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Article from TNU MAY 2023

CRUISING MAY: News + Bermuda to Lisbon

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has revealed that holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland made around 1.7m cruise holidays last year, nearing demand levels last seen in 2019.

In 2022 British and Irish holidaymakers took 1.7m cruises, up from 479,000 the previous year, with the Mediterranean the number one destination with 38.4% of passengers to the Mediterranean, 29% Northern Europe and 10.6% into the Caribbean.

The average age of UK & Ireland cruise guests last year was 55.8 years, as cruising continues to diversify and attract holidaymakers of all ages.  Globally, over a quarter (27%) of those who sailed for two or more nights in the last 12 months travelled in a party consisting of three or more generations, a sign that cruise holidays offer a great experience for all ages.

The average length of a cruise by British or Irish holidaymakers in 2022 was 9.7 days (down slightly on 2019).As with all the holiday industry, cruising is pursuing net zero carbon cruising by 2050 and driving efforts to become one of the most sustainable forms of tourism. CLIA data shows the British travelling public is becoming more aware of sustainable tourism:

76% of British cruise passengers who sailed in the past 12 months said they were ‘much more’ or ‘more’ aware of environmental and sustainable tourism.  

Ben Bouldin, Chair, CLIA UK & Ireland, said: “Cruise lines are always challenging themselves to innovate and diversify, and constantly reinventing the cruise experience. This forward-looking approach is at the heart of the cruise industry’s success and is also why we are committed to sustainability. This is a flagship industry for the UK, and these latest figures show that we will continue to contribute to the economy and jobs.”

On the question of  British Isles cruises and passports please look at www.travelnewsupdate.co.uk/article/222

AMBASSADOR, MSC & MINERVA

After a somewhat delayed introduction (the Scottish government requisitioned the ship to accommodate refugees) Ambassador will introduce its second cruise liner the 48,000 tonnes Ambition, 1,200 passengers, on Friday 12 May at Newcastle, stopping the next day at Dundee for more passengers to join. She returns to Newcastle 26 May.

The ship has spent the last month or so at the Lloyd Werft, Bremerhaven, yard for an extensive refit that featured updates to its hotel areas and also technical upgrades.

Another ship about to make its debut is the third Swan Hellenic expedition vessel, Diana, with a naming ceremony in Amsterdam on 4 May. She is slightly larger than sister ships, Minerva and Vega (see BTN 3 October 2022 ON TOUR SPECIAL) and graded as a PC6 ice-class vessel. Diana is slightly larger than her two sisters at 12,100grt with 192 guests and 141 crew.  SH Minerva and SH Vega were built to 5-star Polar Code PC5 standards with ice-strengthened hulls at 10,600 gross registered tonnage (grt) and a capacity of 152 passengers and 120 crew.

Vega will spend the spring mainly in Norwegian waters, and late summer will find her way to the Eastern Mediterranean.

"We're delighted to have taken delivery of this exceptionally beautiful and versatile new 5-star vessel,” said Andrea Zito, CEO of Swan Hellenic. “As the largest ship in our fleet, she is the first to be outfitted with large tender boats as well as expedition zodiacs, offering guests a wide variety of extraordinary in-depth experiences seeing what others don't.”  

Also this side of the Atlantic is MSC Group with another significant step towards launching its new premium cruise line, Explora Journeys. Explora I recently completed sea testing for the new brand’s maiden cruise ship.

“The sea trials are an important part of the process, and we’re pleased that Explora I passed with flying colours,” said Michael Ungerer, CEO, Explora Journeys. “Our team has worked tirelessly to design and build a ship that offers the perfect combination of luxury, adventure, and sustainability, and we can’t wait to share it with our guests.”

The new brand’s debut is the latest example of the sector’s rapid expansion of the luxury category, which will also see prominent hotel brands such as Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and the Middle Eastern Aman Group enter the cruise market.

“From the beginning, our vision and purpose has been to create an ocean travel experience like no other, and we are thrilled that the first of our ground-breaking new class of ships, Explora I, will begin sailing in July 2023,” added Ungerer.

The Explora I will be christened on 8 July in Civitavecchia (Italy), following which it will sail to Southampton, for its inaugural voyage. The brand will formally debut on 17 July with a 15-night inaugural cruise through Northern Europe and the Arctic Circle. Her sister ship, Explora II, is scheduled to start service in the Mediterranean in August 2024.


