Cruising the Norwegian Fjords
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Norwegian Fjords

One location that keeps making headlines in the travel news due to its natural beauty and unparalleled views is the country of Norway. Visitors should be warned however: the Norwegian Kroner is arguably the strongest currency in the world so your pounds won’t go as far as they do elsewhere.

That is why considering a Norwegian Fjords cruise is a great option in seeing the landscapes and popular villages of Norway. Not only does it save you money, it also provides you with the luxury of high quality food, entertainment and much more.

Heading on a cruise holiday will feature the Fjords and some of the inner waterways as well as a first-hand view of the life, culture and history of the land of the Vikings. The essential parts of the Norwegian villages and landscape will be covered.

What can you anticipate on a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords?

A 7-12 day cruise will fit in several ports of call, along with quite a bit of adventure for those daring types. Alternatively, you can simply sit back and take it all in!

Typical Ports of Call

BERGEN

One port that is sure to be on the itinerary is the “Gateway to the Fjords” that is Bergen. This overture of the fjords is the second largest city in Norway and yet it personifies a small town reputation. Along the harbour sits its cosy charming buildings that reflect its mirrored image in the waters of Bryggen Warf.

Bergen is actually built into a fjord and offers some of the most memorable views of the snow-capped mountains and other nearby fjords.  In association with its stunning scenes, the town has earned a spot on UNESCO’s list of the world’s most valuable historical and cultural places worthy of preservation.

Bergen

FLAM

Flam holds the longest and the deepest fjord in Norway with vast network of hiking trails. Take the opportunity to be suspended between the rocks and the sea by hopping aboard the railway from the village and heading up into the clouds. Flam also has a brewery with some of the best beer in the entire country.

Flam

GEIRANGERFJORD

The Geirangerfjord is yet another port of call that will make a lasting impression. It has not only stunning mountain glaciers but has an enormous amount of waterfalls. Here you will find every formation imaginable from minuscule flows to monster-size gushers of water tumbling down the 2,000 feet of rock known as the Seven Sisters waterfall.

Geirangerfjord

HAMMERFEST

Hammerfest is the most northern town that cruise ships will go to right outside of the Arctic Circle and the land of the midnight sun. The city is also notable as being one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. Here, everything is recycled and reused so that there is no damage done to the pristine nature nearby.

Hammerfest

SEASON

Cruises going to the fjords have a short season from May through late September/early October.

Late June to early August is when the weather is at its most stable and warmest with sunny, long and bright days. The spring time is lovely when the orchards are in bloom and the spring thaw is taking place. Autumn brings a festival of colour with reds and oranges and a chill beginning to set in.

CRUISE LINES

Nearly every major cruise line has a ship that will have an itinerary through Norway. Cruise lines include Cunard, Fred Olsen, Holland America, MSC, P&O and Royal Caribbean amongst others.

Some ships will begin the journey out of Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Oslo or even Southampton.

Nothing can quite create a unique experience for any traveller as a Norwegian fjords cruise holiday. The fjords present a combination of nature at its best by including plenty of views of glaciers, waterfalls and gorges.

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Focus on P&O Cruises
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p&o cruises banner

The very fact that a holiday destination is described as luxurious can indicate that it may be unaffordable to most, but that paradise break in the sun or exotic destination can be a reality.

P&O Cruises are renowned for great service, modern ships and affordability. The line is the biggest in the British marketplace and offers the opportunity to visit just about any location across the world.

Fitting the ship to an individual’s personality is perhaps the most important factor in determining a fantastic cruise experience. That factor is precisely what makes P&O unique from the rest. This is one cruise company that holidaymakers should seriously consider.

FAMILY FUN

If it is a family friendly ship you are after, and then look no further than the Aurora, Azura, Oceana and Ventura. These ships offer extensive children’s programs, allowing mum and dad time on their own.

P&O’s family ships have staterooms that can accommodate a family with plenty of elbow room with inside, outside or balcony cabins or luxury suites. “Family saver” rates makes the cruise holiday affordable when children share a cabin with two adults. On occasions there may even be free child places available.

family on aurora

On P&O’s family friendly ships, children are always welcomed with special perks geared towards them such as cartoon character duvet covers, balloons, and sweets.

ADULTS ONLY

Arcadia, Oriana and the smaller and more intimate Adonia provide the traditional cruise experience and are restricted to adults only. It is ideal for those who are seeking out the more unusual parts of the world.

Arcadia in Sydney

Pull up a lounge chair on the pool deck to catch some rays or for the more active there are plenty of ways to keep fit with sports facilities and wellbeing options easily found in the first rate spas. There are cinemas and casinos for the guest’s pleasure too. This concept of adults only was exclusively first introduced by P&O.

DINING

Passengers can either attend regularly scheduled meals in the ship’s dining room or have a more casual meal at one of the buffets. High-end restaurant quality food is available 24 hours a day in the dining rooms, restaurants and buffets onboard most ships. Room service is also available free-of-charge.

Many cruise lines are bringing celebrity chefs onboard and P&O ships are no different in that respect. It is a great way for holiday makers to enjoy 5-star cuisine in speciality restaurants at reasonable cost, something they wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere.

