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The Prinsendam is one of Holland America’s most enduring and popular vessels

Stories are circulating that Holland America Line’s Prinsendam, the company’s popular ‘Elegant Explorer’,  will be sold to the German cruise operator, Phoenix Seereisen.

If true, it would re-unite the 1989 built ship with her former RVL fleet mate, Albatross, ex Royal Viking Sea.

The Prinsendam, originally built as the Royal Viking Sun,  was the largest ship ever built for the Royal Viking Line from scratch, as well as the last. And she may well now be surplus to the Carnival Group’s overall portfolio. Carnival CEO, Arnold Donald, is on record as saying that any ship of less than 70,000 GRT is likely to be sold in the next few years and, at around 38,000 tons, the Prinsendam as is would certainly fit in that planning.

For sure, the Prinsendam was at one time highly coveted by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, and indeed she would still be a great fit with that company’s own duo of former RVL veterans, now sailing as Boudicca and Black Watch. but the smart money seems to be on the German operator, for now at least.

The Royal Viking Sun had a short stint at RVL, before that legendary company was wound up and the ship went firstly to Cunard, and then to Seabourn as the Seabourn Sun. Since her transfer to the Dutch brand in 2002, the restyled Prinsendam has offered longer, more destination intensive cruises, for which her intimate size and capacity-currently around 836 passengers-makes her a perfect choice.

Recently, Holland America Line sidelined two of its four, 50,000 ton Statendam class ships off to P&O Australia. In turn, one of these will now transition over to Cruise and Maritime Voyages next April. That leaves HAL as it currently stands with the two remaining ships in the class- Maasdam and Veendam-But this duo must surely also be on borrowed time as part of the HAL roster.

In any event, the move of Prinsendam to Phoenix Seereisen would make perfect sense if it does, indeed, come to pass.



The original area showing the lifts opposite the Grand Staircase on the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, and the same area as it is currently taking shape on the replica Titanic in China

Work on Romandseas’s spine tingling, almost totally land locked, full size replica of the ill fated Titanic is now expected to be completed by early 2019.

Work is proceeding at a stately rate of knots as the hull continues to grow at Sichuan, site of the vast Chinese theme park in which the recreated ocean liner will form a dazzling centrepiece once completed.

The replica of the ill fated White Star liner will feature some three hundred hotel rooms, based on the original first class cabins that were such a striking selling point of the original ship.

But, while much of the luxe and the high style of the ‘Floating Ritz’ will  feature heavily in the recreation, it’s also heartening to know that some of the vessel’s original, gargantuan sinews will feature, plus several of the more intimate areas known to students of the disaster. In addition, some of the much less ostentatious second and third class areas of the ship will be recreated in painstaking detail.

Among these will be the bridge, complete with it’s wheelhouse and chart room. An officer’s cabin and a recreated Marconi wireless room will draw sometimes pitiless scrutiny from die hard purists.

In terms of second and third class, there will be recreations of cabins from both classes.

Mechanics may well be awed by the recreation of the giant reciprocating engines, as well as the forward, Number One boiler room of the Titanic.

The liner’s elaborate, highly ornate Turkish Baths down on G Deck will be featured in the recreation, as well as the first class gymnasium up on the boat deck. Here, John Jacob Astor famously whiled away time with his wife as the original ship sank, cutting open a life jacket with his pen knife to show her the contents.

For lovers of all that doomed, gilded luxury, recreations of the lavish, first class dining room, plus one of the sumptuous, B Deck parlour suites, as well as the monolithic Grand Staircase with its trio of lifts, will be more than enough to appeal to the inner Jack and Rose of almost anybody out there.


The enigmatic Enchantment of the Seas

While many of the ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet continue to garner headlines for their great size, amenities and range of dining options, other ships in the fleet simply carry on with their own, often unremarked on schedules.

Yet some of these vessels are among the mainstays of the Royal Caribbean portfolio, and perhaps none has been so overlooked, or as persistently passed over as the Enchantment of the Seas.

Originally built as one of the six ship Vision class of siblings, the 74,000 ton ship first entered service in 1997.

However, in 2005 the Enchantment was expanded by the addition of a brand new, purpose built, seventy two foot mid section. The work was carried out at a shipyard in Rotterdam, and it had the effect of raising the ship’s tonnage to it’s current figure of 82, 910 GRT. As it currently stands, the Enchantment of the Seas has a passenger capacity of 2,446, based on double occupancy.

