The cruise industry continues to grow with amazing new ships, exciting new destinations and a never ending array of innovative onboard activities. This year alone, there will be seven new ships adding over 18,000 berths to the already huge number available. Firsts at sea include a sky diving simulator, virtual balconies and even a bionic bar tender!
Even more impressive is the river cruise sector which is growing at an even faster rate. No less than 23 new river ships will be deployed in 2016 with continued emphasis on luxury and new ideas for instance a swimming pool with a retractable roof and a bigger choice of restaurants.
Want to see what else is new for 2016? Then the CRUISE SHOW must be on your to-do list this autumn. If you have never cruised before or you are an experienced cruiser looking for new ideas, this event is a great way to begin planning your next cruise holiday.
A trip to the annual Birmingham and Glasgow shows will give you the opportunity to listen to the experts and gain invaluable free advice and of course get access to exclusive offers only available at the shows.
The CRUISE SHOW takes place at the Birmingham NEC on 10-11 September and at Glasgow’s SECC on 8-9 October.
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If you want to go and don’t want to rely on the contest, we have negotiated a special offer of just £4 per ticket(normal price £10). To book please call 0871 620 4024. (Calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras).
Holland America are one of the most famous cruise lines in the world. Their latest ship, the ms Koningsdam has fulfilled their elegant image with a casual vibe creating a truly unique cruising experience.
Having just been inaugurated in the past few months, the ms Koningsdam is truly worthy of the title of flagship of the fleet. I’ve just got back from a 7 night cruise on the Norwegian fjords and it was an experience and ship I would not want to have missed.
There are several types of cabins on the ship, consisting of Inside Staterooms, Family Ocean View, Verandas and Suites with Balconies. In my opinion the best type of cabin to try and get is a corner balcony cabin as it provides a truly stunning panoramic view while blocking you from intense winds and other weather conditions that occur in this region. I recommend that you request cabin no’s 8031 and 8032.
These cabins offer more spacious areas when compared to the others in the Verandah category. I was most impressed with the high quality furnishings in the cabin as well as innovative storage areas.
A large flat screen TV dons the wall and offered a wide variety of films, news and some of my favourite shows too. The bed is a true king featuring luxurious cotton linens. There is also a sofa that opens up to a bed and a desk and chair.
The bathroom was absolutely impressive. Equipped with thick Egyptian cotton towels, Elemis Aromapure shampoos, conditioners, soaps and lotions are provided, along with a plush robe for all in the room.
I especially enjoyed the peppermint body gel, which gave an instant wake up under the super powered massage showerhead. It is adjustable to your personal liking from a mild blast of water to a super power surge. This was one ship, where I never worried about flooding the floor outside of the shower. It has been smartly designed to have a lip at the bottom elevated so it is nearly impossible for it to overflow.
One area that Holland America excels in is the quality and presentation of food. It is all fresh and carefully prepared with no preservations or economical substitutes.
I found the dining venues on the ship are no less exquisite. The main dining room is spacious and spans two decks. Food choices vary from day to day but the choices remain premium.
There are a wide variety of specialty restaurants, ranging from the French inspired seafood of Sel de Mer, to the family style Northern Italian delights of Canaletto to the Asian Fusion wonders of Tamarind. These fill up quickly and it is best to make reservations online prior to your voyage. I did indulge in all three and can honestly say that they were enjoyable not only to the palate but each was a feast for the eyes.
Even the Lido Market is high quality on this ship, blowing any other cruise buffet out of the water. The choices are grand, so sampling a bit of each makes for an interesting lunch. I must state that the rib steak was by far the best I have eaten from a buffet. It was so tender, juicy and tasty, that no knife was needed.
Near poolside, gourmet burgers and hot dogs and fresh cut fries are served for yet another choice in daytime dining. Pizza or a Reuben sandwich can be ordered in an area directly one floor up at the New York Deli.
There’s an Italian gelato bar near the pool offering so many freshly made flavours that it would be impossible to try them all in just a one week’s holiday.
For specialty coffees and teas, the Grand Dutch Cafe will suffice. Although there is a fee for the beverage, all sweets and appetizers are free of charge with your purchase.
For those long days or evenings at sea, you are well covered for entertainment. The casino, located on Deck 3, has all of the typical gambling options such as slot machines, poker tables and roulette wheels.
