CRUISE AND MARITIME EXPANDS INTO GERMAN MARKET

Cruise And Maritime Voyages showcase the highlights of Europe

Cruise And Maritime Voyages showcase the highlights of Europe

In a move officially announced today, Cruise And Maritime Voyages has announced the acquisition of the German operator, Transocean.

This gives the hitherto UK focused company an inroad into the potentially lucrative German market. As it stands, Transoceam has interests in both river and ocean cruising.

The beginnings of an understanding were reached last winter, when Cruise And Maritime chartered the 21,000 ton MS Astor from Transocean for an initial season of Australia and Pacific sailings, mainly from Fremantle. That arrangement had already been reconfirmed for winter 2014-15, prior to today’s announcement.

With immediate effect, this means that Cruise And Maritime will now assume marketing and promoting the 2014 programme of Astor cruises in Europe this year. In all, the well regarded ship, recently refurbished, will be offering some fourteen cruises between May and October, mainly sailing from Hamburg and Kiel, before she returns to Australia in November.

It also gives Cruise And Maritime a quartet of river vessels; Belvedere, with 176 passengers, the 150 passenger Bellefleur, Bellejour, with 180 passengers, and the smaller, 80 passenger  Sans Souci. 

Between them, this quartet operates across the Rhone, the Moselle, Danube, Main, Rhine, Neckar and Elbe, Oder, and Saone river networks.

The four German river boats, as well as the ocean going Astor, will continue to be advertised to the lucrative German market, though with some increasing international representation. Recently, Cruise And Maritime has opened offices in both Fort Lauderdale and Sydney.

The company also recently dipped a toe into the UK river cruise market, with the acquisition of the premium grade Vienna 1 for cruises on the Rhine. As with many products in the increasingly lucrative river cruising market, Cruise And Maritime fares include flights, transfers, all excursions, and on board wine or beer with dinner each evening.

As well as the shores of the amazing Amazon....

As well as the shores of the amazing Amazon….

On the deep ocean cruising front, Cruise And Maritime operates a brace of highly respected ‘ladies of a certain age’, in the shape of the veteran Marco Polo and the highly popular MV Discovery. Despite their lack of balconies and alternative restaurants, the two ships continue to book briskly, and have proved popular additions to the UK cruising roster.

This for now probably marks the limit of Cruise And Maritime’s expansion in terms of ocean cruising. There simply are not too many candidates about that fit the line’s preferred style of classic, ocean liner style voyaging on the market these days.

However, the river cruise market could be another matter altogether. And, no doubt, the line is looking at the possibility of some cross over trade between the ocean and river components. It makes for a whole raft of intriguing possibilities.

As always, stay tuned.

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TAKING FLIGHT; THE GREAT ESCAPE

Exchanging this....

Exchanging this….

As I write this, rain is thumping in vengeful torrents against my living room windows, just as it has done for around two hours. The wind is howling and shrieking like a Justin Bieber wannabe. Outside, the sky is grimmer than a gargoyle’s jockstrap. And yet here I sit, grinning like a proverbial village idiot. Oh, yes.

For the great escape is on. Ssshhhh…..

In a scant five days, I’ll be exchanging this grotfest for the warm, sunny skies of Miami and the Caribbean. Thanks to the lovely folk at Carnival Cruises, I’ll be pottering sedately around a quarter of sun splashed, Caribbean idylls. Hopefully, the only ice to be encountered will be in my lunch time margarita. Peachy, non?

This contrast between grim ‘now’ and glorious ‘next’ had the unexpected effect of making me ponder just how truly miraculous long distance air travel still is.  If all goes to plan, I’ll be touching down in balmy Miami just nine hours and forty minutes after departing from the unalloyed joy that is Heathrow. That thought alone warms me on some deep, inner level.

I’m on British Airways for my flight out; that airline usually does a fine job of getting me to where I need to be. In fact, I have used this same flight quite often. Coming back, I am at the tender mercies of American Airlines. And I don’t even want to think about that.

