A Look at Fred.Olsen’s Braemar
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fred olsen braemar

Every cruise line has their own uniqueness that allows them to stand out from the crowd and Ipswich based Fred. Olsen are no different. Reviews from their past passengers are very positive and many comment on the relaxed and friendly atmosphere onboard, the great service plus the ability to get into smaller ports as reasons for staying loyal to this line.

One of their ships, the Bahamas registered 900 plus passenger MV Braemar has been a major seafarer player since 1993. Braemar was built in 1993 for the now defunct Crown Cruise Line as the Crown Dynasty and was with Crown until 1997. The ship then sailed under several lines which were Cunard, Majesty and NCL before finding her final home with Fred.Olsen and renamed Braemar.

In 2008, a major retrofit and lengthening took place with cabins and suites featuring balconies and a five-deck high atrium added. The ship can now accommodate up to 929 passengers. Onboard public enhancements such as a second pool, a new library, an internet centre and a new fitness centre give their passengers more options whilst still maintaining the intimate feel that Fred.Olsen Cruises are known for.

CABINS

Braemar’s unique features also extend to their accommodation with 23 different types of cabins to choose from. Everything from enormous Superior Suites (stretching out at over 300 square feet) to single cabins are available.

braemar superior suite

There are four different types of balcony cabins including the balcony suite and ten types of twin cabins, both inside and ocean view. Some twin cabins can have their beds made up into doubles and all twin staterooms are sufficient to accommodate two people. Make sure to book early if you wish to reserve a balcony cabin as there are only 80 of them available and they tend to sell out quickly.

DINING

The main restaurant is the Thistle Restaurant which serves an array of international dishes. A more laid back approach to dining can be found at the Palms Café which is a buffet style restaurant with a relaxed setting without the formal dinner times. For dining with a view, there is no better place than the Grampian restaurant which offers panoramic views of the ocean.

Braemar Thistle Restaurant

For those watching their waistline, a light lunch can be had at the Marquee Pool Bar, perfect after a quick dip in the pool.

LEISURE

Days at sea are anything but boring onboard the Braemar. For starters, the extensive fitness centre offers Yoga and Pilate’s classes that are sure to burn off those unwanted calories. Other sporting activities include a golf course and a jogging track. You will never be without a connection to the outside world at the internet café and there is also Wi-Fi access in some rooms. The shopping opportunities at the Boutique, Fine Jewellery shop and Port Shop are not to be missed either for those who want a souvenir or two.

The spa offers a varied menu of treatments, from massages and facials to full-fledged body wraps, and the hair salon is the perfect opportunity to obtain that new look.

ENTERTAINMENT

Some of the ships lounges including the Coral club offer live entertainment. Besides live music, the Neptune Lounge also offers cabaret acts, whereas the Braemar Room offers a more classy style of music with a resident string trio. The Observatory Lounge boasts a beautiful view of the sea while the Morning Light Pub is just like your local back at home!

braemar observatory lounge

The majority of the shows are performed in the elegant Coral Club. For those who just want to relax and catch up on some reading, the library is a quiet place that has a large amount of books to choose from.

Though children are welcome onboard Braemar and during the summer there are activities geared towards them; the atmosphere tends to cater for the more mature traveller. As such, it is unusual to find families with children on-board except during the summer holidays and even then there are not many.

Images courtesy of Fred. Olsen Cruises

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The 10 Largest Cruise Ships
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allure of the seas

Never before have so many mega-shops been at sea. With their obvious success formula for passenger enjoyment and the cruise industry’s profits, there are more on the way.

THE LARGEST SHIPS OF THE PAST

Cruising dates back further than most people realise to the 19th century, where passenger ships transported people across the Atlantic. The largest cruise ship of that time held only 241 passengers.

The first pleasure cruise ship would naturally be the largest and the man who had the vision to pursue this further was Albert Ballin. Constructed exclusively by Hamburg-America Line in 1900, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise was geared towards luxury travellers and was known as a large yacht rather than a steam ship. It was the largest cruise ship built up to that point at 4,409 gross register tons.

White Star’s RMS Celtic in 1901 was one of the first ships to weigh over 20,000 GT. It was later surpassed by White Star Line’s very own Cedric, being 100 tons heavier. Cedric retained the tile of the world’s largest ship not only in weight but biggest ship in length.

As the popularity of transatlantic crossings increased, so did the size of the ships. Perhaps the best known ship of this era and the largest was the RMS Titanic. With a length of 269.06 m and a weight of 52,310 gross tons, the Titanic famously sank before she could complete her journey.