Regent Seven Seas Splendor of the Seas

As readers of the April TNU will know our tame aviation analyst Chris Tarry has been crossing the Atlantic from west to east on the surface with the 6-star Regent Seven Seas Splendor of the Seas as his steed. Clearly it was very good from a dining and service point of view but comes in for some sharp words regarding on board activities during an Atlantic crossing.  www.travelnewsupdate.co.uk/article/194

“Our last report finished as we were approaching Bermuda where we docked in high winds with a couple of tugs standing by. We berthed behind the Norwegian Prima, a ship of some 143,535 grt (Splendor of the Seas is 55,182 grt).

Once on land we joined the Highlights of Bermuda excursion bus tour, taken around and shown the sights by a most informative and engaging guide who was determined to show us “his Bermuda”.  We went to more places than had been outlined in the programme, viewing the island from the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, walking on the beach, having a coffee and cake in St Georges and also some free time in Hamilton before returning to the ship in time for lunch.

Before we departed from Bermuda, the captain came on to tell us of an itinerary change. We had been scheduled to visit the Azores but the weather forecasts were so bad he had decided to stay further south and go directly to Madeira which would give us another 18 hours or so in Funchal.

The reality is that Hamilton and Funchal are virtually at the same latitude 32.294 and 32.605 so the course was essentially a constant 090 from the Friday afternoon, when we left the Royal Dockyard in Bermuda until 13:00 on the following Thursday when we reached the Funchal Pilot station which is a few hundred yards from the harbour wall.

Regent Seven Seas Splendor of the Seas is very comfortable, even in what was at times an increased Atlantic swell.

We used the extra time in Madeira to re-visit Funchal and spent the afternoon ashore.

Our excursion the next day left the ship at 08:30 and we headed to one of the island’s highest points (Pico de Arieiro); the weather very favourable arriving at the summit with unlimited visibility.  It is often in cloud. After that we descended to have coffee and cake at the Santo da Serra golf club – definitely one to try and play on in the future. After lunch we headed to for the famous Reid’s hotel for afternoon tea, having made our own arrangements, and sat on their terrace overlooking the gardens with a view of the ships in the port below, before heading back in plenty of time for the 18:00 departure to Lisbon where we arrived after a further sea day. See BTN 27 May 2019 www.btnews.co.uk/article/14655.

The crossing gave the opportunity to try all of the restaurants out. We had in fact eaten in the Pacific Rim for the first time on the evening before we arrived in Bermuda; a good range of fusion food from sushi, sashimi, dim sum, tempura and desserts including tapioca pudding.

By the end of the cruise we had dined in Chartreuse three times, which as the name suggests is very much a French influenced restaurant, where the food was not only very good but at times also a work of art; Sette Mari and Pacific Rim twice and Prime 7 once (it was possible to get steak in the Compass Rose) and four times in the Compass Rose.  We tended to have breakfast in La Veranda and lunch either there or at the pool grill. If you felt a little hungry during the day the canapes that you would order from the menu but as they were almost a meal in themselves, we only ordered them infrequently.  

In culinary terms the highlight of the Sunday at sea was the brunch that was served in the main dining room, not only very popular but also endless in terms of ensuring that it was fully stocked up and until the doors closed.

The final last day at sea was pretty similar in all respects to other ships but here our Butler (Vishnau) who was outstanding and probably disappointed that we didn’t ask him to do much for us) made sure that we had got the final washing in time so we would return home with the vast majority of our clothes clean. Included laundry is clearly a very positive bonus and t means that it is possible to travel lighter.

The whole disembarkation process was very straightforward, passports were returned once we had left Funchal.

Our Lisbon hotel was The Pestana Palace (located between Lisbon and Belem) and with a fantastic and large garden which our room overlooked), to finish off our trip – a property that we can also highly recommend and one to which we will certainly return.

The journey back to London on the Tuesday after Easter would be what those who follow football would describe as a game of two halves. Check-in in the Club queue for the airline that once trademarked itself as the world’s favourite airline was chaotic as was the onboard drinks and food service – we got our meal (no choice as not enough vegetarian options had been loaded) just as we started the descent. At However things did improve as it only took 23 minutes from the wheels touching the tarmac at Heathrow until we were wheeling our three suitcases out of the arrivals hall.

Overall there is little doubt that the expectations, which were already high were exceeded. However, there are some things that we thought would make it even better; we may of course be in the minority. In this respect what we thought is that a wider range of good speakers and subjects would clearly add to the experience and perhaps a string trio or quartet to give an after-lunch concert and indeed to play in the atrium or one of the bars before dinner.  It is something of a cruise tradition with some lines.

We enjoyed the Regent experience, in all respects of service, comfort and cuisine.  We will return.

www.pestanapalacelisbon.com

www.rssc.com

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