For a start, space is at a premium, even on the largest cruise ship. What percentage of on board passengers on any given cruise even know where the damned gym is, anyway?

But, let’s get really serious here, folks. There are numerous reasons why the gymnasium should be banned at sea. Here, I propose to outline just five of those….


That’s right. They don’t. And, when you consider just how much acute physical effort is required just to climb in and out of an actual hammock, never mind to rock one from side to side, then you realise what a serious omission that humble hammock is from any gymnasium. See, gyms are dumb.


Consider how important your morning Jacuzzi Aerobic workout is to you for a moment, as you bend, lift, stretch and rotate to pick up that all important, third Margarita. So you’d think that an internal Jacuzzi in every gymnasium would make sense. But apparently not. So, no. Like, duh….


Ship board gymnasiums often occupy prime slices of on board real estate. Many of them look out over the bows from the very top deck. Light and air is there for all and yes, the views of the sunset are amazing from up there. But can you get a decent Martini? Hell, no.

Instead, they ‘offer’ water, juices, shakes, and other hideous libations, many of them secreted from Satan’s own, personal sweat glands. God, I haven’t ever even seen a decent cocktail list in any gym, let alone enjoyed one. Nasty.


With my own eyes, I have seen clinically obese people walk the length of a ship’s upper deck, often four or five times in succession, just to help themselves to food from the on board lunchtime buffet. Clearly, this form of casual, ‘up and down’ promenading to the dessert display and back is all the exercise that these people feel that they need. So, why bother with a gym at all, eh?

Perhaps gyms could combat this by creating a ‘virtual buffet’ that plays out on the screens in front of each exercise bike and treadmill? The harder and/or faster that someone pedals toward the imaginary food, the more vouchers they earn towards a free burger and diet coke, or eight. It’s called ‘joined up thinking’, people. Jeez……


Oh, the soundtrack of a modern, seagoing gym. The grunts. The groans, The agonised screams, the gasps, and the pleas for God to help them. Why not take out all of this hard work, and just watch the Eurovision Song Contest if you really need to hear the most terrible cacophony of human anguish this side of an Inquisition dungeon? And, make no mistake, many cruise ship gymnasiums could double up for those, too.

Here, I rest my case. Mainly because I’m too damned lazy to actually carry the damned thing…….


The Silver Whisper

Silversea has just announced details of an enhanced, more extensive dry dock than was originally planned for it’s 28,000 ton, 382 guest Silver Whisper.

The ship will undergo the work at Grand Bahama Shipyard on December 8th-19 this year, in order to bring her into some sort of decorative synch with new fleet flagship, Silver Muse. These enhancements will be fully rounded out for the start of the vessel’s full 2019 world cruise.

In addition to the originally intended buffing and nip tucks, nine of the ship’s original terrace suites on Deck Five will receive full balconies, as well as a fully interactive, forty inch television screen. Their bathrooms will also be refreshed with polished granite surfaces and counter tops.

Elsewhere, the main restaurant will undergo a complete refurbishment, while new carpeting will refresh the casino, the main theatre, and most public corridor areas. Both La Dame and the Relais et Chateaux dining rooms will receive new carpeting, bespoke drapes for the windows, and polished wooden floors.

Health wise, both the gym and the on board Zagara Spa will boast new equipment and holistic enhancements in order to further optimise quality leisure time when the ship is actually at sea.

And, to facilitate landings on some of the Antarctic destinations due to be visited on the second world cruise scheduled for 2020, a space will be created outside for a new crane, as well as a brace or more of Zodiac launches for up close and personal expedition adventuring.


Vasco da Gama in her current livery as the Pacific Eden

The people have spoken. In a poll conducted with the line’s loyal Columbus Club passengers and valued travel trade partners, some forty six per cent of Cruise and Maritime’s voters elected to rename the ship as Vasco da Gama, in honour of the illustrious Portuguese explorer.

Currently still sailing for P&O Australia as the Pacific Eden, the 55,000 ton ship- which originally started life as the Statendam in 1994-will be delivered to Cruise and Maritime Voyages at Singapore in April of 2019.

After rebranding, the ship will depart from Singapore on April 29th, on a forty six day delivery voyage that will carry passengers through South East Asia, around the highlights of the Indian sub continent, the Suez Canal, and finally the Mediterranean, before the ship is showcased at a series of trade and media events in London Tilbury, Amsterdam, and Bremerhaven. From there, the Vasco da Gama will begin her inaugural summer season of cruises.

