ISLAND ESCAPE SOLD TO CRUISE HOLDINGS (DECEMBER 6TH UPDATE)

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New horizons venture for the well travelled Island Escape…

December 7th update:

The Cruise Industry News website (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that the ship purchased by the new start up Chinese operator, Diamond Cruises, is actually Estur’s Aegean Paradise, and not the Island Escape, as previously cited by the same source.

As of this moment, the actual future deployment of the Island Escape -if any- has yet to be determined.

The Cruise and Ferry website (www.cruiseandferry.net) is reporting the sale by Thomson Cruises of the Island Escape to Cruise Holdings.

The vessel is apparently underway to the French port of Brest, where she will be renamed as Ocean Gala. News of any upgrades or future deployment is as yet unclear, but it seems that the popular budget vessel will continue in cruise service after all- welcome news for the many thousands of passengers with fond memories of this ship.

Island Escape actually started life as the Scandinavia of 1982. She was a dual purpose cruise and car ferry, intended to run on a regular service between New York and the Bahamas for DFDS Seaways.

The service was never the anticipated success, and the Scandinavia soon returned to Europe to operate on the overnight cruise ferry service between Copenhagen and Oslo.

It was Royal Caribbean international that first saw the potential for her as a ship ideally suited to short cruises. The ship was extensively refitted, including the installation of the trademark RCCL ‘Viking Crown’ lounge around her funnel, and she was put back into service under the name of Viking Serenade.

in this guise, she ran for many successful seasons on the three and four night cruise run from Los Angeles down to Ensenada, Mexico. Once more surplus to requirements by the turn of the new century, she was taken over by First Choice cruises, renamed as the Island Escape, and put into service on seven night cruises from Palma de Mallorca to the Mediterranean. In winter, the doughty little ship sometimes even sailed to Brazil to operate voyages there.

Increasingly however, over winter the Island Escape usually home ported in Tenerife for similar, week long budget cruise runs to the Canary Islands and Madeira, a role in which she proved very popular.

Once First Choice was assimilated into the Thomson Brand, the Island Escape continued to sail, but was often marketed separately from the main body of the Thomson Cruises fleet. With new tonnage becoming available to Thomson of late, the sale of Island Escape was seen as inevitable.

Island Escape gained a good reputation as a solid, high density cruise ship that was comfortable and familiar, rather than stunning and luxurious- very much an entry level product that, none the less, endeared herself to many. It is a matter of some gratitude that she will continue to sail on as a part of the global cruise family as the Ocean Gala.

I wish the ship and her new owners every success. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

UPDATE:

The respected industry website, Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that the Island Escape has actually been sold to a start up Chinese cruise operator, Diamond Cruises.

She will operate for them on cruises from Shanghai after an extensive refurbishment designed to make her more suitable for the local trade. This refit will be carried out in Europe.

The website quotes the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association as it’s prime source of information.

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERING THE NORWEGIAN DREAM

Before Norwegian Cruise Line went on a mega ship building binge, there was a time in the early nineties when the company slowly began the transition from running smaller, sold out cruise ships such as the Starward, to a series of medium sized new builds that formed the mainstay of the company for the better part of a decade and a half.

The first of these new ships was the Seaward, which entered service in 1988. She was strictly a one off vessel, but she did pave the way for a new pair, to be built in the same French shipyard as the beloved company flagship, the ageing SS. Norway.

These twin sister ships would be called the Dreamward and the Windward. At around 42,000 tons each, they introduced some radical new concepts for NCL when they first debuted. Of the two, it was the Dreamward that arrived first, in November of 1992. She was showcased to the UK travel trade at Greenwich on a rainy winter Sunday but, even then, the new ship shone through.

The Dreamward featured a centrally located main pool, with the sun decks in front of it stacked up in a series of tiered steps. A modified version of this arrangement would later become a feature of the new Carnival Destiny class, the first cruise ships in the world to exceed the 100,000 ton mark.

Aft, a series of curved, window walled terraced restaurants formed a graceful cascade at the stern, offering stunning views out over the ship’s wake. A second, smaller plunge pool was located just behind them.

Inside, every cabin- both inside and outside- featured a small, dedicated sitting area that was separate to the bedroom. And, bowing to a rising tide of demand, the new ship also featured a handful of balcony cabins.

The Dreamward was formally christened by her godmother, Diana Ross, in December 1992. Almost immediately, she entered service on the popular, seven night eastern and western Caribbean cruise circuit out of Miami. For the 1993 summer season, she moved north to New York, from where she operated a series of seven night cruises to Bermuda.

