What a delight it was to be back onboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines flagship vessel Balmoral for a recent cruise to the stunning Norwegian Fjords.
For this cruise I departed from the Port of Tyne. It's a port I had never sailed from before. The check-in process was extremely quick and I was all checked in and ready to board in no time at all! During embarkation, instead of having your photo taken for your ID card, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines now take a scan of your passport which automatically uses your photo ID from your passport records – this really impressed me and speeded up the process!
As soon as I stepped onboard, I was aware that a number of areas have been extensively refurbished and redecorated from my previous visit in 2016. She is the largest of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ocean-going ships, but still small enough to enjoy scenic cruising through many narrow Norwegian Fjords, which was a highlight on this cruise. Named after the Scottish residence of the Royal Family, the Scottish theme continues throughout the ship, with the dining venues (Ballindalloch, Avon and Spey) all having the Scottish influence.
The highlight of the onboard experience has to be the cuisine! Now since my last visit to the ship, there were a number of new dining venues on offer. At the rear of Palms Café you can now find the Poolside, where you can enjoy alfresco dining with amazing sea views. The Grill is a new addition to Deck 9, alongside the Lido bar, with its stunning panoramic views looking out to sea, it offers cooked to order steaks and seafood. If you have a sweet tooth, why not opt for a visit to Gelato Bar, just alongside Palms Café which offers a choice of 12 different ice creams and smoothies. There are the main three restaurants Ballindalloch, Avon & Spey and the casual help-yourself buffet Palms Café. You can’t help but notice the wide variety of mouth-watering dishes every single evening of your cruise, and if that’s not enough, don’t forget to check out the late night super club at 11pm in Palms Café!
During Fred. Olsen’s fleet-wide refurbishment programme there have been some changes to Deck 7 with the introduction of the Bookmark Café which offers a choice of speciality coffees with delicious chocolates it’s accompanied by relaxing music from the Rosario Trio. This has replaced the old Internet Room, if you are travelling without a device or tablet, iPads are available to hire from reception should you wish to keep in contact with what is happening around the world!
You can enjoy a variety of entertainment in the evening onboard Balmoral. Why not start the night with a relaxing drink in the Observatory Lounge on Deck 11, watching the sunset after a relaxing day listening to the melodies from the piano before taking in a show. The main show is the highlight of the evening, the talented Balmoral Show Company comprise of singers and dancers who will sing classic songs and perform memorable shows. Guest entertainers will also feature on your cruise too, on my cruise to the Fjords was an excellent comedian and a very gifted musician was onboard. Don’t miss out on the crew show, which is on selected cruises featuring a number of the friendly faces you will meet around the ship offering an insight into the culture of their home countries. You can enjoy ballroom dancing, with onboard dance hosts if you are a single traveller, or enjoy live music in the Morning Light, the local onboard Pub. And when it’s time to head to bed, why not pop up to the Lido bar for one last drink and take in the live band who perform in there every night.
There is a treat of offerings in the daytime as well – do check The Daily Times which is posted into your stateroom every evening, this will detail the port talks and lectures which you are free to take part in if you wish. In keeping with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines British tradition, there was a British Night onboard where everyone waved flags and sang along to some old favourites in the theatre. I like the fact that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines still offer that traditional British Cruise experience, you can meet the captain, enjoy a drink at the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Parties plus you can dress up to the nines in your formal attire too!
There is an excellent onboard Photo Gallery, where you will find a selection of photos from embarkation to port arrivals, and from formal nights to themed evenings which you can buy as a souvenir. Do also look out for the official cruise DVD which is the ultimate keepsake from your holiday. In addition to this, you will also find three more shops onboard – the Port Shop (for your holiday essentials, souvenirs and sweet treats), the Boutique (for your duty free perfume and clothing) and the Jewellery Shop.
Balmoral is a traditional cruise ship. You will find the teak deck promenade with two swimming pools, 4 hot tubs and plenty of sun loungers to relax with open space for deck games. There are a choice of spa treatments available and a well-equipped gym – I visited the gym daily and enjoyed a cycle to burn off some of those calories!
I think the one thing that makes Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines that extra bit special for me is the onboard staff. The bar tenders remember what you like to drink after a couple of orders and the staff remember who you are. One staff remembered my name from a cruise 4 years ago, it truly is amazing.
If you haven’t tried a cruise onboard Balmoral yet, then do it. Whilst she isn’t one of the mega resorts, she offers that traditional home from home with award winning cuisine, a variety of entertainment and that extra special friendliness from the onboard crew.
I recently enjoyed a fantastic cruise on board the impressive Columbus, the new flagship for Cruise & Maritime Voyages. Having joined the fleet in June 2017, she previously had been Pacific Pearl (2010-2017), Ocean Village (2003-2010), Arcadia (1997-2003), Star Princess (1989-1997) & Fair Majesty (1988) with many people enjoying happy times on board all around the globe. Godmother to the ship is Angela Rippon CBE who officially renamed the ship on Thursday 8th June 2017 as she joined the CMV fleet.
On board this great ship you will find 13 passenger decks to explore with 9 lifts making it easy to get around. Although not all lifts serve all floors so do check before you get in them! Carrying around 1,400 passengers when she is full, there is still plenty of room on board to enjoy a quiet spot just for you. Classed as a medium sized cruise ship she is a popular choice for British holiday makers offering cruises to Baltics, Fjords, Canaries, Mediterranean and World Voyages from her home port in London Tilbury.
