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P&O’s Iona embarks on maiden voyage

The line says its new ship is ushering in “a new era in travel”


P&O Cruises’ Iona embarked on its maiden voyage earlier this month, visiting the Scottish island with which it shares a name.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Iona’s maiden voyage is the start of a new era in travel as Britain’s most environmentally-friendly cruise ship, the first in the country powered by liquefied natural gas, sets sail.

“For this special maiden voyage we wanted to bring guests to the island of Iona which has influenced many aspects of the ship – the sense of space in the SkyDome through to our gin still named Columba [after the sixth-century founder of the abbey on the island], the heather in our Marabelle gin and, of course, the name of the ship.”

Iona departed P&O Cruises’ home port of Southampton on August 7 and the itinerary included scenic cruising around the Isle of Colonsay, Lochbuie, Duart Castle, Tobermory, Bac Mòr, Fingal’s Cave, Sound of Jura, Claggain Bay, Mull of Kintyre and Sanda Island.

Iona’s gin still – created in association with Salcombe Gin – is the first of its kind on a cruise ship. The vessel also boasts the 710 Club, with Gary Barlow as music director, an atmospheric late-night music venue that will offer an opportunity for up-and-coming musicians to get their break.

After an inaugural season of UK coastal cruises Iona will offer holidays to Spain and the Canary Islands from September. Fourteen-night cruises are available from £1,299 per person.

News

Saga christens second new-build Spirit of Adventure

(Ciaran McCrickard/PA Wire)

The ceremony took place ahead of the ship’s inaugural voyage


Saga’s new boutique cruise ship Spirit of Adventure has become the first ship to be named at Portsmouth International Port.

The luxurious vessel was named with a traditional bottle smashing ceremony by Commodore Inga J Kennedy, the recently retired head of the Royal Navy Medical Service.

The blessing took place ahead of its inaugural round-Britain voyage, which set off from Tilbury on July 26.

The ship was due to take to the waters last year after being handed over by the shipbuilder in September 2020, but it remained anchored due to Covid-19.

Nick Stace, Saga’s CEO of Travel, said: “Today has been a long time coming for everyone, so it feels symbolic that the naming of our brand-new cruise ship, Spirit of Adventure will be part of such an historic day for the UK.

“Those who love to travel have waited patiently for it to resume, and what better way to mark a return to the freedom that travel gives us than with the launch of a new cruise ship.”

The bottle – a jeroboam of English sparkling wine from Balfour Hush Heath Estate – was smashed against the hull of the ship to offer a blessing of safe sailing and good fortune.

Commodore Kennedy was chosen to be the ship’s godmother in recognition of the countless hours of service given by medical professionals during the pandemic.

Stace said: “We felt it was important to recognise the outstanding work the medical profession has undertaken during the pandemic and wanted to pay our respects the best way we knew how. Commodore Kennedy has served in the Navy for 20 years and within healthcare for 40 years, so we felt she was the perfect choice for the role and we’re honoured that she accepted.”

The ceremony ended with Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts singing the national anthem.

Spirit of Adventure has 10 passenger decks with 554 all-balcony cabins and a maximum capacity of 999 people.

It features five restaurants, including The Main Dining Room, The Grill, The Supper Club, Amalfi and Khukuri – the only Nepalese dining spot at sea. All are complementary.

Facilities include an observation deck, full wraparound promenade and terrace, a lido, sports court and deck games.

There’s also a 444-seat theatre, a library and a spa with hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam and treatment rooms.

Stace said: “Every aspect has been designed with our guests in mind, from the bold colours and the wraparound promenade through to the numerous restaurants and entertainment facilities.

“Every cabin has its own private balcony with uninterrupted sea views and everything from the chauffeur service to meals and wi-fi are included in the price.”

All guests need be fully vaccinated to travel with Saga Cruises.

Read about our favourite spaces on Spirit of Adventure here

News

Viking floats out its second expedition ship

Viking Polaris is set to debut with sailings to the Arctic in summer 2022


Viking Cruises‘ second expedition ship, the 387-guest Viking Polaris, made its first contact with the water last month as it was floated out. The ship was then moved to an outfitting dock for further construction and interior build-out. After this, it will be delivered at Fincantieri’s VARD shipyard in Søviknes, Norway.

Viking Polaris is scheduled to debut in summer 2022 with a maiden voyage to the Arctic from Tromsø.

Viking’s first expedition ship, Viking Octantiswhich is identical to Viking Polaris – is due for completion in early 2022 and will operate in Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes.

Chairman of Viking, Torstein Hagen, said: “We are now one step closer to our launch of ‘the thinking person’s expedition’, with new voyages that will allow our guests to explore the ends of the world and closer to home – in comfort.

“We are grateful for our long-standing partnership with Fincantieri, who has helped us build the world’s most beautiful ocean ships and are now helping us perfect expedition cruising. We look forward to welcoming guests on board Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis next year.”

The new Polar Class 6 ships will be able to accommodate 378 guests in 189 staterooms. They are small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St Lawrence River, while large enough to provide stability in rough seas. The ships will include public spaces created specifically for expeditions: The Hangar, which permits the launch of small excursion craft; The Laboratory, where an onboard team of resident scientists will work on a mix of studies; and The Aula, a panoramic auditorium at the stern.

The ships will harbour a fleet of Zodiacs for expeditions, plus two-seater kayaks, rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and two six-guest submarines.

All staterooms will have a Nordic Balcony – a sunroom that can convert into an outdoor viewing platform. Elsewhere on the ships, there will be an Aquavit Terrace and Pools, the Nordic Spa and Fitness Centre and Explorers’ Lounge.

Esteemed explorers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will be named as godmothers to Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, respectively, at the ships’ naming ceremonies. Arnesen became the first woman in the world to ski solo to the South Pole in 1994, while Bancroft was the first woman to ski to both poles. They both became the first women to ski across Antarctica in 2001 and co-founded Bancroft Arnesen Explore / Access Water, an initiative that helps engage and empower people to create a more sustainable future.

