Getaway to the Caribbean from Port Tampa Bay
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It’s the Caribbean cruise season once more. Many cruise lines have repositioned all or some of their fleet to the islands in the sun. Many sailings leave out of Port of Miami or Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

However, another alternative that is becoming popular is Port Tampa Bay. Tampa is positioned on the western coast of Florida, around 40 miles west of Orlando.

PORT TAMPA BAY SAILINGS

Voyages making calls in the Western Caribbean islands, Eastern Mexico, Belize and/or Honduras are the most common itineraries for cruises from Tampa.

Alternatives include cruises to the Eastern Caribbean and the Southern Caribbean calling at the exotic islands of Aruba and Curacao.

This month, Holland America announced that the MS Oosterdam will make Tampa its winter home. Enhancements of nearly £300 million for renovations have been made for 1,964 passengers and a crew of 812, which includes new lounging, dining and entertainment venues and refreshed suites. The ship will offer a variety of cruise options, from seven day, fourteen day and twenty one day itineraries to the western and southern Caribbean.

Holland America Oosterdam

Image courtesy of Holland America Cruises

Port president and CEO stated during the MS Oosterdam first sailing out of Port Tampa Bay this past week, “For nearly 35 years, we have enjoyed a stellar relationship with Holland America Line, and it is gratifying to us that our cruise partners continue to show faith and enthusiasm in the strength our market. We look forward to many more years of sailings.”

However, Holland America is not the only major cruise line that sails out of Tampa Bay. The Carnival Pride and Carnival Paradise will offer a series of five to 14 day trips from Tampa, as will Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of The Seas and Rhapsody of The Seas. The other major cruise line to offer sailings out of Port Tampa Bay is NCL’s Norwegian Jade.

There are many advantages of sailing out of Tampa and this Port of departure is also a top destination in itself.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR CRUISE

Make it a true holiday experience by extending your cruise with a pre or post stay in the Tampa Bay area. The biggest and best are within driving distance. A quick few days in Tampa to relax and unwind before or after your cruise holiday really will enhance your holiday.

The biggest attraction is located in nearby Orlando, which is filled to the brim with exciting theme parks that will appeal to all members of the family. The most famous, of course, being Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Having opened its doors in 1971, the complex contains four theme Parks, two water parks, thirty on-site Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, a sports complex and a shopping and entertainment centre amongst many other facilities.

Walt Disney Orlando

Nearby is Universal Studios Florida, where you can live in the movies by seeing some of their favourite films represented by exciting rides. There are two different theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure with the standout attraction of the parks being the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which brings an amazingly detailed Harry Potter world to life.

If Orlando is not feasible, you can always head to Busch Gardens, the local theme park. Here, the 19th century African theme will make you feel at home while at the same time offering fun activities and adrenaline pumping rides such as the SheiKra, a 61 metre fall roller coaster with a 90 degree drop.

Dare you take the trip? Busch Gardens also has many animal habitats such as the Bird Gardens, an aviary with over 500 different species of tropical birds, a cheetah run and the Curiosity Caverns, which allows you to see nocturnal animals during the daytime.

ONLY ONE DAY TO SPARE TOURING?

Venture beyond the horizon of theme parks to other points of interest too. The city is very cosmopolitan with a number of museums. If time is limited, take the opportunity to experience some of the city’s top attractions. Port Tampa Bay offers easy access to some of Tampa’s most popular attractions with many even within walking distance.

The historic Ybor City, also known as the “Cigar Capital of the World” takes you back to a golden age. Walk amongst the peaceful 19th century style gardens and tour a typical 1800’s cigar worker’s home. The Ybor City Museum State Park contains temporary and permanent exhibits to conjure up what life was like in Ybor’s past.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has more than 2,000 animals from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and South America residing amongst 63-acres of lush habitats. This zoo is officially recognised by Florida as the top centre for wildlife conservation in the state.

Lowry Park Zoo

More entertaining education can be found in the Museum of Science & Industry. This museum contains the only IMAX Dome theatre in the state and makes learning a fun experience. The museum has many different exhibits such as the 3D Printing the Future exhibit, where you can learn how 3D Printing can lend a hand to the improvement of the world such as creating body prosthetics.

The Mission: Moonbase station is an area which speculates what the world will be like in 2070 on a possible moon base.

This extensive section is the crown jewel of the museum, offering interactive experiences of space travel.

Along Tampa’s scenic river bank walkway, sits The Tampa Museum of Art. The museum houses an extensive collection of 20th-century sculpture, paintings and Greek and Roman antiquities.

There are numerous white beaches dotting the coastlines of Florida’s Gulf Coast with warm and pristine waters.