Starting at the bottom of the ship on deck 2 (Caribbean Deck) you will find the well-appointed Jade Wellness Spa, Hair Salon and Gymnasium. Only accessible via mid ship lifts the Jade Spa offers pampering treatments, massage and relaxation rooms and a wet room with sauna and steam room. The gymnasium is well stocked with a variety of equipment.
When it comes to accommodation Columbus offers 20 different types of cabin categories, starting from inner cabins all the way to junior suite. Each cabin comes with ensuite, plenty of wardrobe space, safe and is full air condition. I had a cabin on deck 10 (upper deck) which had access to fridge/mini bar and also had tea and coffee making facilities with sea views from a picture window. Passenger cabins are location on decks 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
The stunning centre piece of Columbus is the atrium. Spanning over 3 decks, this warm and welcoming venue is the first thing you see when you step on board the ship. On deck 5 you have reception, future cruise sales and shore excursions plus Hemmingway’s coffee shop. On deck 6 there is duty free shopping with clothing, alcohol and branded souvenirs and opposite is Raffles bar with its live piano and violin music every evening. Deck 7 is the top of the atrium with a jewellery shop, tech store, perfume shop and the photo gallery – yes see your photo in the hall of fame from those formal nights or embarkation day. All three decks are linked by staircases and offer great photo opportunities. The Gala Magnifique Buffet is held in the atrium towards the end of your cruise when all the executive chefs cook some great treats and carvings and everyone gets to eat it! On my cruise the Farewell party was held here too when the cruise staff paraded through the ship for a chance for everyone to say goodbye to each other.
Deck 7 is the interior hub of the ship with most of the entertainment and leisure facilities. The showpiece is the Palladium show lounge which offers a new show every evening over two decks. On board is the resident Columbus Show Team with broadway style shows plus guest entertainers come on board to provide a show too. Connexions Bar is the place to head if you want live music in the evening or to enjoy the daily quiz or bingo and Taverner’s Pub is like your local at sea, a great meeting place and again live music every evening. The Waterfront Restaurant is at the rear of the ship and comfortably seats everyone over two evening sittings providing a 5 or 7 course menu. Do look out for the Galley Tour on board, I did this on a sea day and it is great to see behind the scenes – the kitchens are huge!
If you need to spruce up your garments, there are two self-service laundrettes on board. Located on decks 6 and 10, they have washers, driers and ironing facilities. Washes and driers are chargeable and tokens are available form reception (around $2/$3 each) and the ironing facilities are free. Look out for the magic bag towards the end of the cruise – that’s all I’m saying!
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle head to the rear of the ship and explore Oasis and Ocean Terrace. These are the tiered decks spanning decks 8-12 and offer cabanas, sun loungers and chairs and tables. A relaxing place to watch the wake of the sea behind you as we set sail for another port of call.
Deck 11 (Navigators Deck) comprises of mainly cabin accommodation but also has Trump’s & Aces, the Library and the Crafters Studio. Trump’s & Aces is the games and card room, I have never seen such an impressive selection of board games that you can play here with plenty of tables. The library is open daily, longer on a sea day and also offers a swap service if you have finished with your book. The Crafters Studio offers classes throughout the voyage where you can make items to take home with you, on board my cruise you could make keyrings and Christmas decorations but items vary depending on the cruise.
Deck 12 (Lido Deck) is the main outdoor deck great for exploring on a nice hot day. There are two swimming pools, one with a bar with seats in the pool! There is Gelato’s ice cream parlour which offers freshly made ice creams and cones, Cappuccino’s coffee shop, the Plantation Bistro (buffet) and two speciality dining options Fusion and Grill in addition to the Alfresco Grill. Plantation Bistro is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers tea and coffee making facilities from 6am- midnight. The buffet has a daily live cooking station offering freshly prepared options. The Alfresco Grill is open during the afternoon for freshly cooked burgers and hotdogs prepared to order. The Grill and Fusion are speciality dining options which are available for a cover charge, do look out for the staff on board to book your table for the evening.
The final passenger deck is the Sun Deck (deck 14) which features the large video screen, the Dome Observatory and Nightclub and the Columbus Observation Lounge. The Dome Observatory is a nice relaxing venue in the day offering sea views and daytime activities like line dancing, in the evening it becomes a nightclub. One of my favourite hideaways on the ship was the Columbus Observation Lounge, located at the back of the ship it is always quiet with tea/coffee making station, seating area and table tennis if you fancy a game. Sail-away parties are best enjoyed from decks 12 and 14 as the resident show company all gather on deck and sing whilst the sun shines and the drinks flow!
If you are booking a cruise of three nights or more, Cruise & Maritime Voyages offer an all-inclusive drinks package for just £17 per person per day. This allows you to budget for your drinks and avoids any surprise bar bills at the end of the cruise. The package includes House Wine, draught beer, cocktails, spirits and soft drinks in the bars. Other drinks off the bar menu are available for a discount. The package can be bought within the first 24 hours of being on board.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on board Columbus, I met some really nice people and some very friendly staff who remember your name, what you like to drink and will always stop to chat to you around the ship and even in port too. It’s a great choice for all whether you are a solo traveller, couple, group of friends or even families as Columbus now offer family cruises on selected voyages. A cruise on board Columbus will let you unwind, get away from everything, enjoy some great shows and meet new friends that you will keep for a lifetime.
