I was just looking at the flight itinerary for an upcoming trip next month, going through the details for each stage of the three flight journey each way, when I was struck by a sudden revelation.

That six flight round trip- from Newcastle to Fort Lauderdale, Florida- features no less than five different kinds of aircraft. Is this some kind of record?

If not, it points up just how diverse a carrier KLM- the Dutch national airline-has become over the years.

I prefer using KLM for both European and long haul travel if at all practical, because it allows me the option of avoiding Heathrow, instead changing at the far more user friendly and well laid out ‘home base’ at Amsterdam Schipol instead.

The economy product is actually pretty good, especially long haul. Some people complain about the new seat design installed in the last few years- mainly in the Boeing 777-200- but, truth be told, I don’t have a problem with it.

Anyway, back to the flights;

The first flight- from Newcastle to Schipol- is on one of those spiffy little Embraer E90 planes, with double seat configuration and just over a hundred passengers. Thse are trim, tidy little ‘puddle jumpers’ that are, in my opinion, vastly superior to the usual Boeing 737’s that KLM use on short haul European routes, as far out as Istanbul (I came back from Istanbul on one of these the other week). Either way, it’s a spiky little plane to start a long, long trip on.

I’m anticipating the usual, easy transfer at Schipol. The other week, I was able to change planes here with only forty minutes as a window. That alone points up how user friendly this airport is. And yes, my luggage did make it.

The second flight is on one of the revamped KLM Boeing 777/200 planes out to Atlanta. Economy comes in a 3-3-3 configuration here and, though I prefer the 2-4-2 configuration of the American Airlines 777, there is a new seat back screen on the KLM flight that serves up something like one hundred and fifty different feature films on demand. In other words, there is more than enough to keep me amused on the nine hours and fifteen minutes’ haul out to Atlanta.

Long haul, KLM tends to be pretty good. The food is decent and plentiful (for most), the staff are usually very pleasant and helpful, and the airline offers an open bar right throughout the flight. I’m told that they now deliver ice cream treats in mid flight as well. So I’m anticipating some nice food and drink, a decent film or two, and then hopefully I will slip into a happy, wine fuelled slumber before wheels down in Atlanta.

Atlanta. Gawd. Now we are talking about one hot mess of an airport…..

Still, i have almost two hours to do the mandatory customs and immigration checks here before changing terminals. From there on in, I am at the tender mercy of Delta Airlines.

As the code share partner of KLM, Delta will (hopefully) be wafting me from Atlanta down to spiffy, very user friendly Fort Lauderdale airport. Anyone who has used this airport will tell you what a vast improvement it is on the horror story known as Miami International, some twenty-five miles distant.

From there, the real fun begins; a week’s effortless, indulgent cruising around the western Caribbean aboard Holland America Line’s stunning Eurodam. And there is something almost poetic about taking Dutch flights to board a Dutch ship which, to my mind, just seems so damned right.

But, after the ball, the long haul home will still await me.

Once more, the first leg sees me at the tender mercies of Delta. It’s back off from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta on yet another like as not hideously overcrowded Boeing 757.

Last time I flew Delta long haul, the plane was delayed a full hour on the ground in Miami because of an engine fault. Airborne, about an hour into the flight, the pilot suddenly announced that we would have to turn back, because of a problem with the engine….

Cue one rather anxious travel writer until our wheels kissed the tarmac; not in Miami, but at Atlanta in the small hours. Result; a six hour wait for a replacement aircraft and crew.

But I digress- from Atlanta overnight to Amsterdam, I’m back with KLM. The Dutch airline flies an Airbus A330-300 on this route; a twin engine jet that seats economy class passengers in a 2-4-2 configuration that I’m much more comfortable with.

Any kind of Airbus is unusual for KLM; the company has almost always purchased it’s aviation hardware from Boeing. None the less, I’ve been on lots of these planes- mainly with the now defunct US Airways- and I find them a robust, reasonably roomy and comfortable plane to spend an overnight flight cocooned in.

