Back to business in the Caribbean

After the devastation caused in the Caribbean last month I am pleased to say that it is business as usual now on most of the islands.
They have made a very quick recovery helped by the cruise industry in particular.
It is fantastic how they have pulled together and offered support to the local people with their homes and business aswell as making sure the ports are repaired and ready for operation.
The Caribbean is huge business for all cruise lines especially now in the peak winter period. It is a beautiful destination and the people are amazing. They are the most warm and welcoming people and they need the support of the travel industry and tourism to ensure they can return to normality.
Even some of the worst affected islands such as St Maarten are hoping to be open again within a matter of weeks.
The benefit of having a cruise booked is that they can adjust the itineraries where necessary and the main changes have been to replace ports such as St Maarten and Dominica with islands such as Antigua and St Lucia.
Feedback from passengers returning from their cruise has been very positive. They have relaxed on beautiful Caribbean beaches, enjoyed the many water sports and activities and ventured inland for tours of the islands. Shops and restaurants have been open as normal.
If you are heading out to these islands soon I would say please support the locals financially by visiting their restaurants and shops and using their local services.
It is very tempting when on a cruise ship to go back on board for meals and drinks, especially if you have a drinks package. However they need our support to help with their economy and spending time and money with locals will give you a more authentic Caribbean holiday experience.

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Half term break

I have just returned from a lovely half term break in the Oxfordshire/Cotswolds area.
My husband couldn’t take any more time off work so I booked a short Monday to Friday break with my parents and 2 children.
The cottage was a beautiful grade 2 listed property that had been restored to a very high standard in the middle of a village called Bampton. The village has been used for filming of Downton Abbey and is a picturesque little village with a few shops, tearoom and 3 pubs.
One of the reasons for choosing the property was that it was in the middle of a village so we could go out during the day and come back and enjoy a few drinks over dinner in the local pubs without anyone having to worry about driving.
However it didn’t quite work out that way as only 1 of the pubs served food and it wasn’t very good food at that. It wasn’t a problem we just had stopped for a meal on our way back instead.
I love the Cotswolds. The whole family used to go for a weekend every year to a village called Chipping Norton so we went back to see what had changed and have a drink in the hotel we always stayed at. It was busier than it used to be with more shops and restaurants but still a lovely place to visit. My favourite place is Bourton on the Water. This has been voted as one of the prettiest villages in England and it is easy to see why. This has hardly changed from our previous visits and even my 2 children enjoyed it here.

The following day we took them into Oxford. I think they had seen enough countryside and were ready for some fun. They went shopping and after spending all of their pocket money we went ice skating. They love ice skating so this was the highlight of their short break.
Bampton was a great place to stay because half and hour one way takes you into the beautiful Cotswolds and half and hour the other way takes you into Oxford so a great break for families with different age groups.

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Thomson to change their name in cruising

Thomson have announced they will be rebranding their products later this month.
You have probably seen in the press that they are changing their name to TUI instead of Thomson.
A lot of people have heard of TUI but not everyone and I can never understand why a company with such a high profile name would want to change their name.
After all Thomson is one of the biggest names in the UK travel industry. People trust Thomson as a brand and I often hear people choosing to travel with Thomson rather than some of the less well known tour operators.
I am sure everyone will get used to it and it will still be a well established name in future years.
What did surprise me even more is that they are changing the name of their cruise product to Marella Cruises.
They will still have the TUI smile logo on their ships but also a Marella cruise logo.
Thomson have said they don’t want to confuse people but it is bound to cause some confusion to begin with. The reason for this change is to open up the idea of this cruise brand to people who have may be put off from cruising with a tour operator cruise brand in the past.
What is exciting news is that they will be positioning a ship in Asia from winter 2018.
Asia is one of the most exciting cruise destinations with lots of cultural experiences along with relaxing days on beautiful paradise beach locations.
They will sail from Langkawi in Malaysia but guests will also have the opportunity to join in Bangkok.
This opens up lots of options for cruise and stay programmes as there is so much to see in Bangkok it is a shame to not extend your stay.
I was lucky enough to visit Langkawi a couple of years ago on a cruise. This place is stunning and I would love to go back. There is beautiful scenery, waterfalls and gorgeous sandy beaches. It is very cheap aswell so no need to be booking expensive shore excursions here.