I recently joined the ultra-luxury all-inclusive world of cruising by sampling a voyage on board the Silver Muse, the flagship of the Silversea Cruises fleet.
Launched in spring 2017, the ship carries just under 600 guests in style, comfort and luxury.
Silver Muse is proud to boast all-suite accommodation. The lead in is a Vista suite which has a large picture window offering ocean views, all other suites offer private verandas. I was quite impressed with the size of the accommodation, each has their own seating area, spacious desk area and dining table. Each suite is serviced by a cabin steward every day and your own butler who will even unpack for you if you wish! In suite dining is complimentary and a full menu is available 24 hours a day, all washed down with a drink from your complimentary mini bar! There are spacious en-suite bathrooms with a bath and shower and luxury toiletries as standard. A walk in wardrobe offers plenty of hanging space, drawers and a safe.
A huge part of the cruising experience is the dining, and on board Silver Muse you aren’t short of dining options, there are 8 venues to enjoy a bite to eat around the ship. Most of the restaurants require a reservation for the evening; this can be done by calling the dining reservations from any phone on board or through your butler. Indochine offers Asian-scented cuisine, La Dame by Relais & Chateaux offers a bespoke menu from top chefs with the excellence of French dining. Atlantide is an elegant bar and grill that offers mouth-watering food whilst Kaiseki offers recognisable characteristics of Japanese culture with stunning costumes and the Kaiseki theatre reflects the performance in the show cooking. Silver Note offers small plate tapas style dishes with live entertainment in the form of jazz and blues. La Terrazza is open throughout the day and is the more casual restaurant on board with live interactive cooking stations where a selection of hot and cold food is available. Alfresco there are also more dining options with soft breezes and stunning views at The Grill which offers freshly prepared steaks and light bites and in the evening turns into Hot Rocks where you can cook your own steak – yes you can be chef for the evening! The final dining venue is Spaccanapoli which reflects Silversea’s Italian heritage and serves the most amazing pizzas out on deck! A couple of the restaurants have a cover charge. Food is accompanied by free flowing complimentary fine wines, spirts, champagne, cocktails and soft drinks.
Even though Silver Muse is a small vessel, there are still plenty of places to explore around the ship. The Arts Café at the aft of the ship offering sweeping views out to sea plus a coffee shop with light bites available throughout the day. The Connoisseur’s Club is rich in luxury and the venue to try a finest cognac or whiskey, ideal for after dinner. The on board Boutique is the place to visit if you want duty free shopping or to purchase souvenirs. Just above the Art’s Café is the Panorama Lounge, this venue is a peaceful retreat in the daytime and a social place to meet in the evening with live music followed by the late night disco. Tor’s Observation Library is set high up and is the quiet space for reading, pick up a book or watch the views arriving into port. The Venetian Lounge is the place to catch the port talk, the full-scale productions and evening entertainment. Dolce Vita is a gathering place midship for fellow passengers to become friends. Here you will find live entertainment in the evening, shore excursions and guest services. Both the Venetian Lounge and Dolce Vita venues are capable of holding all guests at the same time in comfort. All around the ship you will find stunning works of art from paintings to unique abstract pieces.
Out on deck is the perfect place to spend a lazy day at sea. There is a large swimming pool with two Jacuzzi pools. You can forget about the world as you sit back and sink into one of the comfy, luxurious sunbeds with a cocktail or a book. You’ll find a jogging track around the top deck if you have over indulged. The on board Spa offers a range of treatments and massages for a charge. You will find the gym, sauna and steam room here too and these are complimentary with fresh bottled water, robes and slippers available for you.
You needn’t worry about tipping or paying any gratuities, these are all taken care of in your cruise fare, which really helps when planning and budgeting for your cruise, knowing that everything is included. On board you will find a high staff to passenger ratio, with nearly one member of staff for every passenger, this equates to some of the highest service on the ocean waves with staff going out of their way to make friends with you whilst you are on holiday.
If you are looking for an all-inclusive ultra-luxury cruise experience, look no further than Silversea Cruises and the Silver Muse. The ship was really incredible, I didn’t think it would be for me but I had an amazing time on board and definitely looking forward to returning soon, I would recommend it to anyone looking for that step up to the next cruise experience.
I have just returned from a short break on board Voyages to Antiquity’s ship Aegean Odyssey. Carrying around 340 passengers, this is small ship cruising at its best. Visiting smaller ports of call that the larger vessels simply can’t reach, the ship offers destinations and locations off the beaten track with longer in ports and more overnight stays.
I think it’s important to note just what is included in the price of your holiday. Starting with the comfortable accommodation a choice of either inside, ocean view, superior ocean view, balcony or suites, there is something for everyone. Its full board so breakfast, lunch and dinner served in either the main restaurant Marco Polo or in the Terrace Café buffet with its outdoor seating area. Wine, Beer & Soft Drinks are also included with your evening meal. Your tips & gratuities are taken care of so there is no need to worry about having pay extra. A choice of excursions are also included in your holiday with usually one if not more complimentary in each port.
The team on board Aegean Odyssey really are so friendly and go out of their way to make sure you have a relaxing and enjoyable time on board. Small ship cruising means it’s more intimate, you get to know the crew and they get to know you. After being on board within a few hours, crew were remembering my name and what I liked to drink. Rich Sykes is the cruise director on board and is the friendly voice you hear in the morning explaining the arrangements and timings for the day. But don’t worry if you miss any of them, the daily journal posted in your cabin every evening will detail what is doing on around the ship the following day.
