MSC Armonia relaunched after Refit
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msc armonia

MSC cruises made headlines earlier this week with the relaunch of the MSC Armonia. The ship set sail on the 18th of November from Genoa on a 10-day cruise to the Canary Islands. About2Cruise has been covering this ongoing story.

“I’m very proud of what we and our partners at Fincantieri have achieved with MSC Armonia. Not only is she smarter and more spacious, but we have given her a new lease of life that will appeal to experienced cruise travellers and first-timers in equal measure. This is why we call her ‘the ship that suits you’” stated MSC Cruises’ CEO, Gianni Onorato.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW ARMONIA

No expense has been spared and the refurbishment is part of MSC’s newest scheme, the Renaissance Programme. The other ships placed in the Renaissance programme for dry-dock are:  MSC Sinfonia – 12 January to 16 March 2015; MSC Opera – 2 May to 4 July 2015; MSC Lirica – 31 August to 9 November 2015.

CABINS

The Armonia holds 1,566 passengers, making it cosier and more intimate than the new builds of today. There are now 786 cabins with more balcony cabins than before the refurbishment. Amenities in all of the smartly decorated staterooms and suites include a flat-screen TV, minibar/fridge combo, a personal safe that is located behind a vanity mirror, a hairdryer and a bathroom with shower and toilet.

THREE MSC EXPERIENCES

Passengers can choose from three different experiences onboard the Armonia which are tailored to their needs. The ‘Bella’ offers what is considered standard cruise service and amenities. The ‘Fantastica’ contains added perks of luxury and the ‘Aurea’ throws in complimentary spa treatments and free refills on beverages.

DINING

There are numerous options for dining onboard the ship. The main restaurant on the Armonia is the Marco Polo, which has open seating for breakfast and lunch and serves a number of international dishes for dinner. There is also an Italian restaurant that is more formal, La Pergola which is available by reservation.

A buffet is open 20 hours a day for those that want casual dining and a variety of cuisines. There are a number of lounges that make for a great escape to sit back and relax after an exciting day at port.

ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT

Children will be enthralled by the special areas for them that have been designed by family-friendly companies such as Chicco® and LEGO®. The swimming pool has added a Spray Park with water jets, slides and other aquatic attractions.

Enjoy unique entertainment at the La Gondola theatre which features performances of plays, cabaret shows, magicians and other interesting shows. Live music is also played in some of the bars onboard.

At the Atlantica Spa there are many treatments available from relaxing in the steam room to massage treatments from MSC’s experienced staff. A good aromatherapy session with chamomile and eucalyptus can be just the thing to remove stress and the Rasul chamber is highly recommended too.

For those who want to get some exercise on the ship, there is a gym with all the latest equipment and a view of the ocean. Outside of the spa, there is a rock climbing wall as well as a basketball/volleyball court.

UPCOMING ITINERARIES

Examples of itineraries planned for this ‘newest’ member of MSC’s fleet include 7 or 9 night winter sailings to the Canary Islands. For the summer months 5 or 7 night itineraries in the Mediterranean will be available with ports of call such as Ajaccio, Spezia, Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Valletta, Messina and Salerno.

The most highly anticipated sailing for The Armonia is their Grand Voyage scheduled for the 25th of October 2015. This 20-night sailing is far from the typical repositioning cruise. Departing from Spezia, Italy the ship is planning stops in Europe that include Marseille and Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Malaga and Cadiz.

Then it is off to the Canary Island ports of Arrecife de Lanzarote and Santa Cruz de Tenerife before cruising the Atlantic to Salvador, Buzios, Ilhabela and Santos, Brazil.

She will remain in South America for the winter 2016 with 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 night sailings before making a 19-night turnaround back to Italy on the 14th of March.

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What to see in Portofino
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Portofino

Portofino is a charming coastal village in Italy that portrays a feeling of romance and luxury. It is a very popular destination, particularly for those who arrive in enormous and opulent yachts and of course cruise ships. The region has been a playground for the rich and famous since the 19th century. Sir Rex Harrison visited Portofino for his holidays and loved it so much he built a villa, named San Genesio after the patron saint of actors.