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New ships on the horizon

This week has seen the announcement that Cunard and Azamara will be adding an extra ship to their fleet.
Cunard will be launching their new ship in 2022 to join the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. The ship will be built in Italy and will carry 3000 passengers which is more than any of the other ships in their current fleet.
The announcement was made to mark the 50th anniversary of the naming of the much loved QE2.
Exciting times for Cunard I am sure this will be very popular. The maiden voyage is likely to sell out immediately so register early if you want to be part of this.
Azamara Club Cruises will be launching their third ship sometime next year. They have purchased the Adonia from P&O Cruises and the final sailing will end on the 9th March 2018. The ship will then move over to Azamara so watch this space for more details of this.
Azamara are a luxury cruise line that offer small boutique style ships. Due to their size they can visit ports that is just not possible on the large ocean liners. This will open up far more opportunities for people wanting to see somewhere different. The same itineraries are repeated all year round with many cruise lines and for those who are well travelled and looking for something different this will be perfect. They also include drinks and gratuities into their price so although the initial price may seem higher it is actually very good value.
If you enjoy cruising on brand new ships there are lots to look forward to near with the brand new Carnival Horizon, Celebrity Edge, Symphony of the Seas, Nieuw Statendam, MSC Seaview and MSC Bellissima and Norwegian Bliss to choose from. All offer different innovations and facilities so if you need any advice on what would be best for you contact me to discuss.
Let’s also not forget the refurbishment of Britain’s favourite cruise ship the Independence of the Seas. From May they will be adding a water park, trampoline park, escape room and laser quest type area. The new water park will have water cannons, pools, fountains and the drench bucket. They will also be added panoramic floor to ceiling windows and Izumi which is the popular Asian restaurant.

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Royal Caribbean to the Rescue

After the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma Royal Caribbean Cruise Line have stepped up and sent ships to help with the evacuation of stranded tourists and to help local people to safety.
We all know this is one of the worst hurricanes to hit the Caribbean and Florida and like everyone else feel desperately sorry for all those affected. Whilst Americans can rebuild their homes and their lives it will not be so easy for the local people in these small Caribbean Islands.
They really have lost everything and even if they do manage to rebuild their homes and businesses they will also have the fear of this happening all over again.
The Caribbean has always been one of my favourite holiday destinations. The islands are beautiful but it is the people who make it so special. They are the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met on holiday.
What Royal Caribbean are doing is fantastic. They have a lot of ships sailing in this area year round and I am pleased to see they are not ignoring the situation and are actually doing something to help.
They are sending 3 ships to the area with supplies such as water, ice, garbage bags, clothes and canned food. They will assist with feeding and taking care of the responders before taking people to Puerto Rico and assisting them with their flight arrangements home.
Another ship will be going to assist in Key West as soon as it is safe to do so
Well done Royal Caribbean and to everyone else who are out there doing their bit.

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Real life pirate threat to cruise passengers

Last night I watched a movie about the true story of Captain Richard Phillips played by Tom Hanks.
In 2009 he was captain of a cargo vessel that was attacked and boarded by Somali pirates. Apparently the movie was very true to the actual events which made it even more harrowing to watch. This was as recent as 2009 and is a very real threat to ships travelling in this region.
Recently Sea Princess has undergone major precautions for fear of a pirate attack.
The ship left Sydney on part of a 104 day world cruise and passengers had to spend 10 days of their cruise in blackout. The captain ordered a dusk til dawn blackout where all shutters were closed and curtains were drawn. The usual entertainment schedule was cancelled and there were no deck parties or movies under the stars. Guests were also told there would be a compulsory pirate drill and all crew were called to their muster stations.
There was no specific threat but they were precautionary measures taken by the captain.
This isn’t uncommon and I have heard other instances of cruise ships sailing at black out in these dangerous waters and passengers having to sit in the ships corridors holding on to hand rails while the ships gain speed.
Have you ever been on board in a situation like this ?

