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How environmentally friendly is cruising?

I have enjoyed cruising all over the world for the last twenty years or so and, although I occasionally hear an ill informed comment about it being a snobbish and elitist holiday choice, most people seem quite interested in cruise and cruise ships – even if its not a holiday choice for them, they can understand why it appeals to others.

Well this feels very environmentally friendly….

So I was completely blindsided by a conversation with an acquaintance the other day, the highlights of which were:

‘Cruise ships?!

What a terrible choice to make….

      Completely irresponsible….

          Awful pollution……..

            Huge carbon footprint …

               No wonder everyone hate cruisers!’

WOW!

Now I’d already been thinking about the protests against cruise ships that we’ve been seeing – in Barcelona and Venice for example – and I’d been thinking about the phrase Concious Cruising and how we should consider changes to our behaviour ashore to make us more in tune with local people and the local economy ( please read https://portexplore806233846.blog/2019/07/31/meet-nate-my-cruising-epiphany/ ). However I really had assumed that cruising was better for the environment that flying, I was certain that it must have a smaller carbon footprint – it but turns out that I was completely wrong!

The figures actually that show that on a Transatlantic crossing the QM2, for example, gets about 45 passenger miles per gallon when running at its most efficient whereas an Airbus A321, in comparison, gets just over 107!  This is because traditionally ships burn a much worse fuel than planes – in fact its the heavy, sulphurous sludge oil that’s left once aircraft and other higher-value fuels are refined. Even while docked, cruise ships usually keep running their engines – burning fuel to provide electrical power for its passengers and crew.

Southampton, UK is one port that has had enough – Christopher Hammond, leader of Southampton City Council is quoted as saying “Communities find it difficult to see the benefits of these big cruise ships, it’s a very visible thing: a big funnel chucking out black soot and smoke. People think, I’m breathing all that in.” His suggestion is that cruise ships plug into on on shore electricity and turn off their engines while docked to avoid the problems but what else can be done? And is anybody doing it?

Celebrity Constellation alongside in Catania. She is the worlds second most environmentally aware ships according to Friends of the Earth https://foe.org/cruise-report-card/

Over the last few years many ships have installed ‘scrubbers’ which reduce smoke emissions but whilst they reduce air pollution they work by contaminating and discharging waste water- which is just swopping one pollution problem for another! Battery power isn’t an answer, except for some smaller ships, as batteries couldn’t last for several days at sea. Other options are cheaper, less polluting fuel options such as Liquified Natural Gas, Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems, even trials of wind powered generators! (Sails anyone?!) 

well its one option!

Wastewater and pollution from onboard sewage brings another huge set of problems so as the Green Movement grows there is obviously a huge need to Cruise Companies to address this before cruisers become the pariahs of the tourism industry! Alaska already has a series of environmental targets for cruise ships in the area and now Europe is being advised to do the same – “With friendly words you will not get any changes,” said German environmental group NABU CEO Leif Miller “so port cities and coastal communities are now asked to ban dirty ships – like Norway is doing for some of their fjords – to protect the people and the environment.” 

Early morning fjords breakfast view
Breakfast on the balcony, watching the view heading into Bergen

Happily it does appear that these messages are getting through…

CLIA announced today that 44 percent of new cruise ships are planning to use LNG fuel for propulsion and the industry is taking its responsibilities towards safeguarding the environment seriously by investing more than 22 billion dollars into new technologies such as exhaust gas cleaning systems, LNG fuel and shore-side power. Obviously new ships can be designed to take advantage of new technology but what about older ships? Well things are looking hopeful there too… Earlier this week MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, announced that their ship MSC Magnifica is having a major refurbishment for its 2021 season when out will be based in Southampton,  with itineraries in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic and the Norwegian Fjords. Environmental improvements include ….

“two new major and important onboard environmental advances to complement a wide range of existing leading-edge environmental technologies across the company’s entire fleet: a state-of-the-art Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system and next-generation Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) system. SCR technology helps reducing nitrogen oxide into pure nitrogen and water through advanced active emissions control technology. MSC Cruises also took the opportunity to install a state-of-the-art advanced wastewater treatment system on board that meets the highest standards and that purifies used wastewater to near tap-water quality… state-of-the-art environmental technology, including hybrid exhaust gas cleaning system (ECGS), as part of MSC Cruises’ longstanding commitment to minimize and continuously reduce its impact on the environment.”   

 – oh and they will be fitting Magnifica so that she can plug into the shore supply in Southampton!   So well done to MSC – lets hope other cruise lines really start to take their environmental responsibilities seriously too!

Travel Thursday – using 'The Cruise Planner'

One of the crucial elements of planning a cruise is the preparation – it’s important not to underestimate the amount of background work that needs doing beforehand so that things flow smoothly and you have the relaxing and enjoyable cruise you deserve!

