Ocean or River – The Main Differences
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Ocean or River Cruises

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.

More intimate

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.

Excursions

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.

Child free

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

More choices

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.

Flexibility

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.

Non-stop activities

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.

Dining

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.

Entertainment

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.

Family Oriented

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.

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Been on an Ocean or River Cruise? Tell us which you prefer below!

What to see in Vladivostok
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Golden Horn bridge in Vladivostok Russia

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.

Costa Victoria

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.

St Andrews Church Vladivostok

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.

St Andrews Chuch Photo credit: Vladivostok 3 via photopin (license)

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From the First Steel Cut to Southampton Arrival
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Take a look at the construction of the Harmony of the Seas. From the first steel cut to her arrival in Southampton!

Harmony will carry over 6000 passengers and another 2000 plus staff and is officially the largest cruise ship in the world.

The ship boasts a massive range of facilities as you would expect from Royal Caribbean including twenty three pools, twenty dining options and the Utimate Absyss which is the tallest slide at sea.

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Images of Harmony Sailing into Southampton on 17 May 2016

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The Top Apps for Cruisers
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Cruise Holiday Apps

Nearly every cruise line has its own app these days. Anyone planning a cruise holiday can quickly learn to navigate their ship and discover all the things not to be missed on their cruise right from their smartphone or tablet.

Each of these apps is designed by the cruise lines themselves. Use them at home or right when your holiday begins as they typically allow you to operate the app via the ship’s internal system free of charge. This represents huge savings without having to pay for on-board Wi-Fi.

But should you need more information before and during your cruise, here are our favourite non cruise line apps that will enhance your cruise experience.

SHIPMATE

“Shipmate” is the app to use before you leave home and you can continue to do so whilst onboard and after your holiday. Take a virtual tour of nearly every cruise line. To date, Shipmate has been downloaded more than 1 million times, with more than 500,000 active users. Besides stalking your vessel from home, you can check out the ship’s port of calls and obtain even more info such web cams, pictures, shopping, and tour excursions.

Similar to Instagram, many active users post their cruise photos which helps you obtain a sneak preview through another cruiser’s eyes. Hundreds of photos are uploaded daily and you can interact or chat with other users and get first-hand accounts by reading their reviews of the rooms, excursions, entertainment and food.

You can download Shipmate for free!

CURRENCY APPS

For counting money, download a currency conversion tool. Either “Currency” or “XE Currency” lets you know the value of your money compared to other currencies. This is especially useful on cruises stopping at many different ports.

The up-to-the-second value of the Pound to the Euro, the US Dollar or the Russian Ruble and 147 more will be right at your fingertips. Unlike trips where you tend to get a hold on the local currency after the first few days, if you’re stopping at multiple ports with different currencies, you can access live exchange rates and calculate prices on your smartphone or tablet.

This free app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Currency App can be found at the iTunes App Store. This free app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

The other app works on iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices. It can be obtained free at XE Currency.

WHATSAPP

With “WhatsApp Messenger”, you can keep in touch with family and friends whilst on your cruise holiday. This is a mobile messaging app where you can send messages, pictures, and videos using a Wi-Fi connection without having to pay for SMS fees. Payable internet access is needed if used onboard your ship. It is also easily usable at WiFi hotspots anywhere in the world.

WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia.

STAR CHART

“Stargazing” is a great after dark activity and a good app that will help you stargaze is Star Chart. Star Chart is very simple to use. All you need to do is point your tablet or iPhone towards the night sky.

It will then identify the constellations located at that particular moment. By touching the screen, the app will then give you the names and record which stars you’ve seen. Make this a relaxing activity to share before retiring in for the evening.

Star Chart is a universal app from Microsoft and works on iPhone, iPad and Android phones.

Besides the Top Five, be prepared to have an extra light. Most guide books also suggest on any holiday to bring a torch with you. While a ‘real world’ equivalent should be packed, it’s always a good idea to have a flashlight app just in case it is left on the kitchen table.

As the majority of interior cabins are very dark, you can easily trip in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom. Some flashlight apps do come with a compass such as Flashlight. It also comes in a version that works for Android, as well as iPhones and iPads. This is one app any traveller shouldn’t be without.

