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

The Exotic Ports of call in the South Pacific
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South Pacific Cruise

Breathtaking sunsets and a magnificent underwater world make the South Pacific a fabulous destination for those of you seeking something different.

Explore the islands during the day and leave the evenings open to enjoy your time onboard. A cruise holiday is a wonderful way to see these locations and utilising the ship’s tour desk will help set up the must sees.

As the song says from South Pacific, “”Here am I, your special island! Come to me, come to me!”

Bora Bora

Start off your South Pacific cruise holiday with a trip to Bora Bora. Although it is the smallest of the islands, the amount of possibilities it offers are endless. Begin the trip by going to one of the many enormous beaches and try swimming or snorkelling in the crystal clear waters.

The island is also well known for it’s mountains, which you can see with an amazing 4×4 tour that takes you throughout the island. Enjoy a drink in the Bloody Mary restaurant, named after a famous character in the classic musical South Pacific. It has served many celebrities over the years yet its charm has remained unchanged from when it first opened.

Bora Bora

Fiji

Fiji is perhaps the best known of the South Pacific islands and as such, it has so many attractions that you can’t possibly do them all in one day. Start off with a trip to the Fiji Museum, an extensive area that details not only the history but the wildlife of the area. See a religious icon in the form of the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple, one of the few Hindu temples outside of India with Dravidian architecture.

Nature lovers of all kinds will enjoy the sights at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, which are about 20 metres high. The dunes are famous not only for their beauty but for the rich archaeological treasures within. There are also traditional Polynesian performances such as fire dancing to be seen.

Fiji Iguana

Tahiti

Tahiti may be the best island of them all. It is well known for its authentic feel, far away from the tourist shops and modern amenities, virtually everything here is independently owned. This gives Tahiti a unique feeling that’s hard to find anywhere else, its unspoiled beauty serving as a wonderful backdrop. Take a tour to see the waterfalls, located at Trois Cascades Te Fa’auruma’i.

There are 3 waterfalls in total and the path is very clear. See the water cascade down from miles above for a great photo opportunity. The history museum Musée de Tahiti et des Iles details the vibrant history of the island. See ancient artefacts, some items from Captain Cook’s ship and even a demonstration on turning a log into a canoe.

Tahiti

Moorea

Moorea served as inspiration for the island “Bali Hay” in South Pacific and it’s easy to see why. The ideal location, filled with soft sandy beaches, blue water and stunning weather makes it seem as though you are being featured in a travel brochure! Apart from snorkelling and feeding the manta rays, a good activity is to take the Circle Island tour bus.

Here, you can see exciting areas such as Cook’s and Opunohu Bays; check out the ancient Tahitian temples and visit several colonial pineapple and vanilla plantations. This day trip is the best way to get the most out of your time here.

Papua New Guinea

Culturally and geographically rich, step into a journey of the unknown in the relatively untouched Papua New Guinea. Walk along the infamous Kokoda Trail. Although impossible to trek the entire 37 miles, it does offer a chance to discover its historical use. The National Museum & Art Gallery is notable for the indigenous tribal culture of its inhabitants. PNG offers great snorkelling among gorgeous reefs teeming with unique marine life.

Papua New Guinea

Many cruise holidays begin in Australia and New Zealand but some will start out of the Port of Papeete in Tahiti.

Cruise lines including Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America and Princess amongst others offer holidays to the South Pacific. The number of days of each sailing and months sailed in varies.

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Have you cruised around the South Pacific? Let us know below!

Experience the Monaco Grand Prix with Fred.Olsen
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Monaco Grand Prix

Now that we are into spring it’s time to get ready for an exciting sporting event coming this May. The Monaco Grand Prix was first held on April 14th 1929; an idea founded by President Anthony Noghes in an attempt to create a major car rally in this small nation.

The very first winner of the Grand Prix was William Grover-Williams who went on to win six more championships before his retirement in 1936. Since then, the world of Grand Prix has been flooded with famous names like Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Fangio and Graham Hill amongst others.

Presently, 16 competitors are getting ready for the race of 78 laps. This internationally renowned event is being offered as part of a themed cruise by Fred. Olsen.

THE BLACK WATCH SAILING

The ‘Sun, Sea & Monaco Grand Prix’ cruise will depart from Dover on the 21st of May aboard the Black Watch. This cruise is sure to be the dream and envy of every Formula One fan who has never had the opportunity of experiencing an event this grand.

The ship will sail through the various locations of the Grand Prix route. See exotic Mediterranean delights such as Gibraltar, Cannes, Nice, Barcelona and Alicante. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Fred. Olsen is also offering two exciting tour packages that will enhance your holiday even further. The packages will offer fantastic views of the race. The first package is Grandstand K, which stretches out from the Tabac to the Swimming Pool. The package also comes with tickets to the upper section, offering a complete panoramic view of the race.

The second package Grandstand T is located around Monaco Harbour and offers a view of the Straight Section. It also comes with a view of the pits, allowing you to see some of the “behind the scenes” maintenance of these amazing cars.