We all know the minuses of air travel, especially if you turn right at the cabin doorway. And the airport experience is never a joyride, no matter what class you fly. And yet, the sheer adrenaline surge of such an escape seems nothing short of miraculous right at this moment. The negatives can be dismissed with a casual shrug- for now at least.

They can be dismissed because the journey itself is a means to an end- a progression from dismal to delightful days. A bridge to the sun, if you will.

For this.....

For this…..

After all, if God had meant me to spend winter in such conditions as we’ve got right now, then he would hardly have put two airports within thirty miles of my front door now, would he?  That’s my rationale, and I’m clinging to it like a banker, hanging on to his last bonus cheque.

The idea of being able to get back to somewhere at once warm, welcoming and familiar, fills me with a kind of subtle, wonderful warmth. Oh, the joys of shedding four layers of clothing. To feel the warmth of the sun again.

In a sense, the journey has already begun. Anticipation is always the most sublime of appetizers out there. It won’t be long now.

And- my word- it just stopped raining. Quite literally.

CRUISE NEWS ROUND UP; GHOST SHIPS, CONCERT TRIPS AND OTHER BITS…..

"Oh, look, Jack! There's a ghost ship!"

“Oh, look, Jack! There’s a ghost ship!”

Well, we’ve seen it all this week, one way and another. What with ghost ships running amok, and Leann Rhimes singing for her supper on Carnival ships, there’s a boatload of high jinks going on in cruise land right now. Here’s a few of the things that have made me sit up and take notice over the last few days….

GHOST SHIP ON THE LOOSE

The story of the Lyubov Orlova has surfaced again this week. What was originally the sad tale of a dilapidated, derelict former expedition ship that had broken loose from an under powered tug in the middle of some vile Atlantic weather, has now been elevated to a ghastly saga of a grisly, fog shrouded ghost ship, looming menacingly toward the coast of Ireland, and all under the evil hegemony of a crew of ‘cannibal rats’, no less. Wow.

I think what we have here is a simple typo. What they actually meant to print was ‘cannibal rates’. This is obviously some kind of rodent theme cruise, I think. And, if I am wrong and these are, indeed, a crew of ‘cannibal rats’, does said crew have any kind of pecking order?

Still, I suppose we should be grateful that the media has, as yet, not found a way to connect the word ‘cannibal’ to ‘Carnival’. And, speaking of Carnival….

CARNIVAL ON SONG

At a gala event in New York last week, Carnival announced a stratospheric upgrade of its live, on board entertainment. The line will be bringing a whole raft of top of the range entertainers on board their ships to perform for passengers on certain cruises. Names in the frame include Olivia Newton John,  Leanne Rimes, and soul siren Jennifer Hudson, among many others.

These headliner performances will incur an extra charge, and there is also a supplement for a ‘meet and greet’ option, complete with a commemorative photograph. In recent years, Carnival has hosted a couple of short cruises, featuring the reformed New Kids On The Block, which have been hugely successful. These have obviously been the sounding board for this new, very extensive programme.

On other fronts, Carnival has also ramped up its live on board shows, with a greater emphasis on visuals and high tech features, as well as shorter, more punchy presentations. There is now a considerable emphasis on the quality of live music on board all the ships, all part of the Funship 2.0 evolution.

I’ll be on the Carnival Breeze next week to check out the new on board vibe. Stay tuned for an upcoming review.

SEABOURN TO BE FOUR

In a move that surprised absolutely no one (if you discount the crew of cannibal rats supposedly still adrift in the Atlantic), Seabourn has announced that it will build a fourth ship in the very popular Odyssey class, but with certain as yet unannounced enhancements.

Due to be delivered from the Italian Fincantieri yard in 2016, the as yet nameless ship will have a capacity for around six hundred guests. That puts her mid way between such rivals as Silver Spirit and Seven Seas Voyager in terms of capacity. More to the point, it almost makes up for the total number of berths that will be lost as the original trio- Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend- make the gradual transition over to Windstar.

