As P&O Cruises celebrate their 180th anniversary this year, we’ve decided to have a look at the 5 things we love about the British cruise line…..
5: The Great British Sailaway:
Sailaway is part and parcel of a cruise and for many, considered to be a highlight. With P&O Cruises, the Great British Sailaway is the opportunity to grab the union flags and wave along to the traditional British songs such as Rule Britannia, There’ll Always Be An England and Land of Hope and Glory. With also the chance to go around the UK, celebrating songs from each of the 4 nations of the UK. It’s an occasion for all members of the family.
4: Afternoon Tea:
Considered a tradition on board P&O, the opportunity to go and have your afternoon’s fill of sandwiches, cream scones, cakes and a good British style cup of tea is too hard to resist! For a cover charge, you can also enjoy Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea in the Epicurian Restaurant on Azura, Britannia and Ventura. You’ll just have to make sure you have room for dinner!
3: Variety of Entertainment:
Whether it’s the production team presenting their West End Style shows in the theatre to the hilarious comedian, there is entertainment to suit everyone on board. Strictly Come Dancing themed cruises are very popular for those who enjoy the BBC show with dancers and judges also joining the themed cruises to add authenticity and to also allow passengers the chance to appear in their own Strictly Come Dancing competition. Kids on the family friendly cruise ships of Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceana and Ventura will enjoy spending time in the various kids clubs whilst the parents can enjoy time relaxing on deck.
Whether you are in an inside cabin or in the very top suite on board a P&O ship, you’ll not be disappointed. The inside cabins, particularly on board Azura, Ventura and Britannia are some of the best laid out cabins designed for a cruise ship. There is a cabin for everyone and each are spacious and comfortable.
1: Value For Money:
For those that have never cruised and enjoy land-based holidays, the idea of a cruise may sound expensive but when you break down the costs, a cruise with P&O represents great value for money. Included in your cruise fare is your accomodation, food in the main dining room and buffet restaurant, use of the majority of the facilities on board and the entertainment on board. The only extras you’d have to consider would be purchasing alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, dining in the speciality restaurants or having a flutter in the casino. The prices in the bars are reasonable and comparable to those in pubs back home. The different fares such as Early Saver and Saver allow for greater value when it comes to the prices and passengers can enjoy savings compared to the more expensive Select Fare. Whereas on land, guests would have to factor the costs of entertainment, food and beverages on top of the cost of their accomodation if they hadn’t chosen all inclusive package.
So why not give P&O Cruises a try and find out for yourself what makes P&O Cruises tick when it comes to offering a cruise experience for the British Cruise Market. Ah, now ‘This Is The Life’.
Does size really matter when it comes to choosing the right cruise ship for your cruise?
Some regard the idea of cruising on the world’s largest cruise ship as the ‘nightmare from hell’ with too many passengers on board and the thought of getting lost all the time. There are those that relish the idea of embarking on a cruise with 6000 fellow passengers and taking part in activities that they may not necessarily take part in when on land.
There is the traditional cruising camp that enjoy the smaller, older and more traditional cruise ships where they can enjoy a cruising experience without having to fight and wrestle with thousands of other passengers.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question. It’s purely personal choice and there is definitely a cruise ship out there for everyone.
Both concepts of cruising have their merits and negatives. What they both have in common is the experience of being at sea. Cruising the oceans and seas or visiting some far away destination is for some more important than the ship itself.
It’s important to take into consideration at the time of booking what the passenger would like to take from the experience. Do they want to cruise to destinations where only smaller cruise ships can get access to but on board the experience is traditional and very few facilities to distract from the idea of relaxation and shutting off from the real world? Or would taking a slide on the ‘Ultimate Abyss’ on Harmony of the Seas before taking a walk along Central Park would be more appropriate for a cruise experience?
The cruise experience is unique to the individual and everyone will have different ideas as to what the experience should be.
With cruise ships indeed getting bigger in size and passenger capacity, emphasis is more placed on the newer more glitzy ships coming onto the market. The average age of people taking a cruise is dropping with more and more younger passengers and families taking to cruising more so than at any time in the history of the industry. The attraction of ships that has so many facilities allow for greater choice and for the opportunity for multi-generational family cruises to take place as all tastes are catered for whilst enjoying a holiday as a family. No more arguments then?!