News

Getting a taste of life on board Silver Moon

Jane Archer reports on Silversea’s new ship which has finally entered service in Greece


Silver Moon – the first Silversea ship designed around the line’s new SALT food and culture programme – has finally been christened in Piraeus, Greece, by its godmother Gaia Gaja from the Italian Gaja winery.

Silver Moon was delivered in October 2020 but only entered service in mid-June this year, offering a summer series of cruises around the Greek Isles, as cruising started to reboot after 15 months on hold due to Covid-19.

In looks and feel (think: elegant hues of browns and creams topped off with eye-catching artworks), it’s a sister to Silver Muse, which launched in 2017, with the same 596-passenger count.

However, a lot of venues are new to cater for SALT (Sea and Land and Taste), an initiative that encourages passengers to learn about other cultures though their cuisine that was conceived by chief commercial officer Barbara Muckermann to cater for the ‘boomer’ generation of cruisers who want to tick off experiences rather than sights.

The SALT Kitchen (confusingly a restaurant) serves a different menu each day featuring dishes from countries being visited (chicken lakani and lamb stifado were among offerings on our cruise in Greece), while a SALT bar serves local and regional cocktails. It’s a popular venue but small, so passengers have to be quick to get in for a pre-dinner cocktail. “It’s a victim of its own success,” admitted Muckermann.

In the SALT Lab, which is actually the kitchen, up to 18 passengers at a time get to prepare local dishes, while learning their origins. There are two classes a day on sea days, one while in port, and it is complimentary with no plans to start charging.

Muckermann said initial feedback from SALT is “excellent”, with the SALT Kitchen quickly becoming the ship’s most popular restaurant, overtaking the more traditional Atlantide, the all-time favourite across the fleet.

Away from SALT, several venues that debuted on Silver Muse have been moved or redesigned. The Arts Café, a bright Art Deco-style coffee and light bites hangout has relocated to a larger space, while Dolce Vita, a large and impersonal lounge on Silver Muse, has been remodelled into a more intimate pre-dinner drinks haunt.

La Dame, an extra-cost fine-dining French restaurant tucked away inside Silver Muse, is in a new location with ocean views and is twice the size, with 66 covers instead of 33. The Connoisseurs Corner has gained an outdoor area with cushioned sofas and a faux fire where smokers can puff away in comfort.

Muckermann said Silver Dawn, which launches in November, will be identical to Silver Moon but hinted at a new spa experience called Otium that will take pampering to a “new level of indulgence”. Both Otium and SALT will also be on Silversea’s two new Evolution-class ships launching 2023 and 2024.

News

Construction of P&O Cruises’ second Excel-class ship begins

The LNG-powered Arvia is being built in Germany and will be delivered in December 2022


Construction work has started on P&O Cruises’ second Excel-class ship, Arvia, in the Meyer Werft shipyard in Warnemünde, Germany.

The ship is scheduled to be ready for delivery by December 2022.

The first component of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered ship, the floating engine room (FERU), has arrived in the shed where Arvia will be constructed. The ship will weigh around 12,000 tons at a length of 140m and 42m wide.

Arvia, which means ‘from the seashore’, is set to feature a high ropes experience named Altitude Skywalk, plus Altitude Minigolf, a swim-up bar and a new plant and fish-based restaurant.

It will offer a maiden season of Caribbean fly/cruise holidays from its home port in Barbados. Itineraries will run from January to March 2023, including port calls at La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Curaçao, Martinique, St Kitts, St Lucia and St Maarten.

A time-lapse video of the floating engine room has been uploaded to P&O Cruises’ YouTube channel.

The ship comes after the launch of P&O’s first Excel class ship, Iona, which was officially named in a virtual ceremony in June and set sail for its first passenger voyage earlier this month.

Vote

Introducing The Cruise 20 awards

We’d like to celebrate the best cruise has to offer with our second Cruise 20 awards. We want you, our loyal readers, to pick your favourite cruise lines in 20 different categories, from the most environmentally friendly cruise line to the best pizza at sea, as well the best overall lines in both river and ocean. We’ll be announcing the winners in the September issue of Cruise Adviser.

Click here to vote.

News

When do cruises restart?

Details of cruise line restarts are below, along with each line’s current regulations regarding vaccination, Covid-19 testing and the wearing of face masks. This information is updated regularly; you can find all the latest cruise news here.

A-Rosa

A-Rosa River Cruises has now restarted cruises on the Rhine/Moselle/Main, the Danube and the Douro.

Due to hygiene and health protocols, more staff are required and, because of quarantine regulations for international crew members, some are experiencing delays in taking up their roles. As a result, cruises on A-Rosa Flora have been suspended until September 24.

Cruises on the Seine and Rhone will not resume in 2021.

Regulations: Before departure, all guests (six years and older) require proof of a negative PCR test (maximum 72 hours old) or rapid antigen test (maximum 48 hours old, no self-test) or a complete Covid-19 vaccination (14 days after last vaccination dose) or recovery from Covid-19 (proof of a positive PCR test at least 28 days, max. six months old). Guests should take a sufficient number of medical masks and the line recommends carrying FFP2 masks, as in some regions they are compulsory. More information here.

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has restarted European river cruises on the Douro, Danube, Rhine and also in France.

Guests impacted by European sailings suspended from July until October 31 will be contacted directly. All Mekong River cruises through Vietnam and Cambodia have been suspended until November 30.  

Regulations: Guests must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days (in the case of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca or 28 days for Johnson & Johnson) prior to their sailing date. We also recommend all guests, regardless of vaccination status, take a PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure and bring documentation of a negative result with them on their sailing, as a precautionary measure.

Prior to boarding, an online health and contact screening questionnaire will be required and at embarkation, guests’ temperatures will be taken with no-contact infrared thermometers. Guests are required to wear face coverings when moving through interior spaces and medical grade or N95/KN95 masks are recommended. More information here.

APT Touring

APT Touring is hoping to resume tours and cruises from October.