The centre piece of these cruises was a full, three night stay alongside in Hamilton, and these proved to be immensely popular. By this time, sister ship Windward was also in service, sailing to Alaska in the summer, and then joining the Dreamward out of Miami in the winter months. With little real variation, it was a routine that the two sister ships would follow over several seasons.

In 1997, Norwegian Cruise Line decided to lengthen both ships. In January of 1998, the Dreamward was dispatched first to a German shipyard, and there cut in half to facilitate the insertion of a pre built new mid section, some forty metres long.

In addition to this, both the mast and the top of the funnel were fitted with special hinges that would allow them to be ‘flipped’ to one side, to facilitate passage under the lower bridges of the Kiel Canal. Once refurbished, NCL planned to use the ship on a series of first time, pioneering cruises out of the United Kingdom to the Baltic capitals. And, with her new look came a new name; the ship was restyled as the Norwegian Dream.

In this guise, her tonnage increased to around 50,000, and her passenger capacity was increased. from around 1,250 up to 1,750.

The first season of these twelve night Baltic sailings were well received. Each one featured an overnight stay in St. Petersburg, as the highlight of a circuit that typically included such ports of call as Warnemunde, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki, and sometimes Oslo as well. In this role, the Norwegian Dream became something of a trend setter; a role she would play out during the remainder of her service with NCL.

Then, in August of 1999, the Norwegian Dream collided with a container ship, the Ever Decent, in the middle of a thick English Channel fog. The bow of the cruise ship crumpled like rice paper, but she was never in any danger of sinking. Mercifully, there were no injuries on either ship.  Her mangled prow had to be rebuilt, at great expense, back in Germany. Following this, she re-entered service just in time for the winter time Caribbean peak season.

As newer, more amenity laden tonnage entered the NCL fleet, the Norwegian Dream was sent further afield during the winter season. She sailed a series of superb, round trip cruises in South America and to the Chilean fjords for several seasons, usually voyages of seventeen days’ duration. It was while she was on one of these that the Norwegian Dream was involved in a second collision, when she hit a barge while leaving the port of Montevideo in December of 2007. Fortunately, the damage to neither ship was serious.

The Norwegian Dream also started the tradition of winter cruising from New Orleans for NCL, running on seven night circuits to the western Caribbean. But, by 2008, it was clear that the ship no longer matched the new company profile. Her sale was expected imminently by many.

That year, the Norwegian Dream ran one final season of cruises to Bermuda from Boston, in a kind of valedictory farewell to her original role. Her sale to Louis Cruises had by then been announced and, at the end of that season, the ship sailed over to Greece, ready to begin a new life.

It never happened.

Though Louis did indeed take up the purchase of her fleet mate and fellow ‘Bermuda boat’, Norwegian Majesty, the Greek company declined to go ahead with also taking the Norwegian Dream. Louis Cruises cited ‘mechanical issues’ as a major hurdle. For a full three and a half years, the Norwegian Dream sat on life support in the Aegean, making occasional short runs between the islands to try and resolve the issues.

Finally, at the end of 2011, the ship got under way once more and headed for a dockyard in Singapore. Here, she would be transformed into the Superstar Gemini for NCL’s parent company, Star Cruises, to operate short, port intensive cruises in the Far East.

Heavily refurbished and in many ways re-invented, the Superstar Gemini enjoyed a happy reunion with her sister ship. The Norwegian Wind was by now sailing as the Superstar Aquarius for Star Cruises, and the two sister ships are now once more sailing in harmonious tandem service.

This $50 million renovation also brought her passenger capacity back down to around 1,532- a sensible decision. On a Bermuda cruise in June 2008 that I made aboard her, the Norwegian Dream– fully booked for the sailing- had seemed really crowded.

I was also lucky enough to sail on her in June of 2000, up to Scandinavia, after the repairs to her bow. In the opinion of many, the lengthening of the ship spoiled the formerly good passenger traffic flow through the ship but, having never sailed her as the Dreamward, I am not really in a position to comment.

This pioneering ship deserves more respect and appreciation than she often got back in her NCL days. The Norwegian Dream was a stylish, well thought out design that combined a wonderful external harmony with more than a dash of elegance. Like her sister ship, she served the company well during it’s ‘lost’ years of the late 1990’s. In fact, in many ways, she and her sister helped lay the foundations for the miraculous recovery that the current company enjoys to this day.