In summer and autumn, Vasco da Gama will operate in the German market, sailing from both Bremerhaven and Kiel. During winter, she will redeploy to Australia to operate cruises ‘down under’ at the height of the summer season, before returning to Europe in late spring.

Details of the ship’s forthcoming maiden voyage for CMV will be announced in May. Stay tuned for details.


The Silver Whisper epitomises seagoing luxury

While copy writing hyperbole seems to run rampant these days, and so many statements simply go unchallenged, I have to call stop on the over use, nay abuse, of the word ‘luxury’…..

As a term, it’s the new ‘iconic’; a threadbare catch all that actually dilutes the true essence of what it was originally intended to convey. And it’s running rampant, like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

So. Yes, whoa there……

While I would say that the London Ritz is certainly luxury, I would equally attest that an Easter Egg, however mountainous, most certainly is not. Yes, that’s right, folks; a ‘luxury’ Easter Egg….

Nor can I get overly excited about ‘luxury’ bath soap. I get that bath products can be very pleasant and extremely enjoyable, but ‘luxury’? Please God, make it stop.

It goes on and on. We have ‘luxury’ chocolate bars, ‘luxury’ toilet rolls, ‘luxury’ clothes and furnishings. If ever there was imminent danger of a word being hyped out of it’s true definition, then this one is surely it.

And yes, luxury is a very personal thing. Being generic in the largest sense, I would argue that ‘luxury’ is a combination of ease, space, sublime service, and elegant fixtures. Take any one of these out of the equation, and you dilute the overall level of luxe. It’s a bit like somebody trying to pass off Lambrini as Lanson Black Label.

A suite on a  six star cruise ship is certainly luxurious; a bowl of bespoke toffee sweets- however nicely wrapped- is not.

OK, rant over. What do YOU think?


Marella Explorer 2, coming in 2019. Photo credit: Marella Cruises

The ship, built as the Century in 1995, was the first ship in a luxury trio designed and built for the upscale Celebrity Cruise Line. She is currently sailing as the SkySea Golden Era, a one off ship for Royal Caribbean’s Chinese affiliate line, SkySea Cruises.

The Chinese operation will now be wound down.

The ship will transfer over to join Marella Cruises in April, 2019, as the Marella Explorer 2. She will sail as an adult only, all inclusive product. There she will rejoin former sister ship, Galaxy, which will begin sailing this  coming summer as Marella Explorer.

Home ported in Naples, the ship will accommodate some 1,814 passengers in 907 suites and cabins. Around forty per cent of her accommodation will feature private balconies.

While much of the ship’s operation will complement that of her sister ship, there will be some interesting tweaks for ME2 (let’s hope that is a designation that never catches on, by the way).

Amongst them will be a vast new Royal Suite, with separate bedroom and dressing rooms, plus a separate dining area and a whirlpool bath. In terms of general passenger spaces, The Veranda- a much touted outdoor drinking and lounging area that has gained much attention on the first ship- will be doubled in size for the 2019 addition.

Itineraries will be on sale as of April 5th, 2018.

Built as the first true premium luxury large ship back in 1995, the 70,000 ton Century marked the beginning of a  rapid expansion, both for parent company, Celebrity Cruises, and indeed for the entire industry as a whole. Sister ships Galaxy (1996) and Mercury (1997) rounded out what was  then regarded as the most opulent and best served luxury trio of vessels afloat anywhere/


Often, beauty is in the eye of the beholder….

In the sea of iniquity we refer to as life, the Margarita is truly one of God’s most unsung little helpers. It soothes away our aches and pains, together with all memories of the weapons grade quarter wits that so many of us are obliged to deal with on a daily basis. It is, indeed, a truly miraculous creation.

And, when we are on holiday, what else do we turn to for sustenance and enlightenment, if not the Holy Margarita? Indeed, the Margarita is a drink for all seasons, and for even more reasons.

But, how do I get the best out of my Margarita, I hear you cry? Fear not; help is at hand. Here, in simple and succint language, is your perfect guide to enjoying the Mark One Margarita.

(Please note that this instruction manual is also valid when applied to the Mark One Strawberry Daiquiri, the Mark One Harvey Wallbanger, and certain kinds of Californian White Zinfandel)

Please note that these remarks apply only to Margaritas consumed aboard cruise ships, and not those abused on dry land. I am sorry, but even I cannot be everywhere.

