Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O Cruises, was first on the buzzer when asked, during a visit to the Monfalcone shipyard in Trieste last week, which cruise line is building the biggest ship to be built for the British market’.
The answer of course is P&O Cruises.
And her prize?
This 405-ton piece of steel ready fitted with 214 tons of pipes, cables and insulation. Just try checking that in with Ryanair.
OK, Carol was actually giving the order for the keel of the biggest ship to be built for the British market to be laid.
In two years this 405 tons will become a 141,000-ton ship with a name that the smart money will put on something beginning and ending in an ‘a’.
I’m going for Adventura.
Because a ship this size will be a bit of an adventure-a for P&O. I just hope they announce it soon so we don’t have to keep calling it the biggest ship to be built for the British market.
Other suggestions welcome.
How do you describe a new ship when actually you don’t want to give anything away?
Such was the dilemma facing P&O Cruises today as it released news that the keel for its next new ship has been laid in Venice.
The vessel, we are told, will be 141,000 tons and delivered in spring 2015.
We also learned it will offer the ‘best of the best’ with the classic features of Oriana and Aurora and the choice and variety of Azura and Ventura.
It will be designed to attract newcomers. It will also resonate with past passengers. And – wait for it – include some ‘sophisticated wows’.
Whatever they might be.
So basically at the end of all that we know absolutely nothing about the ship except it will be all things to all men (and women).
Is that really possible? We will have to wait another couple of years to find out.
Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ Marco Polo has been adopted by Lansdowne Academy – a rather grand-sounding school in Tilbury for children aged three to 11 who will now follow the ship’s travels around the world.
The idea is they can use the ports that Marco Polo visits to learn about geography, different cultures and ways of life.
The new partnership also includes the Port of Tilbury; as part of the tie-up the kids will learn how a cruise port operates and the preparation that goes into every trip on arrival and departure days.
It’s a brilliant initiative that will hopefully make learning about the world more fun than looking at streams and writing dull essays about the bedrock that say the same thing about 10 times to make sure it ticks all the boxes for the teachers.
I’m guessing it was brought about by Richard Epps, the principal of the Academy, who has cruised on Marco Polo several times.
Give that man a free cruise!
Oh wait. CMV has a new buy one, get one free offer on all summer departures on Marco Polo. One person buys a cruise, a second person sharing the cabin goes for free.
The offer ends June 5.
Still undecided where to cruise this year? With so many corners of the world to explore by ship, it is tough picking just one.
So why not hedge your bets and pick one that has everything from history and culture to iconic cities and beautiful beaches?
I’m talking of the Med, the Brits’ favourite cruise destination, where in just one holiday you might tick off Rome, Florence and Venice, visit the ruins of Pompeii, enjoy luxurious living on the French Riviera.
There is so much to see and do; better still, if you choose a luxury Mediterranean cruise from Southampton on one of Cunard’s stately ships you’ll not only see many different places but you’ll do it all without setting foot in an airport (Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth is also sailing a selection of flycruises this autumn).
Here, in no particular order, is the top 10 Mediterranean ports Cunard’s royal fleet will be visiting this summer.
1. Barcelona Start your day with a stroll along La Rambla, a long, lively street that starts at the port and is packed with painters, restaurants, pet shops and human statues that come alive when you give them money. Don’t miss also the old quarter or maybe take a Gaudy-themed tour.
2. Florence Some 90 minutes’ drive from the port of Livorno, Florence is home to one of the world’s finest collections of art museums and galleries, beautiful churches and piazzas. Don’t miss The Duomo and Ponte Vecchio, and make time for lunch in the Piazza della Signoria, where there is a copy of the statue David.
3, Gibraltar This is a little piece of Britain in the Mediterranean with a Marks & Spencer and other favourite high street shops in the main street. A visit inside the Rock, used as a arsenal during the Second World War, is fascinating and seeing the Barbary Apes is always a favourite.
4. Messina On the island of Sicily, Messina is a favourite port for tours to Mount Etna or Taormina, a picturesque hill-top town filled with little alleyways, a Greco-Roman amphitheatre, wrought-iron balconies, fabulous views over the bay of Giardini Naxos and lovely restaurants and ice-cream parlours.
5. Venice A beautiful city, where the best way to get around is on a DIY walking tour of the canals (but do get a good map). Tick off the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square, hop on a water taxi when you need a break and treat yourself to lunch in one of the small cafés where the locals go.
6. Dubrovnik Another of the Med’s most beautiful cities, Dubrovnik is a maze of narrow alleys and steep staircases surrounded by a huge wall. A walk around the wall afford wonderful views of the city, the tiny houses and the Adriatic; otherwise explore inside for some unusual souvenirs and good cafés and restaurants.
7. Corfu Ships dock about 20 minutes’ walk from the Old Town, which is a delightful maze of cobbled streets, alleys and souvenir shops selling handbags, olive oil, bangles, bracelets and tee-shirts galore. Look out for the fish spas as well – you put your feet into a tank of water and tiny fish start nibbling away. Not quite the same as Cunard’s luxurious spas but it’s just 10 euros for 30 minutes.
8. Rome About two hours’ drive from the port of Civitavecchia, Rome has so much to see that one day is not enough but get a map, strap on your walking shoes and give it a go. Your tour should include the Vatican, Colisseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Be sure to throw a coin into the water to ensure you will be back. It always works for me!
9. Athens Cruise ships dock in Piraeus, but it’s easy to get to the city, which is about 30 minutes away by train. Make a bee-line for the Acropolis, on a rocky crag overlooking the city, then visit the acclaimed Acropolis Museum and agora, or market, where there are souvenir shops and restaurants.