In the meantime, the company is offering 100 per cent future holiday credit (FHC) valid on any of their brands up to December 31, 2023.

Regulations: APT has adopted the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia) recommendations and actioned increased health screenings and protocols for all cruises, both on board and prior to boarding, for all passengers and crew. More information here.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways has restarted its European river cruises on the Seine, Rhine, Danube and Rhône. Sailings on the Moselle resume on September 10.

It says: “All 2021 travel bookings automatically come with our Peace of Mind Travel Plan – free of charge. This plan gives guests the ability to move their booking to another destination, vacation, brand or simply a different 2021 or 2022 departure date, no questions asked. For as long as the Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting, travel, all bookings for 2022 travel dates are also covered by the Peace of Mind Travel Plan, extending the ability to move travel dates to 2023.”

Regulations: Proof of a full Covid-19 vaccination is required. There will be reduced ship capacity and social distancing guidelines, plus mandatory health screening, including touch-free temperature-check, for all guests and crew at embarkation. More information here.

Azamara

Azamara has resumed sailing on Azamara Quest. Azamara Journey will operate Mediterranean cruses from October 13.

Regulations: The line says it is collaborating with government health authorities and Clia to develop its boarding screening process and updated health protocols, which are not yet finalised. More information here.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line has restarted cruises in North America.

Carnival Magic, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Valor, Carnival Legend and Carnival Radiance are due to return to service in November.

Australia voyages aboard Carnival Spirit are suspended until September 12 and Carnival Splendor until September 17.

Regulations: Vaccinated cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to embarkation day and have proof of vaccination. Additionally, fully vaccinated guests must present the negative results of a Covid-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken within three days of their embarkation. The line will continue to welcome unvaccinated guests, including children under 12 who are not eligible for a vaccine. The application process has its own set of procedures that must be carefully followed. More information here.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has now resumed sailings in Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska and the Galápagos.

Regulations: All guests and crew above the age of 18 must vaccinated against Covid-19. Those under the age of 18 must have a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of embarkation. More information here.

Celestyal Cruises

Celestyal Cruises resumed operations in June, but following the conclusion of its summer season it has decided to postpone its autumn and winter sailings and will resume operation in March 2022, as per the scheduled programme.

All named and paid individual guests impacted by the postponement of sailings from September until December will have the option of receiving full refunds or applying their deposits to 2022 or 2023 sailings with a 20 per cent bonus value to be applied to their future sailing. 

Regulations: All guests will have to provide proof of vaccination, or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of embarkation. There will be thermal screening at embarkation and daily contactless monitoring throughout the vessel. More information here.

CroisiEurope

CroisiEurope has restarted most European river cruises, French canal cruises and its ocean cruises from Croatia and Corsica.

Regulations: Guests will need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR or rapid antigen test prior to embarkation. More information here.

Crystal

Crystal has resumed sailings with the majority of its ocean and river fleet. Crystal Esprit’s return has now been delayed until September 27.

Regulations: All guests will be required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and a mandatory test with negative results will be required prior to departure. Guests will also have their temperature checked both prior to boarding ship or venturing ashore and Crystal operates what it calls a “responsive mask policy”. More information here.

Cunard

Cunard has resumed sailing with a series of Staycation voyages from Southampton on Queen Elizabeth.

As a result of continuing global travel restrictions, the line has reviewed their international sailing plans.

All voyages on Queen Elizabeth after October 18, 2021 and on or before March 9, 2022 are now cancelled and will be replaced with new voyages to the Iberian Coast and the Canary Islands.

The World Voyage on Queen Mary 2 from January 3, 2022 is now cancelled and will be replaced with new roundtrip voyages from Southampton to the Caribbean via the Canary Islands and New York.

Queen Victoria will remain out of service until late April 2022 and all voyages between September 10, 2021 and April 29, 2022 have been cancelled. Some of these cancelled voyages will transfer to Queen Elizabeth.

The line will be will be contacting all impacted guests regarding their options.

Regulations: All guests aged 18 and over will be required to have completed their vaccination course a minimum of 14 days prior to sailing. All guests aged 17 and below will need to have completed their vaccination course a minimum 14 days prior to sailing or will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to travel. All guests will also require a negative Covid-19 test at the terminal. Appropriate social distancing in line with latest guidance for cruise lines. The requirement to wear a face mask, with no exceptions, in specific areas including the terminal, when moving around indoors on board, and when seated in the theatre. More information here.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line has resumed sailing, with Disney Magic operating staycation cruises from UK ports and Disney Dream from Port Canaveral in Florida.

The line is currently preparing Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder to welcome guests once again and will share more information soon.

Regulations: Disney Magic at Sea sailings are for UK residents only. Guests aged 18 and older must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Guests under 18 must provide proof of a negative PCR test result prior to embarkation. All guests, including those who have been vaccinated, are also required to undergo an antigen Covid-19 rapid test prior to boarding. Daily temperature checks and health questionnaires will be required for all guests during the cruise. Masks are required in public areas. More information here.

Emerald Cruises

The Scenic Group, including Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Emerald Cruises has started a limited number of European river cruises. All other river cruises and land tours have been suspended.

All guests with a booking scheduled to depart between July 1, 2021 and December 31 will receive a Future Travel Voucher (FTV) for the full amount that has been paid to date, valid for travel until June 2024.

Regulations: All guests are required to have received the required dose(s) of an approved Covid-19 vaccine. More information here.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has resumed sailing. New itineraries include a Welcome Back series of British Isles cruises, plus the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, the Balearics and the Canary Islands.

Regulations: All guests must be full vaccinated and will have to wear a face mask when moving around inside the ship and where social distancing is not possible. They have introduced ‘social bubbles’ on board, allowing guests up to five companions with whom they can dine and drink with. More information here.

G Adventures

G Adventures has started a limited number of tours. All other G Adventures and National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures tours are suspended until September 30.

It says: “Our Book With Confidence policy lets you cancel and rebook a tour closer to the time of departure, giving you added flexibility and peace of mind. Until December 31, 2021, book travel with us departing before December 31, 2022, and you can cancel and rebook up to 14 days prior to your departure date.”