Apart from anything else once you’re onboard you will be amazed at how much it costs to use the internet and you really don’t want to waste valuable time ashore looking for free WiFi so you can check out Tripadvisor for things to do! Get all your excursions and trips ashore planned and sorted before you go!

Then there’s all the information you need to keep at your fingertips – flights, reference numbers, logins, transfers, packages, upgrades, loyalty level perks. hotel booking, excursion bookings & DIY plans all need keeping track of!

This is why we think you’ll love the Cruise Planner – its a great way to keep all your information to hand. It shows you what still needs to be done and planned as it keeps everything neatly in one place.  Grab a Planner as soon as you book your cruise and get things organised!

But its more than just a place to record all the information and details that you need – it actually helps you plan what you are going to do ashore.

Firstly there is the cruise arc planner – this gives a complete overview of the cruise with space to note times of arrival, departure, sunrise and sunset time, currencies amongst other things. Its really helpful when you’re looking at a the whole cruise experience as you can see if you’re in danger of overload by planning too many archaeological sites or full day excursions on consecutive days. 

Other things you will find in the Cruise Planner are Port Excursion Brainstormers which help everyone decide what the focus of each day ashore should be, a list of apps to download which will be useful onboard as well as comprehensive packing lists & worksheets. 

The diary pages have space where you can make a note of any invitations or bookings for a specific day – there is also have a Journal section to  record all the special moments of your cruise. With a section to note down all the details about your cabin and about the staff and crew the you meet The Cruise Planner eventually becomes a permanent Travel Journal which you can see keep, both as a handy reference of arrangements that you made and as a reminder of a perfect cruise 

We’ve been overwhelmed by the lovely feedback we’ve had since the first Cruise Planner was published last summer. People say it both enhances your cruise experience and ensures your memories of it stay fresh. This is a recent message from one happy customer…

“I’m having so much fun preparing for our February cruise using The Cruise Planner! I always do a Journal of each trip, but this is special and so helpful with keeping everything together. I don’t want to rush the cruise, but I can’t wait to use it onboard nightly and then to complete it at cruise end. Since it’s signed by Cathy Rogers, the author, I may add a few more autographs from Crew. I Love The Cruise Planner.” Debi B-M

At present there are two editions of the Planner – the original portExplore Version and the new limited edition Cruise Addicts Planner which is very similar but has an added section of puzzles – cruise related word search, sudoku and Travel Dingbats – to while away the time! 

More versions will be coming out in the spring – some targeted at a specific Cruise location – Alaska for example and some of the original design but in different colours – we’ve been asked for this so that if you have more than one cruise in preparation you will be able to know quickly which Planner is for which cruise!

All versions of The Cruise Planner cost £8.99 are available either through Amazon or on our own website https://www.portexplore.me/confidentportexplorer

The two latest versions of The Cruise Planner with our book The Confident poprtExplorer – also available through the links above.

World Whale Day – could you be a Marine Mammal Surveyor?

Do you know a humpback from an orca?

On World Whale Day I just wanted to pay tribute to ORCA the U.K. whale Conservation and Education Charity & tell you about an exciting way that you can help their conservation work by becoming a Marine Mammal Surveyor.
ORCA run one day training courses that teach people, with no previous knowledge, how to actively participate in whale and dolphin conservation. After the training you can join survey teams aboard ferries and cruise ships leaving from ports across the UK. There you would help conduct scientific surveys to record the different species’ of whales seen, and record where they are and what they are doing. Almost anyone can take part in the course – you just need a reasonable level of fitness and a love for whales and dolphins.


The one day ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor course teaches you to identify and record whales, dolphins and porpoises during offshore surveys. These classroom based courses take place all over the UK. You will learn all the skills you need to identify and record whales, dolphins and porpoises. A one day course costs £89 and will take place this year in Newcastle, Glasgow, Southampton and Plymouth.

Learn to spot whales and porpoises while you’re at sea.


There is also the Cruise Conservationists course which includes a 12 day cruise on Fred Olsen’s Braemar – more expensive at £600 but a real adventure! Applications for this close on 28th February – more information here… https://www.orcaweb.org.uk/our-work-orca-news/item/cruise-conservationist-course-2020-launched

Once you have completed a course and joined ORCA you get the chance to join teams on both ferries and cruise ships with free accommodation supplied if needed – although you’re responsible for your own travel, food and insurance it’s a great way to get out on the water and be part of a really important survey.and

More information and applications https://www.orcaweb.org.uk/our-work-orca-news/item/cruise-conservationist-course-2020-launchedhttps://www.orcaweb.org.uk

Currency Challenges on a Indian Ocean Cruise.

