2014 set to be the year of the ‘ultimate getaway’ for British holidaymakers

2014 is set to be the year of the ‘ultimate getaway’ for British travellers, according to research by Norwegian Cruise Line.

The survey, which questioned over 2,000 respondents across the UK, also revealed the habits and preferences of British holidaymakers. The nation’s most unusual requests and quirks include taking tea bags (26.5 percent) and slippers (24 percent), while nearly 6 percent of British women take their childhood teddy in their luggage.

Escaping the British weather is the foremost reason for holidaymakers wanting to ‘get away’, with nearly 40 percent of respondents looking for warmer destinations like the Caribbean.

6 percent of travellers are looking to escape their neighbours, and 1 in 20, or 5 percent, want a break from their partner.

With 2013 having been a year of austerity and more ‘ordinary’ holidays, one in five British holidaymakers, 19.7 percent, are planning a special or big trip abroad this year, and a further 44 percent are planning to ‘get away’ at some point this year.

Other odd travel quirks include the fact that almost one in five (18 percent) of British travellers avoid the number 13 in their seat number, hotel room or floor number, as well as wearing the same outfit every time they travel.

Francis Riley, vice president and general manager, international, at Norwegian Cruise Line, said ‘British holidaymakers appreciate being able to explore new experiences on holidays, however like to have their home comforts and traditions with them as well.

‘Norwegian Cruise Line’s innovative Freestyle Cruising means that every traveller, every family, can enjoy their holiday however they like, with the flexibility to do and see what they want when they want to. Norwegian Getaway offers 28 dining options, along with Broadway shows, exciting excursions and the largest aqua park at sea ensuring that every guest will enjoy an individual holiday that suits them.’

The survey findings coincide with the launch of Norwegian Cruise Line’s latest ship, Norwegian Getaway, this January, travelling year-round from its home-port of Miami to the Caribbean.

Thomson Cruises adds 73 balconies to three ships

Thomson Cruises, part of TUI UK & Ireland and the third largest cruise line in the UK, has announced that three ships in its fleet – Thomson Celebration, Thomson Spirit and Thomson Majesty – will have private balconies added to selected cabins.

Available for booking from November 2014, the private balconies will be on selected cabin types, giving customers the chance to experience fantastic views from the comfort of their own private space.

Thomson Celebration, a part of the Platinum collection, will have 26 balconies added; Thomson Majesty will be provided with 28, and Thomson Spirit will have 19 added.

Customer operations director for Thomson Cruises, Fraser Ellacott, said: ‘The addition of private balconies really takes our offering up a notch, giving customers an even better experience on board our ships. We know that customers want the best of both worlds when it comes to relaxing in their own private cabins as well as getting involved with on-board life in public areas of the ship. A private outside space is really important to many and the investment we are putting into our fleet is clear from this enhancement.’

Thomson Cruises has four ships in its fleet, claiming to offer a more contemporary cruising experience.

Thomson Dream, also part of the Platinum collection, already has six private balconies available for customers to book. The ship will have a new homeport in Montego Bay, Jamaica in November 2014.

Thomson Cruises has won three awards at the 2013 Cruise Critic UK Cruisers’ Choice Awards and Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards, including two awards for Best Entertainment and one for Best Service. Thomson Spirit, Thomson Celebration and Thomson Dream were ranked in the top five for Best Shore Excursions.

Thomson Cruises announces ‘Cruise Kitchen’ menu competition

Thomson Cruises, a UK-based cruise line, has launched a competition for people to demonstrate their culinary skills by preparing a three course dinner fit for the a la carte restaurant, the Grill, on board the Platinum Thomson Dream.

Contestants creating the Cruise Kitchen menu are required to prepare a masterpiece dinner choosing from a range of ingredients and trimmings, deciding on a central element for the dish and the suited cooking style. Entrants are also invited to describe their dishes to make them sound as appetising as possible.

An expert panel will select three finalists from the entries. The finalists will be offered a seven-night cruise on the Thomson Celebration in March 2014, to experience the Colourful Coasts tour of the Canary Islands. On board, the chef will cook up each menu for the ship’s captain, Thomson Cruises director, and Thomson Cruises manager, who will then choose an overall winner.

The lucky winner will win a trip on the Pride of Panama cruise around the Caribbean, sailing on board the Thomson Dream from its new home port, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Their winning menu will also feature in the a la carte restaurant during the cruise.

Fraser Ellacott, customer operations director for Thomson, First Choice and Thomson Cruises, said: ‘We are hoping that this competition will really raise awareness among our customers about how much dining variety we have available on board our ships. From high end a la carte to cooked to order restaurants, we really do have something to suit a range of tastes.

