Saga christens Spirt of Adventure

(Ciaran McCrickard/PA Wire)

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

The luxurious cruise ship 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 on July 26 from Tilbury.

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 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.

The ship features five restaurants, including The Main Dining Room, The Grill, The Supper Club, Amalfi and Khukuri – the only Nepalese dining spot on the High Seas.

All restaurants are complementary to dine in. 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 wrap-around 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.


Domestic sailings from May 17

Maritime minister Robert Courts delivered the “much appreciated news” to the All Party Parliamentary and Ports Group

UK cruise lines will be able to restart domestic sailings from May 17, the maritime minister has told a group of MPs.

Robert Courts was appearing at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Ports Group (APPMPG).

On Twitter, the group said he had announced “the reopening of the domestic cruise market in England”.

It added: “From repatriation procedures and risk mitigations to Covid-19 protocols and the domestic vaccination programme, a great APPMPG session [with] Robert Courts who delivered some much appreciated news.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said that the return of domestic cruises would be aligned to the reopening of domestic tourism and indoor hospitality.

Last month, it was confirmed that holidays will resume no earlier than May 17,  as the government laid out its roadmap for exiting lockdown.

A DfT review into how to allow inbound and outbound travel to restart will report on April 12. Domestic cruises were outlined as the first step in the sector’s reopening by the Global Travel Taskforce in autumn.

According to The Independent, Courts told MPs that the government is working with the home nations to ensure the return of UK-wide domestic cruise.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We are committed to restarting cruise travel when it is safe to do so and we are working closely with the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart.

“The restart of domestic cruises in England will be aligned with the wider resumption of the domestic tourism and indoor hospitality sectors.

“As set out in the prime minister’s roadmap, the earliest possible date for this step is May 17.”

Andy Harmer, director, Clia UK and Ireland, said: “We strongly welcome the announcement that cruise will be included alongside the restart of other domestic tourism in the UK. The industry has been working with the government over the last year on health protocols which put the safety of our passengers and crew first. Many of these protocols have already been tested successfully where cruise has been able to operate elsewhere in Europe.

“The industry has long planned a phased restart for cruise, with domestic cruises representing the first stage of this plan. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Government, including through the Global Travel Taskforce in order to ensure the safe restart of international cruise in time for the summer season.”


P&O Cruises reveals Arvia features

The second LNG-powered Excel class ship is set to arrive in December 2022 and is designed to appeal to all ages

P&O Cruises’ new Excel class ship Arvia will feature Altitude Skywalk high-ropes, minigolf, a swim-up bar and new restaurant Green & Co featuring Mizuhana.

Arriving in December 2022, the ship is designed to appeal to all ages, P&O Cruises said as it unveiled new renderings.

Guests will be able to choose from two different adventurous Altitude Skywalk high-ropes courses while suspended 54m above the ocean. Altitude Minigolf, comprising nine minigolf challenges and another P&O Cruises first, will be located below.

A swim-up bar and infinity pool with views of the ship’s wake will also be part of the on-deck experience.

SkyDome is a pool by day with dining and entertainment by night, including aerial performances, theatre productions and blockbuster movies al fresco on SeaScreen.


As well as entertainment, Arvia will feature 12 restaurants plus a further eight more casual places to eat.

Green & Co featuring Mizuhana with a “plant and fish-led” menu has been especially developed for Arvia. Mizuhana sushi bar will be within Green & Co.
Also on board is 6th Street Diner, informal by day, but with a sophisticated night-time vibe, featuring retro seating, atmospheric lighting and jukebox and serving all-American flavours including speciality fried chicken and waffles with bourbon mascarpone.

P&O Cruises’ signature restaurants Epicurean, Sindhu, The Glass House, The Keel & Cow and The Olive Grove, already across the fleet, will feature on Arvia.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Arvia is the latest evolution in the P&O Cruises experience, embodying the newest trends in travel, dining and entertainment, and will be the epitome of a sunshine resort sailing year-round to the warmest climates.

“New restaurant Green & Co featuring Mizuhana will have a plant-led menu, reflecting the latest trends in vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian dining, while Altitude Skywalk and SeaScreen will entertain all ages.

Arvia’s extraordinary features maximise views of the ocean, seashore and destinations from everywhere on board, while guests enjoy the next generation of onboard entertainment.”

The 185,000-tonne ship, which is 345m in length and boasts 16 guest decks, will also be home to Ocean Studios cinema, 1,300 square metres of shopping and the Oasis Spa and Health Club.

The Oasis Spa boasts new treatments exclusive to Arvia – two couples’ suites, each with a hammam and steam room, a therapeutic cool room, a restorative salt sauna and an invigorating Kneipp Walk, which combines a pebble foot massage with hot and cold water treatments to stimulate circulation and boost vitality.

Similar to its sister ship Iona, Arvia will be powered by liquefied natural gas as part of P&O Cruises’ ongoing commitment to sustainable travel. Building of the ship is already underway at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.