LONG HAUL CRUISING- HEADING FOR HAWAII

Sailing out to Hawaii can be amazingly relaxing

Sailing out to Hawaii can be amazingly relaxing

However you get there, few would argue that Hawaii is one of the most alluring and seductive holiday vacation places on earth.

For our American friends, the islands are a five hour flight from Los Angeles; about the same as a flight from the UK to Egypt. And, as an American state, Hawaii offers all the comforts of home, wrapped up in a spectacular montage of brilliant beaches, surf and swaying palms, and even the odd mild, volcanic eruption.

For Europeans, it is not so easy to achieve, and realistically has to be done as part of a two centre holiday, usually with Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or even San Francisco. The long haul out from Europe to the west coast of the United States alone is twelve hours. And if your journey starts at a regional airport, longer still. That’s before you add on the extra transit time, and the additional five hour haul out to Honolulu.

Any way you serve it up, it’s one hell of a hike. Add on the cost of hotels- especially on Oahu- and you’re looking at a perfect storm of long, tetchy flights and a skyrocketing holiday cost. And that’s before you even begin to think about food, drink, and fun stuff.

Bottom line? It’s a long, hard journey, and not by any means a cheap gig once you get there.

Enjoy the lido lifestyle at sea en route to Hawaii

Enjoy the lido lifestyle at sea en route to Hawaii

Or, you could think of doing Hawaii by cruise ship. From Los Angeles and sometimes San Diego, cruise ships from Carnival, Princess and Holland America make a fourteen day round trip out to Hawaii and back, usually in the spring and autumn.

For both Americans and Europeans, these come with a number of pros and cons. For a start, it is a four day sail out- there and back- to the islands of Hawaii. That’s a lot of sea days. Bliss for some, but not for everyone.

And, just because you are on the sparkling Pacific, don’t imagine that it will always be as calm as a millpond. It won’t. And, being a cruise, most of these voyages do not stop overnight at any of the islands (though one or two make an overnight stop in Honolulu) So what you’ll see of the islands is rather more in the nature of snapshots, than an in depth experience.

On the other hand, you’re travelling in a safe, sealed environment, with all of your main meals and snacks included in the cost. That in itself is a huge financial saving. And, compared to cruises in Europe, a Hawaii cruise comes out pretty good, price wise.

For a more in depth, but still relatively economical option, you can fly into Oahu, and take a week long cruise from the centre of Honolulu itself. Norwegian Cruise Line has the Pride Of America cruising year round in the islands. And, unlike other ships, she offers longer stays, plus one or two overnights in port on each cruise.

Though you are still making the long flights out to Hawaii (and, indeed, back) there is always the option to break your journey on the west coast, either on the way out, the way back or, indeed, both. You could fly out via San Francisco, for instance, and come back via Las Vegas if the fancy takes you.

Carnival usually has a couple of spring and autumn round trip cruises to Hawaii

Carnival usually has a couple of spring and autumn round trip cruises to Hawaii

Personally, I would also have a couple of days in Honolulu itself, either pre or post cruise. It seems to me that a couple of days at least is needed to slide easily into that whole dreamy, aloha kind of vibe.

On this cruise, you actually spend very little real time sailing per se. The Pride Of America is, essentially, a floating hotel that changes the scenery each night. A typical Norwegian product with a very American emphasis, she is crammed with good things and fun stuff to do for your nights on board. Good for single passengers, too, as she boasts a few of the solo occupancy studio cabins, at a fairly decent price point.

There is no getting around the sheer logistical train wreck of travelling out to Hawaii and back, however you decide to do it. But if seeing these fabled islands is on your bucket list- and it should be- then you will bite the bullet, and do it anyway. That being so, one of these cruise options might just be the thing for you. Enjoy.

BIGGING UP BELFAST- SAFE TO VISIT?

The giant Goliath crane that dominates the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast

The giant Goliath crane that dominates the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast

I have to admit that I approached my first visit to Belfast with some trepidation. The so called ‘troubles’ that killed so many on both sides of the religious and political divide was a constant, jarring backdrop to my life for three decades. A good friend of mine died out there in the course of those. Back in those days, every image of the place seemed negative.

