Authors Posts by Natalies Nautical Tales

Natalies Nautical Tales

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Ahoy There! Welcome to my blog regarding all things cruise. My name is Natalie and I have been working in the travel industry for 17 years and specialising in the cruise sector for over 9 years now. Not only do I book dream cruises for my clients every day but I love to cruise myself! There is just something about waking up in a different place every day and experiencing new cultures and destinations that appeals to me. Cruise ships are just like floating resorts and each has its own personality, no ships are the same so I enjoy trying different cruise lines and sizes of ship. I will be posting pictures from my various cruising adventures and any news from the industry to keep you up to date with the goings on. There will also be some fantastic special offers coming your way in due course so keep your eyes peeled for these too. Please visit my contact page to get in touch if you would like me to check prices for you on any cruise, I promise to get you a great deal! If you want to share any of your cruising experiences or photos with me, I would love to see them!

News just in from Fred Olsen….

Selected cruises for 2015 and 2016 are being offered with either no single supplement or 50% off the supplement.
This represents fantastic value for money as those of you who travel alone will know the single supplements can be as much as double!

Fred single offers

When travelling with Fred Olsen you will have the opportunity to meet other solo travellers on board at exclusive gatherings and arrangements are normally made to seat you on tables together for dinner. I know this can be a worry if it is your first cruise on your own so this gives you the peace of mind that you won’t feel isolated and is a great way to make new acquaintances.
In addition, the staff can make arrangements for companions when going ashore and even a dance partner for you in the evenings, both male and female.

Due to the relatively small size of the ships in the fleet the feel on board tends to be relaxed and friendly so you will made to feel very welcome by all on board.

I can personally highly recommend Fred Olsen for solo travelers as I booked my Auntie recently with them to the Caribbean. This was her first cruise alone, and she was understandably apprehensive prior to departure wondering if she would feel like an outsider or be sat on her own for dinner in the evening. I assured her this would not be the case but the doubts remained.
On her return she called me to tell me all about it and she had a fantastic time, which I had no doubts about! She met some lovely people on board with whom she went ashore with and had dinner with in an evening and loved the activities and entertainment on board. It turned out one of the ladies she met lives close by so they have kept in touch and are planning to cruise together in the future!

If you are looking for a late deal there is a 14 night fly cruise on board Braemar departing 12th November to Cape Verde and The Canary Islands. Based on flying from Gatwick, Ocean View cabins are starting from £1749 for single occupancy which is no single supplement!

These offers are sure to sell quickly so if you would like prices and details please give me a call on 0161 7982506.

The Norwegian Epic has just returned from a 3 week dry dock upgrade. So what is new I hear you ask… well quite a lot! The upgrade has enhanced almost every area of the ship from techincal upgrades to dining and entertainment.
The new features have been put in place just in time for the Epic to start her winter sailings to the Western Med and Canary Islands.
These sailings have been phenominally popular here at Cruise Club UK so Im sure those of you already booked, or looking at booking, on one of these sailings will be very interested in her new offerings.
Well here it is….

The Cavern Club – This is a new entertainment venue on board ( taken over from the Fat Cats venue ) and has been designed in partnership with the owners of the legendary Liverpool club. The venue will play Beatles insipred music from various international artists. I imagine this will be a hotspot on board!

SplashGolf – This is one aimed at kids but i’m sure the adults might want to have a try too! This is a combination of mini golf and water features and will be in the in the kids aqua park on board. Great family fun to be had here im sure.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – This brand new show will take over from the Blue Man Group and will feature over 500 costumes and 200 head dresses! Wow, This is going to be a very visual show!

All dining venues on board have had a refurbishment with new upholstery, carpets and decoration.

The ship will boast a brand new photo gallery, card room and library.

It seems no stone has been left unturned with enhancements made to the Mandara Spa, Casino, Epic Theatre, The Haven complex and the Bliss Ultra lounge.

The ship itself has undertaken some technical enhancements such as new rudders, air duct upgrades and improved refrigeration for storerooms so she is from top to toe upgraded!