WEATHER

With its fantastic location on the Mediterranean, the summers are dry and warm with temperatures hovering around 30°C. For the winter months the temperature rarely goes lower than 10°C.

PORT

The harbour of Portofino is small and shallow. It is a typical marina and fishing port. Cruise ships cannot dock in port and instead will drop anchor in the bay. Reaching the shore is done via a tender boat. It is a brief walk from the port to the centre of Portofino. The town is highly favoured by hikers as there are many well-kept footpaths that lead to every area in the town.

WHAT TO SEE

Abbazia di San Fruttuoso

Constructed by Benedictine monks, the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso is a medieval era stronghold that fiercely protected the small fishing village. It can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride. Today, the abbey is a popular attraction and holds many art and history exhibitions. The abbey also contains the tombs of the Doria Pamphilj family, a prominent family of nobles that resided in Portofino some centuries ago.

San Fruttuoso Portofino

Castello Brown

For those with a deep passion for history, the best place to head to is Castello Brown. It sits towering above Portofino’s harbour. The castle was restored in the 16th century and has maintained its original appearance. Visitors are greeted with an enormous array of medieval relics once inside.

Castello Brown Portofino

Museo del Parco

On the hillside above the port, the museum is an open-air sculpture park that sits amongst stunningly beautiful gardens filled to the brim with a variety of flora. It houses the largest collections of outdoor Italian monumental sculptures by more than 100 contemporary artists. The grounds were commissioned by a Baron and it was initially part of the Castle located above it.

Punta Portofino Lighthouse

If seeking that perfect photo opportunity, the Punta Portofino lighthouse is yet another good choice. The lighthouse can be reached by a 15-minute walk from the port. The views from here are truly memorable.

Punta Portofino Lighthouse - Image courtesy of flickr user Aloa

Taking in the sun

Since Portofino has a lot more sun than rain, spend some time at Paraggi Beach. This contains a small sliver of sand that is located just outside of the town. Many locals come here in the summertime to cool down in its crystal waters. There is also a nearby cove to explore that is teeming with aquatic life.

Other things to note

See one of the most impressive views with the number 82 local bus running along narrow coastal roads towards Santa Margherita Ligure.

St. George’s Day is one of the most popular holidays in Portofino. It is celebrated in the San Giorgio church. The church is prominently located on a cliff overlooking the sea and within it are trinkets and relics from the Holy Land. Many historians claim that the objects were brought back during the Crusades.

Shopping

Designer stores selling luxury clothes for example Gucci and Prada as well as local markets are popular places for cruise passengers to visit before they set off to the next port of call. There are also many vendors selling the town’s speciality of antiques and furniture.

On many Mediterranean cruise itineraries the ports of call in Italy tend to be Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Pisa and Florence) and Naples. It is great to see that many cruise lines are making visits to the smaller ports too.

The following cruise lines visiting Portofino in 2015 include Hapag Lloyd, Oceania Cruises, P & O, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea.

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A Sneak Peek at Holland America’s ms Koningsdam
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ms Koningsdam

Debuting in 2016 the ms Koningsdam promises to be the most state of the art ship in Holland America’s fleet.

‘Koning’ translates from Dutch to “king” in English. The name also pays honour to the first king of the Netherlands, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander.

Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line stated, “This new Pinnacle Class ship will be our largest, most contemporary vessel, and it was only fitting to give it a name that embodies great achievement for the future, while embracing timeless tradition.”

Holland America has a long and proud tradition within the Netherlands and all 15 ships in their fleet still fly under the Dutch flag. The new 2,650 passenger ship will be replacing ms Statendam and ms Ryndam.

DESIGNED TO STAND OUT

The ship will have the latest in accommodation and recreational activities but it is the design that will truly be revolutionary.

The ship will combine the aspects of contemporary styles with old world elegance. The interior is being designed by New York City’s leading hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany and designer and architect of Oslo, Bjorn Storbraaten.

Adam Tihany

Tihany has focused on the fluid curves and graceful lines of the ship, creating light filled areas with a natural flow. According to Tihany himself, his designs were based off of the “architecture of music”. This influence can be seen in the ship with the textures used as design and lighting features. The feeling of height is also exaggerated in order to give passengers a sense of freedom and emphasise the grandeur of the ship.