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Alcohol ban at airports


Ryanair have recently called for a ban on early morning drinking in airports resulting in a ban or a limit of just 2 drinks before boarding a flight that departs up to 10am. I can’t understand why they would limit this to just early morning flights. Surely if heavy drinking is causing a problem it wouldn’t just be those on early morning flights. If anything I would imagine it would be less of a problem than those flights departing from lunchtime onwards.
I do understand why they are calling for this. I have read so many reports this year of stag and hen parties being so drunk they have caused offence to other passengers even risked the safety of everyone else. On several occasions they have been removed from the aircraft by security.
Everyone likes to enjoy themselves when they go on holiday and it doesn’t bother me if there are large groups on flights clearly having a good time. It did bother me however when I had my children with me and it got very rowdy with really bad language. It wasn’t necessary and made my kids feel very uncomfortable.
I like to enjoy a few drinks in the airport no matter what time of day my flight leaves. It gets the holiday off to a good start so I wouldn’t like to see a ban but that is never likely to happen.
Maybe Ryanair’s idea of having to scan your boarding pass every time you buy a drink would help reduce the problem. I think their limit of 2 drinks is a bit harsh but if they limited this to 4 drinks each they wouldn’t have the problems they are having now. However they can’t stop people drinking before they hit the airports so anyone on later flights can easily get round this anyway.
I don’t think they will ever put a stop to this and with airports standing to lose a lot of money in alcohol revenue I don’t think they will get their ban.
Even cruise ships are having their share now of stag and hen parties going off on short break booze cruises.
What are your thoughts ?
Have you ever had a bad experience on a flight or cruise ship ?

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I have just come back from a brilliant family holiday to Majorca. We didn’t cruise this time and just wanted a cheap week away in the sun. However it didn’t turn out to be as cheap as we hoped so maybe next time we will go back to cruising as this is always proves to be excellent value.

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Cuba growing in popularity

Cuba is becoming one the most sought after destinations for cruise passengers but as yet there is a very limited choice of cruise lines and itineraries
Thomson and MSC are the main cruise lines offering this itinerary and the ships stays in port in Havana to give maximum opportunity to visit Havana without having to fly in and sail the same day.

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Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Cruises have been gradually releasing information about their newest ship Celebrity Edge due to debut at the end of next year.
They have now revealed information about their exciting new venue called Eden. This will be a 3 deck high venue at the aft of the ship and will transform through the day into the evening
There will be floor to ceiling windows providing amazing views out to sea and there will be window seating on the ramped walkway connecting all 3 decks.
Eden can seat 325 people and is a place to relax and enjoy a snack and be entertained.
Mornings will be relaxed with snacks available. During the afternoon there will be entertainment and enrichment classes such as cookery lessons and cocktail making lessons.
However during the evening this venue will be unlike any other. Celebrity describe this venue as sinful by night. There will be amazing food, entertainment and live music. The entertainment will be very different to anything you have experienced on a cruise ship before. There will be performers entertaining each table and will include aerial artists and performance art similar to what you could experience in somewhere like Las Vegas.
I am really excited to see this ship and will definitely be looking to book this myself.
As a brand I love Celebrity anyway and my last cruise on the Eclipse was my favourite cruise so far. Celebrity are more upmarket than their main stream cruise competitors and the quality of the food, service and entertainment is much better than I have experienced with other cruise lines. The new features of the Edge such as Eden, Magic Carpet and the Rooftop Garden make this new ship an absolute must for me.
Take a look at this and see what you think

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