We recently travelled from Dubai to Singapore with Celebrity Cruises and found that this itinerary threw up a number of issues with currency which we thought were worth sharing for others sailing in the area. The itinerary is also running in reverse and I know that there are other cruise lines who are travelling the same route over the winter months so this will be of interest to people on those cruises although obviously some of the ports may vary.

QE2 and the Dubai skyline

I should say at the outset that we don’t usually take much cash with is as we are huge fans of currency cards – you transfer money onto them which can then be spent in whatever local currency you need without any extra currency or transaction charges. On this cruise we wished we had had more US$ with us – read on to find out why..

( For more on using cards overseas see https://portexplore806233846.blog/2020/01/27/would-you-like-to-pay-in-local-currency-or-the-currency-of-your-card/)

A currency card helps avoid transaction charges.

In general the safest and best way to spend money when travelling is by using prepaid cash cards which operate without transaction charges – available in the UK from various companies such as Starling, Post Office Money and Cashplus but our card of choice is from Monzo. We particularly like it because its easy to use – it comes with an App that gives you an instant confirmation and conversion when you spend money on it, it also lets you transfer money between cardholders easily and split bills between friends with cards which is great if you’re travelling in a group because it saves having to have a physical ‘kitty’. We don’t normally take much actual cash with us on a cruise, preferring to use our Monzo cards, as we can swop money between us if either card becomes should be lost or deactivated.

Find out more about Monzo here (https://join.monzo.com/r/jwetqsj )

Monzo pairs with an app for real time, instant currency conversions.

DUBAI, UAE – the local Currency is the UAE Dirham – this is not a closed currency so you are able to purchase it outside the country but we decided that we would use a card or withdraw cash from an ATM as needed. This was because our cruise started with an overnight in port and, as we have visited a few times previously, we were not sure that we actually intended to spend any time ashore. We arrived in Dubai and were ushered straight to our transfer coach, with no time to look for an airport ATM. We checked in at Cruise Terminal 3 and made a mental note of the position of the ATM. Unfortunately during the evening Constellation was moved along the quay to Cruise Terminal 2 – a much smaller and less impressive affair that does NOT have an ATM! Having decided to take a short trip to see the QE2 which is moored not far from the Cruise Terminal (and being too hot/ tired/ lazy to walk!) We spoke to the taxi wrangler who got us a cab that took card payments – preferable to the half mile or so walk back to the other terminal. Luckily the QE2 hotel have an ATM in their lobby because the taxi drivers machine ‘didn’t work’ and he actually needed to be paid in cash!

QE2 Dubai

MUSCAT, Oman -the local currency is the Omani Rial – again this is not a closed currency so you are able to purchase it outside the country and again we had planned to use a card or withdraw cash from an ATM as needed. There are no currency exchange facilities or ATM inside the cruise terminal. The nearest is on the Corniche on the way to the Souk – the first ATM is VISA only but the second takes Mastercard – there are Money change facilities along the front as well but they were not open – we arrived at lunchtime and they did not reopen until about 16.00

Muscat, Oman

MUMBAI, India – the local currency is the Indian Rupee – it is a closed currency not available outside India. There is a Money Exchange in the cruise terminal, immediately after the immigration desks. It is a fairly slow operation and a large queue built up – only cash can be exchanged, they won’t take a debit or travel card. We exchanged pounds and also the few Dirham and Rial that we had – the rates for exchange were not displayed and there was no discussion to be had about the rate you were given but once we worked it out they seemed quite fair. There is NOT an ATM in the Terminal or anywhere else inside the Port. So you definitely need actual cash with you – either to exchange for rupees or to spend as needed. US Dollars seemed acceptable at most of our destinations although you definitely got a better price when you paid in rupees. So I would take US Dollars and either exchange or use them as you need – prices are widely quoted initially in dollars but pounds and euro were obviously also acceptable. There are money exchange and ATM facilities throughout Mumbai but none that were immediately obvious close to the port. Taxi drivers do not take cards.

The Gateway to India and The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Goa, India -the local currency is the Indian Rupee – it is a closed currency not available outside India. We did not dock at the port in Vasco da Gama as some cruise sites suggest, but at a new cruise facility which is further west on the peninsula at Mormugao – quite a long steep walk from the nearest town. There was absolutely no currency exchange or ATM in or around the port so it is best to bring Rupees with you from the previous port. There were Tuk-Tuk and a small hotel outside the the port area but no other shops or facilities. There is a busy and efficient taxi rank where prices for various trips are quoted in US dollars – there did not appear to be much room for negotiation. Taxi drivers do not take cards. The airport is nearby and probably a good source for an ATM or exchange if you can’t find one closer. Restaurants and bars were all happy to be paid in US Dollars, GBP or € as well as in Rupees – cards did not seem to be widely accepted.

A colourful sign on an otherwise deserted harbour wall.