  1. Firstly, be aware that the Margarita can be enjoyed at any time of every day. For, as the great prophet, Saint Jimmy of Buffet doth tell us, it is always five o’clock somewhere. So, if you’re in the Caribbean and you fancy a cheeky ‘Rita at eight in the morning, just remember that it is already five o’clock in the Bay of Bengal…
  2. Location is everything. The true aficionado should seek out a location near to the buffet, the pool, and the bathroom, in order to minimise the amount of walking/staggering time that they will have to do later. This might be more important that you think after that third Margarita….
  3. When ordering a Margarita on a ship, you should never ask for it ‘on the rocks’. It’s just plain bad etiquette. When your bartender asks you how you would like your Margarita, the correct response is ‘quickly’.
  4. Now, find a sun lounger with the back rest angled to around thirty five degrees, and then make yourself comfortable. Then, take a baggage label withe your name and cabin number written on it in clear letters and digits, and attach it to your right wrist. This will be of enormous assistance to the poor deck stewards that have to pour you back into the boggy lair that constitutes your cabin at some God awful hour.
  5. Worried about Mosquito bites? Don’t be. After your third Margarita, your blood stream will be about ninety per cent tequila. Any ‘mozzy’ stupid enough to bite you will either die of alcohol poisoning, or else hit the sea like an out of control kamikaze. It’s a kind of pest control and, also, a service to your fellow passengers. Cheers!
  6. The Mark One Margarita should be held at the stem, and then tilted backwards until the straw makes contact with the mouth. Which should be open. Tilt the glass gently up and down to ensure a free flowing connection between straw and mouth.
  7. After a while, you may begin to hear the sound of reggae music. Even if none is actually being played anywhere near within earshot at the time. It is perfectly acceptable to tap your fingers to the imaginary beat, while always remembering to mouth the word shabba at periodic intervals. It’s a form of public entertainment that your fellow passengers will be delighted and amazed to behold…..
  8. While the above may be enough to make the blue rinsed Matriach docked next to you spit out her teeth in shock, it will also stop her from sinking those same, gravestone sized gnashers into that flying saucer of a burger that she was about to devour. Hurrah! You have helped lower her cholesterol levels, even if it is a bit too late for the poor old cow. The one on the plate, that is….
  9. In the event of flow interruption, please check your chosen drink receptacle. Is it empty? If so, simply cry loudly. Outright wailing is acceptable if there are less than thirty people within normal earshot range. With any luck, your trusty bartender will come to your rescue quicker than a Kangaroo down an Australian coal mine. What’s that. Skippy? We need more limes?

Just repeat these simple, elementary steps until you pass out. In the morning, you may awake in your beautiful, seagoing boudoir, liberally refreshed, and safe in the knowledge that, as Saint Vivien of Leigh would say, today is, indeed, another day. And, of course, vodka is an acceptable substitute for milk on your breakfast corn flakes. Onward and upwards!


Always be aware of the opening times of your favourite bar. Be discreet. It is considered unseemly to be seen hammering on the cabin door of your favourite bartender at six in the morning, wailing and crying because he/she will not get out of bed to make you a Margarita. A polite phone call might be in order first. Better still, why not bring them some coffee and, perhaps, croissants along with the cocktail shaker? Good manners cost nothing, after all.

And, when said bartender decides to call it a day after a fourteen hour shift, do not threaten to throw yourself overboard the moment that he/she decides to pull down the shutters for the evening. Have some dignity and consideration. Or simply pour yourself into another bar…..

Always remember that, like fluffy little kittens and cute little puppies, a Margarita is not just for Christmas, either. Plus, you’ll have less trouble shoving a lime into a Margarita, and you’ll end up with nothing like so many of those pesky scratch marks, either.

So, there you have it. Simple, really. Bottoms up, though-again-perhaps not best to say this on a cruise ship that isn’t the Poseidon. Enjoy!




Newly returned to Southampton today after a stellar season in South Africa and the Indian Ocean, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ elegant Boudicca is in line for some St. Patrick’s Day cheer of her own, in the shape of a twelve day remodelling at the famous Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany.

As of now, the ship is due to re-enter service on a five night ‘Mystery Cruise’ scheduled to sail from Dover on March 29th. Which gives Blohm and Voss between ten and twelve days to carry through some quite substantive internal surgery on the legendary, 1973 built former Royal Viking stalwart.