Sindhu Restaurant on Azura

Three of the top chefs who hold Michelin stars for their dishes who have joined P&O Cruises include Atul Kochhar, Gary Rhodes and Marco Pierre White. They take extra care no matter where one dines, to present very interesting and delicious foods often influenced by different cultures.

Some ships offer a midnight buffet of rich, artistic culinary arts such as a chocolate buffet, where tables are filled with every form of chocolate delight imaginable from sculptures to mousse.

FUN & FITNESS

There are wonderful fitness, health and spa treatments on offer as well, with the revolutionary Retreat which is available on both the family style ships, the Azura and Ventura. This remains as an adult’s only area that is sure to provide some wonderful rejuvenation to the body, mind and spirit.

The Retreat on Azura

By night the ships come alive with West End style theatre performances, comedy acts and cabaret singers.

Most ships sail from Southampton from the months of April to October and some offer Caribbean trips out of Barbados during the winter months. Also available are fly cruise options with itineraries departing from Genoa and Venice.

There’s a new ship on the horizon due to be unveiled in March 2015. The state of the art and enormous ship Britannia is sure to be a hit with P&O’S loyal customers.

P&O ships have been made to order exclusively for adults and for families with children. There are many great cruise lines out there but none are more experienced with 175 years in operation than P&O. View the itineraries here

Images courtesy of P&O Cruises

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Watch the P&O Cruises Britannia Animation Video
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Carnival Corporation, owners of successful cruise line P&O, have revealed that their new ship, set to launch in February 2015, will be named Britannia. They announced the name of the ship after learning that the Queen had no objections to P&O using the name, which has been for years associated with the Royal Yacht.

P&O’s Britannia is set to be an incredible 1,082 feet long – the equivalent of more than four Airbus A380 planes. It will hold a 4,372 passengers and 1,400 crew, making it their largest ship ever, by quite some way. It will weigh 25,000 tons more than any of the other ships in P&O’s fleet.

Watch the P&O Britannia Video

P&O have stated that Britannia is set to be ‘built exclusively for Britain’, presumably in order to cater to its majority British passengers. Richmond International have been commissioned to design the new ship and it is set to ‘wow…with her striking décor and breathtaking interiors…designed to make you feel special, her rooms have been planned with imagination and flair, while bold features create a real talking point.’

The ship is set to incorporate the best features from its other ships such as Aurora and Azura, both of which are firm favourites with passengers. Britannia is also set to have more single berth cabins than any other cruise ship, in order to cater to the growing solo cruise travel market. Many of the single berth cabins are also set to have balconies, allowing their inhabitants to enjoy the same comforts as everyone else on board without paying a premium to do so.

It will have four different swimming pools on board, which will surely appeal to passengers and especially to families with children. Britannia will also have thirteen different bars for passengers to choose from, as well as thirteen restaurants and cafes for passengers to dine in.

The keel of the new Britannia has already been laid. This took place in Monfalcone shipyard in Italy on May 15th 2013. The keel consists of six different parts and weighs a phenomenal 408 tons.

The name of P&O’s latest ship was announced at around the same time as the Carnival Corporation faced yet another stumbling block. One of their ships from the Princess line, Royal Princess, lost power completely during a Mediterranean cruise between the Greek island of Mykonos and the Italian port of Naples. The cruise had to then be cut short and the ship has now been taken to Barcelona for repair.

Hopefully the announcement of the name of its latest cruise ship will mark a turning point for Carnival Corporation, who have suffered from many setbacks in the last few years. They own the Costa Cruise line, which tragically struck rocks off the Italian island of Giglio, claiming the lives of thirty two passengers and crew on board early last year.

What are your views on the size of these mega ships. Prefer something smaller?

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New Cruise Line Rules to benefit Non Smokers
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Smoking is one of the most challenging habits there is to change. Over the years, it has been banned from the workplace, pubs and restaurants and almost all public places across the UK. The aim was to reduce the exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, which has a harmful effect on all. After six years with the ban in effect, enforcement officials claim to have seen the benefits and estimate that the next 20 years will halve smoking rates.

cigarette smoke

Cruise ships were not left out and had created dedicated areas smoking areas. However, there is a major change on the high seas for even more restrictions to smoking passengers.

Since August, Cunard and Seabourn placed in restrictive rules pertaining to smoking areas on their ships.

Commencing in February 2014, Seabourn will also ban smoking in staterooms on its six ships. Smokers will still be able to light-up a cigarette on verandas and in designated public areas on deck.

On Cunard’s ships, there has been a ban on smoking in cabins and public places onboard for some time, but smoking on balconies will also be banned beginning with the Queen Victoria on the 28th of April 2014. There will still be designated areas for smoking on the open decks. There is a no-smoking policy in all Cunard ship’s restaurants.

queen victoria queens grill

Image courtesy of Cunard Cruises

P&O Cruises also announced a ban last month that as of March 2014, smoking will no longer be permitted on balconies.

This move has pushed many more cruise lines to implement increasingly stringent regulations towards smoking.

Last week, one of the major players in cruising, Royal Caribbean surprised the industry by following Cunard and P&O Cruises stance, to forbid smoking in their cabin balconies.