The Norwegian Dream docked in Hamilton, Bermuda, in June of 2008

The Norwegian Dream docked in Hamilton, Bermuda, in June of 2008

CAPTIVATING COPENHAGEN- THE QUEEN OF SCANDINAVIA

 

Copenhagen city fountain

Copenhagen city fountain

Copenhagen; a cool, compact city of green cooper spires, cobbled squares filled with outdoor cafes in the summer, and fantastic, fun filled theme parks. A roisterous, swaggering city that wears its heart on its sleeve and offers a warm welcome to miilions each year. Human in scale, Copenhagen is a city with a real heart and soul.

Compact and easily walkable, the city is brimming with wonderful sights. Passengers arriving by sea are greeted by the winsome Little Mermaid, the symbol of the city. Based on the story created by local hero, Hans Christian Andersen, the diminutive little waif sits silently on her rock, gazing with sightless eyes out to sea.

The sights and sounds come and go like so many ceremonial drum rolls. At the heart of the town is Tivoli, a twenty three acre theme park that gave the young Walter Disney the idea for the string of theme parks that still bear his name. A shimmering, ethereal wonderland full of captivating lights, theatres, restaurants and thrilling fairground rides, Tivoli is the very heart and soul of Copenhagen.

Stroeget is the main shopping street; a pedestrian only thoroughfare that winds along more than two kilometres. Filled and fronted with every kind of shop you could want- from the mainstream to the downright quirky-Stroeget also has many bars, restaurants and cafes, and it hums with life at any time of the day or night.

So, enjoy these few snaps of this pretty, welcoming little city!

A city of green copper spires

A city of green copper spires

The famous Gefion fountain

The famous Gefion fountain

Danish Resistance open air exhibit

Danish Resistance open air exhibit

Copenhagen statuary

Copenhagen statuary

The old naval barracks, Copenhagen

The old naval barracks, Copenhagen

City centre square

City centre square

City centre

City centre

Stroeget, the main shopping centre

Stroeget, the main shopping centre

That portico is pure classical Greek

That portico is pure classical Greek

Lots of Art Nouveau architecture here

Lots of Art Nouveau architecture here

Radhuspladsen, the town hall

Radhuspladsen, the town hall

Close up of the town hall

Close up of the town hall

The city has lots of quirky statues

The city has lots of quirky statues

The entrance to Tivoli Gardens

The entrance to Tivoli Gardens

The city is full of these great vistas

The city is full of these great vistas

Orsteds Park, Copenhagen

Orsteds Park, Copenhagen

City centre

City centre

Canal side setting

Canal side setting

A SILVERSEA FOOD AND DRINK PICTORIAL ESSAY

All of these pictures were taken during the course of a wonderful, week long cruise aboard the sublime Silver Whisper in the Baltic last August. Just looking at all this food is making me hungry again. Enjoy!

Russian lunch buffet on board, Helsinki

Russian lunch buffet on board, Helsinki

More of the fabulous Russian feast

More of that fabulous Russian feast

Silversea martinis are art works in themselves

Silversea martinis are art works in themselves

Champagne, sunset and Silversea. What could be finer?

Champagne, sunset and Silversea. 

Champers on ice; side order of sunset

Champers on ice; side order of sunset

Breakfast starter. Lamb chops to follow

Breakfast starter. Lamb chops to follow

Silversea version of continental breakfast

Silversea version of continental breakfast

Galley lunch; Bloody Mary to start?

Galley lunch; Bloody Mary to start?

All of this was laid out in the spotless galley

All of this was laid out in the spotless galley

The attention to detail is quite stunning

The attention to detail is quite stunning

Not hungry? You soon will be...

Not hungry? You soon will be…

Browse. Pick. Savour. And repeat.....

Browse. Pick. Savour. And repeat…..

If you knew sushi, like they know sushi.....

If you knew sushi, like they know sushi…..

You could eat your way around the world

You could eat your way around the world

And, if you feel the need for fruit....

And, if you feel the need for fruit….

And for those in love with cheese...

And for those in love with cheese…

Piggy was appreciated by all.

Piggy was appreciated by all.

How about a little dessert? Or a lot...

How about a little dessert? Or a lot…

Chocolate as far as the eye can sea

Chocolate as far as the eye can sea

All this came with a side order of cool jazz

All this came with a side order of cool jazz

Great to look at, better still to eat

Great to look at, better still to eat

Red wine, white wine. Every one a fine wine.

Red wine, white wine. Every one a fine wine.

A MOMENT IN TIME- CHAMPAGNE SUNSET IN SCANDINAVIA

Champagne, sunset and Silversea. What could be finer?

Champagne, sunset and Silversea. What could be finer?