If you are lucky enough to be sailing on her this winter and onwards you will be in for a treat.

I would love to see your pictures and hear your thoughts when you return!

Having cruised many times with Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean I have always wanted to try out Celebrity Cruises on one of their Solstice Class ships. I had spent an overnight on the Celebrity Silhouette for an agent visit when the ship first came out and was so impressed I vowed to give them a try!

I sailed out from Rome on a 10 night Western Mediterranean Cruise in mid September. A question I get asked a lot is regarding weather at this time of year in the Mediterranean, we all like a bit of sunshine when we go away! I am pleased to say we had fantastic sunshine in all but 1 port of call, which was Livorno on the last day. It was extremely windy in Livorno and as we had taken a tour to Florence the weather there was rain with some thunder and lightening which was quite exciting and didn’t detract from our day sightseeing!

I had a balcony cabin on board the ship ( 2B grade ) located mid ship on deck 6. One reservation I had was the actual position of the cabin being opposite the lifts area. I thought there may have been a lot of noice from the entertainment in the atrium in the evening or people coming to and from their cabins. It turned out I had nothing to worry about! No noise heard at all from fellow cruisers either early in the morning or evening and although some noise could be heard early evening from the entertainment this finished at a reasonable time so didnt affect sleeping! I actually really liked this position as the cabin was easily accessible to the lifts making it quick to nip back if need be. I would definitely book another cabin in the same position.
One stand out point I loved about the bathroom in the cabin was there was no horrible shower curtain, Hooray! There is a curved glass shower screen making the area feel much larger and with no curtain sticking to you every time you move it is so much more enjoyable to take a shower! I also love the addition of the foot rest in the shower for us ladies as it makes it much easier for us to do our legs.

Cabin view
Cabin view
Shower area with foot rest
Shower area with foot rest
Balcony
Balcony

The staff and crew on board that I came in to contact with were all very friendly and helpful and our captain was the best I have ever had on a cruise. He was relatively young I would say for a captain, probably mid 40’s, and was Greek. His sea day announcements were so funny and he was frequently walking around the ship chatting to guests and having photos taken. He even got involved in some of the pool side games on sea days and also took part in a game show as part of the evening entertainment. I have never experienced this before from a captain and he really was one of the highlights for me on the cruise.

All of the public lounges/bars were well kept and clean, the same goes for the restauarants. Speaking of restaurants, I went to all but one of the speciality restaurants and can highly recommend paying the cover charge or taking the speciality dining package which I did. Below is a little review for each of the ones I visited;
Murano – This is the french style restaurant on board and is a relatively intimate restaurant with fantastic service! I ordered the loster tail which to my surprise was cooked for me table side. Our waiter explained how he was going to cook it and the flavours involved and also asked if I wanted to exclude enything that wasn’t to my taste. I chose the mixed mini deserts so I could try a little of everything and this did not disappoint. Needless to say I came out of the restaurant very full and satisfied! I have to say, this was probably my favourite of the specialty restaurants.
Qsine – For something a little different to the norm, Qsine is the place to go! You select your choices from an Ipad and it is recommended to have 5 choices, based on 2 people dining. There is so much to choose from we found it difficult to narrow down so ended up ordering 7 dishes! Very greedy I know and we really did struggle as the portions are bigger than you expect! The deserts were also something a little different, my fiance went for the cupcakes and it came with icing in piping bags to decorate yourself and different toppings so you could make your own cupcake masterpiece which was so much fun.
Tuscan Grill – I would say this is the biggest of the speciality restaurants and commands fantastic views across the back of the ship. This is the Italian Steakhouse on board featuring lots of steaks with additonal pasta and seafood dishes. My fillet steak was cooked to perfection and the accompaniments ( vegetables, sauces and pototoes of your choosing ) were also great.