Cochin, India -the local currency is the Indian Rupee – it is a closed currency not available outside India. There was a mobile Money Exchange just inside the gate, again only to exchange cash – no cards accepted. There was no ATM anywhere in the port area. There are taxis at the gate which accept Rupees, US Dollars, GBP or € but no other facilities. Taxi drivers do not take cards If you are walking to the Wellington Island pier to get a ferry across to the Old Town you will pass money exchanges and ATM. Cash is preferred in most places but some tourist shops take cards. The currency exchange remains open into the afternoon so that departing passengers can convert their Indian rupees back to US Dollars, GBP or €. You cannot exchange Indian Rupee for Sri Lankan Rupee.

The Chinese fishing nets, Cochin

Colombo, Sri Lanka – the local currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee – it is a closed currency but you may be able to find a small amount in the UK – the rate will be poor. There are absolutely no facilities at the port – no currency exchange or ATM.  The nearest banks and ATM are on Bank of Ceylon Road, close to the Old Dutch Hospital – about twenty minutes walk.  There are TukTuk and Taxis at the port gate – cards are definitely not accepted, all the drivers were quoting prices in US dollars, a very few seemed happy to accept pounds or Euro. To be honest I think you’re better to take US dollars rather than walking twenty minutes to get local currency. Cards seemed to be accepted in shops and bars but oddly not at The National Museum which was cash only ( they also omitted to mention that there was an ATM right by their car park entrance – not exactly what you’d call welcoming!)

The National Museum, Sri Lanka – no cards accepted!

Phuket, Thailand -the local currency is the Thai Baht – this is not a closed currency so you are able to purchase it outside the country. It is a Tender Port so you arrive straight onto Patong Beach and main shopping street. There are ATM and Currency Exchanges that will happy give cash for a card transaction both on the road close to the sea and the less tourist orientated street that runs parallel inland where you might get a better rate. There are plenty of taxis available – cards not accepted, cash only. Prices for boat and taxi tours quoted in Baht and US dollars.

Phuket beach from the Tender pontoon

Singapore -the local Currency is the Singapore Dollar. We docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre which has Money exchange and ATMs available. Smaller ships dock at The Singapore Cruise Centre which is attached to a large shopping centre and to the Metro system. There are plenty of ATM & money exchange facilities nearby. the Metro stations take cash and cards. Some cabs in Singapore take cards – you can also use an Uber app to book a cab. Shops and restaurants take cards and cash – prices are in Singapore Dollars. If someone does accept US dollars or another currency it will be for a very poor exchange rate.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Hope that’s all helpful – its a wonderful itinerary – have a great trip!!

Find out more about Monzo here (https://join.monzo.com/r/jwetqsj )

Cruise University – why going back to school will save money on your cruise!

A beautiful day at sea….

It’s no secret that I think Cruising is awesome – a wonderful mix of fresh air, open skies, luxury, laughter, friendship and food. I feel I t’s a great way of seeing a lot of places without having to pack and unpack every day – sometimes luxurious, sometime more basic it’s just the best way to explore the world!

Cunard’s QM2 in an ocean liner that specialises in Transatlantic crossings.

So I’m always sad when someone tells me that choosing and and booking their first cruise seemed so complicated that they just gave up, or worse still that they booked a cruise with the wrong cruiseline or on the wrong itinerary for them and they hated cruising! I know that these things can be hard to judge until you have some experience but I’m a firm believer that most people who say they don’t like cruising just chose the wrong cruise!

MSC Bellissima, one on the new mega-ships launched in 2019

So if you’re even vaguely considering cruising as a vacation – and I absolutely think you should – then I highly recommend you attend the Cruise University before booking a thing! It will leave you full of confidence about dealing with all the options and it might even save you from an expensive mistake!

https://cruising-isn-t-just-for-old-people-university.teachable.com/courses/complete-cruising?affcode=473494_k6i_lmyp

The lovely Emma from ‘Cruising isn’t just for old People’ is never boring!

The Cruising University is a short course – prepared by the lovely Emma Le Teace from Cruising Isn’t Just for Old People – she really understands all the worries and concerns that you might have about cruising and I can’t praise the course highly enough! It’s exactly what the industry has needed for a while now!

Celebrity Constellation – a mid sized, classic cruise ship

Inside the Cruise University you’ll find these topics

How to Find The Best Cruise For You

How to Book Your Cruise as Cheaply and Easily as Possible

How to Plan and Pack For Your Cruise

What to Expect on Your Cruise

All the information is given in simple, easy to follow bite size chunks with videos and accompanying PDF downloads so that you don’t forget a thing! It’s a brilliant course for anyone who is thinking about taking a cruise and I’m proud to recommend it to you as an #affiliate

Please share to anyone who will be interested and et me know what you think!

https://cruising-isn-t-just-for-old-people-university.teachable.com/courses/complete-cruising?affcode=473494_k6i_lmyp

Alaska – best seen from the sea….