In 1961 it was the SS France who ruled the seas as the largest passenger vessel in the world, at 1,035 ft. and 66,343 GT. She was later purchased by NCL and became the SS Norway and was considered the first ‘mega-ship’ to sail in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean unveiled their first Sovereign-class ship, Sovereign of the Seas at 73,192 GT. Sovereign was at the top of the biggest cruise ship ranking at the time of her maiden voyage on January 16, 1988.

They and Carnival were the pioneers that added plenty of glitz and glamour and included the now commonplace glass elevators and multi-story atriums.

THE 21ST CENTURY

NCL’s CEO, Colin Veitch tells it straight as to why there are more mega-ships than ever before. “The thing that’s attractive about bigger ships is you have more choice and variety on board. We make a lot more money on them. Ticket revenue and on-board revenue is dramatically higher on larger ships than on smaller, older ships.”

Those on a holiday onboard a mega-ship can experience on-board activities, dining and accommodations that could rival the most luxurious resorts on the ground. Cruise lines are getting bigger: currently, there are more than 60 cruise ships with a gross tonnage exceeding 100,000.

Gone are the days of the old squeezed in steam ship cabin as seen in the Marx Brothers ‘A Night at the Opera’. Dining  options are amazing and there may be simulators onboard for instance where you can learn to surf or maybe take part in some rock climbing. The best part for any passenger booked on these floating hotels is that they get to experience a number of destinations too.

Both RCCL and Norwegian Cruise Line rank as having the most ships on the 10 largest cruise ships list at present. Other lines have taken notice of their success and are experimenting with the ‘bigger is better’ concept.

TEN LARGEST CRUISE SHIPS AT SEA

The list is ranked by gross tonnage rather than length or passenger count. As of this writing the 10 largest cruise ships are:

1. Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2010): 225,282 gross tonnage; 5,412 passengers.

2. Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2009): 225,282 gross tonnage; 5,412 passengers.

3. Quantum of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2014): 168,666 gross tonnage; 4,180 passengers.

4. Norwegian Epic (Norwegian Cruise Line 2010): 155,873 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.

5. Freedom of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2006): 154,407 gross tonnage; 3,634 passengers.

6. Liberty of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2007): 154,407 gross tonnage; 3,634 passengers.

7. Independence of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2008): 154,407 gross tonnage; 3,634 passengers.

8. Queen Mary 2 (Cunard 2004): 148,528 gross tonnage; 2,592 passengers.

9. Norwegian Breakaway (Norwegian Cruise Line 2013): 146,600 gross tonnage; 3,988 passengers.

10. Norwegian Getaway (Norwegian Cruise Line 2014): 145,655 gross tonnage; 3,910 passengers.

FUTURE MEGA SHIPS

Will these 10 hold the record? There are new ships debuting soon not only from RCCL or NCL but other companies as well. Some of them will knock a few off of the list.

Anthem of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2015) 167,800 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.

Britannia (P&O Cruises 2015) 141,000 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.

Norwegian Escape (Norwegian Cruise Line 2015) 163,000 gross tonnage; 4,200 passengers.

Ovation of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2016) 167,800 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.

TBA (Star Cruises 2016) 150,000 gross tonnage; 4,500 passengers.

TBA (Royal Caribbean International 2016) 227,700gross tonnage; 6400 passengers – scheduled to be the largest in the world.

The cruise lines continue to flourish and thrive with technological and societal innovations and will continue to do so.

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What to see in Reykjavík
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Reykjavik Harbour

Reykjavík sits on the edge of the Arctic Circle and has become a very popular port of call. The number of cruise passengers visiting Iceland increases each year.

It was a Norwegian fugitive, Ingólfur Arnarson, who became the first Icelandic citizen in 871 AD. It is reported that when he saw land, he threw his high seat pillars into the sea. The Nordic gods allowed them to wash ashore in what is now Reykjavík. With the steam rising from geothermal vents, the region has been dubbed the ‘land of fire and ice’.

The country’s Viking past can be explored at the National Museum of Iceland. Founded in 1863, this museum contains artifacts dating back 1,200 years ago. All of the objects have been specially chosen as representatives of Icelandic culture and there are over 3000 pieces to look at.

Artistic beauty can be found at the National Gallery of Iceland. While some pieces of international art are featured, the main focus is Icelandic art from the 19th and 20th century. This museum has no permanent collection but consists of rotating exhibits and has done so since 1884. Some of the most valuable works of art are located here and guided tours are available.

Hallgrímskirkja Church in the old town should not be left out. This is the main landmark of the city and its iconic tower is visible from almost every place in Reykjavik. It was designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937 who took inspiration from the shapes of basalt rock. The tower was completed before the church which only finished construction in 1981. Inside the church, there is one of the largest pipe organs in the world that has been used in many different recordings.