But the invite to take part in the centenary commemorations for the launch of the Titanic proved too much to resist. Because if there is any other shadow that looms over that proud, grimy city, then it is that of Titanic. She grew from the very ground of Belfast for over three years, literally towering over the skyline. Her loss triggered a kind of city wide nervous breakdown that is only now beginning to finally abate.

The story of that hugely moving event is told elsewhere on this blog. What concerned me was; what kind of a welcome- if any- would I find in a city that had been divided for decades by sectarianism; one that was polarised far more effectively in many ways than cold war era Berlin ever was.

I need hardly have worried. From my digs at the fine, funky Malmaison Belfast to the amazing, ornately tiled and overly gilded pubs, Belfast was far more open and welcoming than I ever dared hope. And, while I didn’t actively seek out areas of potential lingering menace such as the Falls Road, I felt perfectly safe and, more importantly, comfortable over my three day stay in Belfast.

The Titanic fitting out at Belfast, early 1912

The Titanic fitting out at Belfast, early 1912

The people are an earthy, resilient lot, full of warmth and self deprecation, all served up with a healthy dollop of irony. Thus, in the pub where the young Gerry Adams worked as a bartender, you can buy such exotic shots as the Car Bomb, served with nary a raised eyebrow anywhere. It is this kind of wry gallows humour that got the ordinary people through those violent, angry years.

The food is extraordinary. Belfast built it’s worldwide reputation on shipbuilding and linen factories but, being a sea port, it always boasted a thriving fishing industry. The seafood is a joy to savour; the Mourne Oysters are truly the stuff of legend. And, if you’re partial to a drop of Guinness (and I’m not) I’m assured that the local stuff is simply sublime.

Belfast is a compact, graceful little gem, with nuggets of Victorian architecture. The waterfront Albert Clock is a local landmark, shearing a few inches away from the vertical. It is said that a few locals climbed it to witness the launch of the Titanic on May 31st, 1911. It’s a big story in a city chock full of such tales. It may even be true.

The imposing City Hall on Donegal Street is approached along an avenue lined with street lamps, deliberately shaped like outstretched davits from long gone ocean liners. Each one is engraved with the name of one of the White Star liners that was built here between 1869 and 1930. Every single new build for that famous company was built here in Belfast. It is a rare, brilliant form of tribute, and it makes you realise just how important Harland and Wolff was to the city, and its economy.

Of course, it is the newly wrought Titanic Quarter that, ironically, has become the driving engine for the city’s future. But the story of that area belongs properly in another blog of it’s own.

Inevitably, the recent, still simmering residue of the ‘troubles’ is never far from the surface, and each side naturally has its own version of that era. You can tour the bloody highlights- if you’re so inclined- with separate protestant and catholic taxi drivers, and be regaled with two different versions of history. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between.

The Nomadic at Cherbourg. Now back in Belfast and completely restored, she is open daily to the public

The Nomadic at Cherbourg. Now back in Belfast and completely restored, she is open daily to the public

You could come here just to savour the ambiance of a string of perfectly preserved, Victorian era pubs, complete with deep, dark panelling, cosy little snugs, and a riot of opulent tiled wall coverings, both outside and indoors. My favourite was The Crown, a rollicking, boisterous hostelry jam packed to capacity at four in the afternoon. Only in Belfast would you see whiskey described on a chalk board as the soup of the day.

Belfast is like a patient slowly coming out of a forty year long coma, blinking herself awake, and gradually adjusting to harsh new realities. But the city is a beauty that begs your attention; proud, battered, storied and, as you’ll discover, infinitely hospitable. The people are open, welcoming, and brim full of stories. Go for the food. The oysters. Whatever. It’s all good.

I can’t wait to go back there. Belfast? Top city. Simple as that.