Service and amenities are pretty much on a par with the outward flight and, with a bit of God’s good grace, I might snatch a few hours’ sleep on board before our descent back into Schipol.

I would rather transit Schipol any day in the early morning hours, instead of that random, disjointed mess called Heathrow. Two and a half hours here allows plenty of time for a good breakfast and some wonderfully reviving Dutch coffee, before the final, short hop.

Here’s where KLM gets all too predictable; one of their ubiquitous Boeing 737’s will be waiting to shepherd me over the North Sea on the last, one hour plus run back into trim, tidy Newcastle International.

God knows, I’ve done hundreds of flights over the decades, but I can honestly say that I think this is the first such journey that has involved five different kinds of planes on the same ticket.

Anticipated highlights? Well, my first flight is not until one fifteen in the afternoon, and that alone means a full nights’ sleep before I fly. Normally I am at the airport at four in the morning before I fly to the USA, and thus usually tired and irritable from the get-go. Not this time, by the looks of things.

Second; the Boeing 777 long haul. Yes, I know that you’re more or less confined to one seat for over nine hours. But when was the last time that you had nine hours just to indulge in food, drink, entertainment of your choice, and even sleep en route to anywhere? Hopefully fate will be kind, and give me agreeable seating companions. If not, that’s what headphones are for.

Third; being able to do my customs and immigration in Atlanta. This means that when I do finally rock up at Fort Lauderdale not long before midnight, my flight will be classed as a domestic arrival. Just need to pick up my luggage and head for that sign marked ‘Exit’. Hopefully.

Dreads; Atlanta airport. Simple as that.

KLM is not an overly luxurious airline, but it is in general solid and dependable, and it has a reliable, reassuring air-pun wholly intentional- which is half the battle when you are contemplating being catapulted half way around the world via a string of sudden, rapid jaunts.

I’ll be reviewing the actual long haul flights as and when I get back from the Caribbean. So, if air travel is your thing- or even just a passing concern- then it might be worth checking back to this blog in a few weeks.

As ever, pray stay tuned.

KLM livery is distinctive, and immediately recognisable

KLM livery is distinctive, and immediately recognisable


Carnival has finally made the announcement that everyone was waiting for; a return to cruising from Mobile, Alabama, effective from November 2016.

An initial, one year deal will see the 70,000 ton Carnival Fantasy- currently sailing from Charleston- go to a new home port in Mobile. From there, the 70,000 ton, 2,056 passenger, 1990 built ship will offer a programme of alternating, four and five night cruises to destinations including Progreso, Cozumel, and Costa Maya,

Prior to commencing this rota of high energy Yucatan jaunts, the Carnival Fantasy- the name ship of the eight strong Fantasy class series- will undergo an extensive refit to ready her for her new role and route.

In will come popular Carnival staples such as the Red Frog Pub and Blue Iguana Cantina, as well as the wildly successful Guy Fieri’s burger joint, all of them part of the so called Fun Ship 2.0 programme that has been rolled out across the bulk of the Carnival fleet.

This new schedule begins effective November 9th 2016 and, thus far at least, runs through to November 27, 2017.

What ship will replace the popular Carnival Fantasy sailings from Charleston- if any- has yet to be formally announced, but I would think it most unlikely that Carnival would give up on what has proven to be a popular embarkation port for similar short, port intensive cruises to the Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean.

As always, stay tuned.

Carnival is returning to sailings from Mobile from November, 2016

Carnival is returning to sailings from Mobile from November, 2016


It’s now official; Genting HK, parent company of Crystal Cruises, has bought Germany’s hugely prolific Lloyd Werft shipyard in a 17.5 million Euro deal that gives the company something like fifty percent of the land area, and a full seventy per cent of any new  build business.

The deal is the precursor to the construction by Lloyd Werft of a trio of new, 100,000 ton ice strengthened cruise ships for Crystal itself.

In recent years, the yard has been instrumental in either building, refitting or lengthening some six cruise ships for Norwegian Cruise Line. Set up as far back as 1857, the yard has a whole slew of building and refitting work to its credit.