Outside the church is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson, the Viking explorer who discovered America in the year 1000.

Hallgrimskirkja church Reykjavik

The Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is located in the heart of the city. As cold as it gets in Iceland, the water in the lagoons are geothermic. For those who find it a bit too warm for their taste, can take a dip in the adjoining cold-water sea.

No trip to Reykjavík would be complete without visiting the Blue Lagoon, the world famous outdoor spa which has dozens of thermal pools. A perfect place to release stress, the hot water combined with the crisp air can be just the thing to rejuvenate yourself. Apart from the thermal water treatments, there is also a series of massage treatments performed on mattresses.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Passengers won’t have to travel far from the city to explore some of the most exciting areas Iceland has to offer.

Check out the assortment of excursion packages available from the ship’s tour desk. See all or a portion of the Golden Circle region to view the unique terrain of Iceland. The three main stops on the tour are Strokkur Geyser which has enormous jets shooting up in a regular intervals, the Gullfoss (or Golden) Falls which is the largest waterfall in Europe with a 32 metre cascade and Thingvellir, a national park that was the location of Europe’s first Parliament, the Althing back in 930 AD.

The summer months provide the opportunity to experience the Midnight Sun, when the sun remains up for nearly 24 hours. Its hues of pinks and oranges mixed with the dark blues of the sky create a wonder of illumination so have the camera ready.

Examples of cruise lines making Reykjavík their port of call in 2015 are Holland America, Oceania, Princess, MSC, Celebrity, Crystal, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, P & O, Seabourn and SilverSea.

The period that cruise ships visit the gateway to Iceland’s stunning natural wonders normally is late spring to early autumn. Cruise ships normally dock for around 12 hours, giving passengers plenty of time to focus on their interests. Some cruise lines also offer an overnight stay in the port.

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25 Interesting Cruise Industry Facts
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25 Cruise Industry Facts

As the new year is nearly upon us, the time is ripe for a list filled with interesting and fun facts. The cruise industry certainly had a great year in 2014 and we would like to share our 25 interesting facts list. Did you know?

1. Cruise holidays continue their popularity and presently there are more than 300 cruise ships available for your pleasure. Over 20 million passengers took a cruise holiday last year.

2. The largest ships can hold more than 5000 people and can be as tall as a sixteen story building.

3. Cruise ship construction can sometimes cost more than £800 million.

4. Over 150 thousand meals are prepared each week onboard some cruise ships.

Cruise Ship Meals

5. There are 32 new cruise vessels being launched from 2015 to 2020

6. The top three destinations are the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Northern Europe.

7. The most popular ports for cruises in the Caribbean depart from Miami, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale.

8. Miami is also the world’s busiest cruise port with 4.8 million multiday cruise passengers, according to preliminary data for this year.

9. The biggest cruise companies are Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, controlling two thirds of all passenger world capacity.

10. The largest of the group is Carnival Cruise Lines and besides its own brand, the corporation owns Costa, Holland America, P&O, Princess Cruises, Cunard, AIDA, P&O Cruises Australia, Ibero Cruceros and Seabourn.

11. Presently the largest cruise ships in the world Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are the same bar 50mm! and 15 metres longer than the next largest one, Quantum of the Seas. The Norwegian Epic is presently in 3rd place with a 33 metre difference

Allure of the Seas

Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises

12. A study claims that living on a cruise ship costs the same amount as a high-end land based retirement and offers a higher quality of life.

13. The first cruise ship built exclusively for cruising was the Prinzessin Victoria Luise from the American Hamburg Company in 1901.

14. The first ever steam ship to make its way from the US to England was the S.S. Savannah in 1819. It took 21 days to reach Liverpool and was also one of the first ever steam ships.

15. The Titanic’s surviving passengers were rescued by Cunard’s Carpathia. Amazingly, the modest ship was able to dart icebergs but was unable to survive German torpedoes during WWI, when she was commissioned as a troop ship.

16. An Australian billionaire has decided to build an exact replica of the Titanic, due to launch in 2018.

17. The X on Celebrity Cruises is actually the Greek letter “Chi”. This is short for Chandris, the organisation that founded the cruise line in 1988.

18. There is one cruise ship that allows its passengers to reside on it. Named “The World”, it is a floating condo, with occasionally short-term rentals, and travels around the globe.

19. A designated cruise ship from the Tallink & Silja Line departs Stockholm to Helsinki for the aim of purchasing alcohol, which is much cheaper in Finland than Sweden.