A good example of this would be in the Atrium. The atrium is three stories high and is flanked by a truly remarkable sculpture, depicting the synthesis of a string quartet. Space is used in order to create an interesting illusion, that no two viewpoints of the statue are the same from any point in the room.

ms Koningsdam atrium

The atrium is further enhanced by a prominently placed skylight and several soothing projections will also be shown to create a relaxing atmosphere. By day, the skylight displays soothing clouds rolling past and by night, beautiful stars will dot the skyline.

CABINS

Many categories of staterooms will be offered on the ms Koningsdam and all will include items such as woven cotton linen and 100% Egyptian towels.

A great example of the lavish accommodation available is the Neptune Suite with over 500 sq. feet and includes exclusive use of the Neptune Lounge plus the personal concierge service. The family ocean view stateroom accommodates four comfortably in 231 square feet of space.

neptune suite

More middle of the road balcony and inside cabins are impressive not only in their fine detailing and décor but functionality and size. There are cabins available for all pockets and tastes.

DINING

The modern features can be seen in the main dining room. Simply called ‘Dining Room’, it has been designed with a powerful theme with its Romanesque pillars and chic furniture. The stylish dining room allows passengers to watch the world go by with floor to ceiling windows while dining on international cuisine.

There are several dining venues, such as ‘Tamarind’, featuring menus created by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin with an emphasis on Southeast Asian, Chinese and Japanese food.

For all out elegance, head toThe Pinnacle Grill’. America’s Pacific Northwest cuisine of seafood and steak grilled to perfection amongst the finest china, glassware and linens. ‘Canaletto’ offers Italian fare and for those passengers wishing for some laidback dining al fresco there is ‘The Terrace Grill’.

Pinnacle Grill

ENTERTAINMENT VENUES

Step into the Queen’s Lounge for some world-class entertainment. Designed in an elegant manner that curves like a violin and features a large amount of wood, the curving design of the room mixed with the large amount of light transforms to dance club later on in the evening.

Place you best foot forward amongst the state-of-the-art sound and special LED lighting effects, rumoured to rival those in any of Europe’s large cities.

Koningsdam Queens Lounge

OTHER AMENITIES

The onboard facilities are extensive with something to appeal to everyone. There is a fitness centre and the Greenhouse Spa and Salon features some of the best wellness and beauty menus.

As with all Holland American ships, there are enrichment programs made to order especially for the palates of foodies. The Culinary Arts Centre, presented by Food & Wine magazine has been made available on all ships and will certainly be a hit onboard the ms Koningsdam.

Holland America calls it their “world class show kitchen at sea”, and passengers can take part in cooking classes and wine and beverage’ presentations. The chance to meet world renowned chefs is an added bonus.

ms Koningsdam will be taking to the seas in February 2016. After her maiden voyage she will depart from Rome (Civitavecchia Port) with 7-day sailings in the Med before she is scheduled to head to Rotterdam. She will spend the summer in the Baltic and Northern Europe region. More details on booking this grand new ship will be available soon.

Mock up Images courtesy of Holland America Cruises

Written by Veronica Shine

Escape the Cold – the Caribbean Season is Here
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The fun in the sun season is just getting underway in the Caribbean. All of the major cruise lines are preparing for their yearly jaunts to this area. However, since there are so many locations in the Caribbean to visit, some areas are not as travelled to on a cruise itinerary as others.

Recently, Disney Cruise Lines announced that it is adding two new Caribbean destinations. Tortola and Martinique have been placed on its scheduled Caribbean sailings for 2016.

However you don’t have to wait until 2016, next year many cruise lines are scheduled to visit the less popular ports below.

DOMINICA

Movie fans may recognise Dominica as it was used in many scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. However, this location has much more to offer than set pieces. The entire island is covered in lush green flora, flanked by jagged mountains and large mango trees.

There are over 172 different species of birds that live there and the island is also famous for its whale watching opportunities. Royal Caribbean, Lindblad Expeditions and SilverSea include Dominica in their itineraries.