Among other things, Lloyd Werft carried out regular refits and periodic overhauls of both the QE2 and the SS. Canberra. And, over the winter of 1979-80, the yard also carried through the ground breaking conversion of the SS. France into the SS. Norway- the first true mega cruise ship.

The acquisition of Lloyd Werft allows obvious synergies in respect of constructing vessels for both Crystal and Norwegian Cruise Line, it’s part partner under the Genting banner.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.

The classic SS. Norway was one of Lloyd Werft's greatest achievements

The classic SS. Norway was one of Lloyd Werft’s greatest achievements


In a move that will surprise many company loyalists, Silversea has just announced that it’s original start up ship, Silver Cloud, will become an almost exclusively polar expedition vessel, beginning in November 2017.

The company claims that she will have the highest staff to guest ration of any ship in the luxury expedition market. The move comes hot on the heels of rival Crystal Cruises’ announcement of three new, 100,000 ton cruise ships with ice strengthened hulls, intended for similar optional deployment, beginning in 2018.

A touched up company picture shows Silver Cloud sporting a new, black hull. This would bring her in line with the rest of the Silversea expedition fleet of three boutique ships.

Originally built in 1994, the 16,000 ton, 295 guest, all suite Silver Cloud took the cruise industry by storm (pun intentional) on her debut, raising the bar on ultra luxury sea travel. Over several extensive refits, she has remained one of the enduring scions of the deluxe cruise scene- a ship still highly prized and appreciated by savvy travellers across several generations.

This redeployment comes at the same time as the entry into service of the first of a trio of new builds for Silversea. New fleet flagship, Silver Muse, is slated to debut at roughly the same time.

It seems reasonable to assume that Silver Wind will follow her pioneering sister ship once the second of the new class enters service, though this is as yet unconfirmed by the line

As ever, stay tuned for further updates.

It's all change at Silversea...

It’s all change at Silversea…


In a move that takes them further from their ‘traditional’ winter cruising grounds than ever, Thomson Cruises will make it’s first ever, winter season sailings from Dubai over the winter of 2016-17.

A series of two alternating, weekly seven night itineraries will be offered aboard the 33,900 ton, 1,250 passenger Thomson Celebration- originally built as the Noordam in 1984 for the Holland America Line.

Each of the two itineraries- ‘Cities of Gold’ and ‘Arabian Nights’- features an overnight, on board stay in Dubai. Between them, these two cruises will offer up ports of call in places such as Bahrain, Muscat, Abu Dhabi.

Direct flights will be offered form no less than six region UK airports- Cardiff, Newcastle, London Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. The line has yet to say whether these will be on their own airline or, more likely, as a tie in with Emirates.

What each trip will definitely offer is the opportunity to combine each seven night fly cruise with a week’s pre-or post cruise hotel stay at Atlantis- the Palms hotel in Dubai.

All things considered, these new cruise and stay offer a good combination of a busy, port intensive cruise, garnished with a healthy dollop of winter sun, and the possibility of a week chilling out in a hotel synonymous with excess and bling.

I expect it to sell well in the UK market. Bookings open for all sailings effective November, 2015.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.

Thomson will be serving up new horizons next winter

Thomson will be serving up new horizons next winter


There is a tendency in some quarters to think of the Norwegian coastal voyage these days as a cruise operation.

It isn’t.

What it is- and always has been- is the only practical way to provide a year round link to the scattered communities that cling to the long, rocky coastline of Norway on a regular, reliable schedule. The ships carry food, fuel, electrical goods, cars and even animals between ports ranging from Bergen in the south, to Kirkenes in the far north, day in and out. And, inevitably, they also carry a vast number of passengers travelling between these different, often isolated communities.

But the sheer romance and languid beauty of the voyage has long since attained a legendary status and, even before the Second World War, the stout, sturdy little vessels of the run- the Hurtigruten- had begun to attract a small but steadily growing tourist trade. Today, that trade has grown immensely, and persuasive marketing has enhanced the appeal of the adventure, especially in the freezing winter months.