‘The new technology being used to develop this cruise kitchen menu creator is yet another way we are modernising the holiday experience for our customers as well as giving them the chance to really feel part of life on board our ships. The fact that they have the chance to win a trip of a lifetime on board the Pride of Panama itinerary sailing from the Thomson Dream’s new homeport of Montego Bay, Jamaica, is also fantastic and should encourage loads of people to enter.’

The competition will close at 23:59 on January 12, 2014.

A part of TUI UK & Ireland, Thomson Cruises has four ships in its fleet, Thomson Dream, Thomson Celebration Thomson Spirit and Thomson Majesty. Thomson Cruises won three awards at the 2013 Cruise Critic UK Cruisers’ Choice Awards and Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards, including two awards for Best Entertainment and one for Best Service. Thomson Spirit, Thomson Celebration and Thomson Dream were ranked in the top five for Best Shore Excursions.

Royal Caribbean set to launch ‘Anthem of the Seas’

Royal Caribbean, the world’s second-largest cruise line operator, after Carnival Corporation, has unveiled plans for the launch of its giant new musical-themed ‘mega ship’, Anthem of the Seas, which will be based in the UK, The Telegraph has reported.

The announcement was made by radio DJ’s Lauren Laverne and Stuart Maconie at a ‘celebration of music’ event that included a live performance of Robbie Williams’ Angels by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, among other pop and classical ‘anthems’.

The second ‘Quantum-class’ ship from Florida-based Royal Caribbean International, Anthem of the Seas will be based in Southampton following its launch in spring 2015. Starting April, the 4,180-passenger ship will offer summer cruises to the Mediterranean, before moving to its Florida home port of Fort Lauderdale during the winter.

Adam Goldstein, president and CEO at Royal Caribbean International said: ‘Over the last decade we have increased annually the number of cruise opportunities from the Port of Southampton. We are eyeing more growth with the introduction of Anthem of the Seas to the UK market.’

Anthem of the Seas will have a ‘state of the art, edgy’ live music and entertainment focus aimed at younger customers. Venues include the Music Hall, a location for DJ sets and theme nights, and venue Two70-degree, featuring a three-storey bar and offering 270-degree sea views provided by floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

The line’s vice president International, Dominic Paul, said: ‘Capacity in the live venues is around 370 so it’s a pretty intimate setting. It will move us out of traditional cruise industry territory.’

It is not clear whether the musical entertainment will be free or ticketed, and no pricing has been announced. Itineraries are scheduled to go on sale in early 2014.

Anthem joins its sister ship, Quantum of the Seas, which will debut in autumn 2014 and sail out of New York Harbour from its homeport of Cape Liberty.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages to launch river cruises

Ocean cruise specialist Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) is planning to start river cruises in Europe due to rising interest by voyagers.

The planned river cruises on the Rhine and Danube will start in May 2014 using a chartered vessel. CMV will be issuing a 12-page standalone brochure to market the new venture, which will be available for sale through travel agents and will also be available online at www.cruiseandmaritime.com.

Chris Coates, Commercial Director, CMV, said ‘We are entering the European river cruise market next year chartering the stylish Vienna 1 river ship. This premium plus vessel has been operated by a number of luxury river cruise operators in 2013 offering a high level of comfort and decor with most cabins having French balconies.’

He added: ‘CMV are specialists in offering scenic ocean cruise holidays on board smaller sized classic ships providing a leisurely and friendly style of cruising with high levels of customer service. Our on board customer questionnaires indicate that over 80% of our passengers would consider taking a river cruise. We also know that our current cruise programme, that includes many European ports situated on rivers, is already popular. It is therefore a natural progression for CMV to add river cruises to our portfolio.’

The first departure – ‘Magical Rhine’ – will start on May 19 for seven nights from Nuremberg through to Amsterdam. On a ‘Grand European Discovery’ cruise departing May 26 for 14 nights the ship will sail from Amsterdam down to Budapest – cruising the Rhine and Danube.

On June 9, a reversed itinerary will operate between Budapest and Amsterdam. These 14 night itineraries are also available as seven night sectors to/from Nuremberg. Optional pre- and post- cruise city stays are also available in Amsterdam, Prague (from Nuremberg) and Budapest.

Prices start at £1,199 per person for seven nights including flights and transfers, full board cuisine, selected drinks with lunch and dinner, entertainment and a range of half-day excursions. Two week prices start from £1,999pp.

P&O and Cunard discard Vantage Getaway fare structure

Cruise lines P&O Cruises and Cunard have decided to replace the Vantage and Getaway fares with a new fare structure, according to a report by Travel Weekly.

The new fare structure will be effective from November 4, 2013, and will be applicable to cruises from the spring of 2014 onwards. All bookings on Getaway and Vantage fares before November 4 will be honoured, the lines said.