Voyages to Antiquity really pride themselves on the varied itineraries and destinations, offering sailings across the globe as fly cruise options or for those or prefer not to fly there are a selection of itineraries sailing from the UK. There are port talks and lectures to attend to find out more about the things to do in port and the helpful shore excursion team are on hand for any questions. There is also an on board lecture programme with guest speakers who entertain throughout your cruise by sharing their knowledge and expertise and will always have time to speak 1 on 1 for any questions.
Gone are the days of panicking that you have to take your best cocktail dress or bow tie, there are no formal nights on board. In the daytime is typically what you would wear on holiday with polo shirt, t-shirts and shorts the order of the day and in the evening it’s smart casual, typically something that you might wear for a night out with friends in town.
I really loved the outdoor areas on board, all complete with teak decking there are comfortable padded sun loungers to relax on by the pool with fluffy towels and complimentary slippers. And it’s not just by the pool either, you can find places to relax at the bow and aft of the ship too, ideal for coastal cruising or sailing away from ports and landmark spotting.
There is something for everyone to eat on board. Breakfast can be a choice of either continental or cooked which can be served in the Marco Polo restaurant or in the Terrace Café, I really enjoyed eating alfresco at the aft enjoying views out to sea. Lunch and Dinner are again served in the restaurant or café, it depends if you want to enjoy waiter service or self service. There is usually a choice of breads, salads, cold cuts, soup, hot selection and also a fantastic sweet treats trolley with plenty of choice! Again at evening meal time wine, beer and soft drinks are included with meals in your cruise fare. Late night snacks are available in Charleston Lounge for anyone who fancies a nibble before retiring to bed.
There are three main areas which are used for entertainment or relaxing. Up on Observation Deck is the Lounge & Piano bar offering stunning views around, at times a pianist will play melodies in the evening and in the day time it’s a place to challenge your fellow travellers to bridge. Down on Promenade deck (deck 6) the Ambassador Lounge is the venue for lectures, seminars, dancing and the captain’s cocktail party. Mid-ship is Charleston Lounge where you can find the daily fun quiz plus a variety of evening entertainment from pianists to vocalists. If you want to relax in any venue with a book, the well-stocked library has something for everyone from travel guides to novels plus you can find the daily crossword and board games here too.
On Columbus deck you can find the Athena Health Spa offering massages, treatments and specialist body therapies to make you relax whilst on board. The Fitness Studio & gym is open daily offering a choice of equipment and 1 on1 sessions – after all that food you will need it!
Don’t forget to stop by the very impressive shop. Offering everything from confectionery to duty free it is open on sea days or when in port. It also offers holiday essentials ideal if you run out of something or if you have simply forgotten it! You can pick up a branded souvenir, a new handbag or watch in the shop, look out for the sale bargains too!
On board I met a real mix of people, but what I noticed was how friendly everyone was. Many of the passengers I met were on their 7th or 8th cruise on board Aegean Odyssey and it’s clear to see why the repeat passenger number is so high. I will definitely be back on board soon and hopefully next time for longer.
I’ve just returned from the first Cruise With Cross holiday on board the stunning Norwegian Jade to the beautiful Norwegian Fjords.
It’s the first time Norwegian Cruise Line have based a ship sailing from Southampton for a number of years so its proving popular for passengers who prefer not to fly. Norwegian Cruise Line are now premium all inclusive, so that means they all your drinks, up to the value of $15 per glass and all your service charges and tips are included (and yes I made full use of this!) – You can literally step on board without a penny in your pocket!
There is a great choice of activities for all to do on board Norwegian Jade. The majority of public facilities can be found on deck 7, deck 12 and deck 13. The heartbeat of the ship is the atrium; this is where you will find Guest Services, Restaurant Reservations, Shore Excursions and Cruise Next – the future cruise sales desk. The staff are incredibly helpful and are always on hand to assist with any queries my fellow travellers and I had on board. The Atrium Bar & Café will keep you refreshed with a morning coffee and chocolates or a place for a pre-dinner drink. There is a piano in the atrium with live music every evening, it was rocking! Just along the atrium you will find the art gallery with original works of art by well-known artists which are available to buy. The photo gallery is interactive and by scanning your cruise card you can view all your holiday snaps! If shopping is your thing, you are in for a treat. There is on board shop with duty free items, jewellery, alcohol, branded merchandise plus the essentials if you have forgot them!
In the evening there is something happening all over the ship, on deck 13 you will find Spinnaker Lounge with its live music and disco in the evening and in the day a great venue to sit back and enjoy the views and also play bingo! It’s really where the action happens at night, where you can throw plenty of moves on the dancefloor into the early hours! On deck 7 is the Bliss Lounge, a venue that offers daily live entertainment plus karaoke! Of course the main event takes place in the Stardust theatre with its twice nightly show included in the price of your holiday, I enjoyed a magic show, singing and dancing plus the impressive Elements show which is well known on board Norwegian Cruise Line ships. If you want to have a little flutter in the Casino you will find this on deck 6 which is open through the day when at sea or sailing from the ports, and just next to the casino is the Champagne, Whiskey and Martini Bars with its live music offering.
