The Viking Star is Getting Ready for her Debut
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Viking Star

Currently under construction in Italy, the Viking Star will be making her debut as the line’s first ocean going vessel. The Viking Star will accommodate approximately 930 passengers and will appeal to those looking for a small ship experience with fine dining and enrichment programs.

CABINS

Scheduled to debut this coming April, the ship has five different types of cabins, each with its own special charm. All cabins will have balconies.

The Veranda Staterooms are the most basic cabins and at 270 square feet are more than ample when compared to other lines.

The Deluxe Veranda Staterooms are the same size as the standard rooms but come with the added bonus of providing special reservations at several of the onboard restaurants. They also contain a complimentary iPad with Wi-Fi access as well as coffee and a mini bar.

Penthouse Veranda Suites are 338 square feet and have enormous bathrooms. Don’t worry about packing the shampoo because the suite also provides its guests with high end toiletries. In addition, the suites provide shoe shining, priority seating and reservations at both the speciality dining areas and also for shore excursions.

Viking Star Penthouse Veranda

Penthouse Junior Suites are 405 square feet and consist of two separate rooms joined together with an oversized veranda. As they are at the front of the ship, they’re great for getting to popular areas such as the spa or Explorer’s Lounge.

Finally, the most deluxe staterooms are the Explorer Suites and the Owner’s Suite. The intricacies of the Owner’s Suite are secret for now. The Explorer Suites stretches out to over 1,163 square feet and allows the passengers to see the view from the ship’s bow from their balcony.

DINING

The main restaurant on the ship is simply called “The Restaurant”.  It features an American based cuisine mixed in with specialties from the ports visited. For example, if the ship makes port in Venice, expect to see a Venetian risotto served. Other dining spots include the Viking Deli offering Scandinavian fare, the Italian Grill and the Chef’s Table which will offer fine dining chef specialties.

Viking Star Restaurant

ACTIVITIES

The Viking Star will offer a superb range of activities. Heading to the Explorers’ Lounge is a great way to meet new people and share experiences with fellow passengers. There are several cultural enrichment programmes available onboard that range from art to music, with the subject structure based around the ports visited. These are hosted by history experts and celebrities.

Viking Star Explorer Lounge

Two movie theatres are onboard and will offer an interesting variety of films, thus making it a perfect outing for a rainy or quiet afternoon. There are also two swimming pools; the glass covered Infinity Pool and the Main Pool, which has regular “movies under the stars” sessions.

Finish off a day at sea with a spa session. There are endless menus of treatments that will relax the body and the mind. Retreat to the Wintergarden for a peaceful atmosphere with a cup of tea and meditate under its simple yet elegant decor.

ITINERARIES

The Viking Star is scheduled during her maiden season for 8 day and more sailings around Europe’s Baltic and fjords and also the Western Mediterranean. Viking will offer a complementary excursion for every port.

Viking Star Infinity Pool

RECENT EVENTS

Recently, this famous river cruise line had the Viking Star testing the waters close to the Fincantieri shipyard near Venice, Italy. This event marked a major milestone and showed the cruising industry that Viking’s first ocean-going ship will be right on schedule.

“Following six months of nonstop construction since her float out, this was a major milestone for Viking Star, and we are proud to be another step closer to launch,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. “Now we can focus on the finishing touches, and we look forward to welcoming guests on board in two months’ time.”

From all the reports, the Viking Star ship is sure to be the successful ‘newcomer’ to arrive on the seas this year.

Images courtesy of Viking Cruises

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A Day in Martinique
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Martinique

A most unique port in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean that has a dual personality and is often overlooked is Martinique. It sits between two bodies of water; the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Once departing the ship, at first glance, it appears that it is a part of France that has been deposited on a tropical island. Christopher Columbus discovered Martinique, as he did so with many other Caribbean islands, in the late 15th Century. The island’s inhabitants at the time, the Carib Indians, called the island Madinina, or “island of flowers.” Even Great Britain ruled the mountainous island in the past.

The area is filled with lush beauty and natural sights unseen in other parts. From a vibrant rainforest to a series of rolling hills, there’s always something to see here. Although the official language of the island is French, the locals speak the dialect of creole. The Euro is the choice of currency thus reflecting their European influence and culture.

PORT OF FORT DE FRANCE

The main port of Martinique is located in Fort de France. The Terminal is a mere five minutes away from the capital. Some ships dock away from the port but will tender passengers to the shore.

