I know I talked about Oasis of the Seas last time, and I’m going to do so again. It’s partly because Oasis of the Seas seems to be one of the most exciting things happening within the world of cruising at the moment, and all thanks to Royal Caribbean. It’s the biggest and most expensive cruise liner ever built, costing more than £800 million, and carrying more than 5,400 passengers, with a crew of more than 2,000. The ship is 360 metres long, which makes it longer than four city blocks.
Not only is the ship impressive in terms of size, but it includes some amazing features, many of which are a first in terms of cruise ship design, with a 750-seat Greek-style amphitheatre, a shopping mall, an ice rink, a 1,300 seat indoor theatre, and the previously mentioned open-air park with real trees and plants.
The best suite available is the Royal Loft Suite which can accommodate a group of six. This suite has 141 square metres of floor space, and has a baby grand piano, indoor and outdoor dining rooms that seat eight, a private wet bar, a library and a 78 square meter balcony with its own LCD television, entertainment area and jacuzzi. The Royal Loft Suite can be connected to a Crown Loft Suite for additional room to accommodate a total of ten guests, providing192 square metres of space!
There is something lovely about a garden, and even lovelier when you find the garden in an unusual, unexpected place. I remember how impressed I was when I came across my first London roof garden. So I for one was completely amazed and impressed to hear that Royal Caribbean’s soon-to-be-launched Oasis of the Seas will have its very own on board park.
Generally, much as cruise ships are great fun, the one thing they tend to lack is gardens and greenery – until now. This Central Park will be the size of a footie pitch and have flowers, shrubs, bushes, trees, grass and pretty winding pathways. And the lucky inhabitants of 254 rooms will have balconies that overlook the park area.
Oasis of the Seas will embark on her maiden voyage this December, sailing from her home port of Port Everglades, Florida. She has sixteen decks, 2,700 staterooms, of which 28 are new loft suites, and she will be able to carry some 5,400 passengers. Oasis of the Seas will be the first ship to use Royal Caribbean’s new neighbourhood concept with seven distinctly themed areas, including Central Park, Boardwalk, and the Royal Promenade.
So if you want to give this new ship a go, you’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of cruise bargains to be grabbed, and the cost may not be as steep as you think.
I’ve talked a lot on this blog about spa facilities on board ship where you can go to be refreshed and blow the cobwebs away, and it’s nice to see that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines are just as keen to give their ships a nice makeover as well. Their elegant ship Black Watch is now in dry dock for a little pampering and an enhancement of facilities on board.
The Garden Café will be replaced by the Braemar Garden Café, which will be a larger and more contemporary restaurant, with plenty of space for relaxed dining in chic and modern surroundings. After a meal passengers will be able to stroll over to the nearby Braemar Lounge which will be fitted with a fine new bar..
There will be new soft furnishings for the Piper's Bar, the Glentanar Restaurant and the Observatory Lounge. There will also be mechanical and technical improvements to the ship.
After the sprucing up, Black Watch will return to the seas on 14th December, starting with a five-day mini-cruise to the fabulous European Christmas Markets departing from Southampton.
So if you want to see what the newly refurbished Black Watch is like, and also do a little Christmas shopping, sipping mulled wine while you listen to local choirs, then this looks like the ideal pre-Christmas cruise.
Princess Cruises based in the UK port of Southampton has been voted the “Best Luxury Cruise Line” at the British Travel Awards this year.
“We are delighted to win this highly prestigious award as it reflects the success of Princess Cruises in the UK and highlights consumer recognition of our unrivalled American style luxury service and ‘can-do’ attitude” said Pieter van der Schee, who is the head of brand marketing at Princess Cruises.
Offering a “complete escape”, Princess have a fleet of very elegantly fitted out ships that offer all the luxury and attention to detail that you would expect from a first class hotel, a wonderful standard of accommodation, gourmet meals, great entertainment and plenty of opportunities for pampering. As well as ships that carry thousands of passengers, Princess are also proud of their smaller vessels carrying only 680 passengers, which offer an exclusive feeling of camaraderie among fellow travellers as they make their way from one exciting port to the next.
Princess cover a full range of worldwide cruise destinations including Alaska, Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. If you simply can’t make your mind up where to go, then you could always choose one of their world cruises, and sail around the globe in style.
The British Travel Awards is thought to be a good reflection of public opinion on the travel industry and travel related matters in the United Kingdom. The awards are much coveted within the industry, and so this will be a fine accolade for Princess Cruises.
If for you a holiday is about indulging your favourite passion then Fred Olsen Cruise Lines do just the holiday for you with their ArtsClub cruises. ArtsClub? Yes, these are special interest voyages where you can pursue your fave interest at sea.