When it comes to dining, Norwegian Cruise Line, really offer something for everyone. Its freestyle cruising which means you can eat when you want, where you want and with who you want. There is no need to pack the cocktail dress or bow tie – there are no formal nights on board a Norwegian Cruise Line holiday so you can be relaxed at dinner. There are two main restaurants: Alizar and Grand Pacific which are waiter service and serve an impressive menu. There is no set times you just turn up when you want and get seated right away. If it’s a light bite you are after the Garden Café is the buffet option with its serving stations and live cooking demonstrations. I will always remember the friendly staff at the entrance who greet you with ‘washy washy’ before entering the buffet! O’Sheehan’s is your neighbourhood bar – open 24 hours a day it is totally complimentary with waiter service starting with a full breakfast, traditional daily specials and then the late night chicken wings – yes you can eat chicken wings at 4am, I did! The Topsiders Grill is located next to the pool and weather permitting offers a light bite for lunch – burgers by the pool is a great way to chill out! The Jasmine Garden Asian restaurant is another complimentary dining venue with freshly prepared noodles, soups and wok fried dishes. If you want to enjoy some speciality dining there is a further choice of venues such as Moderno (the Brazilian steakhouse), Teppanyaki (live show cooking), Cagney’s Steakhouse (American premium cuts), La Cucina (Italian restaurant), Le Bistro (French restaurant) and the Sushi Bar. Booking is recommended at the speciality restaurants and great if you are celebrating an anniversary or birthday whilst on board. If you are looking to book, you will find interactive boards around the ship which shows which dining venues have availability – it’s a really good way of finding the ideal time slot.
After all the eating, you can burn off the calories in the fitness centre on deck 12 – its open from 6am – 11pm and there are on board instructors on hand to assist with any questions or to help you. I visited the gym on a number of occasions and used the bike, clocking up some miles! At the rear of the ship on deck 13 is the sports court with its nets, ideal for tennis, basketball or football! The Mandara Spa & Salon is the place to head if you want to chill out or enjoy a relaxing massage or facial – look out for the daily special offers.
Norwegian Jade offers accommodation for all budgets. Each stateroom has been refurbished during the upgrade with accommodation starting at insides, oceanview, balcony, suite and Haven suites. It all depends what you want from your holiday but all include ensuite accommodation and amenities. The bathroom was one of the largest I had experienced before at sea with a power shower, plenty of shelves and space for all your toiletries, in addition to the toiletries provided complimentary from Norwegian Cruise Line.
One of the things people say to me is that they will get bored on a cruise ship – trust me you won’t! I had three sea days on my cruise and there was always something going on around the ship. You will find the activities detailed inside the freestyle daily newspaper which is posted inside your cabin every evening and lets you plan the next day.
If you are planning to travel with the family, like many did on this itinerary. There are the well organised and supervised children’s clubs on board – it looked like great fun when they went for a tour of the ship with their faces painted! They even have their own pool area out on deck just for kids!
Our cruise took us to the stunning Norwegian Fjords via Hamburg. Hamburg is a great city to walk around and enjoy the architecture, it was a maiden call for Norwegian Jade so they quayside was lined with thousands of people for our departure. Our ports in the Norwegian Fjords were Skjolden, Olden, Alesund and Bergen. These villages and cities offer everything from walking tours to excursions to glaciers, I would recommend pre-booking the excursions to get the most out of your holiday. And when you leave the ports there is often hours of sailing inbetween the fjords, head out to the sundeck with your camera and watch the moving picture postcards of the scenery.
It was great to be cruising with so many Vision Cruise customers on board Norwegian Jade, we had a number of first time cruisers and a number of passengers who were new to Norwegian Cruise Line and said they would be returning and I can see why. This won’t be my last cruise with Norwegian, nor it won’t be my last Cruise With Cross – keep an eye out for details of the next cruise!
Have a look through my holiday photos & video - it was great fun!
Carrying just over 800 passengers when she is full, Black Watch is an intimate cruise ship with a friendly and familiar atmosphere. Fitted out like a country house hotel, Black Watch is like your home from home. It’s easy to navigate and there is always a friendly face around the corner to wish you a good morning or help you find you way.
Offering a choice of itineraries from Southampton to the Fjords, Scandinavia, British Isles & Scottish Locks and to the Canaries. Black Watch is able to visit smaller ports that some of larger ships can’t and also has an ever popular river cruise programme too.
The heartbeat of the ship is the reception area, who are always on hand day or night to answer any questions. When it comes to dining on board Black Watch there are several options for you. You will be allocated a table in the Glentanar or Orchid Room restaurants where you can enjoy a freshly prepared 5 course meal every single evening! There are also formal nights on board when you can dress up in all your finery. If you are after a help yourself option, you can visit Brigadoon which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If it’s a fine day outside there is the option to sit alfresco at The Poolside and if you are celebrating a special occasion I would recommend The Black Watch Room.
A holiday is all about relaxation and what better way to spend a day at sea on board Black Watch than in one of the Jacuzzis and heated pools on top deck, you can even visit the fitness centre after all that food. You can also enjoy a stroll around the promenade deck, play tennis or golf on board as well! And after all that I would recommend a visit to the Atlantis spa for a relaxing pampering treatment, the perfect way to end the day.
Now when it comes to accommodation, Black Watch offers something for everyone. You can choose from an inside room, an ocean view room, a terrace balcony or even a suite. I would recommend a suite if you are having a birthday or anniversary on board, it comes with added extras that make your holiday that bit special.