The port is small and there are number of duty-free shops scattered about. There are several ways to explore the diverse geography of this Caribbean gem. Taxis are pricey although convenient but you must agree a price with the driver before entering as they aren’t metered.

Buses are another good option and travel all through the city.

Bicycles and motor scooters can be rented by the hour and are another popular way to get around Martinique for cruise passengers.

Of course, the cruise ship tour desk can make all the arrangements for a visit to the places of interest.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The standout of Martinique is the Salines Beach. This beach seems as though it has come out of a postcard with its white sand and crystal clear water. Scuba diving is also available whilst in port to experience the under-the-sea habitat of gorgeous tropical fish and other marine life.

For those with a historical thirst, head to the St. Louis Cathedral. The Cathedral has been a fixture of the location for many years, although it has had to go through six renovations. This is due to the wooden structure of the church falling apart; today, it is made out of iron. The governors of Martinique are buried here and you should visit the inordinate headstones.

Further historical sites can be found at the Schoelcher Library. It was originally constructed in Paris for the 1889 exposition. After the exposition, it was shipped to Martinique to serve as their library. Containing an enormous amount of books, the library was named after Victor Schoelcher, a slavery abolisher.

Work those legs amongst lush vistas at an elevation of 4,656 feet on Mount Pelée. Even the island’s “smaller” hills check in at around 1,500 feet. Whether it’s making a valiant attempt at scaling this volcano or gazing at the banana plantations of the base, there’s always something to get you moving.

The base also offers many different sporting activities such as canoeing and hiking through the trails. For those that are truly daring, rappel through beautiful waterfalls and vibrant forests.

Balata's Garden

Finally, finish the day off by witnessing the Balata Gardens. The gardens contain a collection of many different types of flora, including over 300 species of palm tree. Although you can’t bring a flower home or back on board the cruise ship, the pictures taken alone will be worth the visit and a memory maker of your day in port.

CRUISE LINES CALLING AT FORT DE FRANCE

The season for cruise holiday makers to see Martinique reaches into late spring and then begins again in late October. The following lines have ships calling at Fort de France in 2015:

Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Pullmantur and Royal Caribbean.

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A look at the Award winning Crystal Serenity
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Crystal Serenity

Crystal has two ships in her fleet, the Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Symphony which both can accommodate up to 922 passengers.

Despite their small sizes, the ships still offer most of the amenities that you can find on the larger ocean liners and their luxurious service has been consistently winning awards in the luxury cruise sector for many years.

Built in 2003, the younger Crystal Serenity has been awarded by readers of Conde Nast as one of the “best cruise ships in the world”. The ship was completely redesigned in 2013 with a 35 million pound investment. Its retrofit is most noticeable by its enhanced, airy and contemporary Southern California feel. There are plenty of open spaces in muted and natural colours and attractive decor and furnishings.

CABINS

The Crystal Serenity has a total of 535 staterooms, ranging from opulent suites with items such as flat panel TVs with a Blu-Ray player and a private laundry room to the more basic but still luxurious entry level staterooms.

Serenity deluxe cat c

Over 85 percent of the cabins on the Serenity have balconies, offering spectacular views of the ocean and the soon to be visited ports.

The standard cabins stand at 226 square feet whereas the suites are typically 538 square feet. The largest cabins are the Crystal Penthouses at 1,345 square feet. All rooms contain amenities such as internet access, a bathroom with shower and hairdryer, toiletries and a reclining sofa.

Crystal Serenity Penthouse Bedroom

The suites have other perks such as afternoon canapés, in cabin dining with options from the ships restaurants and truffles in the evening. The Crystal Penthouses have many more features such as walk in wardrobes and an exercise area.

DINING

The main dining area is the Crystal Dining Room that offers both breakfast and lunch options. The Crystal Dining Room also contains two menus: a classic menu of traditional fare and a “modern” menu that allows the passenger  to be more adventurous!

For those that want just a quick bite to eat within a relaxing atmosphere, there’s no better place than the Lido Cafe buffet which has a wide variety of international cuisine and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Part of the ship’s redesign replaced their long buffet counters with food islands to pick and choose the variety of food with more ease.

Serenity Lido Cafe

Tastes, located on the Lido Deck is a California fusion restaurant while a more European flair can be found at Prego. Prego is an Italian restaurant that is filled with romance and contains a bit of difference in the preparation of Italian cuisine than the usual. Nobu was developed and is overseen by master chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa to bring Japanese cuisine to a new level.