And the new ships of the Hurtigruten have been subtly constructed to appeal to tourists, too. With beautiful and expansive panoramic lounges, hot tubs, and luxurious cabins that, in some cases even include balconies, they do indeed resemble small, beautifully decorated cruise ships. The exteriors, too, display something of a modern cruise sensibility these days.

But that is where it pretty much ends. Anyone expecting to find the glut of entertainment and facilities of the modern cruise industry is in for a disappointment. There are no elaborate, extra tariff restaurants, no rock climbing walls, and no huge, Vegas style show lounges. The Hurtigruten ships instead proffer up an environment where less is most definitely more.

There is usually one main restaurant that serves up simple, hearty local fare on a three meals a day basis; breakfast, dinner and lunch. While much of this is done in the form of an elaborate buffet, the main hot dishes revolve around fresh, local fare such as locally sourced meat and potatoes and, of course, some of the best salmon in the world. What it might lack in variety and perceived sophistication is more than made up for by the sheer freshness and good taste.

And the real entertainment is actually Norway herself at any time of year. From the shimmering, ethereal beauty of the winter time northern lights to the incomparable, majestic spectacle of the endless summer sun, Norway is a stunning, twelve thousand mile long visual smorgasbord at any time of the day and night, One without equal on this planet in my opinion.

So these ships do not constitute a ‘real’ cruise experience- whatever that is, anyway. What they do offer is a unique, far more ‘up close and personal’ way to see and savour many off the beaten track sights and sounds of Norway that many big ship passengers simply never, ever see. The very nature of the voyage- and it is a voyage rather than a cruise- allows passengers to interact with the daily comings and goings of Norwegian people in a setting devoid of kitsch or pretension. This is Norway in the raw; rich, deep and beautiful, but seen from the comfort of a safe, agreeable environment.

The great thing about Hurtigruten is that it does not pretend to be something that it is not. It is a solid, reliable and extremely comfortable way to see the real Norway, at any season of the year, in very agreeable surroundings. It is not an all singing, all dancing, expertly choreographed floating theme park swishing lushly through the ‘greatest hits’ ports, but rather a long,meandering series of hopefully rewarding interactions with a matchless hinterland, and the proud people that cling to it’s harbours and valleys year round.

Worth a look? Over to you.

Norway is amazing at any time of the year

Norway is amazing at any time of the year


It’s both in and out with the almost new simultaneously over at Celestyal Cruises.

Out as of October this year is the one season chartered Celestyal Odyssey, formerly the Olympic Explorer. The ship is returning to her owners after a one off season offering short, three and four day cruises around the Greek Islands and Turkey for Celestyal.

While I personally regret the loss of this ship, the good news is that her place and itineraries in the Celestyal Fleet will be taken up by the 1992 built Gemini. After a refit in February of next year, the 19,000 ton ship will enter service from either Piraeus or Lavrion on the same short, three and four day cruise circuit as her predecessor, under the new name of Celestyal Nefeli.

Originally built as the Crown Jewel in Spain back in 1992, the ship is the twin sister of Crown Dynasty, now better known as Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ever popular Braemar. After spells sailing for Star Cruises in Asia, and then the short lived Quail Cruises the ship, by now known as Gemini, was laid up after a stint as a hotel ship for the London Olympics.

The nascent Celestyal Nefili- the name comes from a famous Greek cloud nymph and goddess of hospitality- boasts some four hundred inside and outside cabins, including some forty three executive and junior suites. Some of these even have private balconies.

Most inside and outside cabins come in at around 140 square feet- more than big enough for a long weekend in warm climes. Wardrobe space is not excessive, but the largely smart casual lifestyle on board Celestyal Cruises means that this should not be a problem for most people.

Her relatively small size and intimacy makes her a perfect ship for these short, port intensive cruises (something I mentioned to the still then Louis Cruises a couple of years ago). Additionally, she has a wonderful series of tiered, cascading sun decks at the stern, which make her a perfect indoor/outdoor ship at night in those sultry Aegean waters.