In the evening there is always the main show in the Neptune Lounge, which could be the resident show company, a live comedy performance or cabaret; these will all be detailed inside your room in the daily times printed on board. There’s an Internet room, card room and deck games also available in the daytime. Next to the Explorers Library is the Bookmark Café which is an a la carte patisserie, with luxury handmade chocolates. You must try the afternoon tea that’s served in the Braemar Garden with fresh scones & sandwiches. And don’t miss out on the live entertainment in the Morning Light Pub with the daily quiz!
If it’s a duty free handbag, perfume or designer watch you are after, or maybe you have forgotten the toothpaste or shampoo, there are shops on board for souvenirs and essentials.
If you haven’t sampled Fred Olsen Cruise Lines yet, what are you waiting for! It's intimate cruising to a choice of destinations around the world.
Pictures: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
I'm really looking forward to taking my first trip on board Norwegian Jade to the Norwegian Fjords, I have hundreds of guests booked already! It's your chance to join me on a cruise holiday, it would be great to have you on board!. I’ll be having a special cocktail party, there will be the chance to join me for dinner and enjoy excursions with me.!
This cruise is great for a first-timer. if you have never been on a cruise holiday you are missing out on so much! Firstly, this cruise is sailing out of the UK, which means there are no restrictions when it comes to luggage, so you can take as much as you want! Sailing out of a UK port is so easy, you haven’t got the queues and stress of an airport, you can arrive at the port and be on board in less than 30 minutes and then your holiday begins! And what a great destination the Norwegian Fjords are, with breathtaking views and so many photo opportunities. Plus I will have some great giveaways on board too!
The Norwegian Jade has plenty of facilities for all! Let’s start with the dining; it's relaxed and casual, plus there are no set times in any of the restaurants for dining and there are no formal nights! There are 16 different dining options on board including the best buffet at sea! You will also find a choice of bars, lounges, an impressive theatre, and an expansive spa plus lots more! No matter who is cruising, everyone will have a great time! On board we have included the ultimate drinks package, which includes any drink at any time of the day up to the value of $15 per drink, so that’s practically everything except the high end champagne! This drinks package is worth over $700 dollars per person if you were to buy it on board, and we have included it in your cruise price! Plus we have included some holiday spends for you, an exclusive $25 per stateroom on board credit which you can use this for souvenirs, shopping or pampering treatments. This on board credit is exclusive to Vision Cruise and is not available anywhere else.
I really do love the Norwegian Fjords itinerary and if you haven’t been before I can highly recommend it. We sail out of Southampton so no luggage restrictions and enjoy a fun day at sea. Our first port is Hamburg nestled along the beautiful Elbe River, the second largest city in Germany. Try a visit to the Fish Auction Hall and Market, an open-air market that’s been hawking local wares since 1703. We enjoy a further day at sea for you to explore what Norwegian Jade has to offer. Our second port is beautiful Skjolden, situated at the inner end of the world’s longest fjord. The Sognefjord truly is spectacular with waterfalls and fjords that we cruise close to. Our third port takes us to pretty Olden, a small remote village with access to the impressive Briksdal Glacier. Our fourth port is the fishing town of Alesund with its little shops and cafes and our final port is lovely Bergen with its famous fish market and its funicular railway taking you up Mount Floyen for great views. We then enjoy a final day at sea before cruising back into Southampton.
So go on, what are you waiting for! For more details give us a call on 0800 655 6449 or visit the website www.visioncruise.co.uk and I look forward to meeting you on the Norwegian Jade in June!
I have just returned from a fantastic cruise on board the brand new ms Koningsdam. Launched in Spring 2016, she is the first new ship for Holland America Line in eight years. The name Koningsdam comes from the Dutch for king (Koning) and of course the usual ‘Dam’ ending as all the ships in the fleet have. Boasting impressive amenities, much technological advancement, new additions for the line plus the most luxurious ships ever build for Holland America Line she is a true beauty, carrying just over 2,600 passengers.
As soon as you step on board you are greeted by quality furnishing and expensive artwork that runs throughout the ship. I would recommend taking a trip up (or down) the staircase towards the bow of the ship to see the very impressive artworks, made out of buttons and toy cards to name just two items! There are paintings of famous landmarks, musicians and instruments all around the ship. There seems to be a lot of space on board this ship, the staterooms seem particularly bigger plus the public areas are adorned with much more space than usual.
There are 13 decks to explore, so let’s start at the top. The observation deck (deck 12) is at the bow of the ship, housing the Crows Nest pub which is great place for a sea day, I enjoyed a rather interesting talk here whilst cruising through the straits of Messina with excellent views. There is a library with an expensive selection of travel guides and novels, an internet centre plus the Explorations café. Here you will get complimentary nibbles throughout the day served with coffee for a cover charge. Outside you will find The Retreat, this is the adults only area. Here you can pay a daily charge, or a charge to cover your whole cruise for a private cabana with light refreshments and snacks which a great idea and one I would highly recommend – look out for the very big green bunny here!
Deck 11 offers plenty of places to relax on a sun lounger at the aft of the vessel, with views looking town to deck 9. You can find a sports court with basketball hoops, football nets and of course shuffleboard, which is a must for playing at sea! You will also notice some outdoor fitness equipment which is all complimentary and included in the price. Around the deck is a jogging track, ideal for that early morning sprint or jog watching the sunset at the end of the day. My veranda balcony stateroom was also on deck 11, a rather spacious and well appointed room it had a very comfortable double bed, a lounge area with table and desk area. Plenty of storage space with wardrobes, cupboards and drawers, a fridge, safe and an en-suite bathroom with complimentary Elemis toiletries and a very large powerful shower. You can use a USA or European adapter on board, plus there are USB ports, ideal for charging things like mobile phones or table devices both at the desk area and on the bedside table.