From Monday, 90,000 cabins will be made available on the Early Saver fares across 178 cruises, and a further 100,000 cabins will be available on the premium fares across 200 cruises. The fare is also inclusive of shuttle buses and a choice of one of the following: onboard credit, car parking or coach transfers to Southampton. The two new fares will be available on all cruises indefinitely.

The new fares are introduced as a direct response to agent feedback gathered through the Agent Matters initiative, Chris Truscott, sales and distribution support director for P&O and Cunard, reportedly told Travel Weekly.

Truscott said: ‘Clearly we have cruises between now and spring and we will have Vantage and Getaway fares on them. Past that we will dispense with them in place of the new structure.

‘What we are trying to do is change the new culture of late bookings; this new structure encourages early bookings and it will drive demand in early bookings. Our approach to getting more early bookings with these fares is by offering more variables and more value for agents to be able to use in their favour.

‘The response from agents has been really positive. We have had a webinar with 300 agents and we have talked to a number of agents to inform them of what’s changing. It is very positive.

‘We have listened – and we continue to listen – to feedback from the trade on what we can do to stimulate early bookings.’

Gerard Tempest, Carnival UK chief commercial officer, said: ‘We listened to our travel agents as part of our Agent Matters programme and have developed a fare structure that will allow them more opportunities to convert customers at all booking lead times.

‘Importantly, this initiative will help agents to replace lower-priced late bookings with more profitable earlier-booking business.’

The existing Vantage and Getaway fares will remain available for all cruises departing until the start of the spring 2014 programme. For customers who have already booked on a Vantage or Getaway Fare, the booking terms and conditions will remain the same and Vantage fares will continue to be protected by the price promise, the report said.

Cruise passengers face high medical bills, urged to prioritise medical insurance

According to the consumer magazine Which? Travel, inadequate insurance could cost cruise passengers thousands in medical bills, The Telegraph has reported.

The research by Which? Travel has highlighted the huge bills that can be incurred by cruise travellers who are taken ill during a voyage. The study has reported bills ranging from £154 because of forgotten blood pressure pills, to £2,000 for a case of acute sinusitis.

According to the cruise lines, the charges were in line with UK private medical care, but a spokesperson from AXA said cruise doctors do charge more than the charges in a clinic overseas.

Travel medicine expert, Dr. Richard Dawood, said in The Telegraph: ‘Cruise companies have invested heavily [in facilities]: it is now commonplace to find hospital-grade facilities on board, with resuscitation facilities, laboratory and imaging tests available, a pharmacy and specialist doctors and nurses.

‘Many of the bigger cruise lines are US-owned and land-based care in the US, even for minor problems, can be very expensive and considerably more costly than the average UK passenger would ever expect.’

Cruise lines P&O and Cunard said all of their ships comply with the American College of Emergency Physicians Healthcare Guidelines for Cruise Ship Medical Facilities. However, when asked to reveal their medical costs for basic treatments such as asthma attack or GP consultation, all lines – P&O, Cunard, Fred Olsen and Princess Cruises – barring one, Royal Caribbean, declined, the report noted.

Dr. Dawood said most NHS users were completely ignorant of the real cost of medicines when purchased privately. ‘While most land-based pharmacies can keep costs down by carrying only a narrow stock, to be topped up frequently as new prescriptions require, this is not possible at sea: pharmacies must carry a large stock, catering to the needs of passengers around the world, each item having its own limited shelf life,’

Dr. Dawood added: ‘Although I understand why the costs can be high I would not like to be at the receiving end of any of the horrendous experiences reported in the Which? article, which suggest that some of the companies might be piling on the costs unduly – perhaps in anticipation of the fact that most costs will be recoverable from insurance.’

Cruise passengers will need to ensure that they have adequate medical insurance in place before travelling. ‘Cruisers should note that some companies also offer special policies for cruising holidays, and these may be better value and have a higher age limit than standard travel insurance,’ remarks Telegraph Travel consumer travel expert, Nick Trend.

Travelling with a good medical kit, with an ample supply of any routine medicines, is advisable so that common minor problems can be dealt with by one-self, the report concludes.

Viking Ocean Cruises to set sail in 2015

Viking Ocean Cruises has launched in Britain with its first ocean cruise to set sail in May 2015.

The company’s new ship, Viking Star, is to undertake a 15-day maiden voyage sailing from Stockholm to Bergen, and call at St Petersburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallinn, Gdansk, Berlin, Aalborg, Stavanger and Flam.

‘We are thrilled to be launching Viking Ocean Cruises. It’s a great product that has wide-reaching appeal for cruisers and non-cruisers alike and we are certainly anticipating high demand,’ Travel Weekly has quoted Neil Barclay, head of sales at Viking Cruises UK, as saying.

‘We recognise how important the trade is to us and as such we remain committed to offering competitive commissions and support in training on our new product,’ he added.