Dominica Caribbean

GRENADA

Grenada has a very colourful history and offers plenty for passengers stopping by for the day. The capital St. George is the main draw and contains many sites such as the picturesque white sanded beauty of the Grand Anse Beach. There is also the Grand Etang National Park which has a large amount of Mona monkeys, perfect for photo opportunities.

The local cuisine is filled with exotic spices, a fitting name for the Isle of Spice. Grenada is visited by Princess, Royal Caribbean and P&O amongst others.

MARTINIQUE

Martinique has seen a significant increase in cruise arrivals in the last year. The island retains both a French and Caribbean culture. The highlight in this port of call will be Gorges de la Falaise. This river is situated between two huge cliffs amongst a dense forest. “Habitation Chalvet” or “Habitation la Capot” was a sugar plantation in the 18th century and the crisis of sugar forced the structure to find a new direction.

Previously, it was a farm where cocoa was grown. This season, the Costa Magica will be stopping there every week.

Saint François Martinique

ST. BARTS

Presenting 20 beaches sprinkled along the island’s coasts makes St. Barts a perfect retreat for swimming all year round. Named after Columbus’s brother, Bartolomeo, St. Barts is an excellent place for sunbathing and water activities. Famous for its sophisticated yet casual restaurant scene, the regional cuisine is where the French influence shines the most, with local Caribbean spices mixed in.

Cruise lines that will be visiting St. Barts in 2015 include Seabourn, Star Clippers, Oceania Cruises and SilverSea.

ST. KITTS

Formerly known as St. Christopher, it got its current name from British sailors who shortened the lengthy name. St. Kitts is well known for its lush scenery and is perfect for eco-touring. The enormous rainforests are teeming with unique wildlife and the dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga is well worth seeing. Several cruise lines are heading here next year including Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian and Star Clippers.

ST. VINCENT

Although not visited that often, one destination that cruise lines are taking notice of is St. Vincent. The landscape here is perfectly preserved and untouched. Dive into the glistening waters here to see some of the most stunning coral reefs imaginable and plunging waterfalls too. However, there is also cultural activity.

The nearby Fort Charlotte has a museum detailing the history of the area. Cruise lines that visit St. Vincent include Holland America, P&O Cruises and Star Clippers.

The Royal Clipper

The Royal Clipper. Image courtesy of Star Clippers

TORTOLA

The largest island of the British Virgin Islands group, Tortola, just happens to be the least populated. The white sandy beaches of Tortola are beaming with palm trees and azure pristine water. Rent a kayak or sailboard or try some of the scuba diving, water skiing, and windsurfing opportunities.

Besides leisurely moments on the beach, hike the rugged mountains within Sage Mountain National Park. Its summit stands at 1751 feet and offers a spectacular 360-degree view of Tortola and its neighbouring islands. Besides Disney in 2016, upcoming sailings this season to Tortola include those with Windstar and Seabourn.

Many passengers obviously choose a cruise holiday in the Caribbean because they want destinations away from the cold weather. Go one step further, and select a cruise that visits a few islands that contain a tropical environment without the crowds.

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Win Tickets to the London Cruise Show 2015
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London Cruise Show

Hosting the largest selection of cruise lines both large and small The London CRUISE show is one of Europe’s leading cruise events.

At the event you will be able to get an insight into the different styles of cruising including luxury and river cruising, cruises for the family and if you are a solo traveller there will be options for you too.

At the show you will be able to take advantage of exclusive money saving offers and extras for example onboard credit and all inclusive drinks packages. There will also be free talks by the experts where you will be able to gather important expert advice that you won’t be able to get elsewhere.

With new ships and destinations constantly coming to the market the cruise lines will be showcasing what’s new for 2015/2016.

So, if you have never been cruising before or if you are more experienced and want some inspiration for your next voyage, be sure to visit The London CRUISE show at London’s Olympia on 14-15 February.

For talk timetables and a list of the companies showcasing at the event please visit www.cruisingshow.com

ENTER OUR LONDON CRUISE SHOW CONTEST

We have 10 pairs of tickets to give away for the show! Just answer the question below.