MS DEUTSCHLAND PICTURE BOOK

Steamer chairs on deck of the floating time capsule, the Deutchsland

Steamer chairs on deck of the floating time capsule, the Deutschland

Lobby with Tiffany glass ceiling fixture
Lobby with Tiffany glass ceiling fixture

Upper deck, looking aft

Upper deck, looking aft

Gold leaf statuary gives the Deutschland an elegant feel

Gold leaf statuary gives the Deutschland an elegant feel

Name board

Name board

Sailing through the Amsterdam canal

Sailing through the Amsterdam canal

Pool deck, with cushioned deck chairs

Pool deck, with cushioned deck chairs

Wrought iron furniture on the upper deck buffet

Wrought iron furniture on the upper deck buffet

Deck heads on the Deutschland

Deck heads on the Deutschland

Well, it can't be all work.....

Well, it can’t be all work…..

Entrance to the Gallery

Entrance to the Gallery

Lobby way with potted palms. You don't often see that these days

Lobby way with potted palms. You don’t often see that these days

Deutschland's main lounge. This could almost as easily be on the Olympic...

Deutschland’s main lounge. This could almost as easily be on the Olympic…

The style is pure turn of the 20th century

The style is pure turn of the 20th century

This ship really does take you back to the days of the old German liners of North German Lloyd

This ship really does take you back to the days of the old German liners of North German Lloyd

Even the interior promenade deck looks like a time warp

Even the interior promenade deck looks like a time warp

This lovely statue is on top of the ship's forward superstructure

This lovely statue is on top of the ship’s forward superstructure

Another shot of the main lounge

Another shot of the main lounge

Painting of the late Peter Deilmann, very much the man behind building the Deutschland

Painting of the late Peter Deilmann, very much the man behind building the Deutschland

The furnishings and filigree glass window fittings are just exquisite

The furnishings and filigree glass window fittings are just exquisite

Even the ceilings have beautiful mouldings

Even the ceilings have beautiful mouldings

Dance floor in the main lounge

Dance floor in the main lounge

Beautiful, frescoed ceiling and chandeliers in the Kaisersaal Ballroom

Beautiful, frescoed ceiling and chandeliers in the Kaisersaal Ballroom

Antwerp is just one destination on Deutschland's usual calendar

Antwerp is just one destination on Deutschland’s usual calendar

Artwork throughout the ship is beautiful and impressive everywhere

Artwork throughout the ship is beautiful and impressive everywhere

Entrance to the 'Old Fritz' Pub

Entrance to the ‘Old Fritz’ Pub

The attention to detail everywhere on this ship is simply incredible

The attention to detail everywhere on this ship is simply incredible

Outdoors on the 'Old Fritz' terrace at night. It has built in overhead heaters

Outdoors on the ‘Old Fritz’ terrace at night. It has built in overhead heaters

That famous 'Traumschiff' funnel is slated to be replaced in an upcoming refit

That famous ‘Traumschiff’ funnel is slated to be replaced in an upcoming refit

 

SILVER WHISPER PHOTO ALBUM

Interior stairwell and wall fresco

Interior stairwell and wall fresco

Panorama terrace
Panorama terrace

Even the stairways are Art Deco influenced

Even the stairways are Art Deco influenced

Russian buffet, Silver Whisper

Russian buffet, Silver Whisper

More of the buffet

More of the buffet

The Silver Whisper docked in Helsinki, August 2013

The Silver Whisper docked in Helsinki, August 2013

Suite corridor on Eight Deck

Suite corridor on Eight Deck

The pool deck, looking aft towards the funnel

The pool deck, looking aft towards the funnel

Wide angle shot of the pool and surrounding deck areas

Wide angle shot of the pool and surrounding deck areas

Sunset on the Panorama Terrace

Sunset on the Panorama Terrace

Interior of suite 824, my home for a week

Interior of suite 824, my home for a week

Sunset viewed from my balcony, looking towards the starboard bridge wing

Sunset viewed from my balcony, looking towards the starboard bridge wing

Balinese beds on deck

Balinese beds on deck

Got waffles? Breakfast, Silversea style

Got waffles? Breakfast, Silversea style

Looking forward along port side upper deck

Looking forward along port side upper deck

Pool and upper walkways, taken from the port side looking aft

Pool and upper walkways, taken from the port side looking aft

Buffet display in the restaurant

Buffet display in the restaurant

Pool deck day

Pool deck day

Deck (adence) pod, Silver Whisper

Deck (adence) pod, Silver Whisper

More Art Deco styling on the stairways

More Art Deco styling on the stairways

Wide, open corridors are a feature of all the Silversea ships

Wide, open corridors are a feature of all the Silversea ships

 

