statendam, and Veendam have also hit 100 per cent score rates. This year alone, some six vessels across the fleet have been given some nine perfect scores. Statendam and Ryndam have since left the Holland America fleet to begin new careers as part of the P&O Australia cruise fleet.

Well done to all concerned, This represents a truly epic achievement by all departments on board what I can personally testify is, indeed, an immaculately well kept and staffed vessel.



Enjoy memorable sunsets on a Princess cruise to Mexico

Princess Cruises will offer no less than sixteen seven and eight night Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles over the coming winter season.

Beginning on November 21st, both Crown Princess and Ruby Princess will be making round trip right through until April 9th next year, and again from October 2016 onwards.

The far more numerous seven night sailings follow the traditional, three port round trip circuit, with calls at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Two eight night seasonal sailings, departing on December 19th and 27th respectively, will also add on the port of Manzanillo.

All round trip itineraries allow for a minimum of three sea days.

The Princess commitment to the resurgent Mexico run matches recent redeployments to the area by ships from Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Holland America Line is also offering a series of similar sailings, departing from the port of San Diego.

Whether Royal Caribbean will return to the Mexican run remains to be seen; as of now, no sailings for the area are listed on the current UK website.

Of course, Princess are no strangers to the Mexican Riviera; back in the ‘Love Boat’ days of old, the weekly television series revolved around the fun and frolics happening aboard a Princess ship as she sailed these self same waters. The show became a television staple and, indeed, many people still credit it today for starting the great, ongoing cruise boom of the last three decades.

These current Princess ships sailing to Mexico are a lot more sassy, stylish and amenity laden than their dainty Seventies forebears, and the allure of the Mexican Riviera seems to have finally rebounded positively after a few years becalmed by rising crime rates. As a voyage, it provides a welcome, less frenetic option for winter sun seekers that might be jaded with the Caribbean.

Worth considering, especially with a few pre or post cruise hotel days at one of those sun splashed beach cities of LA.


See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

As part of a series of ongoing investments and improvements to its brand, Celestyal Cruises will commence a first ever, year round programme of winter cruises from Greece, beginning in 2018.

These winter itineraries will take the form of a series of seven night, three continent cruises, to be operated by the Celestyal Olympia. The 38,000 ton ship, familiar to many as the former Song Of America of 1982, will sail from the port of Lavrion, just outside of Athens, Ports of call will include Antalya in Turkey, Jerusalem, Port Said for Cairo, and Rhodes. An itinerary that uniquely allows passengers to set foot in Africa, Asia and Europe on each round trip.

This route marks a welcome diversion for the company’s largest ship, which usually spends four months of the year laid up each winter in Piraeus, before resuming her spring and summer programme of three and four night mini cruises to the Greek islands and Turkey.

Celestyal also plans further enhancements at the line’s new fleet home port of Lavrion, the closest actual embarkation point for passengers flying into Athens. It is one of a number of bidders currently looking to build a new pier and, given the importance of the cruising sector to the overall Greek economy, the company is likely in prime position to achieve its aims.

In other developments, Celestyal Cristal will offer another season of seven night, winter cruises around Cuba this winter. And next spring, the line will introduce the 19,000 ton Celestyal Nefeli on a route that features a lot of Turkish highlights.

Plans are also afoot to embark passengers from both Kavala and Thessaloniki, located on the northern shores of the Aegean, in a couple of years’ time, in order to tap into the potentially very lucrative eastern European market.

Interesting times at the specialist Greek islands operator here. As ever, stay tuned for updates.


Flying high- or sometimes not....

Flying high- or sometimes not….

By their very nature, international airports are intended to be rapid transit centres. Passengers leave and arrive in a constant, ongoing flow. The entire set up is designed to facilitate this two directional flow as fluidly as possible.

In general, the system works. But what happens when something goes horribly wrong? What happens when that whole, free flowing machine snarls up and shudders to a halt?