It is also heartening to see this smaller, beautifully styled ship getting another chance to carry a a lot of happy passengers around these beautiful, storied islands. I expect this classically restyled ‘lady of the seas’ to do brisk business come next spring, and I wish her fair winds and smooth sailing.

As ever, stay tuned to this site for any additional updates.

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 it was almost exactly five years between my last two cruises on the Crystal Serenity, I thought it might be worth sharing a few personal impressions of this captivating, continually evolving vessel, one of the absolute true scions of the luxury market.


Now sprinkled with a good helping of super comfy, circular pod beds, the outer decks are more a hazard to activity than at any time before. Ease and casually spectacular use of space remain the watchwords here.

The newly revamped area under the sliding glass roof is the crown jewel of the latest upgrades. The lush, verdant ‘living wall’ and trees, festooned at night with little, twinkling lights, make this area more alluring than ever. Keeping the original teak decking underfoot makes this space feel expansive, lush and clean, all at once. And with both a wonderful ice cream bar, grill area, plus drinks service, this particular venue was my ‘go to’ choice for large parts of our cruise through the Adriatic, any time of the day or night.


Mercifully, these remain instantly familiar and welcoming. The Bistro is a secluded little joy, tucked away on the upper deck of the Crystal Atrium, that serves up matchless Cappuccino, cakes and pastries from dawn until late into the evening.

Crystal Cove remains elegant, expansive, and just simply unbeatable. We embarked to a soundtrack of The Blue Danube, beautifully executed by a quartet of even more beautiful Asian ladies. That very much set the tone for what followed.

At night, and especially before dinner, it remains the venue for cold, perfectly crafted Martinis and cool, sultry jazz. With the discreetly tumbling waterfall coming down just behind it, Crystal Atrium has no peer as a crossroads, or people watching venue. A timeless classic.

The Avenue Saloon remains a cool, clubby little enclave for the after dark crowd. A piano bar by name, but one with a quirky, delightful twist in the normal repertoire. Ever heard Riders On The Storm done on a piano? Nope, me either. Brilliant.


This remains simply flawless, right across variety, concept, preparation and delivery. Whether picking at cold lobster on my balcony or savouring gorgeous, saffron accented lamb skewers in Tastes, the Crystal Serenity continues her own sublime culinary traditions.

Prego remains the absolute epitome of fine, feisty Italian food and service, with sumptuous steaks and mouth watering desserts, that is an absolute must-do on board. I never ventured into Silk Road on this trip, but others on board assured me that it remains as well served as ever.


So, just a few thoughts there. Like many, I guess, I was a little concerned about how the takeover by Genting Corporation might have impacted life on board such a fondly remembered ship.

Having just spent a week renewing my love affair with Crystal Serenity, any latent anxieties that I might have had have now gone. The crew- from top to bottom- remain as superlative and courteous as ever; the absolute epitome of gracious seagoing hospitality (along with those aboard Crystal Symphony). Quality and standards throughout the ship remain as high as ever. I honestly see no signs of slippage anywhere. In fact, a renewed sense of purpose and forward momentum is more in the air on board.

One or two personal niggles; the paper cups in which Crystal so lavishly serves up it’s free ice cream do not do justice to the taste, and neither do the plastic spoons offered up with them. On a ship of this calibre, they should be glass bowls with silver spoons.

Other than that, all remains as reassuringly well as ever aboard the good ship Crystal Serenity. Like the Martinis, I was stirred, rather than shaken. This ship remains one that really does set the bench mark for all of the opposition. Long may she continue to do so.

Crystal is taking its legendary standards of luxury to a whole new height

Crystal is taking its legendary standards of luxury to a whole new height


If anyone had told me that I would one day cruise over to Norway on a former Carnival fun ship, I would have recommended that they seek serious mental help.

I mean no disrespect to the Carnival brand and product by saying that. But it was the sight of one of those boxy ships, still replete with the famous ‘whale tail’ funnel standing tall and proud, that really threw me a bit of a curve ball.

