QUEEN MARY 2 SAILS ON 250TH ATLANTIC CROSSING TODAY

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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.

 

THE LARDBURGERS’ CRUISE FOOD REVIEW

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… 

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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

 

 

CARNIVAL TO OFFER TEN BERMUDA CRUISES IN 2016

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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.

Enjoy!

NINE IN A ROW AS EURODAM ACES USPH INSPECTION

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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.

PRINCESS OFFERING TWO SHIPS TO MEXICO THIS WINTER

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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.

CELESTYAL ANNOUNCES YEAR ROUND WINTER CRUISES IN 2018

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.

QE2- HAS THE TIDE TURNED?

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.

PULLMANTUR’S EMPRESS TO ABDICATE

Pullmantur's Monarch will be visiting ports such as Helsinki for the first time  in 2016.

Pullmantur’s Monarch will be visiting ports such as Helsinki for the first time in 2016.

Following continued weak performances in the winter South American market, some serious retrenchment is afoot at Pullmantur Cruises.

The Spanish offshoot of Royal Caribbean is bringing the 74,000 ton Monarch to Europe to operate Baltic cruises next year. This marks the first ever deployment of one of the three, original Sovereign class vessels in the region since the first of the trio- Sovereign Of The Seas- made her debut back in 1988.

By contrast, the 1990 built Empress is leaving the Pullmantur fleet completely next year. In a compete about face, she will return instead to Royal Caribbean under her former name- Empress Of The Seas- and resume sailings for that line.

As yet, no itineraries have been announced for the 48,000 ton vessel, originally built in France as the Nordic Empress. For a few years, she was a popular staple on the seven night, summer New York to Bermuda sailings, where her shallow draft enabled her to dock in the old capital of St. Georges.

The vessel was well remembered for her beautiful interiors, in particular her striking, aft facing dining room. Pullmantur left her interiors largely unaltered after acquiring the ship from Royal Caribbean in March of 2008.

There have been straws in the wind regarding Pullmantur for some time now. Last year, the intended 2016 transfer of Majesty Of The Seas from Royal Caribbean to Pullmantur was abruptly cancelled. Instead, the popular three and four day Bahamas cruise ship will undergo an extensive refit, before resuming service from a new home port at Port Canaveral.

Interesting developments here. As ever, stay tuned.

THOMSON DISCOVERY TO CARIBBEAN FOR WINTER 2016-17

Thomson Discovery will be sailing from next year

Thomson Discovery will be sailing from next year

As predicted in this blog a few months back, Thomson Discovery- still currently sailing as the Splendour Of The Seas for Royal Caribbean- will indeed be heading to Barbados to run the line’s premium, round trip Barbados winter cruises in her first season.

The 70,000 ton ship will sail three different, seven night itineraries- including one called Seven Shores, that features no sea days at all.

There will be a free, all inclusive upgrade on all winter sailings, including those of the popular Thomson Dream from Montego Bay in Jamaica.

In related news, the Thomson Celebration will be swapping winter in the Caribbean for a brace of new, seven night itineraries out of Dubai for next winter.

Built for Royal Caribbean in 1996, the Thomson Discovery will be by far the largest and most spacious ship ever to sail under the Thomson portfolio. Over the next couple of years, she will be joined by a pair of similar sized, ex Celebrity vessels.

Due to be delivered to the line in the spring of 2016, Thomson Discovery will spend her inaugural season sailing on a series of seven night itineraries from Palma, Majorca, to the highlights of the Western Mediterranean.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE ISLAND ESCAPE?

Is the sun about to set on Island Escape?

Is the sun about to set on Island Escape?

With the coming 2016 delivery of the Thomson Discovery to the TUI UK based fleet, there is still no word as to the fate of the current fleet stalwart, Island Escape.

The 1,800 passenger, 1982 built ship has been a staple of the budget Mediterranean cruise circuit for the better part of two decades, and provided a first cruise experience for literally thousands of passengers. But she is due to make her last such sailing in October and, as of yet, no future buyer has stepped forward to take on the formerBahamas car ferry.

The website Marine Consultant (www.marine-consultant.com) has the vessel listed for sale at a price of around $20 million, with delivery offered from October. The Island Escape is listed as fully SOLAS 2010 compliant.

With no disclosed potential buyers, the future for the 33 year old ship does not look great.

She would work for a company like Celestyal Cruises, the specialist, short cruise operator that has made the Greek and Turkish market largely its own. For them, the Island Escape might well make a very appealing option for the short, three and four day cruise itineraries that the line offers from March to November each year.

That said, would Celestyal- who will take on the new Celestyal Nefeli next March- be willing to invest in additional tonnage, given the air of uncertainty and political tension currently prevalent in the region?

Here’s hoping that this popular, fondly remembered ship does, indeed, find suitable future employment. As ever, stay tuned for any news updates.