The actual lengthening was regarded as a great success at the time, and it was the company’s intention back then to repeat the process with all five of her siblings, beginning with near twin sister ship, Grandeur of the Seas. However, the prohibitive cost of such a massive, multi vessel project, together with the entry into service of several successive classes of new, purpose built cruise ships at Royal Caribbean, meant that only the Enchantment of the Seas was thus remodelled.

The ship subsequently returned to Florida. Unlike her sisters and fleet mates, there has never been a subsequent deployment of Enchantment of the Seas to Europe, Asia, or even Alaska.

Instead, this beautiful ship currently operates out of Miami, sailing three and four night cruises to the Bahamas each week. The three night, mostly weekend cruises typically visit Nassau, Grand Bahama Island, and the company’s recently remodelled ‘private island’ at Coco Cay.

The four night sailings (and you really do need four nights to get the true feel of such a large, amenity laden ship) typically take in Coco Cay, Nassau, and Key West.

Unless some major policy change dictates otherwise, these cruises will continue on through to 2019.

This still very glamorous, under the radar ship is celebrating her twenty-first year of successful service with Royal Caribbean in 2018. I, for one, have always felt that she deserves somewhat more of a starring role in the company line up than has thus far proved the case.


Royal Princess at sea

Princess Cruises has announced that the Royal Princess will headline a three ship deployment to the Mexican Riviera from 2019 and 2020, sailing out of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The 141,000 ton ship will make a total of twenty-seven cruises in all and, while most of these will be the regular, seven night runs from LA to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, the Royal Princess will also offer a handful of exhilarating, five night ‘Cabo San Lucas Getaway’ trips from LA, each of which will showcase an overnight stay in the Mexican Pacfic resort as the main feature.

In addition, the Star Princess will return to those same waters, sailing more port intensive, ten night sailings that will also offer ports of call on the Baja Peninsula and the Sea of Cortez, together with an overnight stay in Cabo.

Rounding out the Princess triple whammy is a series of cruises sailing round trip from San Francisco on the Grand Princess, the only large ship sailing regularly to Mexico from California’s mots stunning coastal city. Celebrating her twenty first anniversary in 2019, the Grand Princess was the first 100,000 tons plus ship in the Princess fleet when she launched back in 1998.

The itineraries are mainly ten day cruises but some, if not all of the trio will also some immersive, seven night wine themed cruises, and a string of very attractive, week long coastal cruises from LA that take in such resorts as Santa Barbara, Long Beach, San Diego, and the Mexican port of Ensenada.

All things considered, these cruises constitute some very canny little winter escapes, and show good overall planning on the part of Princess Cruises


Pullantur’s Monarch in her current livery

Pullmantur’s Monarch has just emerged from a 21 day, $10 million refurbishment at Freeport’s Grand Bahama shipyard. The ship is probably best remembered as Royal Caribbean’s monolithic, 1991 built Monarch of The Seas.

Pullmantur- itself at one time part of the Royal Caribbean portfolio- has invested significantly in the 74,000 ton ship.

Much of the work carried out was internal in nature, and involved new carpeting, fixtures and fittings in cabins and public areas right across the 2,300 passenger ship, together with some external work across the pool deck, and other outdoor areas of the ship. In all, something like fifteen thousand square metres of  carpeting was replaced, together with around a thousand metres of furniture upholstery fabric.

Deck Twelve has been outfitted with a new solarium area, and the indoor spa and shopping complexes have also been refreshed. There has also been a change for all signage in food and public area outlets, with the intention of making it more user friendly for the ship’s predominantly Latino clientele.

On the technical side, Pullmantur says that enhancements were made to make the vessel more ‘environmentally friendly’, but actual details on these are non existent at the time of writing.

After completing this period of overhaul and updating, the Monarch resumed her programme of year round, seven day, all inclusive Caribbean cruises. These destination intensive cruises allow foe embarkation in either Curacao, Aruba, or at Panama City’s port of Colon.

Meanwhile, the Sovereign- twin sister ship of the Monarch- has returned to Europe after her usual seasonal winter programme in Brazil. The ship- formerly the Sovereign of The Seas- is now operating seven night round trip cruises in the Western Mediterranean that allows for embarkation from any of six ports of call en route.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.


The Paul Gauguin

The journey out to Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia is one of the longest flights that you’ll ever make from mainland Europe and, having done it before back in October, 2010, I’m (more or less) ready to go back there again next month. But, even having done the trip once before, I still find the logistics involved in getting there and back quite staggering.