However, the smaller cruise ship should not be discounted. The idea of experiencing something special like sailing the smallest Fjords or going to the Antarctic can only be experienced on a smaller ship. For others, it’s the idea of personal service from a dedicated crew on board a smaller ship and be regarded as a passenger rather than as a number like on the bigger ships.
However for some larger ships, they certainly grab a lot of attention. Wherever Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 sails to, she always has an audience. The idea of being part of history too when the largest cruise ship sails into a port for the first time is certainly something to tell the grandchildren.
But for the romantics and enthusiasts out there, the idea of sailing on a smaller ship which has more proportions, lines and style than that of their modern equivalents is something that will be hard to budge the purist on. The argument is that by sailing on a more traditional looking ship, it will be a classic more authentic experience of cruising. The idea of the ship creaking, rolling and pitching in heavy seas would hark back nostalgically to the traditional days of ocean travel. Purists will also argue that older more traditional ships will travel better in heavy seas than the top heavy mega cruises that are on the market. This is an area of conjecture and debate however it is worth noting that the newer larger cruise ships are designed well enough to withstand heavy seas and to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
However is it possible to consider that there are newer ships on the market such as Viking Star, which are modern, contemporary and stylish yet small enough to reach the less well known destinations.
Whilst the cruising world laments the passing of older, smaller traditional ships such as Saga Ruby, there is still plenty of smaller cruise ships out there that will appeal to those who enjoy cruising on smaller ships and even some cruise ships that hark back to the 1940s that are still sailing to this day.
Therefore cruising has so much to offer. There is so much choice open to cruisers of all ages, whether they are veterans or first time cruisers. There is a cruise ship for everyone and whether that be small, medium or large, it’s ultimately up to you as to what size of ship you would like to sail on. Whether that be old or new, it’s upto you……..
A fur coat worn by a survivor of the ill-fated White Star liner Titanic has sold at auction for more than £150,000 – more than double the original estimate of between £50,000 to £80,000 reports the Yorkshire Post. The fur coat was worn by stewardess Mabel Bennett who put the coat on over a nightdress to protect her from the cold temperatures before evacuating the liner as it took on water after striking an iceberg off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on 14th April 1912. Ms Bennett who worked as a stewardess in First Class had previously worked aboard the Titanic’s sister ship Olympic and had only joined the recently completed Titanic on 6th April prior to the Maiden Voyage. Ms Bennett served alongside her brother-in-law Alfred Crawford, who survived, and nephew Leonard James Hoare who lost his life in the disaster.
The fur coat remained with Ms Bennett until her death at the age of 95 – making her one of the longest surviving female crew members from the doomed liner – after which it remained within the family for almost 90 years prior to being sold at auction by the Wiltshire based auctioneer Henry Aldridge and Son in 1999, it was consequently loaned to a museum in the USA. The coat was sold at auction on Saturday 22nd April at more than double its original £50,000 to £80,000 estimate.
Today, 15th April 2017 marks the 105th anniverary of one of the most famous maritime disasters ever, the sinking of the ‘Unsinkable’ Titanic on her maiden voyage.
The largest ship in the world, Titanic had departed Southampton on 10th April and with calls to Cherbourg and Queenstown, the next stop for the White Star liner was New York.
However, her maiden voyage was tragically cut short for on 14th April at 11.40pm, she collided with an iceberg on her starboard side, causing the plates and rivets in her hull to buckle and causing fatal damage which would result in the ship sinking. She took her final plunge at 2.20am on 15th April.
It caused shockwaves around the world when news spread of Titanic’s foundering. She had been ‘dubbed’ as ‘unsinkable’ but yet she sank on her maiden voyage with the loss of over 1500 passengers and crew. Over 700 survivors were picked up by Cunard’s Carpathia whom had responded and turned around when she heard of Titanic’s predicament.
It was not a situation that the Board of Trade had envisioned when they deemed Titanic fit to sail. There was only 20 lifeboats on board with capacity for less than half of those on board. The number of lifeboats was deemed sufficient by the Board of Trade, much to the frustration of Thomas Andrews, head designer and architect of Titanic whom wanted to fit more lifeboats on board but it was thought that it would clutter the decks and with the heightened safety features such as a double skinned keel and watertight compartments, it was thought that if the ship did get into any difficulties, then passengers would be able to be ferried to the rescue ship if such a situation occured.