Serenity Sushi Bar

For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert bar Scoops has ice cream and frozen yogurt. A more sophisticated type of confectionary can be had at The Bistro with sampler-size of assorted cheeses and a chocoholic’s delight of a chocolate fountain.

ACTIVITIES

Whilst on board, passengers can take part in enrichment programs that will provide an array of newfound knowledge ranging from golf to history. An on-site theatre shows a variety of genres in films from blockbusters to old classics. To appease any knowledge buff there are regular trivia competitions held onboard

At The Galaxy Lounge, there are special performances by accomplished singers and comedians, as well as elaborate cabaret shows. There is a small casino which has a good selection of gaming including slot machines and poker tables.

Serenity Galaxy Lounge

Live music is offered throughout the ship and you can listen to classical music at teatime and tap your feet to the Broadway show tunes before and after dinner at the Avenue Saloon.

Serenity Pulse Bar

There’s even a karaoke session during dark in the Pulse Disco for those who want to perform. Dancing is always available after dark at the Sunset Bar.

PORTS OF CALL

For 2015, the Crystal Serenity offers 7  to 23 night cruises. Presently, she is sailing in Australia & New Zealand and then on to the exotic ports of the Indian Ocean and South Africa. She will then head north and offer sailings in the Mediterranean from May through to November. A Transatlantic crossing is scheduled afterwards and the ship will spend the remainder of 2015 in the Caribbean.

Images courtesy of Crystal Cruises

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Visit Croatia’s second Largest City Split
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Split Croatia

Although smaller than most ports, Split is the second-largest city of the nation and is an area jammed packed with history.

Split is connected to the Croatian islands of Brac, Hvar and Solta and even connects to Ancona, an Italian port. The port allows easy walking access to some of the most fascinating areas in the city, including its extensive historical centre.

PLACES OF INTEREST

The iconic symbol of the city, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius was constructed in the 3rd century. It is built in an attractive Romanesque style, has bell towers dating back to 1100 years and is known amongst the locals as Saint Dujam.

Another piece of historical scenery that must be seen is the statue of Gregory of Nin. Gregory of Nin was a medieval bishop who shocked the world in the year 926 by defying the Pope and the Catholic Church. He is considered a hero to many Croatians. The statue was constructed by Ivan Meštrović, a world famous Croatian architect considered to be one of the best in the world.

Statue of Gregory Nin

For an older view of Croatia’s history, visit the Archaeological Museum. It is the oldest museum in all of Croatia, dating back to 1820. The museum contains artefacts dating back to the prehistoric age as well as an extensive collection of Roman era objects from when they ruled this area. Back then, it was known as Illyricum. The museum also contains more contemporary objects as well.

Another example of the Roman influence can be found at Diocletian’s Palace. As the name suggests, this was built for the Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD but it wasn’t exactly a palace. Diocletian’s quarters took up half of the structure and the rest of the building housed a military garrison, giving it the appearance of a fortress.

It was constructed for the emperor’s retirement and is today located in the heart of the city. This palace is now used as a central meeting place and has been preserved to perfection. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

COMBINE TROGIR WITH SPLIT

Located 20 miles from the Port of Split sits what many consider the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic medieval centre. This historic centre of Trogir is filled with Venetian towers, mansions, and palaces. It has been recognised and added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.

It is located on a small island between the mainland and the island of Ciovo. Modern elements such as neon lights have been left out so the walled city maintains its authenticity from the past. For the best views of the entire area, a walk up the 13th century Cathedral of St. Lawrence’s bell tower is a must.

Trogir Croatia

From the Port you can easily reach one of the richest Medieval Towns in Europe by public transport. The number 37 bus departs from the bus terminal located directly across from the port. Another option is a taxi, which is faster and not costly. Some will even be happy to wait for you for an additional fee.

ORGANISED EXCURSIONS

Seeing each and all of these wonders during your stop in Split can also be prearranged and provided by your cruiseline or travel agent. Besides the above mentioned possibilities, the ship’s tour desk can arrange exciting hikes on the Plitvice Lakes, exploring other Dalmatian islands or maybe an all day trip and whirlwind tour of Dubrovnik.

Some ships will tender in the bay rather than in port. Cruise lines that offer itineraries in the Eastern Mediterranean including Split are Azamara, Celebrity, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Seadream and Windstar.

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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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