Tag Archives: ocean voyages

WHERE TO FOR THOMAS COOK CRUISES?

FANTASY CLASS
Could one- or more- of the Carnival Fantasy class vessels be chartered to Thomas Cook in late 2017?

It isn’t so very long since the venerable tour operator, Thomas Cook, announced that it would be starting up a cruise line of its own at the end of 2017, initially with a pair of second hand ships. As soon as that statement was made, a tidal wave of speculation began to break as to what the identities of those two ships might be.

The first, and most obvious options, seemed to be the two ships that would be leaving the Thomson Cruises fleet at the end of the year to return to parent company, Celestyal Cruises. That line has a long record of chartering vessels out to other UK holiday operators, so it seemed that the two vessels in question- Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit- might be the prime candidates for a Thomas Cook start up.

However, we now know that the Thomson Majesty, soon to be Celestyal Majesty is going out to Cuba for week long cruises in the Caribbean. And, with Spirit said to be set for a deployment out of Malaga, just where will Thomas Cook go looking for that vital start up tonnage?

One option might actually be Carnival Cruises. Carnival Chairman, Arnold Donald, is on record as saying that arriving new builds will lead to older ships being phased out of the ‘Fun Ship’ fleet. And, with Carnival Vista a reality and Carnival Horizon on the, erm, horizon, it might well be the case that one or more of the 1990’s built, 70,000 ton Fantasy class vessels might become suddenly available. These would be nice sized ships for a start up, too.

Or could it be that Pullmantur, the Spanish operator, might charter the 45,000 ton twin sisters, Horizon and Zenith, out to Thomas Cook? That would still leave the troubled Spanish operator with the larger Sovereign and Monarch to handle South America and the Caribbean, respectively. Plus, it might also finally pave the way for the long awaited, already once cancelled transfer of the third of the original Sovereign class vessels- Majesty of the Seas- from former parent company, Royal Caribbean, over to Pullmantur.

If you think about it logically, there really isn’t much else out there that is available to TC- just possibly the two remaining Statendam class ships over at Holland America. After the sale of two of their siblings, everyone knows that Maasdam and Veendam are now on borrowed time as part of the HAL portfolio. But is the veteran Dutch company ready to part with them before it’s own new tonnage comes on line? I personally doubt it, but stranger things have happened for sure.

Interesting times. Stay tuned as details begin to be firmed out.

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THE BRITS AT SEA; A USER’S GUIDE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Thomson Majesty is an enduring favourite of the British cruise passenger

For some people, there is nothing more appealing than the idea of setting sail on a ship surrounded by their fellow countrymen. And no other race seems as wedded to this idea than my own, British kin.

Lines such as P&O, Thomson, Cruise and Maritime and, of course, Fred. Olsen, have made their almost all British passenger sailings a cornerstone of their marketing efforts. And, while Cunard markets it’s ‘Britishness’ it has, in truth, always been more of an international product.

So, what is it actually like, setting sail with a shipload of Brits? With a certain amount of tongue in cheek latitude, here are some of my observations, based on over thirty years of making just such voyages.

Firstly, the British reputation for politeness and ‘waiting in line’ remains true. Often, they might be waiting in line to complain at the Purser’s desk, but the fact remains that we are, as a whole, true to our national trait of exercising patience, and not ‘cutting in line’ as so many of our more excitable neighbours might be prone to do.

In many ways, we are also predictable to a ‘T’, Nowhere more so than, as it happens, at afternoon tea. Whichever the ship, and wherever in the world it happens to be sailing, most Brits will partake of the whole ritual, many for every single day of the voyage, And they will be there from first to last as well.

Deck chair hogging, whereby passengers arise before the sun and place personal items on the best situated sun beds, blocking them for literally hours on end, is something most Brits sniffily like to think that they are above.

In my experience, the reverse is true. Brits are every bit as selfish, avaricious and possessive over such prime real estate as our famed Germanic cousins, the people we are so fond of lambasting for the same obsession. In an old English analogy, this really is a case of ‘pot calling kettle’ black.

Largely, the Brits still follow formal dress codes at sea, and probably do more so than any other single race. While certain standards have dropped through the floor in the sartorial stakes, the Brits do like to posh it up and put on the Ritz. The older generation, in particular, can be relied upon to do it, and God bless ’em for maintaining a proper standard.

On the other hand, there are some these days- a worryingly increasing number- that feel it is perfectly OK to come out of an evening, sporting a look best described as ‘dragged backwards through a hedge’. No. It isn’t.

Brits rightly show disapproval aboard foreign accented ships when people move around ash trays to designated, non smoking areas to suit their whims. But some of us are far from being above doing the same things themselves in certain situations. It is often done ever so surreptitiously, in the hope that us non smokers will either fail to notice, or simply accept it as a fait accompli.

We do notice, love. Cut it out. Nobody wants your second hand cigarette smoke as a post dinner culinary treat.

While Brits are fond of lambasting our American cousins for their often overly enthusiastic penchant for buffet food, the fact is that many Brits are just as bad. That sweet, little old lady who smiled as you held the door open for, will turn into a whirling dervish, her elbows sharper than a Sultan’s sabres when it comes to getting exactly what she wants from a food outlet. And all at a speed that would make a rampaging Panzer division seem as benign as  a Sunday school picnic.

And yes, we like our money’s worth. If we do not get what we perceive to be proper service, we will frown over our frappes, mutter darkly over the froth, and then make a point of thanking the server that delivered it as we leave, never to return..

So, there it is. Just some of my observations. Thoughts?