Nathan Philpot, Sales & Marketing Director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:

“This cruise highlights our commitment and focus on bringing our guests closer to the world’s best attractions and finest destinations. We have made this experience really easy, with ready-made shore tour packages, meaning that our guests can be present at one of the sporting world’s most renowned and spectacular events.”

WATCH THE VIDEO

Ports of Call

Gibraltar

The first port of call will allow you to interact with its famous Barbary apes. There are duty-free shopping opportunities galore and you can use sterling! Enjoy the impressive flora and fauna of the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens or board a cable car to stand on top of the ‘rock’ for breathtaking views of nearby Morocco across the narrow strait

Barcelona

Barcelona is captivated by so many landmark Modernists features created by Gaudi including the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Along each turn; history unfolds itself whilst caressing the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the mountains on the other. Museums, parks and Las Ramblas add to the jam-packed Bohemian flavour of Barcelona.

Cannes

Stroll along the famous palm-lined boulevard ‘La Croisette’ which has been used as a backdrop in many a film. Cannes is synonymous with fascination since so many have walked the red carpet during its prominent film festival. The city contains chic beaches, luxury boutiques and casinos, museums and glorious sunshine!

Nice

Known as ‘The Queen of the Riviera’ the ship will remain in Nice overnight. An optional shore excursion has been arranged to Monaco to view the famous street circuit Grand Prix on race day. There is plenty of time to view points of interest on the French Rivera such as the Italian Baroque Church of Saint Giaume or the Musee Matisse.

Alicante

The Black Watch makes a return to Spain at its penultimate stop. Here, visitors can relax on the sandy beaches of Play San Juan or visit the MARQ (Archaeological Museum of Alicante) or even gain views of the surrounding city and mountain on top of Santa Barbara Castle.

Malaga

The final call is in Malaga, the birth place of Picasso. The best thing to do here is to book some private tours which could include the Alhambra Palace in Granada or the stunningly beautiful rural areas of Andalucía.

ABOUT THE BLACK WATCH

Fred Olsen Black Watch

The Black Watch was built in Finland on June 26th, 1972 as the Royal Viking Star. It was acquired by Norwegian Cruise Line in 1992 and was sold to Fred. Olsen in October 1996. Ninety percent of her cabins are outside. The mid-size ship holds 807 passengers and has been refurbished and maintained to meet the standards you would expect from Fred. Olsen.

For those that aren’t Formula 1 fans, the Black Watch has more than enough entertainment opportunities to keep you busy. The shows at the Neptune Lounge consist of variety acts every night. At lunch time, there is light piano music at the Lido Lounge, perfect for relaxing. There is also a unique movie a day screened at the Marina Theatre.

Activities include British style sports such as carpet boules and darts as well as traditional games including bingo and bridge. For those that are looking for some fun, dance classes are available, teaching you everything from the waltz to the cha-cha.

For more information on this cruise click here

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What to See in Amsterdam
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Amsterdam

It may be small, but Amsterdam is jam packed and offers so many unique things to do that it would not be possible to see it all in one day. The city is split into various areas by waterways and is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, tram or canal boat. This city knows how to deal with small spaces and every nook and cranny is wisely used. There are an endless amount of side streets and corner shops just waiting to be explored

Consider Amsterdam as a living museum, thus making it one of the most fascinating and exciting destinations in Europe.

PORT OF AMSTERDAM

The port, Passenger Terminal Amsterdam (PTA), tends to be starting point for cruise ships heading to the Northern European nations. Some ships do make Amsterdam a port of call as well. Approximately 300,000 passengers pass through the port each year. The newest ship for Holland America, the ms Koningsdam will be calling PTA its home from May through to September. With a passenger count of 2886, this is bound to increase 2015’s figure substantially.

The port is located very close to the city centre and public transport options are within walking distance. The Passenger Terminal contains an enormous reception hall, catering and shopping locations and a tourist office. The terminal also plays host to interesting exhibitions, showing off Amsterdam’s creative vibe as soon as you step into the terminal.

For those that are arriving by plane to Amsterdam, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is located only 15 minutes away from the port.

MSC Magnifica in Amsterdam Port

THINGS TO DO

Right in the physical centre of Amsterdam sits Dam Square. This top meeting point of the city is a great place for people watching. It is surrounded by the World War II National Monument, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the neoclassical Royal Palace.

Holland is known for scenic settings and its great beer. Indulge in both with the Beer Bike Tour and join 10 to 20 others to pedal around the city while enjoying a cold brew. This is one time that burning calories will be a pleasure!

Beer Bike Amsterdam

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without taking a canal tour. The canal tours are usually accompanied with a tour guide that points out interesting sights and offers a different perspective on iconic sites. Some tours offer hop-on hop-off passes.

Amsterdam serves as one of the diamond centres of Holland. Coster Diamonds is one of the oldest factories in diamond polishing and offers tours. The most valuable diamonds in the world, including the Crown Jewels belonging to the British Royals made their way here. Watch the diamond polishers at work using the same techniques and tools from the 1850s as well as the amazing gems on display.