It was one of those moments that have to be seen to be believed. The late evening air in the summer time Baltic was as warm as toast. I was quite alone, out on the aft terrace of the Panorama Lounge aboard the stunning Silver Whisper, on the last night of a brilliant, week long sweep through the highlights of the region. Most people had already headed down for one last, splendidly lazy dinner. Me, I hung back for a little while.

I’m so glad that I did.

This amazing, visual feast slowly unfolded in front of me, flooding my senses with a sight so wonderful and mellow that it made for a visual banquet, one seemingly laid on only for me. With no muzak polluting the air waves, the only sound was the heaving, low surging, gun metal gray rollers of the ocean, as the sun turned it into what looked like a sea of blazing straw,

Time itself seemed to stand still. I hardly dared breathe, for fear of shattering the rare, fragile beauty of the moment. It was a scene so vivid, one as fragile as glass. A moment that would possibly never, ever be repeated. And yet today, it is seared into my soul and my senses as indelibly as if I had been branded, sealed there forever.

And, of course, Silversea and champagne go together as seamlessly as Rodgers and Astaire. Glacially cold, bubbly, and tremendously life affirming right at that moment. No other drink would have done justice to such a stunning moment. It seemed to me that Mother Nature deserved a toast, and so….

I lifted the glass in the direction of the sunset and, as if predestined, the fiery, slowly setting sun ghosted right across the centre of my flute, burnishing it with a fabulous, golden sheen that simply took my breath away.

It was a stunning, spontaneous moment, unscripted and unbidden. But it sprawled across my senses like a slowly unfurling red carpet; a compelling, almost hypnotic pastiche that will stay with me until the day that I die. The sheer, serene solitude and yet, at the same time, the feeling of being totally at peace, at one with everything around me, was as deep and profound as the ocean itself.

And if you wonder why I still travel after all these years- and sometimes even I still do myself- well, this photograph should go a long, long way towards answering that question.

A single moment. An endless voyage. Here’s to the next one….

SEADREAM I HEADS FOR GERMAN REFIT

After a few days being showcased to travel media and press alongside HMS Belfast in London, the ultra deluxe Seadream I has left London for Bremerhaven to undergo a seventeen day refit.

What a day for a Seadream....

What a day for a Seadream….

The six star luxury yacht will undergo a complete hull cleaning and repainting process, while some of the public rooms will benefit from new fabrics and carpeting. All suites and cabins will be enhanced with the addition of flat screen television sets, On the technical side, there will be an overhaul of some air conditioning units, as well as some gallery upgrades. The total projected cost of this overhaul is said to be between $4-5 million.

The yacht, originally built as the Seabourn Goddess I in 1984, has been sailing for Seadream since 2003, as one of a pair that have been consistently lauded as the highest rated vessels in the world. With all outside accommodation for 112 guests, both sisters are among the most sought after travel experiences afloat, as well as being very lucrative on the charter circuit.

Post refit, Seadream I will embark on a series of voyages in Scandinavia and the Norwegian Fjords, including a headline, first ever round trip voyage, beginning and ending in Dover this August.  Speaking on board Seadream I during the London stay over, recently returned CEO, Atle Brynestad, stressed that the company was in no hurry to expand, despite being financially buoyant; a surprising show of ‘steady as she goes’ in view of recent expansion by most other lines in the deluxe category.

Despite their age, both yachts are said to be as sound as the day they were built, regular, lavish and sympathetic refurbishments have helped to keep them at the apex of the luxury sector at sea. With an almost one to one crew ration, all inclusive pricing and exquisite food and service- think lamb chops for breakfast- the twin Seadream sisters offer a stylish,highly personalised  smart casual ambiance that is light years removed from the conventional cruise experience.

The aft pool

The aft pool

Following her sojourn in northern waters, Seadream I heads south to the Mediterranean to rejoin her identical sister ship, Seadream II. Both yachts will then redeploy to the Caribbean for their winter seasons, which sees them offering primarily seven night voyages around the smaller, more off the beaten track idylls that still echo the vibe and lifestyle of the ‘old’ Caribbean.

With an emphasis on water activities such as kayaking, windsurfing, and use of the jet skis carried on board, the Seadream experience is quite possibly the most up close and personally immersive on the entire Caribbean circuit. And with her refreshed new look and stance, Seadream I will be in pole position to showcase this market to the full over the coming winter.