The loss of over 1500 souls was a wake up call for shipping lines, the board of trade and in humanity itself. Since the sinking of Titanic, there has been many measures established in order for the safebeing of passengers and crew on board ships. The creation of SOLAS, Safety Of Lives At Sea has helped travelling by ship become more safe. It was created as the International Convention of Safety Of Lives At Sea in 1914 as a direct result of the Titanic tragedy. The shipping lanes on the North Atlantic would also have an International Ice Patrol which would monitor the icebergs and pack ice throughout the year in order to maintain safe passage for all ships transversing those shipping lanes. All ships must carry enough lifeboats and lifesaving equipment for everyone on board. Lifeboat and muster drills must be carried out before the ship leaves port. (Titanic had only one morning of training for her crew in Southampton to accustom themselves with the lifeboats) There has been many modifications of the convention since then but it is a direct result of Titanic’s sinking that sailing today is a much safer way to sail than it was back in 1912.
Ironically, nearly 100 years later in January 2012, another shipping tragedy dominated the headlines with the capsizing of Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy.. The loss of 30 lives due to ‘human error’ resulted in the safety aspects of cruising being brought under the microscope. It was a further wake up call to the shipping and cruising industry that nothing can be taken for granted and that safety aspects and drills on board would be tightened to make sure that a repeat of this tragedy would not be repeated.
Therefore, as we mark the 105th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, the shipping industry is ever increasingly evolving when it comes to safety on board. Although nothing can ever be taken for granted and it must be the case that the shipping industry and including the lucrative cruise industry keep vigilant and further reduce the risk of another Titanic or Costa Concordia tragedy ever from happening again.
It’s the end of the road for one of the most recognised liners of the late 20th century, as she arrives at Alang for her beaching where she will meet the scrapyard torchflame.
Oasia as she is now called has arrived at Alang in India where she will be purposefully beached at full speed in order for the start of the scrapping process to begin.
It’s the passing of an era for British shipbuilding too for when she was completed in 1973 for Norwegian America Line as Vistafjord at the Swan Hunter yard on the Tyne, she went down in the history books as the last liner built in Britain.
When Norwegian America Line ceased trading, both Vistafjord and Sagafjord were sold to Cunard in 1983 and kept their original names.
Both ships would have a long and successful career with Cunard until Sagafjord left the fleet under charter to Transocean in 1996 where she was renamed Gripsholm briefly. She then was sold to Saga where she began operating in 1997 as Saga Rose.
Her younger sister Vistafjord was renamed Caronia in 1999 and she remained with Cunard until 2005 where she joined her sister at Saga and was renamed Saga Ruby. The sale had been announced in 2003 but Cunard had afforded Caronia a farewell season with the company before she would join her new owners.
Together, both sisters had been re-united, although it would only last 4 years. Saga Rose was retired from the fleet in 2009 and the following year saw her meet her maker at the scrapyard in China.
Saga Ruby continued in the Saga fleet until it was announced in 2013 that she would be leaving the fleet and that she would spend her retirement years as a floating hotel/conference centre in the Far East. She left Southampton on her final cruise for the company in December 2013 before arriving back into Southampton to de-store on 10th January 2014. She would then leave later that day for the final time from Southampton.
Our Editor, Anthony and Assistant Editor Christian were able to make a visit to Saga Ruby on the day of her final departure from Southampton. Organised by our good friend, Harry Cotterill of Cruise Cotterill, Anthony, Christian and fellow shipping enthusiast and good friend, Daniel Gosling were able to say their final goodbyes to Saga Ruby both on board and from the quayside as the grand old dame of the seas departed for ‘pastures new’.
Unfortunately, the plans for the ship to become a floating hotel/conference centre ultimately collapsed and she has been in the Far East since, almost forgotten. Sadly there has been no last minute reprieve for the former Cunarder and now is awaiting that final push unto the beach at Alang where she will be taken apart piece by piece by the scrapyard’s torchflame.