The work includes:

  • Removing the current Morning Light pub from it’s current position to a new position, near the port side of the Secret Garden cafe
  • The Heligan Room will be transformed into the Indian Ocean dining room, and will boast a smilar style and ambience to the Orchid Room currently found aboard sister ship, Black Watch
  • A new ‘Oriental Tea Room’ will be created in the space vacated by the Morning Light pub, and this will offer up exotic teas and treats in a style reminiscent of the Far East of ancient lore
  • The entire Guest Services area on Deck Five, which encompasses the reception and shore excursion desks and shops, will be remodelled in a style that provides a more efficient and enjoyable environment for passengers
  • Perhaps most importantly, all 462 suites and cabins aboard Boudicca will be stripped, then refurbished with brand new carpets, soft furnishings and new lighting, as well as new safes, fridges, and an interactive TV system. In addition, all balcony suites and cabins will receive new balcony furniture right across the board.

On the technical side, routine engineering and overhaul work will be carried through, and the ship will be completely repainted. There is also the possibility of some new furniture for the ship’s outdoor decks.

The multi million pound upgrading of this already handsome ship brings Fred. Olsens’ ambitious, expensive and expansive four ship fleet renewal plan to its apex. I, for one, look forward to seeing the ‘new’, freshly powdered Boudicca when she re-emerges in early spring.


MSC Armonia

In a deft little touch, MSC Cruises has added Miami to the list of ports to be sued for embarkation on the Cuba cruises operated by MSC Armonia, effective as of December 10th this year.

A Monday embarkation in the Florida port gives passengers the possibility of a seven night round trip cruise with calls at Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, before a Saturday arrival into Havana for an overnight stay in the famed Cuban capital.

The Miami option is in addition to the current, banner embarkation ports at Montego Bay and, of course, Havana itself. The relative abundance (and price) of air lift into the Florida port from Europe should prove to be a real shot in the arm for MSC’s Cuba operation overall.

MSC Armonia was originally built in 2001as the European Vision at Chantiers shipyard at St. Nazaire for the now defunct Festival Cruises. She was acquired by MSC in 2004, and was lengthened in 2014 with the addition of a new mid section. Even so, she remains a smaller, far more intimate version of the MSC seagoing experience.

MSC Armonia will share the port of Miami with her much larger fleet mates, the Caribbean bound MSC Seaside and MSC Divina. Despite offering much of the same, Mediterranean inspired life style as those larger ships, the MSC Armonia does so in a much more intimate setting.

With the addition of Miami as an embarkation port for the sizzling, salsa fuelled Cuban cruise run, I expect this charming, tasteful ship to be a big success in her revamped role.



In the early morning hours of May 27th, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck was in dire straits in the Atlantic. With her steering gear jammed beyond repair and a vast, avenging armada of British warships closing in for the kill, it was obvious to most on board that the battleship would not see another sunset.

A flurry of last signals was exchanged between the doomed monster and Berlin. The last of these was simple, urgent, and straight to the point:


Admiral Gunther Lutjens clearly wanted his actions to be dispassionately dissected for posterity. He knew that several of the key decisions he had made over the last few days would arouse controversy, and he obviously wanted his thinking to be understood by later generations.

Of course, no U-Boat came. It was way too late for that. But it did make me wonder- why was no attempt made to save the log book from the Titanic?

Think about it; Titanic was in a similar state of terminal duress as Bismarck. But she was not being torn apart by torpedoes and shellfire. Instead, Titanic sank slowly but steadily on a flat calm ocean. Almost every one of her twenty lifeboats was lowered safely, if sporadically.

Of the seven principal deck officers on the Titanic, three of them- namely Pitman, Boxhall and Lowe- were ordered away to take command of individual boats. It seems damned nigh incredible that not one of them was told to take the ship’s log, or even the regularly updated scrap log, to safety. And it would have been so easy to do.

Speculating as to why this wasn’t done gets us nowhere. To use another Bismarck analogy, it leaves us sailing helplessly in circles. For sure, Captain Smith seemed to lose the plot in those last hours, and with little wonder. He knew that his great command was sinking, and that at least a thousand people would freeze to death in the ocean a full two hours before the first responsive rescue ship, the Carpathia, could arrive. And, as the captain, he would ultimately be blamed for that loss of life.

That knowledge alone would have short circuited most people, and the likely prospect of imminent death must have hung round poor Smith like a millstone. Few men could have remained cogent and decisive in the face of such an awesome denouement.

So what about the other officers? We know that Murdoch, Lightoller and Moody- with occasional help from Wilde- were so busy loading and lowering the boats that they were sweating profusely, despite the near Arctic conditions that prevailed on those sloping decks. Probably none of them ever gave saving the log book a passing thought. And, in the final analysis, it would have been Captain Smith’s decision to make, in any event.