A WORLD OF SUNRISES AND SUNSETS……

Sunset in the Baltic

Sunset in the Baltic

Sunset over Bermuda

Sunset over Bermuda

Midnight Sun, Norway

Midnight Sun, Norway

Sunrise over Rhodes

Sunrise over Rhodes

LA sunset

LA sunset

Mediterranean sunset

Mediterranean sunset

Sunrise on the Bay of Biscay

Sunrise on the Bay of Biscay

Dusk over Mykonos

Dusk over Mykonos

Aegean sunset

Aegean sunset

San Diego sunset

San Diego sunset

Sunrise over Dover

Sunrise over Dover

Midnight sun, Baltic

Midnight sun, Baltic

Sunrise over the St. Lawrence

Sunrise over the St. Lawrence

Springtime sunset at sea

Springtime sunset at sea

Pacific sunset off Baja

Pacific sunset off Baja

Sunset off Monaco

Sunset off Monaco

Sunset over the Atlantic

Sunset over the Atlantic

Dawn over Bora Bora

Dawn over Bora Bora

Champagne sunset

Champagne sunset

Mount Vesuvius sunrise

Mount Vesuvius sunrise

Sunset on the Rhine

Sunset on the Rhine

Sunset over Hoorn hafen

Sunset over Hoorn hafen

Spring twilight, Rhine

Spring twilight, Rhine

Sunset on the River Nile

Sunset on the River Nile

Sunset over Kom Ombo

Sunset over Kom Ombo

Nile sunset

Nile sunset

One last Nile sunset

One last Nile sunset

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.

2014 CRUISE SCHEDULE FROM THE TYNE

Fred. Olsen's Black Watch in the Kiel Canal

Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch in the Kiel Canal

Newcastle’s Port Of Tyne lists no less than twenty one round  trip departures over the summer of 2014, featuring ships from three different lines, between May and October. With Thomson Cruises pulling out of ex- UK cruising for 2015 at least, this might be something of a high water mark for the northern port.

That line is offering nine sailings from Port Of Tyne, with the 33,000 ton Thomson Spirit. Beginning with the first round trip departure from the port on May 27th, she will be making three twelve to fifteen night cruises to the highlights of the Baltic, as well as a twelve night cruise to the top of the North Cape, and a special, fifteen night cruise out to Iceland and the Arctic.

There is also a trio of seven night cruises over to the spectacular fjords of Western Norway. The season closes out with a three night mini cruise on August 23rd, which repositions the ship to Harwich.

Cruise And Maritime is also returning to sailings from the Tyne, with the 22,000 ton veteran Marco Polo making five sailings, beginning with a six night cruise to Western Norway that leaves on June 9th. A further, seven night itinerary that also sails to Norway on 27th June is bracketed by a twelve night Baltic Capitals cruise, departing from the Tyne on June 15th, and a fourteen night adventure to the North Cape of Norway that sails on July 4th.

Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral is a staple of the summertime Baltic cruise

Helsinki’s Lutheran Cathedral is a staple of the summertime Baltic cruise

Marco Polo rounds off her Tyneside season with an eleven night, Round Britain cruise that sails on July 18th. This cruise ends at London Tilbury.

Last but not least, northern mainstay Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines returns to the Tyne with the 28,000 ton Black Watch. The former Royal Viking Line flagship is serving up seven round trip departures, kicking off with a fifteen night foray to the North Cape on June 28th.

This is followed by a one off, seven night cruise to Western Norway on July 13th, and an eleven night swing out to Iceland on July 20th.

After a brief break, the Black Watch returns to the Tyne on September 14th to make a fourteen night Baltic Capitals cruise, followed by an eleven night cruise down to the sunny highlights of Northern Spain on September 28th. A penultimate, ten night departure on October 9th goes to some of the highlights of Scandinavia.

Final departure of the year is a fifteen night, Canary Islands sailing on October 19th, before Black Watch closes the Port Of Tyne cruise season with her departure from North Shields on November 3rd.

The summertime Baltic sunsets are truly phenomenal

The summertime Baltic sunsets are truly phenomenal

Between them, the total of twenty one sailings carried out by these three ships are anticipated to carry a total of 21,000 passengers from the only major port of embarkation in North East England. While a relatively small total compared to the flagship ports on the south coast, it has to be kept in mind that the season from the Tyne is a lot shorter than for most other ports on the mainland UK.

Future trends are hard to see, for although both Fred. Olsen and Cruise And Maritime will be back on the Tyne in 2015, the abrupt departure of Thomson Cruises creates something of a void. With a passenger capacity of around 1,250, the Thomson Spirit offers half as many berths again as her rivals, and she also offered the largest number of sailings. It has to be hoped that her absence in 2015 is only a temporary blip.