So from us all at Cruisemarsh, we’d like to say farewell to a maritime icon. There won’t be another quite like her and she now departs into the annuals of history much to the heavy hearts of her loyal followers and enthusiasts. She’ll be fondly remembered by all who have sailed on her as Vistafjord, Caronia and Saga Ruby. Our Editor, Anthony, has fond memories of his cruise on Caronia in 2002 and with the subsequent visit to her as Saga Ruby in 2013 and 2014, she will not be forgotten.
Cruisemarsh is proud to unveil a new feature. On our Facebook page, our Assistant Editor, Christian has started his ‘Cruise News’ section. This is a pre-recorded 5 minute bulletin of the latest cruise news that has happened during the week.
We hope to have this as a regular feature alongside our Editor’s Cruisemarsh Live show on our Facebook page.
Broadcast on Monday 27th March, this was the first episode, so please keep a look out for our next ‘Cruise News’ feature in the near future.
We have included the video in this post too!
We hope you enjoy it and if you’d care to give us feedback on our Facebook page, we’d be delighted to hear from you.
When it comes to World Cruising, the term, ‘the world’s your oyster’ definitely springs to mind.
With such a diverse choice of different itineraries, cruise lines are certainly seeing the virtues of sending ships on world cruises and passengers are certainly relishing the opportunity to visit some of the world’s most famous sites and experiences on a world cruise. Whether it be based on budget, itinerary, cruise line or size of cruise ship, there is quite a choice to choose from and there will be a world cruise to suit each taste.
The fact you only have to un-pack once, tells a story. Whereas a land based world itinerary you will be packing and un-packing constantly and physically having to move from A to B to get to your next destination on the itinerary. On a world cruise, you let the ship take the strain and those sailing from Southampton, you’ll be able to relax in the knowledge that a visit to the airport is not needed.
2018 will see again another diverse choice of world cruises on offer. There will be a ship to suit different tastes and that is certainly important for the passengers; plenty of choice.
Fred Olsen will be sending the revitalised Black Watch on an 108 Wonders of the World itinerary on 5th January 2018. Passengers will have the chance to visit places such as Hamilton, Bermuda, Havana, Cuba, Paracas, Peru to the likes of Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Auckland, New Zealand,Yangon, Mynamar, Mumbai, India, Alexandria, Egypt and Malaga, Spain. This itinerary on a smaller ship will suit an older clintiele that like the classic principles of cruising. None of the glitz and glamour of a larger ship but the familiarity of a smaller ship which meets the individual needs rather than the large crowds on a mega ship.
For those who like style, panache and a sense of history, then Cunard is the cruise line to embark a world cruise on. Offering world cruises since 1922, Cunard will be sending all three vessels in the fleet on varying world itineraries in January 2018. The flagship of the fleet, Queen Mary 2, will depart Southampton on 10th January and will navigate in an easterly direction. The mammoth 120 night itinerary will visit ports of call including Madiera,Portugal, Walvis Bay,Namibia, Cape Town, South Africa, Perth, Australia, Adelaide, Australia, Sydney, Australia, Akaroa, New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Phuket, Thailand, Muscat, Oman, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Naples, Italy and Barcelona, Spain.
Queen Victoria will depart on a shorter 75 night itinerary to South America on 7th January. Ports of call will include, Hamilton, Bermuda, Barbados,Fortaleza, Brazil, Rio de Janiero, Brazil, Montevideo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Puenta Arenas, Chile, Amalia Glacier, Chile, Coquimbo, Chile, Panama Canal, Belize City, Belize, Costa Maya, Mexico, Port Canaveral, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina.
Queen Elizabeth will undertake a an entire ’round the globe’ itinerary of mammoth proportions. Departing Southampton on 7th January, she will embark on an 122 night itinerary which will see her cruise around the world and will call to New York, USA, Aruba, San Fransisco, USA, Honolulu, Hawaii, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Auckland, New Zealand, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, Osaka, Japan, Shanghai, China, Penang, Malaysia, Cape Town, South Africa and Madeira, Portugal.