I had the dubious honour of discovering that the other week, when my overnight flight from Atlanta made landfall in an Amsterdam so smothered in thick fog that it was even hard to make out the wingtip of our plane as it crept along the runway.

Along with many others, my flight back to Newcastle had been cancelled. Faces already strained by the reality of a long haul, overnight flight now dropped visibly as a conga line of cancellations rolled down the departure screens. A long, low collective groan seemed to rise out of nowhere.

Inevitably, a long, long line of refugees began to snake towards the transfers desk. And each minute, it grew longer. We were clearly in for an extended wait.

Six and a half hours later, I finally made it to the front of the checking line. By now, Schipol was suffused in brilliant sunshine, but numerous backlogs had built up. I was not able to get a flight to Newcastle that day.

Instead, I managed to bag the last seat on a flight to Durham Tees Valley. I asked specifically if my baggage- which the staff confirmed had arrived in Amsterdam- would definitely be transferred to the Teeside flight. I was assured that it would be.

Needless to say it wasn’t, but that’s getting ahead of the curve.

How did Schipol deal with those vast, snaking lines on that November day?

Within an hour, airport staff were distributing bottled water, sandwiches and other snacks right along the lines. These were pretty constant, and kept on coming. Needless to say, they were very welcome.

Obviously, there was nowhere to sit during this process and, inevitably, six hours’ constant standing shredded the nerves of many to snapping point. But really, what else could the airport staff do? Nothing as far as I could see.

I’m not sure if any of the quintet of girls behind those recheck desks got so much as a tea break over those frantic, messy hours. They were shouted at and yelled at by people for a situation that they had done nothing to create. They endured tears, tantrums, downright threats and outright pleading. I cannot even begin to imagine the stress levels that they must have been under.

The point is that they did not want to be in this awful situation any more than we did. Yet they seemed to remain constantly polite and attentive to each hassled client, as successive tales of woe unwound.

It took them maybe ten minutes in the end to sort out my problem once I got to the desk. I was offered a food and drink voucher (Ten Euros) without having to ask for it and yes, I was dealt with politely and fairly. But then, I wasn’t ranting and  screaming at anyone.

I finally got home some twelve hours late, minus my luggage. Despite the assurances at Amsterdam, I was half resigned to this being the case (or not the case, so to speak) in any event. As is customary, I left my home details at the airport for them to send the luggage on to me, fully expecting it to take at least a day or two,

Imagine my surprise, then, when my luggage was delivered to my front door within an hour of my finally getting home. A truly emotional reunion, and one totally unexpected. Kudos to KLM for turning it round so quickly.

Make no mistake, this was by no means a ‘fun’ experience. But no one can make weather and, for the most part, both Schipol and KLM did the best that they could in a situation that everyone must dread. They showed concern, compassion and care, as well as sporadic bouts of obvious confusion as news updates failed to filter quickly through from the bosses to the staff in the trenches.

That’s it, really.


Twilight Of The Goddesses- the magnificence that is QE2

Twilight Of The Goddesses- the magnificence that is QE2

After months of silence from Dubai, words of sort finally emerge on the future of the QE2.

Those in charge at DP have been moved to say on record that the great lady will ‘not be scrapped’ and that a ‘new plan’ is extant for her future.

Of course, we have heard words from these people before. Over time, a conga line of preposterous pronouncements, followed by awkward silences, came and went to such an extent that, in the end, people (myself among them) lost all faith in anything that these gentlemen either said or did. Talk, after all, is the cheapest thing on tap in Dubai.

But, this time, actions came before words. And there lies perhaps the crucial difference.

After years of being allowed to gradually gather dirt beneath that pitiless sun, QE2 was gradually cleaned the other week. on the exterior from bow to stern. This was done quietly, and without any fuss. There was no immediate word from Dubai as to the reason for this much needed TLC. No, I don’t know what prompted the change of heart, either, though I do of course welcome it. It was almost as if the old girl flashed us a wry smile after years of grimacing in quiet, dignified agony.