Regulations: Passengers on all trips departing on or after October 1, 2021 will be required to comply with G Adventures’ Travel-Ready policy, which requires either full Covid-19 vaccination with the final dose given at least 14 days prior to the start of the tour or the receipt of a negative PCR test within 96 hours prior to the start of your first welcome meeting. More information here.

Holland America Line

Holland America Line has restarted cruises from Greece, with sailings from Piraeus on Eurodam on sale now.

Regulations: Holland America Line cruises from Greece will be available for guests who have received their final dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination. More information here.

Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten has restarted its Norwegian coastal sailings between Bergen and Kirkenes. Its expedition cruises resume from October 6.

Regulations: Guests must show .  Face masks are required in public areas indoors, except when eating and drinking. More information here.

Marella Cruises

Marella Cruises has resumed operations with UK and international sailings.

It says: “We’ll be as flexible as we possibly can if Covid-19 means your cruise needs to be cancelled. We’re constantly reviewing the latest travel advice around the world and will work with you to take whatever the right action is for your particular circumstances. If you can’t sail due to not being vaccinated, you can change or cancel your booking for free.”

Regulations: Anyone aged 18-years and older will be required to have had both Covid-19 jabs at least seven days before travelling. Guests of all ages must also provide proof of a negative lateral flow test before boarding. More information here.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises has restarted with a programme of British Isles cruises on board its flagship MSC Virtuosa departing from its new terminal in Southampton.

They also have updated itineraries in the Mediterranean and across Europe for the summer 2021 season, but until the end of September these are only available for residents of Schengen countries.

Regulations: All UK residents over 12 years of age will be required to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before embarkation. Children between two and 11 years old will need a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before embarkation. In addition, all guests over two years of age will have to undergo an antigen test at the terminal upon embarkation, as well as a second test during the cruise. It is mandatory for all guests to have a comprehensive Covid insurance policy. More information here.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line has resumed operations from Greece in July, with Spain and Italy following in September.

Itineraries from Seattle have also restarted, with other US and international ports following from this autumn on the following dates. Norwegian Joy (Miami, October 19); Norwegian Breakaway (New York, October 24); Pride of America (Honolulu, November 6); Norwegian Bliss (Los Angeles, November 7); Norwegian Encore (Miami, November 14); Norwegian Escape (Port Canaveral, November 20); Norwegian Pearl (Miami, December 23); Norwegian Jewel (Panama City, January 20, 2022); Norwegian Sun (Hong Kong, January 28, 2022); Norwegian Spirit (Sydney, February 9, 2022).

Regulations: For cruises up to October 31, guests will be required to be fully vaccinated and tested prior to boarding. Parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has launched its SailSAFE Health and Safety Program, which includes enhanced health screening protocols and collaboration with land-based tour operator partners to extend health and safety measures to each destination. More information here.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises has resumed operations, with sailings to Scandinavia and Western Europe on the 1,250-guest Marina from Copenhagen.

It has also announced that Riviera will resume cruises beginning with a sailing from Istanbul on October 18; Insignia will resume sailings with the December 21 Panama Canal voyage from Miami, before the sold-out 180-day Around the World cruise from Los Angeles to New York; Sirena will start sailings with the January 22, 2022 Caribbean voyage from Miami to Panama City.

“This is an exciting day for our guests and team members alike as we begin to prepare another three ships to resume sailing in Europe, the Caribbean, and the eagerly anticipated kickoff of our epic Around the World in 180 Days voyage for 2022,” said Bob Binder, President & CEO of Oceania Cruises.  

Regulations: All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated, at least two weeks prior to embarkation, in order to board. All guests will be required to take Covid-19 antigen tests prior to boarding and disembarkation. Face coverings are currently required for guests while indoors and when physical distancing is not possible. More information here.

P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises has restarted with a series of short-break and week-long UK cruises on its ships Britannia and Iona.

Their phased international restart plan continues for the remainder of 2021 and into early 2022. Following the UK summer staycations, Britannia will begin her planned western Mediterranean itineraries on September 25 and Iona will sail from Spain and Portugal from the same date.

Cruises on Ventura are paused until October 3; Azura until December 10; Arcadia until March 27, 2022; and Aurora until April 13, 2022.

Also, due to a lack of availability of charter aircraft on Caribbean routes,all seven and 14-night Britannia fly-cruises which start or end in St Lucia between October 2021 and March 2022 have been cancelled.Caribbean fly-cruise holidays starting and ending in Barbados are still going ahead as planned.

Regulations: The sailings on Britannia and Iona will be for UK resident Covid-19 vaccinated guests only. Pre-embarkation Covid-19 tests may also be required. More information here.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises is hoping to restart from September 25.

Regulations: All guests will be asked to present proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test at embarkation and will undergo a health check and screening by the ship’s medical staff. More information here.

Ponant

Ponant has restarted cruises around Iceland and in the Mediterranean.

Regulations: All guests must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before departure and a PCR test will be carried out before embarkation. Wearing a mask is mandatory when moving in all public areas. More information here.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises restarted with a series of Seacations from Southampton on board Regal Princess and Sky Princess. Sailings from US ports resume this month.

It says: “These resort-style Seacations offer the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy some time off. We believe that these cruises will appeal to both our loyal guests who are eager to get back onboard our beautiful MedallionClass ships and holidaymakers looking to experience Princess for the first time.”

Regulations: The Seacation sailings will be for UK resident Covid-19 vaccinated guests only. More information here.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises restarts with an 11-night round-trip cruise from Southampton on September 11 on board new ship Seven Seas Splendor.

Regulations: All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated, at least two weeks prior to embarkation, in order to board. All guests will be required to take Covid-19 antigen tests prior to boarding and disembarkation. Face coverings are currently required for guests while indoors and when physical distancing is not possible. More information here.

Riviera Travel

Riviera Travel has resumed its European river cruises, but all six summer sailings on its ocean vessel, MS Seaventure, have been cancelled.

