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Cruise companies are updating, upgrading and upscaling

MF Endeavour

 Cruising expert John Pond provides readers with the latest information on how to dress, what to do, and where to go on your next cruising holiday.

PRINCESS CRUISES

Princess Cruises has opened its 2014 Europe cruise season for sale, including the debut of Regal Princess which will set sail on its inaugural cruise in June from Venice.

In total, five ships – including the line’s two newest vessels – will sail on a variety of cruise itineraries throughout the Mediterranean and Northern Europe next year.

A sister ship to the upcoming Royal Princess, Regal Princess, will debut on June 2, 2014 with a seven-day inaugural voyage from Venice to Barcelona including calls in Kotor in Montenegro, Rome, Florence/Pisa, and Toulon in France, for Provence.

The ship will then sail on a 10-day Mediterranean & Aegean cruise, followed by a season of Princess’ signature Grand Mediterranean cruises, with two itinerary choices.

SHARON STONE GODMOTHER TO APT’S AMAVIDA

APT-AmaWaterways’ 106-passenger AmaVida, which will cruise the Duoro River in Portugal, was christened by actress-producer-philanthropist Sharon Stone recently.

AmaVida has been specifically designed for the Duoro River. It hosts 108 guests, offers the choice of six suite styles and is 79 metres long.

APT now has a fleet of 11 ships cruising European rivers this year.

General manager marketing, Debra Fox, says the company is offering three dedicated AmaVida itineraries for Australian passengers, with the full range of options. An eight-day cruise sector is common to all.

CUNARD LINE DRESS UP

Cunard has renewed its commitment to the joy of dressing up onboard ‘The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World’ with an update to its dress codes, while at the same time encouraging the loosening of ties on its less formal nights.

Research with existing passengers and luxury travellers has led Cunard to strengthen the line’s commitment to special occasion dressing three times a week on its transatlantic crossings and twice each week on sailings to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and beyond.

However, in response to growing travel trends, Cunard is adjusting its advice on dress codes for other nights.

The result – along with two or three formal nights each week, there will be four  or five informal evenings where jackets are required but ties will now become  optional, heightening the sense of anticipation for formal nights even more.

MSC NEW SHIP

The much anticipated recently of the MSC Preziosa will push MSC Cruises into the world’s third spot for passenger capacity.

It will be the first time the family-owned cruise line has reached such a high position, closing in on first and second placeholders Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean International with an annual capacity of 1.45 million guests across its 12 ships.

“We see it as a very significant milestone,” says Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.

CAPTAIN COOK CRUISES FIJI

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji has partnered with Shaolin Temple Europe, so  passengers can nourish their body and soul while cruising the beautiful islands of Fiji on all three, four and seven-night cruises departing between 19 October to 30 November, 2013.

The classes will be integrated into the regular cruise itinerary which includes village and school visits, handicraft markets, swimming, snorkelling, diving and sevusevu ceremonies, Meke and Lovo feasts.

A monk will be on board the MV Reef Endeavour teaching passengers an introduction to Kung Fu, Meditation, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.

Two sessions per cruise are included in the price of the cruise and any additional lessons are priced from A$30.00 per hour for group classes (beginners/advanced) and from A$65.00 per hour for personal training (beginners/advanced).

Oceania Marina Promises to be a Firm Favourite in Australia

According to The Retiree Magazine’s cruising writer John Pond, ships just keep getting better and better, and the newly launched Oceania Marina is not disappointing.

Launched last year, Oceania Marina visited Sydney recently and I was there to inspect the ship and enjoy some of the fine food offered onboard.

Oceania is an upscale shipping line not well known to most Australians, but one, I feel, is sure to become a firm favourite once the word spreads.

Oceania Cruises was formed in 2002 by luxury cruise industry veterans Joe Watters and Frank Del Rio. Oceania Cruises is said to be the world’s largest upscale cruise line, they have five luxurious ships that allow passengers to explore the world in style and comfort.

While larger than others in the fleet, Regatta (also launched last year), Insignia and Nautica, Marina uses the additional space for even more amenities.

Guests experience what is described as the “finest cuisine at sea” in six restaurants, including two new gourmet venues; Jacques, named after the famous Michelin starred chef, in which I had the pleasure of dining, and Red Ginger that offers Asian fusion dishes.