20. The Oasis of The Seas uses more than 9000 litres of fuel each and every hour.

21. P&O’s Britannia has over £1 million worth of art on-board.

P&O Britannia

Image courtesy of P&O Cruises

22. The most expensive cruise to date is one that was put together by UK agency Six Star Cruises in 2012 on the Silver Whisper and cost £1million per couple. However, this holiday lasted for four months.

23. Cunards Queen Mary 2 offers old-world style transatlantic sailings with luxury and modern conveniences from Southampton to New York.

24. The first seven notes of the “When You Wish Upon a Star” from the Disney classic film, Pinocchio, serves as the Disney Cruise Line ship’s horn signals.

25. Over 1.5 million British citizens will take a holiday on a cruise ship in 2015.

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The Ports of Leixoes and Lisbon
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Portugal Flag

Portugal is featured on many European cruise itineraries next year. It should be as it has retained its fabulous authentic Southern European charm. The ‘other’ country of the Iberian Peninsula has a few ports that ships can dock in and here we will take a look at two of the more well known ones –  Leixoes and Lisbon.

LEIXOES PORT

Leixoes and its port is located near to and serves Porto (aka Oporto), the area most known for its port wines. The port contains two different terminals with the most commonly used dock being Avenida Dr. Antunes Guimaraes. However, when several ships are making calls on the same day, some are diverted to the alternative terminal, the Matosinhos Beach. Both terminals are relatively the same distance from the city centre of about 10 kilometres.

Getting Around from the Port

From the cruise port, you can easily make your way to Porto by taking local bus 76. Another option is a short walk from the port to the Sr. de Matosinhos Metro station and board for a 30-minute train ride to Porto. At the dock, there is a Hop-On Hop-Off tour bus that tours Porto. Taxis are readily available and pricing is favourable for the short trip.

Many passengers head directly to Porto but Leixoes is a major seaport that can easily be explored on foot.

What to See

Porto is a vibrant area that is well known around the globe for its high quality wine and many historical areas, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Riberia. This is well known for the old stone wall that supports the multi-storey housing, each floor with different coloured doors and differently designed windows. Another notable structure is the impressive Ponte de Dom Luis I, a two layered iron bridge straddling the river Douro.

Ponte de Dom Luis I Bridge Porto

Check out the beautiful Porto Cathedral. Constructed in 1737, this cathedral is flanked by two enormous square towers and is designed in an attractive Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque style. This is a perfect spot for photo opportunities. At the wineries, you can take guided tours and also taste the product at the end of the tour.

Back in Leixoes near the port area, stop in a local restaurant along the vast sandy beach and try local specialties of fresh grilled sardines. You will also be able to find some old fortifications there.

PORT OF LISBON

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and it is perhaps the most toured city of the whole country. There are five different docking areas in Lisbon, consisting of Santa Apolonia, Jusante, Jardim do Tabaco, Alcântara and da Rocha.

Getting Around from the Port

All of the major points of interest are located close to Lisbon’s Port. If the ship docks at Santa Apologia, getting to the city centre can be reached by foot if you like walking!. However, the quickest way is the Blue Line Metro.

If the ship docks at Alcântara and da Rocha, passengers will be 5 kilometres from the city. The best way to reach the city is via metro with many buses available too. Vending machines sell unlimited use one-day-passes.

What to See

Lisbon has a wealth of things to see whilst you are in port. The UNESCO Heritage Site Torre de Belem is well worth viewing. This fortified tower that serves as a symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discovery is truly stunning. You can even enter the tower on a tour and take photos of the interior.

Torre de Belem Lisbon

Portugal’s religious history can be seen in detail with the Jerónimos Monastery that dates back to 1501. It is one of the most famous monuments in the country and is another perfect place for photo opportunities.

Developed in 1910, one of the highlights in Lisbon located in Parque Eduardo VII is Estufia Fria Garden. Horticulturists will be impressed by its beautiful collection of tropical plants placed in the greenhouse areas.

Like other large cities, Lisbon has its share of museums. Art lovers will appreciate priceless works from the 14th to the 20th centuries at the National Art Museum.

The Aqueduct of the Free Waters highlights the complex water supply system that was used during the 18th century. The total length of this aqueduct is 36 miles (58km).

Containing a collection of more than 20,000 costumes from various centuries, The National Costume Museum will appease those who love fashion.

Less than 30 miles away, there is fairy tale Sintra with its incredible palace perched on top of a hill. It is a mystical place, with its winding cobbled streets and grand old houses from the stately days of old.

Nearly every major cruise line has either Leixoes or Lisbon on their Mediterranean itineraries for 2015 and 2016. Be sure to book a cruise that includes either port and discover the old world magic that still surrounds the region.

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