HELSINKI PHOTO ALBUM

Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral, seen from the harbour

Helsinki’s Lutheran Cathedral, seen from the harbour

Facade of Uspkensy Cathedral
Facade of Uspkensy Cathedral

Uspensky Cathedral is the largest such brick building in the world

Uspensky Cathedral is the largest such brick building in the world

Sentry on guard
Sentry on guard

Facade of City Hall

Facade of City Hall

 

Market stall produce on the Helsinki quayside

Market stall produce on the Helsinki quayside

The waterfront

The waterfront

Another waterfront shot

Another waterfront shot

Central fountain

Central fountain

Fountain close up

Fountain close up

Medieval door knocker

Medieval door knocker

Statuary masks in the city centre

Statuary masks in the city centre

Summer greenery in Helsinki city centre

Summer greenery in Helsinki city centre

Typical old stave church

Typical old stave church

Sailing ship and ferry in the harbour

Sailing ship and ferry in the harbour

Typical Finnish Art Nouveau building in the centre of Helsinki

Typical Finnish Art Nouveau building in the centre of Helsinki

SUBLIME ADVENTURES- SEADREAM TO SCANDINAVIA IN 2014

See Scandinavia, Seadream style

See Scandinavia, Seadream style

In something of a departure from it’s normal summer season in the waters of the Mediterranean and Aegean, one of the sumptuous brace of yachts operated by Seadream Yacht Club is coming north, to Scandinavian waters.

For a three month period lasting from the end of May until August 2014, the 4,400 ton, 115 guest Seadream I will be operating a series of nine voyages, varying in length from seven to fourteen nights. Seadream I will showcase the outstanding, high summer highlights of the beautiful Baltic and the stunning Norwegian Fjords in surroundings of casual, unstructured luxury. With all inclusive prices and open seating gourmet dining, both indoors and outside, the Seadream I offers a uniquely intimate vista from which to survey the amazing scenery over the course of the long, almost endless summer Scandinavian nights.

All outside window staterooms and suites feature marble lined, multi-jet showers and luxurious towelling and robes, a complimentary mini bar, exceptional quality bedding, an elegant sitting area. and a plasma screen television. Framed in gorgeous cherry wood veneers, they are the perfect place to relax and unwind. But, truth be told, the real attractions lie outside.

Imagine being able to see amazing Norwegian waterfalls, up close and personal at midnight from a gently bubbling Jacuzzi. Or sleeping on deck at night on gorgeous, private Balinese dream beds as you spend an overnight docked in the centre of epic Saint Petersburg. Seadream I is a subtle brew of casual elegance, invigorating shore adventures, and moments of indolence and individuality that adds a totally new dimension to the idea of exploring cruising’s most fabled inland sea, at exactly the best time of the year.

Top of the yacht. Top of the morning. Top of the evening...

Top of the yacht. Top of the morning. Top of the evening…

You can  feast outdoors on lamb chops and waffles for breakfast as you sail past Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, or enjoy champagne on deck under the midnight sun as you cruise past the gorgeous coastline of summertime Norway. With a list of options as long as the endless days of a Scandinavian summer, these summertime voyages aboard Seadream I showcase the beauty, style and sheer, historic splendour of Scandinavia in matchless style.

The intimate size and scale of Seadream I means that the yacht can deftly access some of the smaller, lesser known jewels of the region, offering a much more up front and personal experience of these hidden Scandinavian gems than many of the larger ships. Highlights include the stunning Swedish island of Visby, the Danish resort of Bornholm, and the fabled German seaside resort of Sassnitz. In Norway, Seadream I will sail deep into the fabled fjords of Gudvangen, Sognefjord and fabulous Fjaerland.