There is no additional charge for most of the alternate restaurants. The Terrace Grill is the ship’s casual restaurant, which also offers alfresco dining.

Dress throughout the ship is generally country club casual.

There are no formal nights.

Her Yacht Club restaurant holds wine and food pairings at an additional cost of around $90 with premium wines. This seems great value, considering the quality of wine served. For special coffees and snacks, there is the  complimentary Biscottos Coffee Bar.

The new Bon Appétit Culinary Center offers hands-on cooking instruction under the guidance of master chefs for around $30 for the course. Similarly, artists-in-residence teach fine arts in The Studio, a new enrichment centre.

Oceana Marina is a ship I would love to sail on and I will report more on her in the future.

Oceania Marina Specifications

Guest Capacity        1,258 (Double Occupancy)
Tonnage                     66,000
Builder                          Fincantieri; Sestre Ponente, Italy
Length 782 feet
Width  105 feet
Draft 24 feet
Cruising Speed  20 knots
Propulsion Diesel Electric, 2 controllable pitch propeller
Restaurants  6 Open Seating Restaurants
Accommodations 629 Guest Staterooms and Suites:
3 Owner’s Suites
8 Vista Suites
12 Oceania Suites
124 Penthouse Suites
200 Concierge Staterooms
244 Veranda Staterooms
20 Oceanview Staterooms
18 Inside Staterooms

River Cruising is an intimate and luxurious experience

John Mollinaro, general manager of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, has been in the cruise business for 37 years. He was born and raised in Los Angeles California and has called Australia home for nearly ten years. In that time, he tells John Pond, he has seen the river cruise  industry blossom and appeal to travellers who are looking for something completely different.

What does it mean to head up Uniworld’s operation in Australia?

Launching a brand that is so recognised globally for its service and product has been a great thrill. It’s obvious, whether you’re in our Sydney office or international offices, that everyone who is tied to Uniworld is incredibly proud of what we deliver. Despite being the most awarded cruise company, we’re always looking at ways to improve our guests experience and next year we’re introducing all-inclusive fares providing extraordinary value.

Tell us more about River Ship Cruising.

Our vessels have an average of 130 guests so there’s a level of intimacy and personalised hospitality that you won’t find on large ships.

What sets Uniworld apart from other River Ship operators?

There’s nothing else like Uniworld out there. We offer a completely different level of luxury and service and all of the elements that make up our product from the service, cuisine, design and overall experience have been recognised with awards.

Our partnership with sister company Red Carnation Hotels – a collection of  five-star boutique hotels – means we’ve been able to create a boutique hotel experience onboard our ships.

All of our vessels are lavishly appointed and our staff are trained with the philosophy ‘No request too large, no detail too small’.

Guests regularly tell me that they can feel this difference from the moment they step onboard.

What are the most popular river cruises with Australians?

Our European voyages on the Rhine Moselle and Danube are perennially popular and we’re sure our new itineraries will be just as appealing.

This year, we’ve become the first major river cruise line to offer a five-star river cruise experience along the Venice Lagoon and the Po River and in 2014 we’re introducing itineraries in Bordeaux, France.

Are your itineraries suitable for the over 50s?

They certainly are. For active guests we have complimentary bikes and Nordic walking sticks and as part of the Go Active Program our staff can recommend the best places to cycle along river paths or through a neighbouring village.

For our guests who prefer a more relaxed pace we offer gentle walking tours in select cities that allow more time to linger in a shop, cathedral or museum.

What sort of dining experience can one expect onboard?

A very personalised one – you can expect our bartenders and waiters to know your preferences after the first day.

All our chefs benefit from the influence of our founder and President Beatrice Tollman and Global Master Chef Bernhard Zorn as well as the cuisine of the destination you’re visiting.

When you meander through local farmers’ markets you may run into our chefs who use fresh, sourced ingredients throughout the journey.

What are some of the services available onboard?

Internet and Wi-Fi access onboard, in-stateroom Infotainment, signature lectures and well-equipped fitness centre and exercise classes are all complimentary.

Thank you John. I have had the pleasure of cruising on Uniworld, and must say it has sold me on rivercruising. The experience was faultless.

“When you meander through local farmers’ markets you may run into our chefs who use fresh, sourced ingredients throughout the journey.”
John Mollinaro

PIC_Uniworld_S.S Antoinette