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Which Apps do you use onboard or to plan your cruise? Tell us Below!

Five Destinations for the First Time Cruiser
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The popularity of cruise holidays just keeps growing and growing. Statistics have shown that a huge majority of first-timers take another cruise holiday again. Cruises have never been more accessible and affordable for anyone. The greatest attraction is that that you can visit several destinations in a short period of time at a price that includes room, board and entertainment.

There’s no need to unpack more than once either!

Going on a cruise for the first time becomes an adventure that many think is out of their reach and the choices of destinations can become a bit overwhelming too. A cruise ship can venture to almost anywhere as there are over 1,800 ports around the world.

Here are some suggestions for itineraries that will be sure to please you if you are a virgin cruiser.

THE MEDITERRANEAN

The Mediterranean is an extremely popular location for first time cruisers as it covers places of history in France, Italy, Spain or Greece. Eastern and Western European sailings visit places in Italy such as Rome, Naples and Sicily. See beautiful architecture from locations as diverse as Barcelona, visit the antiquities in Athens or sun in the Greek Islands and soak up some culture in French areas such as Nice and Monte Carlo. This itinerary is ideal as it is relatively easy to get to with around a 2 hour flight.

Rome - Ponte Sant Angelo

Best time to cruise: April to October

NORWEGIAN FJORDS & THE BALTICS

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Norwegian fjords is perfect for those of you that are nature lovers. These cruise holidays to the land of the midnight sun depart from May to September and allow passengers to see unique wildlife and unforgettable pieces of scenery. Major spots include Bergen, Flam and Gerianger, all of which will create amazing memories of nature at its best.

For those that are looking for more points of interest rather than nature, try a cruise holiday through the Baltic’s. Travel the same waters that the Vikings did thousands of years ago. Ports can include stops in Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm. A large number of Baltic cruises spend the day and even overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Copenhagen

Best time to cruise Fjords and the Baltic’s: May through September

THE BRITISH ISLES

The home front is also well recommended for those new to cruising. These itineraries will take you  through the best locations that England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have to offer.

See iconic places such as Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool, Greenock, Dover, and Newcastle upon Tyne, amongst others. As the British Isles is relatively compact, this means that more time is spent on shore at each port. This in turn means that you will have plenty of time to sample everything that these locations have to offer such as catching the countryside in full bloom.

Newcastle - Tyne Bridge

Best time to cruise the British Isles: April to September

CARIBBEAN

When the ships are out of Europe, they follow the sun worshippers and head across the atlantic to visit several island paradises. According to Cruise Lines International, the majority of first time cruisers choose to go to areas in the Caribbean or the Mexican Rivera. Most cruise lines depart out of South Florida or Puerto Rico into calm seas and perpetual sunshine. The beaches create an agreeable picture of what to expect on each port of call.

For newcomers who want to just dip their toes into the waters of the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Mexico with minimal sightseeing, then this is the perfect trip.

Curacao - Santa Martha Bay

Best time to cruise the Caribbean: February to May

BERMUDA

Bermuda is a very popular cruise holiday for golfers and beachcombers. Most cruises depart from New York City or Boston, which adds another special treat to any holiday. Bermuda is a tropical paradise that seems as though you’ve stepped inside a travel brochure that really does have pink sand. The main ports are King’s Wharf and Hamilton and the ship will remain in either port for three or four days. Many British goods are found here and are more affordable than at home.

Best time to cruise Bermuda: May to July

Bermuda

HOW LONG?

For anyone new to cruising, it makes the most sense to choose a 7-day itinerary with a good combination of sea days and no more than 4 ports of call. The reason for this is so that you have ample opportunity to enjoy all the ship’s amenities as well as the places you visit.

One tip is to look for sailings directly out of the UK. Without flying to the point of embarkment, you save on time and money. Try to avoid sailings that have more days at sea, such as those on transatlantic sailings. Save that one as a possibility, along with Asia, South America, the South Pacific and Hawaii for your next cruise adventure.

Another option is to do a 3 or 4-day mini cruise from Southampton or Barcelona. This gives you the chance to experience a cruise holiday without having to commit to the expense of a full week onboard.

Start looking for some special sailings and promotions, and book your cruise holiday today!

Written by Veronica Shine