Consider Port Tampa Bay as the departure point for a Caribbean Cruise

If seeking an escape of winter’s wrath, then choose a Caribbean cruise holiday departing from Port Tampa Bay. This modern and efficient port has more points of interest and is close to Tampa Airport. Numerous nonstop flight services from the UK makes it an easy journey.

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A Hot Cruise Season is Promised for New Zealand
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Auckland New Zealand

It’s summer in New Zealand and that means repositioning time to the Southern Hemisphere waters for many cruise lines. This season 2016/17 is unprecedented with the number of ships sailing to Auckland for its six-month season.

The first ship repositioning from the Northern Hemisphere was the Celebrity Solstice, which arrived in Auckland on 4 October. Other visitors include Royal Caribbean’s 4,180 passenger Ovation of the Seas, notably the biggest vessel ever to sail in these waters.

Not to be outdone by size, the largest Princess ship, the 3082 passenger Emerald Princess, will make her appearance in Milford Sound, located on New Zealand’s South Island, in November.

After departing from Singapore, the luxury Seabourn Encore will arrive in January at Milford Sound and cruise through several scenic points of interest within the Fiordland National Park. This is followed by several other New Zealand ports on its way to Wellington.

Milford Sound

Holland America Line’s Maasdam will dock in Tauranga, whilst Azamara Journey, Norwegian Star, Europa 2 and Oceania Cruises’ Sirena are also first timers in New Zealand.

“New Zealand’s popularity as one of the world’s hottest cruise destinations will be clearly evident this summer,” Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia commercial director Brett Jardine said. “Not only will there be more ships visiting than ever before, there will be scores of inaugural calls around the country as cruise lines extend their itineraries to take in a wider range of beautiful ports around the North and South Islands.”

There is more to New Zealand than kiwis! This Pacific nation offers a landscape that is difficult to surpass as well as city style interests.

Port of Auckland

Refurbished in 2013, Auckland’s Shed 10 (main cruise terminal) is located on Queens Wharf. Most sites in the city centre are within walking distance. There is a hop-on, hop-off bus service that will take you to the main points of interests. Also, the tourist information office is located by the entrance to the port.

Things to do

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and located on the northern end of the north island and is an opportunity to feast on so many diverse interests.  

Sky Tower is 328 meters over the city and offers unlimited views to the surrounding region. For those not faint at heart, walk around the outside along the open skywalk with a harness or for true daredevils, base-jump by wire off the tower. Don’t fret, because if you are too frightened, you can remain inside the observation deck and enjoy the views.

Sky Tower

For significant collections of natural, social, military history, memorabilia and culture related to the South Pacific visit the War Memorial Museum.

Mount Eden is an extinct volcano. Heading towards its summit provides a grand view of the Auckland skyline.

With perhaps a swim in mind, take a ferry out to Devonport and explore the beaches on the North Shore.

Port of Wellington

Wellington is small and compact and encircled by mounts of elevation. It is a vivacious inner city experience that comes with some gorgeous scenery.

Located in the centre of Wellington, smaller vessels tend to dock at Queens Wharf cruise terminal. This presents passengers with direct access to the city centre and walking about is easy.

The Mega ships dock at Aotea Quay located in an industrial area. It’s a 20 minute walk to the city. However, a shuttle is provided from the cruise terminal to the centre. Tickets can be obtained onboard your ship.

Things to do

For stunning views of the city and harbour get yourself a ticket for the bright red Kelburn Cable Car. Within four minutes, climb directly to the hilltop town of Kilburn right from the waterfront in a cable car that remains on the ground and not in the air.

Wellington Cable Car

Maritime devotees can visit the Museum of Wellington, City and Sea. Besides an abundance of maritime memorabilia, the museum is known for its replica of the harbour including reproduction model ships.

Opened in 1998, the National Museum and Art Gallery (known as Te Papa) offers a brilliant way to experience the culture and people of New Zealand. They utilise awareness through a stimulating combination of interactive displays and the latest technology.

Gearing towards Middle Earth

One of the biggest movie franchises has been “The Lord of the Rings” and more recently, “The Hobbit” and are based on J.R.R Tolkien’s novels. Film director, Peter Jackson is native to New Zealand and the filming took place on location in his home country.

The time is right for a jaunt to New Zealand to experience the paths to Mordor and beyond. Your ship’s tour office has many options to make a full day of your Hobbiton experience.

Where could anyone actually experience Middle Earth other than at the movies? You can right in New Zealand. So follow the footsteps of your favourite Tolkien character and don’t miss out on this chance.