The ban on Royal Caribbean ships will go into effect starting 1 January 2014 and will apply to its entire fleet with the exception to those based out of Asia.

RCCL is planning on fully enforcing the ban and those caught smoking on a cabin balcony will be hit with a £190 ($250) fine. Inside stateroom have already had a smoking ban imposed for a while.

The new restrictions apply to electronic cigarettes also.

This ruling on smoking for Royal Caribbean passengers will be extremely restrictive. The only areas that will allow smoking on most Royal Caribbean ships are the Casino (only at designated times), on the outer decks on the starboard side of all ships and in Connoisseur Club on selected ships.

In a public notification, Royal Caribbean says its new non-smoking policies are the result of “careful consideration and review of guest feedback.”

MSC Cruises has changed their smoking policy prior to RCCL’s announcement. The line announced it would expand its smoke-free policy. Commencing 2 November 2013 on MSC Divina’s transatlantic voyage from Venice to Miami, smoking will be restricted to the Cigar Lounge and the port side of designated outside decks.

msc divina cigar lounge

Image courtesy of MSC Cruises

There’s been no word from Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line as of yet. They appear to still allow smoking on balconies, but there may be a few tweaks to their existing policies in the upcoming weeks.

Instead of taking the new rulings as a negative, turn it into an opportunity. A great many smokers say they would happily stop smoking if they could only find a way of doing it.

This is easier said than done and one of the hardest parts of quitting is filling the gap with something that will encourage a person to actually want to abstain from smoking again. Perhaps a cruise holiday is the best way to start. With all the activities and destinations that a cruise holiday provides, make it a stop smoking program that is much easier to endure.

For non-smokers, it allows a cruise holiday with more breathing room. For smokers, it will be a great way to take the cure.

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Gibraltar as a Cruise Destination
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Contrary to what many people think, Gibraltar offers a great deal more than sunshine and duty-free shopping. Any cruise ship that makes a port of call at Gibraltar will have its passengers coming back on-board discussing all the places they have discovered.

The Rock of Gibraltar is 1400-feet high. It is also perforated with as many as 140 caves. Remains and indications of pre-Neanderthal humans have been found within them. Many civilizations settled here through turbulent takeovers.

Rock of Gibraltar

The Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Muslims and Moors settled here. The Moors developed the town of Gibraltar in the 11th century. The Spanish, Dutch and finally the British followed suit.  

More recently, skirmishes have been developing between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar. The European Commission has been called in to investigate Spain’s recent border crackdown by charging excessive fees to cross from Gibraltar into Spain. However, for those on a cruise holiday need not ever be concerned to enter into the little outpost of Gibraltar.

One of the most essential activities to partake in while in port is to visit the top of The Rock. There is two ways to do this, either by taking a land tour or an exciting yet short cable car trip. Once up at the top, visit the gorgeous and beautiful Upper Rock Nature Reserve where taking photographs is mandatory among the flora and fauna. The famous Barbary apes and the rare Barbary partridge are native to the area.

Folklore states that” if the apes remain on the island, so shall the British”. Since they are a protective species of the region, the apes have no intention of leaving anytime soon. Things should be good for the next few decades as they are accustomed to tourists.

A popular attraction around ‘The Rock’ is St Michael’s Caves. Not only are they illuminated, but they are used as venues to some of the most creative concerts seen. The acoustics of the caves makes it an unforgettable experience.

St Michaels Cave

There are many hidden gems throughout the city. There are numerous monuments that honour Lord Nelson for his instrumental efforts in keeping the region as a strategic fortified barricade for the British crown during the Great Siege.

Trafalgar Cemetery is located near Main Street. Most the deceased buried within died from yellow fever outbreaks in the early 19th century. A memorial to the Battle of Trafalgar is erected in the cemetery and two commemorate officers are buried here who fought in the battle.

The Gibraltar Museum covers all aspects of Gibraltar’s history and natural history.  It is built on the site of a Moorish bath house and its galleries hold a rich collection of artefacts that will impress any history and geography buffs.  There’s a detailed model of the Rock, constructed by officers of the Royal Engineers in 1865, a Great Siege of Gibraltar exhibitionand a recreation of a cave containing actual prehistoric discoveries.

The official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar since 1728 was originally a Franciscan Friar Convent founded in the 16th century. “The Government House” attracts visitors daily for the changing of the guardsby officers of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.

Royal Gibraltar Regiment

There are also plenty of other sites, including the Glass Factory.  A tour has visitors witness the glass blowers using techniques that are over 2,000 years. Of course, there’s a shop that sells these objects at factory prices.

Sightseeing isn’t the only fun thing to do in Gibraltar, though.  Simply soak up the sun, as there are great areas for sunbathing and swimming such as Catalan Bay with a generally clear and calm sea and plenty of sunshine. The beach is sandy, perfect for a relaxing rest to rejuvenate before continuing on even more exploration possibilities.

Catalan Bay

Major cruise lines, such as P & O, Princess, Holland America and Royal Caribbean are dropping off thousands of visitors into the Port of Gibraltar and cruise holiday passengers are certainly glad they are.

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