In the main restaurant we opted for ‘Select dining’ so we could go to the restaurant anytime between 6pm and 9.30pm. I always choose this option when I cruise as I prefer the flexibility of it. There was always plenty of choice on the menu and the service was great. The portion sizes were perfect as I do sometimes find with other lines that the portions are so big that it can be a little over facing at times but with Celebrity the size was just right, meaning you could come out of the restaurant fulfilled but not ridiculously full. I did see some fellow cruisers ordering 2 main courses and I don’t know how they managed to fit it all in!

Main dining room
Main dining room

The Ocean View cafe and the Aqua Spa cafe were also excellent for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I enjoyed the smoothies at the Aqua Spa cafe and they had lots of healthy salad options and fruit pots which is right up my street. Of course there were busy preiods in the Ocean View cafe but due to the size of it, including a huge outdoor area at the back of the ship, there was never a problem finding a table. As expected the choice in here was amazing, I loved the eggs benedict station for breakfast and for lunch there was a pannini station making fresh to order and the same for pizza and pasta. I couldn’t fault it.

Entertainment wise, there was a great choice every evening. The main shows were varied and the singers and dancers on board are excellent! I went to ‘Celebrity Rox’ which was a pool side party featuring the house D.J playing Rock songs from across the ages and also the ships singers and dancers who got everyone involved in their performance and some of them even ended up in the pool as part of the act! Great fun evening.
During the day time there were various quizes, dance classes and games for those who wanted to take part.

Celebrity Rox pool party
Celebrity Rox pool party

The Lawn Club was one of my favourite areas to have a late afternoon drink and watch sail away. This area is at the back of the ship on deck 14 and has lawns on either side where you can play boules or just grab a blanket and relax in the sunshine. There is also a lawned area in the middle which features the ‘Alcoves’ which you can rent for the day giving you a private cabana with picnic lunch from one of the speciality restaurants of your choosing and also bottled water.

I could carry on but I think I have touched on the main points. I thouroughly enjoyed my first Celebrity Cruise and im sure it wont be the last!

*Other ships with in the Solstice Class include: Celebrity Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette, Reflection

If I can help you with any Celebrity Cruise booking please give me a call on 0161 7982506.

I have recently returned from a cruise on board Celebrity Silhouette and really wanted to share my experience of my first visit to Nice!

The ship tendered in Villefranche, See my picture above, which in itself is a really pretty coastal village on the French Riviera, but having not been to this area before I wanted to see Nice. I was going to get a taxi in to Nice but decided to take the train which was definitely a good choice. As we were there on a Sunday it seems although getting a taxi to Nice from Villefranche was not a problem, getting one from Nice back caused problems for my fellow cruisers as most taxi drivers in Nice were either not interested in taking the fare or they could not find a taxi as being a Sunday and they don’t seem to work.

The train took 10 minutes ( only 2 stops from Villefranche ) and was around 4 Euros per person for the return journey. The train station in Villefranche was a short walk from the tender and in Nice the station is a short walk from the main shopping street. Now when I say street this is more of a huge wide avenue featuring large department stores, cafes, restaurants and smaller boutique shops. At the end of the avenue you will arrive at the Promenade des Anglais which is a long promenade with beaches and beach clubs running along the front. This would be such a great spot to relax and people watch if you have the time! If you were to turn right once you reach this area you will find the luxury shopping area and turning left will take you to the Old Town.

Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais
Place Massena at the end of the Avenue
Place Massena at the end of the Avenue
Fountain on the Place Massena
Fountain on the Place Massena

I absolutely loved the old town! There was a market on whilst I was there which had all sorts of locally produced foods and goods which was great to wander around! Around the market area is an abundance of local restaurants ( Fresh sea food being the main highlight! ) and cafes so after working up an appetite there was no shortage of places to sit and refresh.
The buildings are so ornate and pretty, with lots of little side streets to explore. I had a gorgeous artisan Ice Cream here and the amount of flavours to choose from was amazing! This was probably my most difficult choice of the day!

The market
The market
Market view
Market view
One of the many side streets in the Old Town
One of the many side streets in the Old Town
Pretty church in the Old Town
Pretty church in the Old Town

Due to the having to get back to the ship I only had a short time to experience Nice but this is one of the reasons why I love cruising so much, it gives you the chance to sample destinations and go back to see more if you choose. Nice will definitely be one of these places!