Located on the same deck is the World Stage which plays hosts to different shows each day. The World Stage is an interesting concept as it includes visuals which surrounds the audience with a 270-degree LED screen. The visuals match the entertainment, making it a unique entertainment experience.
One evening, I watched some stunning footage from BBC Earth with the ship’s orchestra playing; the next day there was a digital magic act. Music is the theme of the ship and a variety of tastes are addressed in the other entertainment venues.
Billboard offers classic pop and contemporary hits as a piano lounge with 2 entertainers. BB King’s Lounge is the place for some soothing jazz, blues or R&B and the Lincoln Centre Stage lives up to its namesake by offering classical music in a traditional style with strings, piano and more.
GREENHOUSE & SPA SALON
The spa is also located on the 10th deck and is a great way to unwind from all of the high intense tours I did in the ports of Norway. Aside from massages, facials and an invigorating Jacuzzi, the spa also offers cosmetic treatments plus hair styling and Shellac nail services. I indulged in a facial and I believe I knocked off ten years. My skin was so firm and alive.
The Spa Retreat is the place to lounge and get away from it all; featuring thermal pools, heated ceramic lounges and sauna/steam rooms. A week or day pass can be purchased for this retreat. If you are prone to getting off the ship and running about, then this is perfect to rewind and recharge the batteries.
The opportunity to venture on the ms Koningsdam was not only a treat but an opportunity to experience a cruise ship that proves less is more. It is a cruise ship with a slower pace.
There may not be the glitz, rock climbing, water parks and non-stop action that are found on other mega-ships; but isn’t a holiday the perfect time to just sit back, take in the surroundings and reflect upon the nice things in life. I think the ms Koningsdam does just that.
Passengers now have more options than ever on what type of cruise holiday to book. River cruising is the fastest growing sector in the cruise industry. They are a great option if you want to relax and avoid the masses.
Whether it is the Rhine, Danube, Nile or the Amazon, river cruises are perfect for close up encounters in towns and villages. There are many differences between river cruising and those on the ocean.
Take a look below to see which type will be a good fit for you.
TOP REASONS TO BOOK A RIVER CRUISE
Arrival and departure
There are no huge port terminals and long queues to stand in with thousands of your fellow passengers. Embarkment procedures are quick and easy. Whilst docking, simply walk off the vessel and into the town. Once the journey is complete, there’s not too much trouble with your luggage either.
Itinerary and location
River cruises are better for those that want a slow and relaxing holiday. The ships often make stops right in the centre of smaller cities, towns and villages; allowing you to get a real feel for the area instead of arriving at a not so nice commercial looking port and getting on a coach to view the attractions.
River cruise ships are not mega ships and are designed differently than a traditional cruise ship. They are narrow and not so deep which allows them to navigate the shallow waters. The advantage for those who enjoy meeting new people, is that you will get to know nearly everyone as the numbers onboard are very small compared to an ocean going ship. Cabins are designed for two people and many come with French style balconies.
Dining and entertainment
Mealtimes are designated at the same time each day on a river cruise ship. Entertainment can sometimes be based on the most recent port of call. Regional music is frequently played in the lounge and enrichment programs with lecturers are very common.
A huge advantage is that most river cruise lines include some free excursions. There are also for-a-fee premium tours, but no matter where the vessel calls at, there will be a freebie too. Prior to reaching a designated destination, you can attend a destination guide or seminar the day/night before to pick up some knowledge of the culture and points of interests.
Whilst river cruises don’t ban families with children, most cabins on river cruise ships can only sleep two and there’s not much to keep younger children entertained. For the time being, a river cruise is attractive to couples and older passengers who don’t like the idea of children running about.
TOP REASONS TO BOOK AN OCEAN CRUISE
An ocean cruise holiday offers much more choice in terms of destinations, the number of cruise lines and ships. Because of the vast amount of passengers, prices tend to be lower on an ocean voyage when compared to a river cruise. Great deals are available all year round.
Last minute bookings are common and are usually great value especially if you are not fussy about the cruise line or destination. River cruises sell out very quickly simply because each ship can take so few people. With an ocean cruise, you can head out on impulse for the most part.