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The Port of Singapore
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Singapore

The Port of Singapore is Southeast Asia’s largest port and consists of two different cruise terminals. Ships dock at either the Marina Bay Cruise Centre or at the Singapore Cruise Centre. Although ports aren’t usually a highlight for most cruise passengers, both ports in Singapore are notable exceptions and make a great impression before venturing to see the city’s many jewels.

Marina Bay Cruise Centre 

The Marina Bay Cruise Centre is Singapore’s newest constructed two-berth facility and accommodates the Mega-ships of the major cruise lines and is able to hold more than 6,800 passengers at a time. The cruise centre boasts stunning views of the Singaporean skyline as well as the Straits of Singapore.

The terminal is also notable for its architectural design, with a unique “wave” shaped roof and other nautical elements that take centre stage. It is relatively close to the famous Marina Bay Sands, known for its science museum and one hectare roof terrace and garden perched 55 stories above.

Two MRT train stations serve the cruise centre, as well as taxis and bus #402 making it easy to get into some serious sightseeing.

Singapore Cruise Centre

The larger Singapore Cruise Centre was retrofitted in 2012 and boasts state of the art facilities that match it newest counterpart. There are two terminals; Regional Ferry Terminal (RFT) and the International Passenger Terminal (IPT), which is the one that handles the major cruise lines. It also has only two berths and is located at the Sentosa Harbour Front Precinct. This area contains a major shopping mall on site offering many of the world’s leading retail brands.

There are easy connections to get to the city centre in minutes as well as Sentosa Island. All points of interest are easily accessible from the terminal by train (MRT), bus, or taxi or a cable car to Sentosa Island. Taxis are rather inexpensive when compared to other cities.

More Points of Interest

With all of the amazing attractions and things to do in Singapore, you will need to return. A one day or two day stopover as part of a cruise holiday will definitely offer a healthy sampler. Singapore was designed with the visitor in mind with several theme parks, natural wonders and is a haven for multicultural points of interest.

If only in the city for the day, the best bet to see as much as possible is with the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. The passes are for 24 or 48-hours and you will explore the city across four different bus routes with approximately 40 stops. All the main sites are covered including stop-offs at the following highlights.

Located on 52 hectares of land, the Singapore Botanic Gardens must not be missed. Filled with a wide variety of flora of the most beautiful flowers, the park specialises in so many varieties of orchids.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Accessible via cable car, taking a quick trip to Mount Faber is always recommended for photo opportunities. The peak of the mountain offers panoramic views of the harbour and Sentosa Island as well as the surrounding islands.

Sentosa Island is also known as Resort World. It was specially developed as an entertainment centre and resort area. Besides beaches providing a cool respite from the heat, there’s a waterpark too. The S.E.A. Aquarium is a must see for lovers of all things under the sea.

The aquarium plays host to 100,000 marine animals of over 800 species and is notable for containing exhibits on obscure areas such as the Strait of Karimata and the Java Sea. There are also themed locations such as Shark Seas and Shipwreck.

Sentosa Island

One of the most recently added attractions to Sentosa Island, Universal Studios Singapore offers all your favourite film franchises with a twist. Ride on thrilling experiences such as Shrek 4D, The Revenge of The Mummy and Transformers: The Ride or pretend that you’re walking down Hollywood Boulevard.

Golfers can tee off at one of two different courses including the Sentosa Golf Club known for being the course the Barclay’s Open was held at from 2006 to 2012. Other complexes of interest on Sentosa include Madame Tussauds Singapore and IFly Singapore for a gravity free experience.

London may have its ‘Eye’ but Singapore City has its ‘Flyer’. The 169 m (554 ft) tall wheel rotates to unobstructed views of the city and the South China Sea.

For temple viewing, Singapore City contains Buddhist, Muslim and Hindi temples. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of the most striking Buddhist Temples in Singapore.

The Burmese Buddhist Temple is home to an 11 feet white marble Buddha statue; whilst the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple offers a colourful entrance in traditional Chinese architecture. Singapore has over 35 Hindu temples including the golden Sree Maha Mariamman Temple and the Sri Thendayuthapani Temwith with its 75 feet tall blue Gopuram tower.

Buddha Tooth Relic & Museum

If your ship is fortunate to stay in port overnight, evening entertainment is easy to locate in the area at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. Located just nearby the Singapore River, these former warehouses transform into entertainment spots, shops, casual restaurants and many nightclubs.

This is a great place to just relax as you can walk alongside the river or get some shopping in before your ship leaves.

Of course, one of the evenings highlights (near to where the ship is berthed) is Wonder Full. This is a light, music and sound show presented from the top of the Marian Bay Sands. The 13-minute extravaganza lights up the cityscape with fireworks and laser lights.

The season for cruise holiday makers in Singapore ranges from late October to early May.

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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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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!

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