The relative ‘new kids on the block’, Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) also have a world cruise penciled in for 2018. They will be using their newest ship, Columbus, to embark on a 121 night itinerary from Tilbury. Ports of call will include, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Madiera,Portugal, Bridgetown, Barbados, Cartagena, Columbia, Papeete, Tahiti (French Polynesia), Tauranga, New Zealand, Sydney, Australia, Komodo Island, Indonesia, Manila, The Philippines, Shanghai, China, Ko Samui, Thailand, Port Klang, Malayisa, Cochin, India, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Safaga, Egypt, Valletta, Malta and Gibraltar. For a 121 night cruise, the prices advertised are very reasonable and is one of the least expensive world cruises you can undertake. They were advertising a category IG Voyager Inside cabin for £14999 per person but because it’s part of their buy one get one free offer, that means the total cost for two passengers on the full world cruise in that grade of cabin was going to be £14999! Just short of £7500 per person! No wonder that grade of cabin has sold out for the cruise!
Other cruise lines such as P&O Cruises operate world cruises from Southampton but there are other lines that offer world cruises too that don’t depart from Southampton, including Regent Seven Seas who will be deploying Seven Seas Navigator on an epic 137 night world itinerary from Los Angeles to Los Angeles. However, the base price for the full itinerary is £47,819pp reduced from £61,219pp on the standard fare. For six star luxury, you will get:
All-Inclusive Fares, FREE Business Class Flights in All Suite Categories, FREE Pre-Cruise Gala Event and One-Night Hotel, FREE Shoreside Event in Adelaide, FREE Shoreside Event in Richards Bay, FREE Shoreside Event in Buenos Aires, FREE Door-to-Door Luggage Service, FREE Comprehensive Visa Package, FREE Unlimited Laundry, Dry Cleaning and Pressing, FREE Phone Time Per Suite, FREE Commemorative Gift, FREE Onboard Medical Service, FREE Unlimited Shore Excursions, FREE Unlimited WiFi throughout the ship, FREE Unlimited Beverages, Including Fine Wines and Spirits, Throughout the Ship, FREE Specialty Restaurants, FREE Transfers Between Airport and Ship, FREE Pre-Paid Gratuities.
So as you can see there is quite a diverse choice out there for the discerning traveller. Whether that be with a classic smaller ship which aims to please the individual rather than the large numbers of Fred Olsen, a rather reasonable priced budget range experience with Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) or experience the luxury, history and prestige of Cunard’s three Queens or the ultimate in luxury with Regent Seven Seas. There is a ship, itinerary and budget to suit each individual, so it’s a case of which one and when! Now, where’s those brochures……?
Feature Image: Cruisemarsh
Sources: Fred Olsen, Cunard, Cruise and Martime Voyages and Regent Seven Seas Cruises
So anyone that says that they don’t have a bucket list of things they want to see and do before they die are most probably lying. Even if it’s subconcious, most people have yearnings of doing the wildest things, experiencing new places and enjoying a wide selection of cuisine before the day arrives where they actually ‘kick the bucket’.
At Cruisemarsh, we have a bucket list the length of the Forth Rail Bridge but we’ve condensed it for the purposes of this article and so we don’t make you fall asleep with boredom.
So let us take you to the Top 5 Destinations on the Cruisemarsh Bucket List.
1. New York City, New York, USA: This is our top destination on our list. It’s a place we have never been to but we have been yearning to go for years and years. A cosmopolitan city with plenty of things to see and do, you’ll never get bored. A trip to see the Statue of Liberty or perhaps a trip to the Empire State Building and go straight to the top to get some fabulous views over the city. Or why not have a stroll through the famous, Central Park. An oasis of wildlife, plants and green space within the sprawling metropolis. Although, we are visiting the city later this year. We will be sailing in on a day visit on Navigator of the Seas enroute to Florida. So we can’t wait to be visiting!
2. Berlin, Germany: Having visited Germany on a few occasions in the past, we have never made it to the capital itself. A city with so much history and culture, there again is so many things to see and do. Whether it be a trip to see the famous Brandenburg Gate, a trip to the rebuilt Bundestag (former Reichstag) or a trip on the hop on hop off bus around the city, you’ll never find yourself kicking your heels in boredom. With cruise ships calling off in Warnemunde and Hamburg, there is ample opportunity to visit the German capital or even do a cruise and stay. There is so many different options.