Regulations: All guests are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or to have presented a negative PCR test before travelling. More information here.

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International has restarted cruises in the Caribbean, the US and Europe, including a series of Ocean Getaways and British Isles Cruises from Southampton on board Anthem of the Seas.

The phased restart of its fleet will continue as follows: Liberty of the Seas (October 3, 2021 departing from Galveston, Texas); Spectrum of the Seas (October 5, departing from Hong Kong); Explorer of the Seas (November 7, departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico); Navigator of the Seas (November 19, departing from Los Angeles, California); Quantum of the Seas (December 1, departing from Singapore); Grandeur of the Seas (December 5, departing from Bridgetown, Barbados); Brilliance of the Seas (December 16, departing from Tampa, Florida); Enchantment of the Seas (December 23, departing from Baltimore, Maryland);  Vision of the Seas (January 24, 2022 departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida); Voyager of the Seas (April 24, 2022 departing from Copenhagen, Denmark); Radiance of the Seas (April 29, 2022 departing from Vancouver, Canada); Rhapsody of the Seas (May 23, 2022 departing from Civitavecchia, Italy)

Regulations: The cruises on Anthem of the Seas are only be available to UK residents over the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated. The line will publish more protocols as they are developed. Booked guests will be advised of their specific requirements before setting sail. More information here.

Saga

Saga Cruises has restarted with a series of UK itineraries on board Spirit of Discovery and new ship Spirit of Adventure and international sailings to Tallinn and Copenhagen.

Regulations: All guests are required to be fully vaccinated for Covid‑19 at least 14 days before boarding. The ships are operating at a reduced capacity to allow social distancing and the line has received the independent Shield+ accreditation from Lloyd’s Register. More information here.

Scenic

The Scenic Group, including Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Emerald Cruises has started a limited number of European river cruises. All other river cruises and land tours have been suspended.

All guests with a booking scheduled to depart between July 1, 2021 and December 31 will receive a Future Travel Voucher (FTV) for the full amount that has been paid to date, valid for travel until June 2024.

Regulations: All guests are required to have received the required dose(s) of an approved Covid-19 vaccine. More information here.

Seabourn

Seabourn has restarted cruises in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, with Seabourn Ovation sailing from Greece and Seabourn Odyssey from Barbados.

The remainder of the fleet resumes operations on the following dates: Seabourn Quest (November 7), Seabourn Sojourn (January 11, 2022), Seabourn Encore (April 17, 2022).

Regulations: All guests must be vaccinated at least two weeks before boarding. Seabourn is currently finalising its other Covid-19 protocols. More information here.

Silversea

Silversea has restarted cruises in the Greek islands on Silver Moon; the Galápagos Islands on Silver Origin; Alaska on Silver Muse; Iceland on Silver Shadow; and Northern Europe on Silver Spirit.

Their remaining fleet returns to service on the following dates: Silver Explorer (November 10), Silver Cloud (November 14), Silver Whisper (November 17), Silver Dawn (November 19), Silver Wind (November 20).

It says: “As the world opens up, so too will our itineraries. We are looking forward to sailing with you again, and helping you get back to discovering the authentic beauty of the world in unwavering confidence.”

Regulations: All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated and are required to take a Covid-19 test prior to boarding. Guests will be required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas, terminals and during shore excursions. More information here.

Titan

Titan has resumed tours and cruises.

It says: “We want to reassure you that the wellbeing of our customers and staff are of the utmost importance. As this is a fluid situation our team is working around-the-clock to ensure all updates are updated as quickly and as accurately as possible to ensure all travellers depart on holiday with confidence, in the knowledge that they are in safe hands with Titan.”

Regulations: A health declaration will be required and will be collected prior to boarding. Guests’ temperature will be checked before boarding using an infrared thermometer, and luggage will be sanitised. There will be a socially distanced boarding process. More information here.

Uniworld

Uniworld has resumed its European river cruises.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment and are beyond thrilled to be back on the rivers,” says Ellen Bettridge, President & CEO of Uniworld. “Our guests are like family to us, and their safety is our main priority, which is why we’re taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure they’re comfortable when they’re ready to explore the rivers with us again.”

Regulations: All guests on Uniworld cruises until December 31, 2021, are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel. Guests will be required to wear a mask while walking around public area. More information here.

Viking Cruises

Viking Cruises has restarted its ocean cruises with a series of Welcome Back voyages from Portsmouth, Valletta (Malta), Reykjavík and Bermuda. It has also resumed select river cruises in Europe.

It says: “With our new protocol enhancements in place, we believe there will be no safer way to travel the world than on a Viking voyage and we look forward to welcoming UK guests back on board very soon.”

Regulations: All Viking sailings will be available exclusively for vaccinated guests until further notice. They may require a PCR test as part of the embarkation process. Physical distancing measures are in place in public areas on board, and face masks may be required for all guests and crew while moving about, depending on conditions at time of sailing. More information here.

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages has finally set sail with the Summer Soirée series of cruises along the south coast from Portsmouth on Scarlet Lady. From October the same vessel will be sailing to the Caribbean from PortMiami.

Regulations: All passengers must be over 18 and fully vaccinated at least 14 days beforehand. A Covid-19 antigen test may be required before boarding. The Summer Soirée sailings are for UK residents only. More information here.

Windstar

Windstar Cruises has been restarting cruises in a phased manner, with the majority of its fleet now sailing again. Star Pride returns the Caribbean from November 3.

Regulations: Proof of a current Covid-19 vaccination at least 14 days before the embarkation date. A free Covid-19 antigen test will be administered prior boarding. More information here.

News

Cruise returns to the UK and Europe

Royal Caribbean is the latest line to resume operations with cruises around the Greek islands and UK coast


Royal Caribbean returned to Europe earlier this month, when Jewel of the Seas embarked on a two-night preview sailing from Limassol on July 6, ahead of its inaugural cruise on July 10, to ports including Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini, Greece.