But actually, it’s not just about pursuing a favourite passion, it can be about discovering a new one as well. Part of the problem about trying to follow an interest at home is that there is always something to distract you – ringing phones, doorbells, the daily routine of life, always something going on. And then there is your own procrastination. So making a start at something new as a part of a holiday is an ideal way to commit yourself and to get started, free from distraction, and in the best possible atmosphere where you can dedicate your time to your interest.
When I looked through the Fred Olsen ArtsClub brochure, I was impressed with the range of themes on offer, so here are some of them:
How about studying ancient civilisations while you actually visit the places mentioned as part of your cruise itinerary? You will see those ancient Greek and Roman sites in a whole new light when you know something of the background of those great civilisations. There are also themes devoted to the classical mythology so loved by the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean. If more recent history is more your thing, then there is a history theme that looks at Maritime, Naval, Family, Arts, Celtic and Natural History with detailed discussions and lectures.
Another possibility is to learn about antiques, or if you are mad about collecting, you can even learn about collectibles.
There are themed art and painting cruises with expert speakers, and there are cruises where you can improve your watercolour painting, or learn about pottery or card-making. There are also photography themes, and a cruise will provide you with the perfect opportunity to take some fantastic photos.
There is even a Choirs at Sea theme for those that like to sing, and there are cruises devoted to comedy which look at comedy from the days of the Music Hall through silent comedy, to popular comedians of more recent years.
The dance themes cover Ballroom, Latin American, sequence dancing, Spanish Flamenco, and other styles, usually with some relevance to the places being visited. But if you prefer to listen to music rather than dance to it, then there is a music theme that looks at classical, swing, jazz and even song-writing.
There is a genealogy themed cruise which makes a great start for researching your family tree.
And there’s tons more that I haven’t got the space to tell you about, such as Nordic Mythology, Story Telling, Flora and Fauna, Wildlife, and even Wine! (Sign me up for that last one).
But the real piece de resistance has to be The Archers cruise, yes, a cruise devoted to that everyday story of country folk. You can join members of the cast and enjoy a special episode written exclusively for the cruise.
So a themed cruise could be the perfect antidote to always being too busy to pursue your dream.
It seems that more cruise ships are setting sail from British ports than ever before, and 2010 will see a great choice of ships setting sail from Britain. Not only that, but changing times and tastes mean a greater choice of destinations on offer.
There has been a boom in cruises to northern Europe and the Baltic, and also increasing tourism to the Middle East has seen more cruise ships heading for that area that offers so much in the way of ancient history and historical sites. This winter Royal Caribbean will be starting a programme of cruises through the Persian Gulf, something that Costa Cruises are already doing. It is expected that 2010 will see an increase in demand for cruises to the Far East as well.
So what about prices? Over 2009 the cruise lines have been offering some pretty good deals on cruises, with discounts of up to a staggering 60 per cent, along with free flights and other temptations such as complimentary car parking, and even generous on-board credits in the region of £200 per person.
In 2010 there will be more ships, and therefore more places to fill, which could well mean some great bargains on offer. It seems like the best strategy is to decide where you’d like to go, choose which ships would best suit your taste and lifestyle, and then shop around for the best deal. The wisdom seems to be that the best deals will be around at the start of 2010, with prices going up a bit as the year goes on.
An essential part of any holiday these days is the proximity of a spa, with holidaymakers now seeing relaxing massages, facials, saunas, hot tubs, and health and beauty treatments as all part of the essential holiday experience. Any top hotel worth its salt will now incorporate a spa, and cruise lines have not been slow to catch onto the trend either, with most cruise ships now having excellent spas along with all their other on board wonders. And increasingly, the spa is not just a spa, but a medi-spa too, where you can get various long-lasting beauty treatments that involve a little more than simply the application of cream.
P&O have some lovely Oasis Spas on their ships where you can get all sorts of treatments from mud therapy to tooth-whitening, and even facial peels, as well as all the traditional spa treatments. Azura, P&O’s new, sleek and sophisticated super-liner due next spring, will have a tremendous spa incorporating a mud chamber and an adults-only spa terrace known as The Retreat, where you can relax well away from the little ankle biters.
P&O’s Oasis Spas even offer the Oxyjet Star facial, which has been popular with celebrities such as Madonna, and Jennifer Aniston – you only have to look at them to know it must work!
Celebrity Cruises’ latest ship, Celebrity Solstice, has a medi-spa that includes treatments such as Botox and Restylane, which work wonders on smoothing that face. The spa has 23 treatment rooms as well as a Persian Garden relaxation room with warm beds, a steam room and even an aromatic dry sauna.
Carnival Cruises’ new ship Carnival Dream will also have a large spa, with 17 treatment rooms, a thalassotherapy pool with heated ionised water and pulsating water jets, and a thermal suite with four wet and dry heat therapy chambers to cleanse, tone and purify the body.
It seems that with every new cruise ship, the on board spa just gets better and better, making for the perfect relaxing holiday afloat.