If you would like to read about my experience on my first Celebrity Cruise…. Stay tuned!

Exciting news for river cruising!

From March 2017 Crystal Cruises will be introducing 2 brand new river cruise vessels. These ships will be more like yachts and will feature 70 all suite cabins and have a higher space to guest ratio than any other river cruise line for their Central European itineraries.

To stay in line with the Ocean Cruises brand, Crystal River Cruises will be in keeping with their 6* all inclusive service. Full details are yet to be announced but from what I have read and seen so far the ships sound fantastic and a real treat for those who want to do a river cruise in luxury.

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  • All suites will be 250 square foot and will feature king size beds, walk in wardrobe and double vanity units in the bathrooms.
  • Both ships will feature 2 Penthouse suites which will be 500 square foot each in size.
  • There will be a dance floor with a domed glass roof and also a spa and gym area.

Full itineraries will be announced on the 1st December but the idea is to complete the river sailings in day light hours and have overnight stops in ports giving the opportunity for passengers to enjoy evenings sampling local restaurants and night life.

Usually the actual cruising takes place during dinner and overnight therefore missing out on the scenic river cruising itself so this is a definite plus point for Crystal.

Some of the included shore excursions will give those who like to stay active during their cruise some different options such as getting around by electric or manual bikes and segways! This sounds like great fun! There will also be a yacht tender for those passenger wishing to do private yacht tours to more secluded areas.

Im sure the new river cruise brand will be very popular for Crystal and I will be very interested to hear more about the itineraries and ships in due course.

 

 

There is no better feeling, i’m sure you will all agree, than having a cruise to look forward to!

You may or may not be aware of the benefits to booking on board. Whilst enjoying your cruise and longing for it to last just that little bit longer it is the perfect time to secure your next one. The benefits offered by the cruise lines for booking your next cruise on board are well worth taking advantage of and I wanted to highlight a few of these with the most popular cruise lines to whet your appetite.

Norwegian Cruise Line

On board bookings come in the form of an advance deposit scheme called a ‘Cruise Reward’. You will be given on board credit for the sailing you are currently on and the amount paid will be taken as your cruise deposit for your next NCL cruise. For example; the normal amount paid on board is $250 which will give you $100 on board credit on your current sailing and approx. £160 deposit paid on your next cruise.

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean

As both cruise lines are sister companies their on board booking benefits are very similar.
Cruise Later – If you cannot commit to a particular date you can pay a reduced deposit ( normally 50% ) and once you confirm your booking you will receive on board credit on the booking of up to $200. The amount depends on the duration of the cruise and these details will be provided to you on board.
Cruise Now – If you can confirm your chosen date and itinerary for your next cruise you can receive up to $500 on board credit there and then to spend on the sailing you are on! In addition you will receive a reduced deposit ( normally 50% ) PLUS the best current worldwide offer for your chosen sailing. For example you may receive a FREE Drinks package, FREE Gratuities or FREE On board credit for your chosen cruise. You may even receive more than one of these benefits it would just depend on the best offer available at the time. This is by far the best option to choose due the extras you receive.

Azamara Club Cruises

Again, as with Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean, there are 2 choices. The ‘Open Passage’ or ‘Reserved Passage’.
Open Passage – You do not need to select a specific cruise or date for this option. You will pay a reduced deposit on board ( normally 50% ) and once you actually book your cruise you will receive an extra discount ( exact discount details will be given to you on board ).
Reserved Passage – You will book your specific cruise as normal with the agent on board at a reduced deposit ( normally 50% ). You will also receive additional benefits such as on board credit or an extra discount. This can vary dependent on the campaign on offer at the time so specific details will be advised to you by the on board sales agent.

All bookings made on board will be reverted back to ourselves so we can then apply your Loyalty Bonus Points as a further discount!