“Would you like to pay in local currency or the currency of your card?”

When you use a card to pay for something abroad, whether its a currency, credit or debit card, you are normally given the option of paying either in the local currency or in your own home currency.

Always choose LOCAL currency

When drawing cash out at an ATM/ cash machine it often actively encourages you to select your home currency by displaying phases such as “Choose your home currency to lock in your rate now and avoid any currency fluctuations”.

When shopping with a UK card, in France for example, you will be given the choice of paying for your purchase in Euro (the currency of the shop) or in GB Pounds. As you are handed the payment machine it will flash up a message along the lines of “Would you like to pay in local currency or in the currency of your card?”

ATMs are worst of all at making you question your own choices!

And you pause and think “ ooh I know one of these is the right thing to do….

And then not be sure…

SO…..It might seem convenient, even sensible to choose to use your home currency but DON’T DO IT! NEVER, EVER!!

ALWAYS choose local currency and not your home currency. The reason for that is that it is YOUR bank that will handle the currency conversion. If you let the shop, restaurant or even their card machine operator calculate the conversion rate to give you a home currency figure then and there to select, they will almost certainly give you a very poor rate, far below market exchange rates.

They’ll be quids in if you accept their conversion rate!

Why? Because otherwise there is really no other reason for them to offer you the service! If they can make a profit on the card transaction as well as on the sale itself its so much better for them – they have just made double the money on one sale! In reality a shop can set any exchange rate they like and if you accept it, they will process it at that rate – you won’t be able to query it later. PLUS you will still be charged any relevant overseas transaction fees, it doesn’t help you avoid those either ! So it’s an easy profit for them at no gain to you at all.

ATM’s are worst at making you question your decision!

For example, I recently drew out money at an ATM in Canada, the CA$203 processed as £119.42 – a rate of 1GBP = 1.7 CA$. However but the rate displayed that I would ‘lock in’ by having them convert it immediately was 1GBP = 1.55CA$, meaning they would have charged me about £130.96. Thats £11.76 on one transaction, an awful rate!

It all adds up….

REMEMBER – always select LOCAL currency – the rate will be always be closer to the official market rate and more importantly there is no chance of you being deliberately ripped off by someone setting a fraudulently inaccurate exchange rate. The more a shop assistant or waiter tries to convince you to pay in your home currency the more likely it is that it is a potential fraud. Insist on paying on local currency – whilst a merchant can choose whether and which cards they accept, your card provider does not authorise them to to choose between local and home currency on your behalf – if they make the selection for you and present you with a transaction that is already in GBP then refuse to enter your pin and ask them to do it again. NEVER put your pin in without checking the amount and the currency.

So remember LOCAL currency every time!!

Far East cruising and the Coronovirus – update

Update to blog 28/1/20

Latest update from UK foreign office advising against all but essential travel to China – Hong Kong and Macau are excluded from this advice.
If you have a China cruise booked this means that you should be able to claim on insurance if you have to cancel.
It’s possible though that Cruise Lines will re-route their itineraries so keep in touch will your cruise agent/TA.

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china

ORIGINAL BLOG

China has issued new travel guidelines to halt the spread of the Coronovirus as the situation worsens. Some Cruise operators, including Royal Caribbean, MSC, Costa Cruises and Genting have cancelled a total of 12 cruises scheduled to embark from China in the next week (see below for specifics). Those passengers will be offered full refunds or the option to transfer their booking because these cruises have been cancelled by their operators.

Happier times in China


If you are booked on a cruise in the area our advice is to wait for your cruise company to contact you – at present Foreign Office advice for U.K. cruisers is only to avoid the Wuhan area itself (not difficult as it is hundreds of miles from the nearest coast!) so if you were to cancel the cruise yourself you would not be covered by your insurance. As part of their response to the outbreak the Chinese Government have instructed local travel agencies to cancel all group tours outside the country for now which will mean large scale cancellations on sailings elsewhere in the world, so this may mean that cruise operators will have availability to offer alternative cruises – it is a rapidly evolving situation.

MSC are one of the operators cancelling cruises

In reality though the problem is not just in China – the virus has already spread and with cases reported from Canada to Australia and France it may be that the decision is taken that a strict screening and hygiene regime on cruise in the area is the way forward rather than wholesale cancellations – for example RCI will not allow people who live in Hubei Province, or have visited Hubei in the last fortnight, to board its ships. For cruises already in the region, travel ashore in Chinese ports is restricted and even Hong Kong has declared a virus emergency, with both Disneyland and the Ocean Park theme park closed today.

lunar New Year celebrations are muted this year.