The Panarama Deck (10) offers more accommodation plus an expansive area to sit in the middle of the ship and overlook the pool at deck 9. If you are travelling with the children, you will find Club HAL here with three different clubs depending on children’s ages (3-6, 7-12 and the teens), all have their own private areas with supervision. The Panorama Bar is a good meeting place both day and night with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean plus a view overlooking the pool. There’s a big screen showing blockbuster films nightly, plus in the day has a selection of programmes including BBC Earth as part of their partnership with HAL. Now if you are feeling hungry, there is the complimentary New York Deli & Pizza, open throughout the day, you can start with a breakfast bagel and then have made to order Pizza’s for lunch and dinner. You simply place your order, you are given a buzzer and return to pick it up a few minutes later. If you wish you can take it back to your stateroom as it will be served in an authentic takeaway box! For an alternative dining option, you could also try Tamarind which is an Asian fusion restaurant with a live sushi corner, we ate here on the first night and wow what a menu!
The Lido Deck (9) seems to be the hub of the ship for daytime activity. You can find the award winning Greenhouse Spa & Salon with complimentary sauna plus a range of massages and treatments available for a cover charge. The gymnasium is open throughout the day offering health and wellbeing classes. The Lido pool is in the middle of the ship, with three hot tubs and plenty of comfortable sun loungers. I really liked the retractable roof over the Lido Pool which was open in the day and closed at night as the venue took on a different persona. The Lido bar will keep you refreshed, but if it’s an ice cream you want, you must visit Gelato – they are amazing! Talking of amazing, you must try a Dive In burger. These are again served at lunch and dinner and you order in a similar way to the New York Pizzeria and Deli in that you are handed a buzzer whilst it is prepared for you. There is a further pool at the aft of the ship with plenty of outdoor seating areas. In between both pools, you can find the Lido Market. This is the buffet option on board, where you will find individual workstations where meals are prepared in front of you. You must also visit the carvery, salad bar and try the daily specials, these are a real highlight.
Decks 4-8 are accommodation with a choice of interior, ocean view, veranda balcony to suites. If you choose to have a Neptune Suite, not only will you get plenty of space, you will also get special access to the Neptune Lounge which is a private area with complimentary snacks plus concierge.
Promenade Deck 3 house the World Stage, this is the impressive theatre which is unlike anything I have seen at sea before. The seating surrounds the majority of the stage plus with the LCD backdrop makes it a fantastic night time venue. There is a casino if you fancy some of the Las Vegas lifestyle. The art gallery is well worth a visit with some excellent pieces of work, these are available to buy on board and can be shipped to your home address for a small charge. The Signature shops sells branded HAL merchandise, duty free items plus travel essentials. You will find the upper area of the Queens Lounge here which overlooks the impressive stage and dance floor. In the atrium of the ship, you will find a great sculpture which spans three decks, plus the Front Office for any queries whilst on your cruise. The Grand Dutch Café is worth a visit too, this area has Dutch staff and brings back some of the heritage to the line, with complimentary snacks like chips with peanut butter and mayonnaise – yes I did try it and it was quite nice! The photo gallery has all of your cruise snaps available as souvenirs of your cruise. At the aft of the ship you will find the main dining room, spanning over two decks, this impressive area offers a variety of meals every evening. I thought the restaurant looked like others I had seen on similar brands, I later found out the designer Adam D Tihany had designed this area with its must see wine tower centrepiece.
Plaza Deck (2) has more entertainment venues and shopping opportunities. Lincoln Centre Stage offers a quiet place to relax with live classical music whilst Billboard Onboard has duelling pianos which are very impressive and requests are taken by the pianists! The Queens Lounge is a lovely area to learn some ballroom dancing, enjoy a spot of afternoon tea, take in the BB Kings Blues live band or the late night evening nightclub. You’ll also find a couple of speciality restaurants here including Pinnacle Grill steakhouse with its seafood and steaks – I was presented with a whole lobster and steak! Sel De Mer has a seafood theme with the fresh catch of the day, plus sharing platters. You can also get hands on with Blend (wine tasting & making), Notes (Whisky tasting) plus the Culinary Arts Centre where you can watch the chef’s cook plus get the opportunity to eat the meal at the end. These three are popular and do get booked up, so I would advise booking them as soon as you get on board and are certainly worth the cover charge.
Finally on Main Deck (1) you will find more accommodation, meeting rooms and the shore excursion desk.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on board the Koningsdam, the designers have really changed things that make it different from the older ships but still in keeping with Holland America Line’s history. Certainly a ship that offers a variety of entertainment options, a choice in dining all with a comfortable modern and spacious feel about it.
Welcome to Ventura. She is one of the larger ships in the P&O Cruises fleet, benefiting from great facilities for all the family. I recently went on board to have a look around. On board you can find an impressive 12 dining options, a lavish two-deck theatre, 11 places to socialise including four deck bars and lots of areas to relax and unwind.
Ventura offers a choice of cabins to suit all budgets and tastes from insides to balcony cabins. All cabins are air conditioned and have the British favourites like tea and coffee making facilities and three pin plug sockets so no need for adapters! All bedding is Egyptian cotton, you’ll also find a hairdryer, safe and en-suite bathroom with toiletries. And to service your cabin twice daily, or for any questions, you will receive a personal cabin steward who is there to look after you.