Ocean cruise vessels are enormous when compared to river ships. This means that your floating hotel can be an all inclusive holiday filled with a never ending amount of activities and entertainment. From full service spas, swimming pools and even a mini golf course or rock climbing wall, a holiday on an ocean cruise ship really does have something for everyone.
For foodies, nothing beats an ocean cruise. Besides main the dining room, passengers have more alternatives with specialty venues, casual dining and extensive buffets nearly all day long. For many passengers dining is one of the most important parts of their cruise holiday.
Extensive entertainment options from West End shows to Las Vegas extravaganzas to chamber music performances are found on a sea going cruise. Whilst river cruises focus on views and destinations; the ocean cruise experience offers much, much more.
Ocean cruises have children’s centres that are popular for not only the kids but their parents too. There are children’s camps which give parents a break to head to a casino or have a meal in a specialty restaurant for instance. There are many activities that offer good family quality time. These may include aqua parks, bumper cars and bowling, depending on the ship.
Trying to keep their clients happy and increase repeat business, cruise lines are always looking for new destinations.
The name Vladivostok may not sound familiar yet. This city is known as being the homeport of Russia’s Pacific Fleet and was virtually closed to the outside world until 1992. It is also the largest Russian port in the Pacific Ocean.
This city is on the Pacific coast of Russia and is about to become a recognisable name to many cruise holiday makers. Soon, there will be another port for passengers to visit in Russia besides the ever popular St Petersburg.
Vladivostok in the News
Mainly serving as a major container ship port, a few passenger ships have already discovered the city’s charms. Presently, the majority of ships have been Asian cruise liners sailing out of Japan with over 50% of passengers being citizens of Japan. Word has spread out to the west and Princess began to make calls at Vladivostok on a few sailings.
The big news recently was that Vladivostok welcomed Costa’s ship Victoria this month on the 18th of May. It was the maiden call for Costa to this Russian port. The city of Vladivostok organised an all out welcome ceremony of national dances, folklore songs and bands on the pierside.
Image courtesy Costa Cruises
The city made quite an impression and now Costa is in discussion to increase the number of ships visiting. Other cruise lines are sure to follow and be part of Russia’s goal to develop cruise tourism in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Cruise ships dock at Morskoy Vokzal which is beside the town. Vladivostok’s central area is fairly small and easily walkable from the cruise terminal. Other options for the future are plans for a new terminal.
What to See
Russia is well known for their opera houses and the Russian Opera House in Vladivostok is no exception. Originally constructed for the APEC summit in 2012, the Opera House is unique not only for the symphonies within but also its exterior.
The Opera House is designed to resemble a cube within a cube surrounded by glass walls and consists of three stages. These stages are the Grand Hall, the Small Stage and the Summer Stage. Come here for a great cultural experience.
St Andrews Church is a newly added chapel located on the seafront. The church built in 2004 is quite small hosting a maximum of 50 people.
The Sportivnaya Market, the largest in the city is a shopper’s paradise. A favourite amongst locals and tourists alike, this market offers everything from electronics to furniture to even foodstuffs. Excellent fish dishes as well as the Kamchatka crabs makes for an unforgettable culinary experience.
The funicular is over 50 years old and is one of two remaining funiculars in the whole of Russia, the other one is in Sochi. The ride is short, cheap and very smooth but the real attraction of the ride is to admire all the beautiful scenery around you. The final stop is at Eagle’s Nest Hill which offers a truly stunning bird’s eye view of the entire city.
Not only does it offer the best views of the city, it is also perfect for hiking. What was once an extinct volcano is now a marvellous mountain. Lace up those boots and get walking on top of this majestic peak and don’t forget to take the camera.
After all that walking, head to a Banya otherwise known as a Russian sauna. One of the oldest traditions in the nation, dating back to 945 AD. The temperatures can get as high as 34 °C which will require you to wear special headgear for protection whilst in the sauna. The treatment is followed with banny venik branches, laced with eucalyptus and oak, guaranteed to improve your circulation.
At the Zarya Centre for Contemporary Art, visitors can interact in multiple ways. Besides viewing exhibitions, there are interactive games such as attempting to create your own masterpiece.
Sound enticing? Be on the lookout as the “gateway to Siberia” is bound to be an exciting destination on many Asian cruise holidays for years to come.
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