It is certainly a worrying and difficult time for those booked on cruises in the Far East, the cruise companies will be working on it so our advice is;

  1. Wherever you are cruising pay strict attention to hygiene with regular hand washing and minimal hand contact with others.
  2. Stay in touch with your cruise company & / or travel agent
  3. Check your contact details are correct on your Cruise Personliser.
  4. Check that you have granted permissions for email correspondence from the cruise line ( if you’ve ticked ‘no’ to phone or email, they will have to write to you.)
  5. Follow current Government Advice on travel to China – for U.K. residents this is the Foreign Office advice for China on the U.K. Gov website. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china

Waiting patiently is always the hardest thing to do but this is a rapidly evolving situation and no cruise company is going to be able to give information about cruises in March at the moment. I am sure they will be monitoring the situation closely and looking for alternatives they Will not discuss those until decisions are made, please don’t make the situation worse by yelling at call centre staff!!

Waiting is always the hardest thing to do!

CANCELLATIONS (as we understand them at present.)


Royal Caribbean
Spectrum of the Seas
27th January from Shanghai to Okinawa, Japan is sailing but passengers may cancel or reschedule.
MSC
Splendida
28th January from Shanghai is cancelled
Costa
Atlantica
27th and 31st January cancelled
NeoRomantica
25th and 30th January and 2nd February
Serena
25th and 31st January cancelled
Venezia
26th January and 2nd February cancelled
Costa say guests are eligible for a full refund or rebook an alternative before the end of 2020 with a $50 onboard credit.
Genting
World Dream has cancelled a turnaround call in Guangzhou but will continue to operate from Hong Kong

If you have confirmed information about other cancellations please add it below…

An afternoon in Muscat; Oman

Muscat as darkness falls

We visited Muscat, Oman on a repositioning cruise last year and wrote a Port Profile for talkExplore group https://www.facebook.com/groups/talkExplore/ which is worth a read if you’re headed that way on cruise. I really like Muscat,it’s clean air and low rise buildings are a real change from Dubai. If you have a chance to visit then grab it!

The bay behind the Royal Palace

This years cruise only had a relatively short six hour stop in port and with sunset falling about 4 hours after arrival we really weren’t sure what to do. Som discussion in talkExplore Facebook group led to a suggestion from group member David Innes on the best spot for a bit of exploring and a perfect sunset view. I’m happy to report that he was spot on with his advice so am sharing her for you too!

Muttrah as seen from the fish market

Muttrah is the area of Muscat nearest to the ship and within easy, flat walking distance of the port gate. We docked at 14.00 so had lunch on board before taking a leisurely walk along the Corniche (sea front) to the shops and Souks of Muttrah.

Muttrah Fort

The markets which we had visited last year were firmly closed but we found shops aimed at visiting cruisers and other tourists were all open in and around the Souk even though those aimed more at the local market didn’t open until 16.00.

The entrance to the Souk inMuttrah

Wandering the lanes of the Gold Souk and the more general Grand Souk is a great way to spend an hour or so soaking up local culture even if you don’t want to actually spend any money! There are nice cafes (no alcohol) just outside the Souks and all along the Corniche – we enjoyed fresh coconut water straight from the nut for less than 50p – very refreshing! 

It looks high but the steps are excellent and safe.


David’s advice was to head to Muttrah Fort which is at the opposite end of the Corniche – about 20 minutes walk from the port gate. Built by the Portuguese in 1580 the fort is a wonderful spot to look down on the port and the town – especially as the sun sets.

One of the other forts above the town

The 300 odd steps to the very top of the fort are achievable and well maintained but there are good views even from the lower levels.

Steps up..

As the sun goes down it becomes easier to spot the guard towers in the mountains above which formed a protective ring around the port. David advised us to wait until the muezzin begin the call to prayer from all the mosques below, it bounces off the surrounding hills and you seem to be in the centre of a 360* wall of sound!!

The panoramic view of the port and town

There is a ticket office which was closed (apparently it usually is!) but the fort itself was open so we didn’t pay anything at all for a really lovely experience. Thanks for the recommendation David, we loved it as much as you did!

Goodnight from Muscat

The CLIA report on Top Ten cruise ports

Glacier Bay, Alaska

Interesting new research from CLIA UK & Ireland has resulted in the publication of its top ten cruise destinations for 2020.

Well we’ve got to go ashore sometime!

The recent UK research also found that almost two thirds of the 409 UK cruisers surveyed return to a destination they first visited on cruise holiday. I’m sure this is true, we definitely use a cruise to identify ports that we want to return to as well as those we can probably live without ever visiting again – Mumbai is a recent example that springs to mind! In addition 60% of those surveyed said that they would add a pre or post cruise stay – pretty essential when travelling long distance to meet a cruise as it helps with both fly delays and jet lag.