From my local airport at Newcastle, there’s a short, two hour Air France flight to Paris Charles De Gaulle, (that is, assuming that the notoriously volatile French air traffic controllers don’t choose to go on strike). From there, it’s a change of terminal after collecting my baggage, and then time to check in for the long haul out to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti.

Air Tahiti Nui is the national airline of Tahiti, and they fly big, four engine A340’s from Paris out to Tahiti, via a two hour stop in Los Angeles. The first leg from Paris to LA occupies a full twelve hours.

At LA, there’s a two hour stop to undergo a mandatory customs and immigration inspection, before you reboard the same plane (and sit in the same seat) for the remaining, eight hour haul out across the Pacific. By now, that plane has been completely cleaned, reprovisioned, and manned by a fresh crew. All of this is done sitting in economy, unless you get that lucky, blessed nod to turn left upon embarkation.

Now, economy on Air Tahiti Nui is actually pretty damned fine. The seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 across configuration, and the leg room is actually not bad at all. Disclaimer time: I’m a sky scraping 5′ 6″ tall.

Sure, the sum total is a journey time of around some twenty-seven hours, but pray consider this; when was the last time that you had that long to simply chill, enjoy a movie (or eight) on your own seat back TV, while savouring decent food and drink? Not often, I’ll bet.

You’ll feel the eleven hour time difference for sure when that plane door finally yawns open on touchdown at Tahiti’s Fa’a International Airport. But, even at 2130 at night, that heat will still hit you like a blast wave. And, once achieved, Tahiti is a living dream; one sculpted in towering rock formations, tumbling waterfalls, and graceful, gently swaying palm trees. The word ‘idyllic’ barely begins to do it true justice.

Having achieved this exotic, remote landfall, there’s two blissful days to acclimatise at the Inter-Continental, a fabulous waterfront hotel that’s just a short drive from the airport. It’s all manicured gardens and exotic pools, outdoor restaurants and fabulous accommodation, looking out over the peerless Pacific Ocean to the island of Moorea, just thirty-seven miles away. It’s as serene as it is surreal; Miso soup for breakfast, anyone?

But, of course, the real ‘Jewel in The Crown’ awaits in the port of Papeete on Saturday morning, in the form of the pristine, perfectly primped ‘Pearl of the Islands’- the gorgeous little Paul Gauguin.

Svelte, seductive, and specially built to cruise these languid, laid back waters, the Paul Gauguin comes in at just 19,000 tons in all. She cossets some 330 guests in six star, all inclusive, casually styled decadence that makes her the most exclusive, as well as inclusive, way to see these islands dotted like gemstones in the sparkling emerald carpet of the South Pacific.

With three all inclusive, open seating restaurants, indoor lounges and an outdoor bar/disco, and even an outdoor water platform for lowering her own kayaks, sailboats and scuba equipped divers into these incredible waters, the Paul Gauguin has become integral to the economy of these far away islands. Indeed, her trim, tidy little silhouette has become just as much a part of the local Polynesia beauty pageant as the looming bulk of Mount Otemanu itself.

In short, the Paul Gauguin is classy, expansive, laid back, and both delightfully languid and luxurious. She is certainly the best way to savour the sights, sounds and stunning scenery of French Polynesia that I can possibly imagine. And, just knowing that she will be waiting quietly for me in the harbour of Papeete fair guarantees that my long journey out to join her will truly fly by.



Yet another of the Costa company’s smaller vessels is departing the fold next year, when the 48,200 ton, 1,196 passenger Costa NeoRiviera transfers across to Aida Cruises, the flag bearer of Carnival Corporation’s German portfolio. The ship, originally built as the Mistral for the now long defunct Festival Cruises, will sail from Palma on her maiden voyage as the AidaMira on December 4th, 2019.

A quite comprehensive refurbishment and updating of the ship has been announced, prior to her first revenue cruise. Some ninety six of her existing 624 cabins will be converted into suites, and around eighty of these will have a balcony. In terms of dining and leisure options, the re-wrought AidaMira will offer six different restaurants, and half a dozen bars and lounges.

Once the work is complete, AidaMira will embark on a series of longer, more destination intensive cruises, including a complete, fourteen night round trip sailing from Cape Town to the highlights of South Africa.

That will leave only the current, 1993 built Costa NeoRomantica flying the flag for Costa’s own brand of brief lived, more intimate, destination oriented cruises, a now obviously abandoned notion that it seems is to be best left to others. It seems unlikely that the brand will continue as a one ship fleet; so quite likely Costa will also be parting with that ship as well in the not too distant future.