3. New Zealand: Now, we’ve seen the wonderful scenery from the Lord of the Rings movies. It’s breaktaking. Split over two islands, North and South, New Zealand has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. From visiting Wellington in the North Island to travelling to Nelson in the South Island, New Zealand has much to see and do. If you are on a cruise, you can make the best of both worlds and even have the honour of sailing the Fjords in the Southern tip of the South Island. With stunning backdrops, a cruise through Milford Sound is high on any travellers bucket list.
4. Alaska, USA: This is one of the most scenic cruising areas in the world and what better way to explore the region than by cruise ship. With a whole host of cruise lines, including Princess Cruises and Holland America, there are plenty of cruise and stay options available where you can enjoy the splendour of the glaciers from the deck of the ship with a stay either pre or post cruise at their inclusive ranch resorts and take a train journey through the majestic Rockies. Yes, the temperatures may not be as tempting as that of the Caribbean but the scenery and wildlife will live long in the memories, even if it is cold!
5. Sydney, Australia: Another city that has such a fantastic appeal and a wonderful sail in and sail out on board a cruise ship. The sight of the Sydney Opera House and the ‘coathanger’ Sydney Harbour Bridge are two iconic pieces of architecture that helps define the city. A climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an option and will allow you the chance to see the city from a different perspective and no doubt an adrenaline rush too! For those who likes fantastically tropical plants and wildlife, there is the Royal Botanic Gardens and for those who just love to lie back and soak up the rays of the Australian sun, there is the world famous Bondi Beach which is in close proximity to Sydney and is the place to soak up the sun or to have a dip in the Pacific Ocean. Ah, now doesn’t that sound good? Right, where’s our passports………
Whoops, sorry we were away in a day dream there, just thinking about these wonderful destinations.
That concludes our bucket list, we know we’ll be ticking one of these destinations off the list this year but here’s hoping we don’t have too long to tick the others off too! Just need to keep saving the pennies and then the world will be our travel oyster!
With reports this week regarding the former Saga Ruby (now called Oasia) being sold to Indian shipbreakers, is the time for classic cruise ships of her ilk to be entering their swansongs too?
It may seem enivitable that with the evolution of modern day cruising, the need and demand for older, more classic cruise ships will have waned. With demographics of cruising changing, there is a steady amount of younger passengers cruising for the first time and with that, their demands and needs have changed say from an older generation.
Yet, amongst all the large behemoths, there are still a few classic gems to be found cruising the seas. In particular, Astoria for Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) Originally built in 1948 for Swedish America Line (SAL) for Transatlantic service, she was named Stockholm. Her most infamous moment came on the evening of 25th July 1956. In heavy fog, she collided with the Italian liner, Andrea Doria and completed crumpled her bows. Andrea Doria was however not so lucky and she sank with the loss of 51 people out of 1660. Since the infamous incident, Stockholm has been rebuilt and has passed through several owners. However after being purchased by Italian interests in the late 1980’s, she was completely rebuilt as a functioning cruise ship. She has operated for different cruise lines since then including, Festival Cruises as Caribe and Classic International Cruises as Athena. In 2014 she was purchased by Portuguese Cruise Line, Portucscale and renmaed Azores. 2015 saw Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) charter the ship. After intially sailing as Azores, she was then re-named Astoria and was then sub-charted to French firm, Rivages Du Monde but she is now currently back in the Cruise and Martime Voyages roster for this year and next. CMV have recently made a u-turn on the future of the ship, extending her season with them until 2018 after initially making 2017 her final season with company.
Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) also have another gem in their fleet and that’s the venerable Marco Polo. Orginally constructed for the Soviet Union as the Aleksandr Pushkin in 1965 for the Baltic Shipping Company. She was then sold to Orient Lines in 1991 and after an extenisve refurbishment, which included reconditioning of engines and structural changes both exterior and interior, she emerged as Marco Polo. After being purchased by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in 2000, Marco Polo had a fleetmate in the shape of Crown Odyssey (now Fred Olsen’s Balmoral) but the two ship operation was short lived and in 2003, Crown Odyssey left the fleet and re-joined NCL as Norwegian Crown. Marco Polo was then sold by Norwegian Cruise Line in 2007 and Orient Lines ceased to operate with no ships. Transocean of Germany chartered Marco Polo and she would sail with them until 2010 when it was announced her current operators (CMV) would be chartering the ship. She still currently is very popular and the schedule for next year, 2018/19 firmly has her in there too.