Gateway to India – Mumbai

CLIA’s top ten list of ‘must visit’ destinations for 2020, includes both cities and more remote regions all of which can be visited on a cruise holiday. Not quite convinced about some of them, see what you think…..

CLIA’s Top 10 destinations are:

1. Canadian Rockies, Canada – usually combined with an Alaska cruise and often a shore trip

Hard to fault Vancouver as the gateway to the Rockies and to Alaska

2. Singapore – an easy city to get around and acts as a hub for both air and cruise travel in Asia and Australasia

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

3. Kimberley, Western Australia – an expedition cruise destination described by CLIA as “ simply breathtaking”


Mitchell Falls in the Kimberley region of Western Australia photo; ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGE

4. Porto, Portugal – a popular southern European city with a warm winter climate – personally I think I’d prefer Cadiz…

Cadiz wins over Porto for me!

5. The Svalbard – a Norwegian archipelago is between mainland Norway and the North Pole – an expedition destination as well as a cost effective way to visit the country.

6. Panama Canal, Panama – the iconic link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans features in the list although I would argue strongly for the inclusion of the more picturesque Suez Canal in its place!

Suez Canal

7. Castro, Chile – a picturesque lake city built above the waters on stilts

Castro – photo Chile Travel

8. Tokyo, Japan – another good destination to visit on a cruise as local accommodation and food costs are so high.

Tokyo – photo japan-guide.com

9. Cape Town, South Africa – all I can say is that if this is at nine then the others must be awesome!

Capetown – photo; and beyond

10. Bozcaada, Turkey – East meets West in this historic town, important in the Trojan wars as mentioned by Homer in the Iliad and by Virgil in the Aeneid – I’ve not been yet so can’t comment but I would definitely suggest Split, Dubrovnik or Trogir in Croatia for a similarly historic and lovely location

Trogir – Croatia

Oddly we’ve visited the top two destinations in the past six months and totally agree with both – presumably we should now start to work our way down the list! Or maybe its time to discover new destinations for the 2020 survey!

‘Win a Cruise’ – a roundup of competitions for you to enter before the end of 2019

We had so many lovely messages about our cruise competition round up last month and I set out to do another list for you but I think we’ve hit a bit of a low patch!!! Cruise Competitions seem in very short in supply this month – I’ve added some that finish in December and suspect that our next roundup will be in January – prime holiday booking time, so we will probably be inundated then!! 

PS. Tiny little reality check… most of these are UK only competitions but if you are from elsewhere you can always check and see if you can enter!!

CLOSING THIS MONTH…

November 6th. The awesome Floating Festivals, is offering a chance to win a balcony cabin for two on next years special seven-day voyage, aboard RCI Anthem of the Seas, the Sail Away with Jane McDonald Cruise. The prize is worth £3,000 and takes place in September 2020, you never know you might even have the chance of a cocktail with the Queen of Cruise herself! https://www.worldofcruising.co.uk/win-jane-mcdonald-cruise

November 14th. Complete a survey and Vote in the ‘Crafts Beautiful – Best of Craft – Awards 2019’ to win a ‘Crafting’ Fjords trip for two with Cruise & Maritime Voyages https://www.crafts-beautiful.com/awards/prizes

CLOSING in DECEMBER and beyond…

December 8th. ClassicFM and Saga Holidays have a lovely two week river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest Saga Holidays’ on a full-board Saga river cruise calling at Nuremberg, Vienna and Budapest. Answer is Germany https://campaign.classicfm.com/saga-holidays-classicfm-octdec19

December 9th. If you are a member of MySaga …. they are running a couple of good competitions … ( there are age restrictions obviously and you also need to have previously cruised with them or bought another of their products such as insurance) you can enter to win one of five prizes of a balcony cabin on a four-night fully inclusive mini-cruise aboard Spirit of Discovery from Dover to Sandringham, Norfolk and Amsterdam https://www.saga.co.uk/membership/ballots/2020/apr/escape-to-the-continent-spirit-of-discovery

December 13th. The prize offered is a seven-night sailing for two guests on board Star Clipper on an itinerary departing from Phuket in Thailand  on 7, 14 or 21 March 2020. It includes all meals on board but excludes flights and transfers. Answer Is Penang https://www.cruise-international.com/win-a-star-clippers-thailand-cruise/

December 31st  Vote in the Wave Awards to win a luxury seven-night cruise in the Greek islands with Celestyal Cruises, including flights and transfers, through World of Cruising Magazine, in exchange for your for your email signup to their mailing list. hhttps://www.worldofcruising.co.uk/vote/

January 3rd. If you are a member of MySaga they are running a couple of good competitions … ( there are age restrictions obviously and you also need to have previously cruised with them or bought another of their products such as insurance) you can enter to win one of five prizes for two people sharing a standard balcony twin/double cabin, on the Norway’s Ancient Fjords cruise aboard Spirit of Discovery for seven nights, from Dover on 26 May 2020. https://www.saga.co.uk/membership/ballots/2020/may/cruise-norway-ancient-fjords