It really is worth having a look at the offers available on board to make some big savings!
( Please note; all on board booking offers are subject to change at any time so please see your on board sales team for the up to date details )

If I can help you with any new bookings please do not hesitate give me a call directly on 0161 7982506.

Fantastic news this week for London, both as a destination and a departure point in the UK, as Boris Johnson, the Major of London, gave the go ahead for a brand new London cruise port in the Greenwich area on the River Thames.

The new terminal will allow mid sized ships, with a maximum capacity of 1600 passengers, to dock within just a few miles from the city. At present the nearest ports to London are Dover and Southampton. Understandably the larger ships that are based out of Southampton will still not be able to dock at the new terminal, however it gives the smaller ships a unique selling point of being able to get right in to the heart of London.

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The new cruise terminal is scheduled for 2017 and is expected to receive up to 55 ships visits per year. Cruise lines expected to use the new terminal are Fred Olsen, Regent Seven Seas, Saga and the new Viking Ocean Cruises ship the Viking Star.

The cruise terminal has been years in the planning with concerns raised from local residnents of Greenwich, and other parties, over the environmental impact the terminal may have to air pollution. Due to these concerns the Mayors office has secured a significant contribution from Greenwich Council towards ‘Ongoing environmental monitoring or improving air quality’ as part of the Council’s existing Air Quality action plan.

Setting the environmental concerns aside I personally think the new terminal will be a positive impact for both the UK economy and tourism as a whole in London. The ships that will be visiting are not overly large vessels and lets face it London is a huge city which attracts millions of visitors a year so a few thousand more is relatively small fish in comparison! We have so much culture and history in London to get immersed in I think our new visitors will fall in love with our capital.

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Keeping fit at sea may not be at the top of everyone’s priorities whilst on a cruise! However you may be surprised to know that it is becoming more and more popular as we all try and live a more healthier lifestyle.

There are now a huge array of ways to keep fit whilst on a cruise with something to suit all levels of fitness. I just wanted to touch on some of these to give you a taster of what you can expect to find and the great news is that the majority of them are FREE!

Wraparound promenade decks/running tracks

A lot of ships have these features and this is great way to get some excercise without really thinking about it! On the larger ships it will tell you how far it is to walk or jog around the deck and you will be suprised at how far this can be. Just walking around the deck twice on some ships could burn off enough calories to enjoy a guilt free treat that day!

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Fitness classes

From laid back Yoga to some high intensity Spinning you can find it all on board. As you would expect there are class times daily, for all levels from beginner to advanced, which will be listed in your daily newsletter. There is no charge for the majority of the classes so a great excuse to give something a try for the first time and who knows you might actually enjoy it!

State of the art Fitness Centres

Ships are now very well equipped in their gyms on board. Treadmills and Cross trainers will normally face out through the panoramic windows giving you fantastic views whilst working up a sweat! Various weights equipment, rowing machines and even boxing rings can be found on some ships! If you want to take up a few hours with a personal trainer or dietician this can be arranged on board for a fee.

Sports Courts

Football, Basketball and even Tennis can be arranged on board on ships that feature the sports courts. Tournaments can be signed up for on board or you can just have a bit of friendly competition with your traveling companions.

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Every ship is different as to their facilities so this is just a general overview of what you can expect.
You can find full information on individual ship facilities on the relevant cruise lines websites.

If I can help you with your next cruise please give me a call on 0161 7982506.

 

Azamara have recently announced extensive refurbishments for both Quest and Journey. These will take place in 2016 with the Journey being first in line in January followed by Quest in April.

A quote from Azamara CEO Larry Pimental has said ‘From bow to stern, and stern to bow, there is no area of the line’s ships that will be untouched’. The new changes have been the product of years of surveys and comments from past passengers.

The changes sound very exciting and i’m sure both existing and new guests with Azamara will be extremely pleased with the outcome. Both ships are 15 years old and were owned by Renaissance Cruises before being acquired by Azamara in 2007, the new changes will definitely bring the ships right up to date.