The new ship carries 930-passengers, all in veranda rooms. It has a main pool, an infinity pool, where passengers can swim in a glass-backed pool at the ships stern, a spa, a three-deck atrium and several dining options. It will also feature 14 Explorer Suites, which are two room-suites with wrap-around verandas. The ship has been designed to be environmentally friendly, utilising solar panels for some of its power and with an energy-efficient hull design and engines.

Viking, best known until now for its river cruises, announced the launch of its new ocean-cruise programme in May this year, when it promoted the service to the US market.

Wendy Atkin-Smith, managing director at Viking Cruises UK was quoted by the Telegraph, saying, ‘The reaction from the US has been fantastic and due to the high demand we have announced additional itineraries for 2015 and 2016. Our state-of-the-art Viking Longships have revolutionised the river-cruise experience and we intend to [do the same] with ocean cruising.’

Bookings for the Viking Ocean Cruises itinerary have gone on sale in Britain. Prices start from GBP2,999, and an early booking discount of GBP50 per person applies until December 31.

P&O Cruises unveils its new ‘Britannia’ cruise ship

P&O Cruises has unveiled the UK’s biggest-ever cruise ship, named Britannia in honour of the brand’s strong British heritage, according to reports in the Telegraph and Independent.

The eighth ship in the P&O fleet, the £500 million-build vessel will begin sailing in March 2015, with Paul Brown as the ship’s captain.

According to the cruise line, Britannia will ‘capture both the contemporary spirit of P&O Cruises and the spirit of Britain today.’

David Dingle, the chief executive officer for P&O Cruises and Carnival UK, said: ‘Britannia is a most fitting name for the newest addition to P&O Cruises, which, with its long and famous heritage, remains Britain’s favourite cruise line. Today’s Britain is a place of increasing style and sophistication, optimism and excitement. Britannia will reflect that feeling and will mark a new era of growth and success for the cruise industry.’

The new ship will feature 13 Bars, 13 restaurants and cafes, 15 passenger decks and four swimming pools. Britannia will also feature a newly designed hull that is expected to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent.

‘The ship will be our greenest yet and will be designed to deliver much greater levels of operational and environmental efficiency,’ said Dingle, adding: ‘The ship will incorporate the ‘best of the best’ from previous builds including the popular front-facing Crow’s Nest bar and more outlets echoing the popular Glass House concept [on board the luxury liner Azura].’

The 1,082ft long ship, weighing 141,000 tonnes, will sail in and out of Southampton and cruise the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, occasionally cross the Atlantic and visit the Caribbean in winter. The full itinerary is yet to be decided.

The 3,600-passenger ship will increase the cruise line’s capacity by 24 percent, representing a further expansion to the P&O Cruises portfolio. ‘In the grand scheme of things cruise is still a fledgling sector and accounts for a very small portion of the global holiday market,’ Dingle said, adding: ‘I am confident we will fill all eight ships.’

Norwegian Cruise launches ‘Norwegians Love Destinations’ campaign in the UK

Norwegian Cruise Line has launched its latest Partners First initiative, ‘Norwegians Love Destinations’, in the UK.

The campaign will showcase a different destination each month between August and December, highlighting the products and providing agents with insight and information to help them to sell cruise destinations to customers. The campaign also offers participating agents a chance to win destination themed prizes.

In August the focus will be on Alaska & Seattle’s offerings, and Norwegian hosted a special Partners First Webinar on August 13. Agents can watch a recording of the webinar at www.ncl.co.uk/agents/partners-first/gallery. They can also sign up to future destination webinars at www.ncl.co.uk/agents/partners-first.

The ‘Norwegians Love Destinations’ campaign is launched in partnership with destinations including Alaska & Seattle, Baltics, New York City, Tampa, New Orleans, and Spain. Agents can find destination information, links to destination websites and downloadable destination fact sheets by visiting www.ncl.co.uk/agents/destinations. Agents will also receive a special mailbag on August 22, delivered directly to their place of business with a dedicated Alaska brochure, Alaska & Seattle fact sheets and the latest Partners First Newsletter.

Nick Wilkinson, director of business development at Norwegian Cruise Line said: ‘Our Partners First philosophy puts the trade at the heart of everything we do, and this campaign builds on our on-going commitment to helping agents in getting their cruise bookings rolling. We recognise that – when selling cruise – knowledge of the destination is vital, and the educational element of ‘Norwegians Love Destinations’ activity is designed to provide this knowledge.’

In addition to the educational aspect of the ‘Norwegians Love Destinations’ campaign, agents will have the chance to win a range of prizes by taking part in the monthly Destinations Competition. To participate in the competition, agents need to visit the promotion website where the competition information will be uploaded each month. The prizes on offer in August include an Alaska & Seattle goodie bag, which includes an Alaskan recipe book, a Starbucks hamper and a pair of Olympus binoculars.

The campaign and competition is only available to travel agents in the UK & Ireland.