Good Luck  with these though and please do let me know if you win a cruise – especially if you need someone to come with you, I’m always ready to help out!!

xx

December in the Med – cruising out of season

Sunset over Vesuvius

Have you noticed how many last minute cruises there seem to be this year? It’s funny how cruisers start off split into two groups – maybe you’re in  the ‘book it as soon as the brochures come out’ brigade and perhaps the ‘gosh that’s cheap – let’s do it” gang? We definitely used to be the plan ahead types – we still are in terms of our ‘big’ cruises – but over the last couple of years that we seem to be tempted by more and more last minute bargains too – I blame Facebook! My feed lately has been choked with a lot of last minute deals in the Mediterranean for late November and December. So is cruising out of season a good idea?

Our first landfall on a bright sunny morning in Cadiz… with a chilly breeze

We’ve taken a few November/ December cruises in the Med and found them to be very enjoyable. On one we cruised from Southampton and, although we expected a couple of rough days enroute, we were lucky  and they never materialised (obviously don’t rely on that!). We went armed with Stugeron and wrist bands for seasickness but never needed either. Another time we flew to Civittavecchia and, whilst our flight was on time, we watched flights to Barcelona and the south of France were being badly disrupted. I think it is more reliable to cruise rather than fly, as flight schedules can get badly disrupted by bad weather, either in the UK or elsewhere. If you do choose to fly then definitely go out the previous day so that you don’t risk missing the cruise altogether! I think on balance if your holiday is under a week then fly as you get to the nice weather sooner but if you can take a fortnight then definitely cruise out and back. 

Calm seas and sunsets in the Med

The first thing you notice is that the days are shorter but there was still lots of sunshine and sunny corners to sit in on deck, I even went swimming a few times in the outside pools! I found the shorter days made for a gentler, more relaxed cruise. The darker mornings and evenings seemed to promote a less frenetic feel to a day spent ashore with everyone generally safely back on board in time for tea. The shorter days made for some spectacular sunsets too, often as we were leaving port – a lovely end to the day! 

Leaving Cadiz

We might have been lucky but we had pretty good weather every day – from Cadiz where we had bright blue skies but a chilly wind to Cagliari where we actually managed to get a little sunburnt over an alfresco lunch! We carried rain jackets and umbrellas everywhere but didn’t need them anywhere but Gibraltar! We did notice though that its very easy to make yourself a bit silly ( as well as becoming a bit of a target for pick pockets and the like) by wearing summer clothes!  Just because its sunny and almost as warm as a summers day in the UK doesn’t mean you should go ashore in shorts and T shirts – its a bit of a giveaway when all the locals are in jeans, boots and winter jackets – if you want to blend in then wear similar!

The best table in a deserted bar in Cagliari!

One of the real advantages was that everywhere was so quiet – an unexpected bonus! Our midweek stops felt as if they were a different era with very few tourists around – in Cagliari we seemed to be the only tourists in town as we wandered the high town and its cobbled streets. As its low season it is worth double checking the opening times of anything you specifically want to see, especially mid week, but most attractions seemed to be open. We stayed in town in Naples but friends who visited Pompeii said it was an empty as it had been in the 1970’s! The weekend was noticeably busier but we enjoyed Gibraltar and Barcelona without any of the usual crowds and with shopkeepers who seemed genuinely pleased to see us! Most tourist shops were open when we were in port and anything related to the cruise ships, such as HOHO and shuttle buses, seemed to be running as usual. 

Not your usual Monte Carlo shot!

Christmas played its part in our early December trip too – we found Christmas Markets in various places, notably a very surreal experience with fake snow in Monte Carlo, which was a nice surprise and made for a very different cruise vibe!  We were lucky enough to be in Naples for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – a public holiday that marks the start of Advent and the Christmas shopping season.

We enjoyed watching the street parades featuring the traditional Neopolitan figures, looking at the amazing Christmas decorations and tradition nativity second everywhere and  eating the Christmas specialities of Susamielli, honey and sesame biscuits and Zeppole di Natale – orange doughnuts – awesome! We fell across a local ceremony in Piazza del Gesù where the Mayor of the City brings a garland to the Blessed Virgin Mary which is place on her head by the local firemen who then shower the crowd below with rose petals.  

The fireman reach the top of their ladder carrying the crown of roses and two sacks of petals

Our winter cruises have given us unforgettable experiences, bright sunny days, spectacular dawns and sunsets, uncrowded attractions and a lovely break without any jet lag – so if a last minute cruise is calling to you my advice is DO IT!!!

sea day….
our worst weather….