The cruise marked the beginning of a short summer series of seven-night itineraries to the Greek Islands for Royal Caribbean, and was also the first time the line has based a ship in Cyprus.

It’s been more than a year since Royal Caribbean have operated in Europe due to the pandemic, with Jewel being joined by Anthem of the Seas which is now sailing from Southampton on UK coastal cruises. Further ships will be added throughout August, including Harmony of the Seas, which departs from Barcelona on August 15. 

All crew and passengers on Jewel aged over 18 will be fully vaccinated. Families are still welcome aboard the sailing, with non-vaccinated passengers between 12 and 18 completing a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Cyprus. All passengers above the age of two will also have to take a compulsory complimentary test on the day of embarking. The measures are specific to the sailing from Cyprus in compliance with the Cypriot government and will be continuously evaluated. 

Multiple cruise lines have now restarted, with P&O, Celebrity, Crystal, Seabourn and Fred Olsen following Viking, MSC and Saga

The return to sailing in the UK and Europe follows a recent change in policy, stating that cruise liners can carry more people if all guests have been fully vaccinated and there was at least 14 days between their second dose and departure. The policy allows ships to sail at 50 per cent capacity, regardless of the total number of guests, if all on board have been double-vaccinated.

Ben Bouldin, EMEA vice president for Royal Caribbean, said: “Jewel of the Seas’ first sailing out of Cyprus marks the beginning of an exciting return to cruising in Europe for Royal Caribbean.

“Cyprus is a beautiful country with a multitude of must-visit regions, and it is an extremely popular destination among our European guests – we know they are ready and waiting to enjoy a Cyprus and Greek Isles getaway this summer.”

News

AmaWaterways to sail Magdalena river in Colombia

The river cruise line announces a new partnership with South American operator Metropolitan Touring


AmaWaterways will sail the Magdalena river in Colombia after announcing a partnership with Metropolitan Touring, a South American tour operator.

From December 2023, guests will be able to explore the river on a custom-built, all-suite, eco-friendly river cruise ship, the line said.

“Not since my early university days of exploring the Amazon river have I felt the excitement of discovering a new destination that is so rich in biodiversity and culture as I found on the Magdalena river,” said Rudi Schreiner, president and co-founder of AmaWaterways. “I’m absolutely captivated by the rich history, wildlife and friendly welcome that awaits our guests when our intimate, all-suite ship sets sail in December 2023.”

“Colombia has always been a country close to my heart and every trip I’ve made to the Magdalena over many years has been full of amazing, life-affirming experiences that touched my soul. Finding the right partner to develop the first-ever eco-friendly river cruise experience for Colombia was therefore of utmost importance to me and our company,” said Paulina Burbano de Lara, chief executive officer of Metropolitan Touring. “We know that Rudi, Kristin [Karst] and all the AmaWaterways team share our passion for the river Magdalena and we’re delighted that together we will create innovative and enriching experiences for guests.”

Guests will be able to choose between two seven-night itineraries with pre- and post-cruise land programmes exploring the Magdalena river and wider Colombia.

“Drawing on each company’s expertise, AmaWaterways and Metropolitan Touring have together created a unique river cruise and land programme that will immerse travellers in the beauty of the ‘River of a Thousand Rhythms’,” said Camilo Calderon, general manager of Metropolitan Touring Colombia. “Our guests will enjoy the modern comforts of an upscale river cruise ship, with exclusive experiences and unparalleled service, hallmarks of both companies, to the very heart of Colombia’s soul.”

“It is incredibly exciting to be able to launch a new river cruise destination like Colombia, with such a colourful history and artistic background,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways. “We are celebrating 19 years of creating authentic river cruise experiences in Europe, Asia and Africa and now, with our world-recognised destination partner, Metropolitan Touring, we will be able to offer our guests an opportunity to explore a fourth continent while discovering the hidden gems of Colombia along the majestic Magdalena river.”

Specific itineraries are currently being developed with more details due in the coming weeks.

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News

New Red Sea cruises for MSC and Scenic

The two lines are starting cruises from Saudi Arabia, which is set to become a top tourist destination


MSC Cruises and the Scenic Group are both adding Red Sea sailings to their programmes this summer.

The Scenic Group is set to bring Scenic Eclipse to the Red Sea for the first time this month.

The line’s first purpose-built ocean cruise ship – equipped with an onboard submarine and two helicopters – will sail Saudi waters from July 17 to December 9.

Glen Moroney, founder and chairman of the Scenic Group, said: “Saudi Arabia will be one of the hottest tourist destinations in coming years and we’re very glad our guests will get to experience it in six-star comfort on Scenic Eclipse.”

The luxury liner will homeport in Jeddah and will offer tailor-made itineraries, as well as pre-planned itineraries.

Highlights include popular diving spot Yanbu, which features the Iona wreck, a British merchant steamer sunk in 1915 which can be explored by diving, snorkelling or submarine.

MSC Cruises’ vessel MSC Bellissima has added 21 voyages from Jeddah to its Red Sea programme between late July and November.

The ship will offer three- and four-night cruises to Safaga, Egypt, or Aqaba, Jordan.

Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ executive chairman, said: “As the tourism industry of Saudi Arabia grows progressively for its own residents and international visitors, we at MSC Cruises are looking forward to making a positive and lasting contribution as more people explore and discover the rich heritage and incredible cultural attractions it has to offer.

“In the Red Sea we are committed to serve holidaymakers with the very best cruise experiences. This, we believe, will accelerate the attractiveness of holidays at sea in the region and significantly help in the growth of tourism.”

News

Cunard reveals Overseas Escapes

Voyages announced on Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth


Cunard has announced over 40 new voyages across its fleet in 2021 and 2022.

The Overseas Escapes will range from two to 40-night sailings, visiting more than 49 destinations on board flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Mary 2 will resume transatlantic crossings in November, 2021 before sailing new short breaks in Western Europe followed by three winter sailings to the Caribbean.