What I do know is that any potential scrappers would not care if the ship appeared unkempt or not. Rust streaked, unsightly steel is no less valuable than the pristine equivalent. This gives me the first, vague hope that the great lady is not being smartened up simply for a final stroll to the scaffold. More seems to be going on here.

After the PR disasters of the supposed initial refit, then the bruited stint in South Africa, and finally the intended voyage to the Far East, I am still more than a little wary of any pronouncements on the future of QE2. Once again, talk is cheap.

‘A new plan’ is, of course, about as vague and unspecific an announcement as can be made. Thinner in substance than a snow carpet in Satan’s living room, it hints, but does not deliver anything of substance. And, until we see flesh on bones, none of us that treasure QE2 will wholly believe it.

But that was then, and this is now.

Don’t get me wrong; we are entitled to be cynical, and lacking in either faith or trust in light of the past. But- against my better judgement and all logic- I cannot help but feel the first, faint stirrings of hope for the ship since November of 2008.

QE2 is a big, feisty lady, and getting her moving- either actually or in another sense- will be a long, ponderous job. And, as ever, it will all come down to mindset. The current mindset in Dubai remains an unknown, inscrutable thing.

But some of us can sense the first, tentative tremors of life beginning to run through her again, something like a flower that slowly opens and blooms after a long, suffocating winter, Any recovery will be slow, stubborn, controversial and, of course, never to everyone’s liking.

There may very well be tears, stubbornness, miscommunication and sheer intransigence to come in the months ahead. But, like the Queen that she has always been, QE2 herself will continue to rise serenely above it all.

I, for one. owe her nothing less than the same courtesy. So, Dubai- it’s over to you. Work with us to help restore, preserve and promote the lady. I’m game if you are.

The ball is firmly in your court.


Happy days; the dainty little Deutschland is off to Poenix Seereisen

Happy days; the dainty little Deutschland is off to Poenix Seereisen

While I was enjoying myself swanning around the Caribbean the other week, several quiet but subtle developments were going on behind the scenes in the cruise and ocean liner industry. Here’s my take on some of them.

First up, a big, heartfelt ‘well done’ to all at the SS. United States Conservancy for managing to secure another lifeline for this valiant, fabled ship. The story of their struggle would make for a wonderful movie script, even if we know that the final chapter has yet to be written. Hopefully, it will prove to still have a happy ending.

On the Dubai front, I’ll have something to say about the latest QE2 developments in a separate, upcoming blog. Stay tuned for that one.

Truly wonderful is the news that Phoenix Seereisen will take on the troubled, unsettled Deutschland. Not only does this put this gorgeous little jewel box back under German ownership, but it will also see her welcome return to the German cruising market. And, as an added bonus, this lovely little ship will finally be refitted with the ‘Juliet’ balconies that were bruited for her back in the last days of Peter Deilmann ownership. These should help to give this lovely little ship some kind of competitive edge, and ensure she remains a viable cruise option for a good few more years.

Sadly, almost inevitably, the end has come for the former Kungsholm of 1966. I suspect that politics played a part in the ship not being able to find a permanent future berth in either Stockholm or Gothenburg, and now the venerable, 28,000 ton paragon has left on a final, one way voyage to the scrapyard.

In any event, she was a ship with a hugely storied career. Many in the UK in particular will remember her as the Sea Princess, a long standing and popular member of the UK cruising market. Even with the unsightly truncation of her original forward funnel, she was a fine, stately, beautifully crafted paragon of an ocean liner that made a successful transformation into a long serving, hugely popular cruise ship.

But, on a final optimistic note, it was heartening, indeed, to hear that Viking Ocean Cruises has ordered another pair of vessels in its hugely anticipated ocean going fleet. Lead ship. Viking Star, has thus far cut an enviable swathe through the cruise industry, and continues to garner huge praise. And, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke- don’t fix it.