When it comes to dining, Ventura can offer something for every taste. There are three main restaurants on board (Saffron, Cinnamon & Bay Tree), all these restaurants offer five course gourmet evening meals served either at the same time every evening on the same table (Club dining) or no fixed seating or dining times (Freedom dining). I really do like the idea of freedom dining, if you have been busy exploring a port of call, there’s no need to rush back for you meal. If its casual dining you want, there is a choice of options. For speciality dining, you can choose to eat in Sindhi with tastes by Atul Kochhar or if you fancy selected wines by Olly Smith with some affordable tapas, head to The Glass House. The Epicurean is also a good alternative choice too. Snacks are available from the poolside grill in addition to the main buffet.
Once we have eaten, it’s time to look at the entertainment options on board. The Horizon newspaper is posted inside your stateroom every evening, this details everything that is going on around the ship the following day, and is a handy thing to keep in your pocket as you go around the ship. Included in the price of your holiday you will sample a choice of entertainment including: dazzling west-end style performances, comedy shows, cabaret, live music, night clubs, dance classes, pub quizzes and much more. The Arena Theatre is the main show venue. With its two-tiers, you can enjoy a great west-end style show. The Tamarind club offers live music and dancing. Havana is the Cuban themed nightclub, the ideal place to try that Latin American dance! The Metropolis bar has an ever changing skyline – one night you may be in Sydney, the following night you may be in New York!
If you are enjoying a sea day on board Ventura, there are plenty of things to do, from dance classes to deck games and watercolour art, or just simply relaxing with a book on top deck. If its shopping you are after, a choice of boutiques stock essentials, souvenirs and of course duty free!
Ready for the formal night, if you wanted a massage or your hair cut, head to Oasis spa for a choice of treatments. The Retreat is the adult only area and you’re own little private sanctuary. There is a sports court, fitness centre and gym, these are included in the cost of your cruise.
Ventura is a fantastic choice for everyone, if you are a solo traveller you will make new friends. If you are cruising as a couple, you can enjoy the tranquil spa facilities. A family will love Ventura, the kids can be entertained in the free age-specific children’s clubs ranging from 2-17 years, with a night nursery for the under 4s. There are special children’s areas in the restaurants plus a separate swimming pool at the back of the ship.
I really enjoyed my time on board Ventura and the staff are so friendly and go out of their way to make sure you have the cruise holiday of a lifetime I just can’t wait to get back on board, its quintessential quality with P&O Cruises.
I’ve just returned from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Braemar. Carrying around 929 passengers in 485 rooms, she offers a country house hotel atmosphere and a relaxing home from home.
There are 7 passenger decks to explore on Braemar. I noticed that in the majority of public areas, the ship had large windows which filled the ships interior with natural light, as well as offering spectacular views out to see. Tastefully decorated with decadent fabrics, polished wooden fixtures and shiny brass fittings, she offers a unique and intimate feel, coupled with fantastic on board crew offering an outstanding level of personal service.
I think its amazing how the staff on board Fred. Olsen can remember your favourite tipple, and also remember exactly how your steak is cooked. I have returned to Fred. Olsen ships after 6 months and the staff still remember my name – I am not that memorable!
The top deck - the Marquee deck, is the place to head when the weather is nice. You will find 2 swimming pools, a paddling pool and 2 Jacuzzis with plenty of sun loungers. The perfect place to relax on a sea day. The marquee bar will keep you refreshed throughout the day before heading to dinner in the Grampian restaurant. You can also find more places to lounge in the sun and play golf in the nets on the upper Sun Deck. Towards the front of the ship is the Observatory Lounge, I must recommend traditional afternoon tea here. Served on certain days during your cruise. It must be pre-booked as it is popular. You can have a selection of teas, finger sandwiches and tempting sweet treats.
On deck 7, the Bridge deck, you will mainly find suites and rooms, but this is the location of the rather impressive gym. Formally a bar on board, the company decided to change it to the gym and what better way to keep in shape then exercising with fantastic sea views!
Deck 6 is next, the Lido deck, again, this is mainly filled with rooms but you will find the buffet 'style' Palms Café. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is an alternative to the main restaurants, and if you don’t fancy dressing up one evening, this is a great option. There is so much choice here from salads and starters to mains and desserts. With Fred. Olsen having a Norwegian heritage, seafood is very much order of the day with anything from a seafood cocktail to the fresh catch!
Most of the public facilities can be found on Deck 5, the Lounge Deck. The Coral club is located at the back of the ship, with live entertainment and a place for a pre-dinner drink. Guest services are open throughout the day for any queries whilst on holiday. The port shop, photo gallery & excursion desks are located here. The Bookmark Café is a fantastic chocolate shop selling handmade chocolates to eat on board, or take home as presents! The Morning Light pub is like a local at sea with its daily quiz and the place to head for a cocktail before taking in an evening performance in the Neptune Lounge. The Library offers a selection of books, the latest news around the World in the daily newspaper printed on board, plus a selection of board games.
Decks 4, 3 & 2 you will mainly find accommodation. On deck 3 there is the Atlantic Spa offering a range of treatments from massages to haircutting! There is a sauna and steam room here too.
Once again my time on board Braemar is over; I always wish I could stay longer on board but can’t wait to join Braemar again, hopefully very soon.