And yet, there we were, ghosting on a still, late summer dawn into the jagged fastness of Flam aboard the Magellan, the new flagship of Cruise and Maritime Voyages. And it was certainly a moment to savour.

Built originally as the Holiday for Carnival in 1985, she was the first of a trio that were, in effect, that company’s first real mega ships. In their original fun ship guises, these vessels were hugely successful in the Caribbean.

As times and tastes changed, Carnival brought newer, more expansive tonnage on line. Holiday was first hived off to Iberocruises, the Spanish subsidiary of Carnival, to sail Mediterranean cruises as the slightly restyled Grand Holiday.

Then. late last year, she became the latest, surprise acquisition for Cruise and Maritime Voyages, the adults’ only UK based cruise company. An extensive transformation from European styled party boat to something more matronly and elegant was clearly in the offing. And how.

Magellan now strikes me as a mature mix of the best of her original Carnival features- large cabins, broad open sun decks, and the famous, long interior boulevard-and some thoughtful new touches in the shape of her vastly remodelled interior décor, and the well thought out revamping of public spaces.

The result is a ship that nails it near perfectly for the UK market. At 46,052 tons and with a capacity for 1,250 passengers, Magellan retains the warmth and intimacy of the CMV brand, while paradoxically giving passengers half as much space again as aboard the venerable Marco Polo.

Of course, the real trick was whether or not the line could successfully revamp her interiors to suit the more subdued tastes of her new target audience. The answer is a pretty definite yes.

The original Carnival glitz and neon has disappeared like a line of dancing showgirls behind a final curtain. Instead, cool, rich creams and finely styled, Scandinavian pine tables form the hub of a long, linear procession along the boulevard. Understated, sunlit and quite casually spectacular, it is a truly wonderful people watching area in its own right.

Much kudos, too, for the smartly re-imagined area around the former children’s wading pool. This has now been turned into a water feature, surrounded by a lawn area sprinkled with comfy sofas and chairs. With a semi circular stretch of deck overhead and blankets available everywhere, this aft facing little eyrie is actually the most spectacular lounging area on the ship. In fact, it would not look at all out of place on the likes of Regent or even Crystal.

The two main dining rooms- Kensington and the Waldorf- span the full width of the ship, and offer dinners in a traditional, two sitting rota. Oddly, the opening times for the two rooms are staggered some fifteen minutes apart on most evenings.

Upstairs is an expansive lido, facing aft, which also serves casual fare all day, while offering many of the main restaurant dishes at night in a breezier setting. This also features a bar and pizza corner that seemed to operate almost 24/7.

During the day, an additional, centrally located grill area serves up burgers, chicken and wraps.

Our six day cruise took us over from London’s cruise terminal at Tilbury to three show stopping Norwegian classics; Eidfjord was an amazing natural confection of jagged mountains carpeted in deep ranks of pine forests, plunging waterfalls and still silent fjord waters where the silhouette of our ship was reflected to almost crystal perfect clarity.

In lofty, rolling Flam, we rode the famous train up through a landscape of some twenty kilometres of thundering streams, vast, snow capped mountainous gorges, over and past sunlit valleys sprinkled with scores of silent, grass roofed houses, to the summit at Myrdal. Stopping en route at the vast, thunderous waterfall at Kjellfossen was a highlight never to be forgotten.

Our last port of call was cool, patrician Bergen, with its immaculate Bryggen area; a warren of old wooden Hanseatic houses, miraculously preserved and restored as a shopping centre that abuts a vibrant quayside. It dominates a waterfront cradled amid seven low, rolling hills, and the scenic panorama form atop Mount Floyen- accessed by a spectacularly crafted funicular train journey- is simply exhilarating. The whole of the great city sprawls out below you like some incredible, multi hued patchwork quilt.