Below is an overview of what will be changing;

Suite enhancements – Club Continent suites will be having a top to toe refurbishment with brand new carpets, curtains, upholstery and upgrades to the electrical facilities such as built in flat screens TV’s. The beds will feature a ceiling height headboard and the bathrooms will be re decorated in neutral colours and have a nice airy feel to them.

Club Continent Suite
Club Continent Suite

 Staterooms – All other staterooms will benefit from new duvets and pillows, new fabrics, black out curtains, and even new furniture and TV’s. The bathrooms will also be brought up to date with new showers/sinks etc. It sounds to me like these will look like brand new cabins once the refurbishment is complete!

Veranda Stateroom
Veranda Stateroom

Dining – The addition of a new Asian speciality restaurant called Kibo Is the biggest change for dining. This will be located aft on deck 9 ( in the open area currently occupied by the Window Café ) and will only be open for dinner in the evening.  The indoor are of the Windows Café will still be available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Kibo Restaurant
Kibo Restaurant

The Pool Grill will have an outdoor seating area and feature new lighting, canvases and a drinks station that will be open in the evenings.

The main Discoveries Restaurant will receive new artwork and fabrics/textiles to reflect the rest of the ship.

Lounges – The current Looking Glass Lounge will feature the computer centre and a new card room has been added. There will also be a brand new wine/tapas bar which will feature complimentary tapas and a large variety of international wines served by the glass, in addition to the complimentary wines served with Azamara. The idea behind the new bar is that it will have a large elegant living room feel to it. Ideal for wine lovers!

Spa – The new design for the Spa is called The Sanctum. There will be 2 new spa suites added ( where the computer area is currently ) which will be spa staterooms and designed with a very Zen like feel in mind.  I imagine these will sell quickly with only being 2 of them! Currently in the plans for the spa are the addition of a nail bar, pedicure area, acupuncture clinic and Medi-spa.

The Sanctum
The Sanctum

 Wifi – Part of bringing the ships up to date also extends to technology on board. Wifi will be available on board with an App available for guests to book shore excursions and other reservations.

I hope you enjoyed reading my update for Azamara and if you would like any prices for a forthcoming cruise on board Quest or Journey please do not hesitate to give me a call on 0161 7982506.

Fresh from her 40 day refurbishment, Explorer of the Seas arrived in Southampton this week ready to show off her new features!

At 15 years old she has had 86 new cabins added which increases overall capacity from 3,114 to 3,288.

The new cabins include ‘ Panoramic Ocean Views’ which are located on a new section of the ship which has been added to deck 12. This area is at the front of the ship and used to be the running track which surrounds the Vitality Spa. These cabins sound like they will be a fantastic addition, the view across the front of the ship from up on deck 12 will be awesome!

The Inside cabins have also had a re vamp, having had the new ‘Virtual Balconies’ added. If you have not heard about these before, they are basically floor to ceiling TV screens which displays a live image from outside the ship. I love this idea, it is such a simple thing but adds a huge amount to the cabin on board.

Virtual balcony

The main restaurant on board, ‘Symphony’, has also had a refit, benefiting from new black and white upholstered chairs, with one of the tiers of the restaurant now reserved for the ‘ My Time Dining’ option.

A few specialty restaurants have changed on board, ‘Chops Grille’ steakhouse has been replaced with the Italian restaurant ‘Portofino’ and the Japanese sushi restaurant ‘Izumi’ has been added to an area  of the Viking Crown lounge. This was one of favorite meals when I last sailed on Grandeur of the Seas!

In what was the upper level of Chamber Nightclub is now the Italian family restaurant ‘ Giovanni’s Table’ for an alternative style of Italian cuisine to ‘Portofino’.

Finally, the outdoor spaces have not been left out! A brand new FlowRider has been installed and a 220 square foot cinema screen over the mid ship pool.

For those not wanting to try out the brand new Anthem of the Seas and prefer the slightly smaller Voyager Class ships she is a great option for summer sailings out of Southampton.

We have some fantastic deals on Explorer of the Seas over the summer so if you would like any prices please do not hesitate to give me a call on 0161 7982506.