What about Thomas Andrews and J. Bruce Ismay? Architect and owner respectively, they might surely have prevailed over Smith with a view to saving the ship’s log? And Andrews, of all people, would surely have wanted some kind of posthumous validation for the ship that he had laboured so hard and long on?

Simply put, I think that both Andrews and Ismay endured a similar kind of nervous breakdown as did Captain Smith. All three men were aware of the desperate shortage of lifeboats on the Titanic, and the even shorter time span left to fill those actually carried on board. Both Andrews and Ismay directed their efforts towards saving as many lives as they could. We know that as a documented fact. Indeed, Ismay’s efforts were so near to hysteria at one stage that he was publicly bawled out by Fifth Officer Lowe.

But, while Ismay contrived to save himself, Andrews went down with the ship. Even so, I think that saving the ship’s log book would be the last thing on the White Star chairman’s mind.

Might it have been incriminating? Would the contents of that log have been compromising to a man already shattered by disaster, and soon to be held to account in public on both sides of the Atlantic? Would the contents of that log have wrecked Ismay just as surely as the iceberg wrecked the Titanic herself?

What we do know is that Ismay was on board as an ‘ordinary passenger’ (his own words) for the maiden voyage. The fact that he was the Chairman of the White Star Line was purely a coincidence.

But for an ordinary passenger to summon the chief engineer to his cabin while the ship was at Queenstown, and then tell him the speeds that he wanted to see the Titanic ran for during her crossing, goes way beyond the remit of any ‘ordinary passenger’. In effect, Ismay was usurping the authority of his own captain, a man who was the senior commodore of the entire White Star Line.

Nor are ordinary passengers usually allowed to look at messages concerning potential navigation hazards- in this case, a pair of telegrams containing warnings of ice- let alone to retain them in their personal possession for several hours. Yet Ismay did just that, on that fateful afternoon of April 14th.

Of course, we’ll never know. Both the log book and the regularly updated scrap book, went to the bottom with the ship. And there they remain to this day.

I’m not writing this in a spirit of censure or condemnation. None of us will ever find ourselves in the same awful position as these men did on that cold April night in 1912. And anyone can second guess from behind the comfortable barrier of a more than century old controversy.

But I am genuinely curious about this, and I would love to know what other people think. So, if anyone out there can shed some light on this, then I’d most certainly be grateful for your input….


The elegant Boudicca

The recently released Fred. Olsen Cruise Line brochure for 209/20 is one of the most extensive that the line has ever produced. And, very noticeable for 2019 is the number of five night cruises- ‘Five Freds’ if you will- being offered by all four cruise ships across the fleet.

Five nights is just about the right amount of time to get to ‘know’ a new ship, or to get reacquainted with an old one. And the really clever part is all of them sail, round trip, from UK ports. No airports equals less hassle.

And many of these cruises offer overnight stays, too, in cities such as Antwerp, Amsterdam, and historic Rouen. Plus, being time sensitive, they don’t eat too much into either the holiday time or budget.

It’s a popular little series of trips that has been expanded to a total of nine departures for 2019, including regional departures from Rosyth (for Edinburgh), Liverpool, Newcastle Tyne, Dover and Southampton.

Here’s a quick summary of the departure dates, ships, ports and destinations. All cruises listed here are complete, five night round trips.

The 24,000 ton, 929 guest Braemar offers two departures:

1/5/19: Southampton to Amsterdam (overnight) and Antwerp (overnight)

22/8/19: Southampton to Antwerp (overnight) and Amsterdam.

The 28,000 ton, 804 guest Black Watch offers a brace of identical cruises from Liverpool:

24/5/19: Liverpool to Greenock, Tobermory and Kirkwall. This same itinerary is repeated on 21/8/19.

The fleet flagship, the 43,000 ton, 1,350 guest Balmoral, offers no less than four departures- nearly half of the total across the 2019 calendar. These are:

23/5/19: Newcastle to Bergen and Eidfjord, Norway. This itinerary repeats again from Newcastle on  23/8/19.

1/8/19: Rosyth (Edinburgh) to Lerwick and Kirkwall (overnight)

19/10/19: Dover to Rouen (overnight) and Honfleur (overnight)

Last, but by no means least, the stately 28,000 ton, 880 guest Boudicca offers a single departure;

23/8/19: Dover to Honfleur and Rouen (Two nights in port)

One, maybe even two, of these short continental breaks will show you more of Europe than many people get to see over a lifetime. Lovely stuff.