Queen Victoria will mark its return to sailing in April, 2022 with three new round-trip itineraries from Southampton, visiting 11 countries, treating guests to time ashore in destinations such as Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallinn and Gdynia, together with overnight calls in Amsterdam, Lisbon and St Petersburg.

Following its summer exploring Britain’s coastline, Queen Elizabeth will depart on a series of new sailings from Southampton to Western Europe followed by the Iberian Coast and the Atlantic Islands.

Cunard president Simon Palethorpe said: “We are delighted to announce these new voyages which will mark the full fleet’s return to sailing. Our guests have patiently waited to sail on their favourite Cunard Queen and our 2021 and 2022 itineraries offer a variety of exciting holidays to suit all combined with the impeccable White Star Service on board that makes a Cunard voyage so memorable.

“And for an additional reason to book, guests can take advantage of complimentary upgrade to a Balcony stateroom when they book an Inside or Outside stateroom on selected voyages.”

The line was recently forced to delay its UK restart date following an outbreak of Covid-19 among a “small number” of its crew.

Queen Elizabeth was due to depart Southampton on July 19 to sail to Cornwall.

News

Cruise lines continue to return

Riviera is one of the latest lines to restart, with river cruises sailing on the Douro for the first time in 18 months 


Riviera Travel has completed its first river cruises in 18 months with two eight-day sailings to Porto and Salamanca.

A total of 120 passengers were onboard for the voyages, which featured excursions to a Porto vineyard and the old city of Salamanca, an official Unesco World Heritage Site, as well as guided tours of local landmarks, including Castelo Rodrigo and Mateus Palace gardens.

Riviera will now operate a series of river cruises across Europe until early November.

Katja Hildebrandt, head of product river and ocean cruise at Riviera Travel, said: “Our Douro cruises were the perfect first sailings back, as our guests really did feel they were away from it all as they visited some of Iberia’s most beautiful towns, gardens and vineyards.

“We can’t wait to welcome more people back on board, as our European river cruises return to some of the most beautiful destinations along the likes of the Seine, Rhône and Danube.”

Cruise passenger Sally Harper said: “The organisation that Riviera have put into this has been absolutely second to none; I can’t fault it. This is the second trip we’ve done with Riviera, the first one was Croatia, but this is the first river cruise I’ve ever done and it’s gone beyond my expectations.

“The river is spectacular. Everybody told us to expect a beautiful river and this has just blown me away. The food is great and the staff are so friendly, everywhere is so immaculately clean. We’ve felt really safe and secure at all times.”

Emerald Cruises resumed sailings on the Douro on July 31, while Emerald Destiny is due to set sail from Nuremberg on September 6 for the eight-day Danube Delights river cruise.

Oceania Cruises has also resumed sailing, with Marina becoming the first ship to welcome guests back on board after a pause of 524 days. It was also the first cruise ship to sail from the port of Copenhagen since 2019.

Princess Cruises’ ship Sky Princess became the third in its fleet to resume operations – after starting a series of UK domestic sailings from Southampton. Crystal River Cruises has also resumed sailing in Europe.

Fred Olsen became the first UK cruise line to complete an international voyage since the resumption of cruising in the UK. Borealis, one of the line’s new vessels, returned to the UK from Iceland with around 800 guests on board.

News

Princess reveals Japan programme

The line will sail 43 itineraries from Tokyo and Kobe on Diamond Princess 


Princess Cruises has launched its 2023 Japan cruises season with 43 itineraries, ranging from five to 19 nights.

The 2,670-capacity Diamond Princess is returning for the summer and autumn of 2023, marking its 10th anniversary of sailing from Tokyo and Kobe.

The luxury liner boasts a tranquil Izumi – the largest Japanese bath of its kind at sea.

The ship is offering 57 departures and will call at 38 destinations, including the southern tropical island of Okinawa and the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Highlights of the cruise programme include the opportunity to experience seven festivals, such as Kyoto’s world-famous Gion Festival, featuring hand-crafted floats.

During spring cruises travellers will get the chance to visit a classic Japanese garden, see cherry blossoms while picnicking and soak in a geothermal onsen, a natural hot spring bath.

The programme also features eight ‘more ashore’ late-night stays in ports, including Akita, Aomori, Hakodate and Osaka (for Kyoto).

Princess also offer 13 to 14-night Japan Cruisetours, which combine a land tour with a cruise for a more in-depth experience. Land destinations include Tokyo, Kyoto and Yokohama.

A seven-night Kyushu & Korea voyage starts from £879 per person, sailing roundtrip from Tokyo (Yokohama) and calling at Nagasaki, Jeju, Kagoshima, and Omaezaki, departing September 8, 2023.

News

Hays Travel success down to cruise bookings

The travel agent made a profit in August and says that ‘seacations’ have whetted customers’ appetite for cruises


Hays Travel made a profit in August thanks to the number of Brits they’ve “sent on ‘seacations’.”

Hays Travel chair Dame Irene Hays said: “It wasn’t the summer we wanted, and we’re nowhere near where we were in 2019, but August has been stronger for us.

“The number of people we’ve sent on ‘seacations’ who’ve never cruised before, have tried one and come back and booked a cruise for next year or later this year, is massive. It’s got our customers’ appetites whetted for the future.”

Cruise specialist cruise.co.uk revealed last week that the ‘seacation’ demand is set to continue with almost half (48 per cent) of holidaymakers who have taken a UK cruise this year planning to book another one within 12 months.

Almost half (49 per cent) of all bookings made with Hays Travel since August 1 were for short-haul breaks, while 23 per cent were for long-haul holidays, 23 per cent for cruise, and five per cent for UK breaks.

The majority of bookings made in August were forward bookings for summer 2022.

Only 27 per cent of bookings made in August were for summer 2021, while 40 per cent were for summer 2022, and two per cent for summer 2023. A total of 21 per cent booked for winter 2021, while nine per cent booked for winter 2022.

 

 

Interview

Azamara steps up destination focus under new owners

After Sycamore’s $100 million investment, president and CEO Carol Cabezas talks to Jane Archer about the line’s future


Azamara will be targeting seasoned cruisers as it steps up its destination focus on its return to service under new owners Sycamore Partners.