As ever, stay tuned.


Sometimes, it really is better in the Bahamas......

Sometimes, it really is better in the Bahamas……

What a day for a daydream; what a day for a daydreaming boy..”

Daydream; The Loving Spoonful, 1966. Lyrics by John Sebastian.

There were many things I was looking forward to about my cruise on the Eurodam. And returning to Holland America Line’s ‘private island’ of Half Moon Cay was right at the top of the list.

The Bahamian outpost is actually a part of Little San Salvador, one of a series of some seven hundred islands sprinkled like stepping stones amid the sparkling azure hue of the ocean. Carnival Corporation- the parent company of Holland America-bought the island for something like six million dollars in December, 1996, and promptly proceeded to develop an area of roughly fifty acres into a kind of ‘catch all’ day break destination for passengers cruising the Caribbean.

Geographically, Half Moon Cay lies some one hundred miles to the south east of Nassau, the capital of the Bahama Islands. But, in terms of crowds, temperament and tempo, it is practically on another planet entirely.

So successful has Half Moon Cay become that it is now also a prime destination of choice for vessels of the parent Carnival Corporation. And, when you see this sizzling, sultry little gemstone, the reasons for that success are instantly apparent.

Half Moon Cay is strictly low rise in appearance, but sky high in terms of stunning visual impact. The entree is a perfectly hewn, semi circular arc of tissue soft, powder white sand lapped by almost supine, electric blue waters- a literal Half Moon, as it happens. Beyond this, clearly marked winding trails lined with hibiscus, frangipani and rows of deep, vibrant shrubbery, form a backdrop inhabited by local wildfowl, making the whole area ideal for nature lovers and ramblers.

We came bumbling ashore from the Eurodam on tenders, in itself a thrilling enough entree to what lay ahead. While many passengers do not enjoy the tendering experience, I am one of those people that have always savoured it as a kind of spray tinged appetizer to the fun and frolics awaiting ashore. It certainly hones the anticipation to knife point sharpness for me.

Meanwhile, para gliders flit across the sky like so many skittish butterflies. Jet skis roar and splutter across the sparkling briny like scampering water beetles. From the nearby barbecue- literally unloaded from the ship and cooked ashore- the smell of jerk chicken, burgers, and a whole other conga line of goodies floods the fresh, mid morning air.

Half Moon Cay is essentially a surreal, sweetly scented netherworld; a kind of idealised dream destination. Shorn of the need to do anything more demanding than grab another Margarita from any of the numerous bars that sprinkle the landscape, you sag with pathetic gratitude into a kind of submissive, smiley stupor once ashore. In an ideal world, every day would truly be like this.

After a while, wading through the tame, milk warm surf while holding a drink and talking to friends just became so- normal. Further along the expanse of that flawless beach, other passengers lolled in seafront cabanas, while others rode horses through the same surf that we strolled with such indolent indifference.

And yes, we could have gone deep sea fishing, or possibly have taken a glass boat ride to take in the stunning smorgasbord of underwater coral. We could have gone kayaking, sail boating, or we could even have hauled ourselves aboard a Hobie catamaran. And, for those so inclined, there was certainly no shortage of water toys to frolic with on that sparkling, sun kissed ocean.

But that would have involved making a conscious effort. One involving actual motivation on a day when, well, the sun was in the sky, the beer was cold, and the sand was just so damned warm between my toes. And yes, I folded. First world problems, eh?

Even the palm trees seemed to be saying ‘chill out’ as they danced an idle, soporific skit against a backdrop of clouds that drifted by like so many giant, ghostly galleons of old. And, through a filter of reggae and old sixties tunes, the words of that old John Sebastian classic, quoted at the start of this article, came flooding back to remind me of the day’s really urgent, to do business.

So, another Margarita it is. Reality? A damned interesting concept.

But not today, thank you. No sir, not today.