You could also learn something new at the Post Modern museum known as Nemo. This museum is actually very close to the port. It differs from the norm by having interactive experiments that visitors of all ages can take part in. The Media Lab allows you to produce music and short films for all the other visitors to view.  

Nemo Museum Amsterdam

Take in one of the greatest Dutch masters work at the Van Gogh museum. Van Gogh is arguably the best known artist in the world and the museum reflects his and other artists work in over four stories. Everything from obscure pieces such as Red Vineyard to masterpieces such as the Starry Night can be seen here. There is a large wing dedicated to other Dutch masters and Impressionist artists, making this a hotspot for art lovers.

Cruise lines visiting or embarking from Amsterdam in 2016 include: Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity, Costa Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Fred Olsen.

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Neighbourhood Watch on Harmony!
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Harmony of the Seas

With under 100 days to go excitement is building for the launch of Royal Caribbean’s latest ship Harmony of the Seas.

From the magnificent bars and restaurants to the huge range of staterooms this ship will also have seven unique neighbourhoods. You will soon find that no day or evening will be a boring one on this ship.

Let’s take a look at the magnificent seven!

Central Park:

Have you ever imagined walking through Central Park, New York, in the middle of spring no matter what time of year it was? Now you can in the Central Park district of the ship. With over 12,000 lush green trees and plants, Harmony’s Central Park may even surpass the real thing. Enjoy an uptown dinner with a real cosmopolitan feel at Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and 150 Central Park.

Sip a new vintage wine at the ship’s wine bar Vintages; or go shopping at one of the many swank and ultra-chic boutiques. This location is perfect for relaxing after a long day as you sit in one of the floral armchairs that are sure to soothe the body as well as the eyes.

Royal Promenade:

For those that are looking for a more urban feel, Royal Promenade could be the right neighbourhood for you. Whilst you can go on a pub tour, you won’t be able to find one as unique as the Bionic Bar, which may seem like an British pub from the 1800s until you see their workers; all robots! With a brick wall façade and floor, the neighbourhood looks as though you are in a small corner of a major city.

You can get in on the fun of a street parade that routinely goes through the area. Want to dance? The Promenade promises great sounds with a live DJ spinning the tunes. There will be evenings dominated by live performances to take you back to other decades.

Boardwalk:

Step back in time to the days of the seaside boardwalk when you stroll through this neighbourhood. With turn of the century delights that are Coney Island inspired such as a shooting arcade and even an enormous carousel, this is sure to impress even the most 21th century person.

There are also retro restaurants that serve as a time machine to other time periods from the 50s to the 80s. The Sabor Taqueria and Tequila Bar, a Boardwalk Dog House, Starbucks café and the RCCL staple of 50′s style diner Johnny Rockets for casual fare are all situated in the Boardwalk. Don’t miss out on seeing the AquaTheatre, which offers daring high dive shows into the deepest pool on the ship.

Entertainment Place:

Who needs Las Vegas when you have this wonderful floating alternative with all the glitz and glamour of the original? Music fills the air at all times and the Casino Royale will be packed with gamblers hoping to get in on the money.

An enormous array of gambling options from blackjack to slot machines to roulette wheels amongst other casino games can be found here. Make it a night to remember with a show stopping Broadway extravaganza, as well as a few laughs’ at the Attic Comedy Club and some smooth jazz at Jazz on 4.

The Pool and Sports Zone:

For those looking for the thrill factor, there’s no better place than The Pool and Sports Zone. Harmony of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean ship to have four enormous water slides. The Ultimate Abyss, situated at the aft of the ship is an enthralling trip down ten stories; perfect if you want to add some adrenaline and excitement to pool time.

The other three will be just as impressive at three decks in height. The ship will also introduce a brand new aquatic adventure park called Splashaway Bay. It will be a child friendly water play area complete with a multi-platform jungle-gym with slides and water cannons that will keep the children busy during a day at sea. Other challenges include the rock climbing wall and zip lines.

Harmony of the Seas Water Slides

Vitality Spa and Fitness:

This neighbourhood is decorated with tiles that resemble Greek mosaics. The rejuvenation of the body and spirit at the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre is totally recommended. The spa menu offers a variety of facials, exotic body treatments and contains a state-of-the-art wellness center. Yoga and Pilates classes will be available as well as a customised diet and body toning program especially for you.

Youth Zone:

As with other members of the Royal Caribbean fleet, Harmony of The Seas will have designated areas for children of all ages and has really gone to town with more exposure of DreamWorks Animation characters.

Youngsters can meet and greet Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots of Shrek; Po of Kung Fu Panda; and several members from Madagascar including the ever loving and off the wall Penguins. The Youth Zone is divided up by age. Each area contains activities that are themed to ages and ports of call. For teens there will be special workshops, an interactive video game centre and evening activities.

Harmony of the Seas will debut in May 2016 for her inaugural summer season in Europe with 3 or 4 night samplers out of Southampton and 7 night Western Europe sailings from Barcelona. She will then head to her home port of Port Everglades, Florida in the autumn.

Images courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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Have you got any holidays planned on Harmony? Let us know below!