President and chief executive officer Carol Cabezas said mainstream cruise lines do a great job bringing in new-to-cruise customers; Azamara is there for when they are ready to ‘graduate’ to a different experience.

“More experienced travellers are looking for more than the Caribbean and Rome. They want smaller ships that can visit more unusual places. They are interested in getting out there and exploring,” she said. Azamara ships hold just under 700 passengers.

Cabezas was speaking on Azamara Quest in Greece, the line’s first sailing since the pandemic halted all cruising in March 2020. It was also the line’s first cruise under its new owners.

Sycamore bought Azamara from Royal Caribbean Group in January 2021 as a three-ship operation and immediately announced it had bought a fourth vessel. “Stefan Kaluzny [one of the co-founders] called me the day after the papers were signed to say he had a present for me – a new ship,” she recalls.

The new vessel, Azamara Onward, increases the line’s capacity by a quarter but Cabezas is confident that can be filled. “Sycamore have come into this because they believe travel will rebound,” she said. She declined to discuss targets but added: “We will be cash positive in 2022.”

Azamara Onward, which was most recently sailing as Pacific Princess for Princess Cruises, starts sailing in its new colours in spring 2022 after a refurbishment that will take a large slice of $100 million that Sycamore is investing over the next nine months to refresh all the ships.

Among changes, the casino will be taken out and replaced with a shore excursions desk, while retail areas will be opened up and start selling local products to bring the destinations being visited on board. Menus will be rewritten to feature more local dishes and drinks.

Cabezas said: “We are looking to dial up on destination through our culinary offering and putting more resources into our pre and post-cruise offering. Most of our guests stay a few days before or after their cruise anyway, so we are tapping into what they are doing.”

Azamara has secured a new UK office in Weybridge, Surrey, but the team – headed by David Duff, commercial director international markets, and including three in sales and one in marketing – is unchanged from the Royal Caribbean days.

Cabezas said: “Agents account for more than 70 per cent of our business. They understand our brand, so my goal was to keep the sales team stable.” She added it is ‘probable’ the UK sales will expand in the next 12-18 months.

News

Hurtigtruten to sail to the Galápagos Islands

The line will offer nine-day expedition adventures to the archipelago from January 2022


Hurtigruten Expeditions is adding the Galápagos Islands to its global offering from January 2022 in what is being described as a “significant milestone” for the cruise line.

Sailings to the archipelago will take place on board the newly upgraded, 90-guest MS Santa Cruz II, adding to Hurtigruten Expeditions’ growing fleet of small purpose-built expedition cruise ships.

Starting from January 5, 2022, Hurtigruten Expeditions will offer nine-day Galápagos adventures, including two nights in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito before a six-night cruise.

It is also possible to add a four-day tour of Machu Picchu in neighbouring Peru, before embarking on the Galápagos adventure.

“We are extremely excited to expand our South America offering to one of the most spectacular destinations on the planet,” said Hurtigruten Group CEO Daniel Skjeldam.

He added: “We have seen a clear trend of travellers seeking out truly unique and meaningful travel experiences, with a sharp increase in demand for the type of small ships and big experiences we offer. The pandemic has dramatically pushed this development forward. There is huge pent-up demand for travelling right now, and we are responding with this breathtaking new destination.”

Home to 9,000 species of wildlife, the Galápagos Islands are an isolated archipelago located almost 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador.

Hurtigruten Expeditions has teamed up with Ecuador-based Metropolitan Touring to offer guests unique experiences with the islands’ wildlife.

Cruise highlights include exploring the Giant Tortoise breeding centre, getting up-close with sea lions and land iguanas, bird watching, kayaking, and snorkelling, as well as daily lectures to better understand the islands and their wildlife.

MS Santa Cruz II will feature all suites and cabins, an explorer lounge, a dining room, a bar and a Science Area.

Hurtigruten Expeditions CEO Asta Lassesen said: “This is a significant milestone in our 125-year history of exploring. the Galápagos is one of the world’s ultimate expedition cruise destinations.”

News

Silver Wind converted into icebreaker

The ship is being modified to allow it to cruise in polar waters, and it heads to Antartica later this year


Silversea Cruises is set to convert Silver Wind to an ice-class, ultra-luxury expedition ship.

The ship is currently undergoing refurbishments at the Remontowa shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland, following a major upgrade in 2018.

The redesign includes an ice-strengthened hull for cruising in polar waters and state-of-the-art technology upgrades. Silver Wind will be outfitted with a new advanced wastewater treatment plant, food waste treatment facilities and new fuel-saving boilers, the line said.

It will become the fourth expedition vessel in Silversea’s fleet of nine ultra-luxury ships. Its maiden voyage will be on November 20 – a 22-day journey to Antarctica, coinciding with a solar eclipse on December 4.

“We are converting our beloved Silver Wind into one of the most luxurious expedition ships at sea to further expand and diversify our cold-water cruise offering,” says Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s president and CEO. “With the backing of the Royal Caribbean Group, we are significantly investing in our ultra-luxury fleet to meet the burgeoning guest demand for voyage options in such breathtaking remote destinations as Antarctica, and we have more exciting enhancements to come.”

The ship will be fitted with a strengthened hull; ice-detector sonars, designed for use on icebreaker vessels; 24 Zodiacs; and 14 kayaks. With a reduced guest capacity of just 274, Silver Wind will carry up to 28 expedition experts who will share their knowledge during onboard lectures, on guided Zodiac tours, and on experiences on land. A photo studio (formerly the casino), a mudroom and a special water heating system in the ship’s swimming pool will also be included.

Silver Wind’s Vista and Veranda suites will also be updated, including the installation of new walk-in showers. Many of the ship’s public areas will also be refreshed, with repainted walls and ceilings in La Dame, La Terrazza, the Observation Lounge, the Panorama Lounge, and the reception area. The gym and beauty salon will be refreshed too.