The yacht embarks guests in ports as varied as Hamburg, Stockholm, Bergen and Copenhagen. There is also a full, fourteen night round trip in August from Dover that goes right up to Saint Petersburg for a two night stay, before another enticing trip from Dover, back down to the highlights of the autumn Mediterranean.

Little Mermaid, Copenhagen harbour

Little Mermaid, Copenhagen harbour

As well as superb cuisine and elegant, attentive service, Seadream I offers the opportunity for many late night stays in some of the more off the beaten track ports, often until midnight or sometimes later. The schedule is nowhere near as rigid and inflexible as that of conventional cruise ships that have to offload, and then reboard literally thousands of passengers at a time.

Definitely one worthy of consideration.

GREETING NORWEGIAN GETAWAY- SOME PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Vast open spaces are the hallmark of the Norwegian Getaway

Vast open spaces are the hallmark of the Norwegian Getaway

Southampton greeted the debut of the stunning new Norwegian Getaway with a typically British concoction of weak sunshine and some intense, blustery showers. But that did nothing to dampen the sensational impact of this latest giant cruise ship, with it’s twenty eight different restaurants, five different twisting water slides, and three full levels of indoor and outdoor watering holes. The ship is intended to stun and boy, does she ever.

Those who saw sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, last year will find a huge amount that is instantly familiar. The differences are largely decorative; Getaway flaunts a sunny, Miami style of decor that was rendered mute by a relentless Sotonian downpour; Breakaway is pure, razzle and sizzle New York ambiance.

What I liked about Norwegian Getaway is her beautifully styled, almost classic ocean liner interiors, Wide, open spaces flanked by causal groupings of tables and wide, high back chairs give her her a real feeling of deep, rich glamour. And the vast, central spiral chandelier, which changes colour at different times of the day, is just wondrous.

The ships’ vast beam allows for much of this spatial largesse. Although always busy with people at all hours of the day and night, the flow is largely good, and creates a very upbeat buzz that permeates those spaces from bow to stern.

Prelude to the Illusionarium fantasy fest

Prelude to the Illusionarium fantasy fest

The Illusionarium combines a theatre in the round show with the allure of a supper club. The menu is a set, three course affair and, inevitably, some people were not happy with it. But the real feast here is the show itself.

This is a dizzying, high energy joyride through a series of magical tricks and illusions, performed almost table side by a cast of quirky, sometimes spectral characters, with amazing lightning and special effects. It’s a high intensity, audio visual roller coaster that hits you straight between the eyes with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. It is, quite simply, the most stunning show that I have seen on any ship, and I would say that seeing it is a must if you are on board.

There’s a nice gallery outside the library and card room that displays the history of the company, going right back to the pioneering Sunward. A couple of colour posters of the Norway were particularly evocative. There is also a nice collection of black and white photographs here. As it ploughs full speed ahead with new ships and strategies, this nod by Norwegian to its past is as timely as it is engaging.

And the Tropicana Room is a knockout. Swathed in dark, sultry wood veneers, framed by gorgeous, Art Deco light fixtures, and with an enormous, floor to ceiling glass window at the stern right behind the stage, it will be stunning in the Caribbean, when this dance venue cum supper club comes alive to a soundtrack of blistering salsa. In many ways, this is the most gorgeous and evocative room on the ship.

Norwegian Getaway is bound for the balmy Caribbean

Norwegian Getaway is bound for the balmy Caribbean

The whole vibe of the Norwegian Getaway is swaggering, sensational, and swathed in floor to ceiling luxury. Like many of the old Italian liners of the thirties, most of her public rooms are relatively small, intimate spaces that flank the edges of the vast thoroughfares, linked in the central atrium by a deceptively delicate looking set of glass staircases. It gives her a richness and depth that will only be truly apparent when she is in regular service, but the ship as a whole is a causal, spectacular triumph, a feel good joyride, brimming with good things from bow to stern.