Magellan spent six days threading her way deftly through this vibrant, soul stirring hinterland with almost effortless ease and poise. I have to say that the ship has space and grace by the bucket load; the conversion has been superbly carried through in the public areas and outdoor venues to create a uniquely welcoming ‘new’ ship.

A word about cabins; the insides and outsides are all of roughly similar dimensions, quite generous in size all round, and with beds that convert from twins to a double. Even better news is that CMV charge only a 25% single supplement for many of these.

In short, Magellan is soothing, comfortable and sybaritic, and she offers some seriously good food and service. At the prices she charges, this ship is an excellent choice, and a great addition to the UK cruise circuit. Very much recommended.

Flam; a real highlight of our Magellan cruise

Flam; a real highlight of our Magellan cruise


I’m back aboard Crystal Serenity, slowly gathering my thoughts as our Mediterranean cruise unfolds gradually with a sea day between Dubrovnik and Mykonos. A sense of surreal, gentle calm suffuses the entire ship from bow to stern today as she surges purposefully across the still, slightly overcast briny. As the guests take their ease and linger over another indulgent breakfast, the ship herself is quietly and efficiently taking care of their needs, moods and whims.

Thus it has always been here, and this is how it remains. It is exactly that air of calm, unruffled competence and courtesy that draws people back to Crystal time and time again. People on board sag gratefully into what I can only describe as a kind of pampered stupor; one that will burst like a pretty balloon when we have to disembark in Istanbul a few days down the line.

But, right now, all that seems like a very long way away.

Two days ago, the Crystal Serenity swung loose from her moorings in Venice, gliding down the great expanse of Guidecca as perfectly poised and primped as a swan. As La Serenity bid ‘ciao’ to La Serenissima, stewards circulated on deck, distributing Bellinis to passengers taking in the magnificent vista of Piazza San Marco as we sailed downstream.

There was no real fuss or fanfare, and none was required. Just the act of this legendary vessel making her procession out to sea was ceremony enough of its own accord. Beautiful, dramatic and wonderfully understated, it was an occasion to savour rather than scream about.

On board, everything ticks as finely as a Swiss watch. The hotel and catering departments are in the hands of vastly competent professionals with many years expertise, and everything functions with cosmetic perfection. In fact, one of the finest shows on board remains the almost perfect ballet of the crew, serving guests, taking orders and offering refills before those guests often realize that they need one. The level of subtle co-ordination seems almost effortless.

Last night, the ship’s orchestra blew up a terrific storm- pun wholly intentional- in the shimmering, beautiful surroundings of the two story Crystal Cove. Guests at the circular bar were wowed by a stunning double act composed of glacial Martinis and blistering big band favourites as a delicious pre dinner appetizer.

Hearing band leader Raphael Derkson’s soaring, strident trumpet solos brought back memories of just why I love this ship so much. The quality of live music on board Crystal Serenity is- and always has been- a huge part of her success to my mind. It gives this ship a true edge that no other line quite matches.

Mister Derkson’s sassy, classy trumpet routine packs a punch that Marvin Hagler could only dream of; it is a powerhouse, virtuoso sound that is as much a Crystal trademark as the sheer, jaw dropping elegance of the ship herself, or the exquisite cuisine served up in Prego and Silk Road. With the passage of time and tide, it has become just as important an ingredient in the amazing smorgasbord that is daily life aboard this floating fantasy world.

Like Alice through the looking glass, I find myself falling, sagging with pathetic gratitude back into the good life served up on board this ship. And you see it in the other guests, too. People that you exchanged a quick ‘hello’ with the other day now stop and talk to ask how your day was in Dubrovnik yesterday – it was incredible, by the way. You see these kind of blooming, casual interactions everywhere on board.

So that’s it now from on board the good ship Crystal Serenity, as we head for an early morning rendezvous with that Goddess of hedonism sometimes also known as Mykonos. The Ice Teas are cold; the Jacuzzis are simmering gently.

Wish me luck, folks; I’m going in.

Sunset on the summertime Adriatic, seen from the Crystal Serenity

Sunset on the summertime Adriatic, seen from the Crystal Serenity