10. Cannes Cannes is the playground of the rich and famous so no wonder Cunard’s ships feel right at home here. Each year the film festival comes to town, bringing top names from stage and screen to walk the red carpet. The old town is attractive, but you can also take a train to the even-more-exclusive Monaco.
Cambodia is a lovely country – the scenery, the people, the weather. But after a walk around one of the locals markets I don’t think I will be moving here.
Alan, one of the Cambodian guides accompanying us on La Marguerite – the river cruise boat I am sailing on with APT, took us around the stalls – pointing out local food and drink and a favourite delicacy: Baby duck. Except this one was still in its shell. An embryo if you will.
The egg is cooked, cracked open and salt and lime added to the contents, before the chick-that-never-was is devoured.
“I don’t recommend you try it,” Alan said. I was happy to follow his advice, but two brave Aussies on the cruise decided to give it a go, much to his concern. They have been very careful to make sure none of get a gippy tummy, but even so one or two have gone down with the Cambodian equivalent of Delhi Belly.
‘Tastes like chicken,’ was their conclusion. But I notice they did not ask for seconds.
This on top of the fried tarantula and KFC, aka Khmer Fried Cricket that Alan brought onto the coach to show us after a ‘happy’ stop during the 300km transfer between Siem Reap and Prek K’Dam, where La Marguerite was moored.
Apparently the locals have eaten so many tarantulas over the years they are now in short supply. As a card-carrying arachnophobe, that was welcome news indeed.
“Please, where are we?” The two Asian-looking women pushed a map towards my guide, Sokhem, my guide. The look on his face was worth the 5am alarm call.
‘Only one of the greatest wonders of the world. This is Angkor Wat,’ he told them, shaking his head in disbelief.
I thought I was up early for the tour (this on my first morning in Cambodia, after only arriving at the hotel at 8.15 the night before) but by the time we arrived the place was packed with tourists waiting to see the sun rise.
The 11th-century temple, once dedicated to Hinduism, then converted to Buddhism after Cambodia changed allegiance, is enormous but in 90 minutes Sokhem managed to show took me the three levels (one each for the ordinary folk, the important people and the royal family) and impress me with the facts and figures.
Took 37 years, 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants to build. Has around 2,000 celestial dancers – all with different expressions – carved in the stone, forgotten for 500 years, until it was discovered by a Frenchman chasing butterflies, visited by 5,000 to 6,000 a day in high season.
After a photo stop at the main gate of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, we returned to Sokha Angkor Resort Hotel, where I joined the other passengers who would be on my one-week Mekong river cruise on La Marguerite with Travelmarvel, a brand of APT.
Next up was a five-hour transfer from Siem Reap to Prek K’Dam to join the vessel.
It’s been a quiet year for travelling after a trip to Antarctica in January fell through due to snow at Heathrow (believe me, the irony of not being able to get to the coldest place on the planet because of a few snowflakes in the UK was not missed on me).
But now at last I am off again.
And to much warmer climes – Vietnam and Cambodia – to cruise the Mekong River with APT. As I write I am waiting to fly to Bangkok, where I’ll pick up a local Bangkok Airways’ flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.
On Monday morning I’ll be watching dawn rise over Angkor Wat and then it’s a five-hour transfer to the boat, La Marguerite, and the start of the seven-night cruise.
The itinerary includes a day in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, visits to floating markets and small villages, and part way through the cruise we cross into Vietnam, coming to journey’s end in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where I am going on a motorbike tour.
And yes, I have seen the roads in the city they used to call Saigon so it’s going to be quite an experience. I can’t wait for it all to begin.
There is free wifi on the boat but I’m told reception is patchy so I am not expecting to be able to post many blogs.
But just in case, do keep in touch.
I wonder what Royal Caribbean would have named its two Project Sunshine ships if Carnival Sunshine hadn’t come along?
I always rather liked the sound of Sunshine of the Seas for one of them, but we’ll never know if that was ever on the cards because Carnival got there first.
Carnival Sunshine, you’ll remember, is the new name for Carnival Destiny and it is due to debut in April after a $155 million refit.
So now Royal Caribbean has chosen Quantum of the Seas for new ship number one, launching in autumn 2014, and Anthem of the Seas for its sibling, which enters service in spring 2015.
The line is staying tantalisingly quiet about this new-build duo. We know construction has started at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, and they will each be 158,000 tons and hold 4,100 passengers.
And that it will be a big surprise for the cruise industry.
But that’s it for now.
Other than that we should prepare to be wowed!
Still stuck for ideas of where’s hot and where’s not this year?
Click here to check out my recent feature on the subject in the Daily Telegraph.
Buckle up and sit back for a fabulous journey from Brazil to Hong Kong, Myanmar to Croatia, even on a voyage around the British Isles.
Still not sure? Then pop along to the Cruise Show at London’s Olympia on March 23-24. There’ll be more than 80 exhibitors as well as experts including myself on hand to offer advice and suggestions for your next holiday at sea.
Click here to get tickets.
Carnival Cruise Lines is spending $155 million refurbishing Carnival Destiny starting this month. After 49 days, the ship will emerge from the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy with more cabins, more places to eat and drink, a ropes course, a huge adult-only sunbathing area and more.
It will also have a new name – Carnival Sunshine.
The décor will also be much changed, with interior designer Jo Farcus’ trademark Carnival kitsch out and a new, more gentle, easy-on-the-eye Caribbean look in.
The ship is sailing in the Mediterranean from Barcelona and Venice this summer and I’ll be going on board to see it for myself. Look out for my reports at the end of April.
Meantime click here to see a new video of the changes.