Another success story could be Boudicca and Black Watch for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. Built in the early 1970s for Royal Viking Cruises, they were orginally built for long distance cruises. With their sleek profiles and QE2-esq funnels, they are now considered a dying breed within the cruise industry. They have another sister, Albatros which sails for Phoenix Reisen, a German cruise company. Whilst all three ships have had long careers and with different owners, their appeal to passengers doesn’t seem to waning at all. All three ships have undergone expensive refits and significant upgrades in order for their short to medium term future is secure with their cruise lines. For Fred Olsen, to have the two sister ships is something of a jewel in the crown for them. At just under the 30,000grt ton mark and carrying around 900 passengers, they are an ideal size for a company that prides themselves on cruising to destinations where the larger ships can’t venture to.
To conter-balance the success stories, there has been some recent failure stories too. For instance. the 1961 built Funchal of Portuscale Cruises is now laid up in Lisbon alongside her fleet mate, Porto after the collapse of the cruise line. Both ships have had long careers and again both have been under numerous ownerships. Portuscale had completed an ambitious refurbishement of their four ship fleet in 2013, included Funchal whom shone like a new penny when completed. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any interested buyers in both ships and they now languish, only what appears to be marking time, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Perhaps the most famous of all the classic liners to have had an uncertain future recently has been that of the former Cunard flagship, Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) in Dubai. With all the pomp and ceremony of her departing Southampton in November 2008, she has since been sitting there and what to many assume is gathering dust. Her current owners, Istithmar, in turned owned by Dubai World, would appear are still committed to turning the ship into a floating hotel, museum and conference centre. Her initial stay in Dubai saw her drydocked and repainted and in a state of ‘warm-lay up’ with her engines being turned over. However, things have changed since then and with different people looking after the ship and according to The QE2 Story the ship was taken control by Dubai Dry Docks World and in January 2013 she was briefly dry docked again. There was plans to send QE2 to the Far East as a a floating hotel but these plans have long since folded. 2016 though saw things begin to stir on QE2, with the crew cleaning down the outside of the ship and rightly or wrongly, the ships lifeboats and davits were removed. There does seem to be activity happening but nothing has been announced from her owners again about the future of the ship. So again, a waiting game.
For some, the idea of a cruise on a classic ship is a romantic one. It reminds them of what cruising used to be like in the past. Not everyone wants to travel on an all singing, all dancing, brand new cruise ship. For those that weren’t as keen on the sea, classic cruise ships and liners represented more stablitiy and percieved sea-worthiness. Whilst the new ships are completely safe and comfortable, sailing on a classic ship such as Marco Polo maybe more comfortable in heavy seas as that’s what she was designed for. New cruise ships are designed very much differently from the classic ships of the past and to many are buiilt as ‘floating resorts’ and not as ‘proper ships’. Nonetheless, they provide more activities and accomodation choices than the older ships and are more likely to attract a more diverse market and age group. In an ever changing world, choice is important for the traveller and with modern cruising continuing to grow, more ships are being built which means far greater choice for passengers and thus meaning the days of the older ships are numbered.
With classic ships offering and conveying an air of history and prestige, a drawback is that they are falling foul to the updated Safety Of lives At Sea (SOLAS) regulations which require certain specifications to be met if they are to continue sailing. For some cruise lines and ships, this is far too expensive for them to rectify and thus are almost forced to sell the ships either to other cruise lines or to the scrapyards. Fuel efficiency and awareness for the environment is another factor against classic ships and with more and more cruise lines looking to more environmentally friendly ways to fuel their ships, i.e Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), the chances of classic ships having a long term future becomes more and more bleak as the cost of upgrading their engines and propulsion systems to tackle emissions skyrocket.
Whilst in an ideal world, there should be a mix of both classic and modern ships, the reality of it is that this will soon become a thing of the past. The evolution of the cruise ship will win at the end of the day , so whilst we have the classic ships such as Astoria and Marco Polo, it’s best to enjoy them for as long as possible as it looks increasingly likely that they are entering what would be classified as their ‘final swansong’.