Valentines cruise reunites couple with the ship they met on 26 years ago

Looking to relive some of their fondest memories, Vanessa and Cliff Ellams will celebrate their 25th Wedding Anniversary on board Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) cruise ship, Astor, this year.

While it may not seem unusual to celebrate such an anniversary on board a cruise ship, in Vanessa and Cliff’s case things are ‘just a little different’, the British cruise line, CMV, says in its release.

On February 2, 1987, Cliff and Vanessa met for the first time on the day that the Astor set off on its maiden voyage around the world, departing from Southampton. Cliff was the chief engineer on board and Vanessa was a nurse.

Their first chance meetings were far from romantic. Cliff first saw Vanessa in the engineer’s accommodation giving out condoms to engineers preparing to go ashore. The second meeting was in the corridor to the Nurses accommodation, where Cliff was talking to the first engineer as he tried to clear a blockage in the toilet’s vacuum system.

Destiny, and their responsibilities on board, brought them together again. Vanessa’s many duties included checking potable water was safe to drink and to satisfy Port Health Authorities. Then, some few months after working together, the chef de cuisine arranged for the couple to join a group of the crew to go ashore for dinner in Istanbul, but it turned out to be just the two of them, with the chef playing cupid.

The success of that first dinner date led to them going ashore together again in Venice. They both regarded their meeting on board as a ‘shipboard romance’, but by the time, they were preparing to leave the ship they had decided to stay together and were married 25 years ago, in 1989.

One of Vanessa’s most wonderful memories comes from the night when Cliff invited her to walk on the Astor decks with him. It was a lovely night with stars hanging close to the sea and the moon shimmering on the glass-like ocean. To her surprise, Cliff then took out a notebook and pen and asked Vanessa, who was anticipating a romantic stroll, to count the number of bulbs for a fresh order; he was checking lights that needed replacement on board.

Even so, the couple enjoyed life on board and made many friends around the world, two of whom are godparents to their two boys, John (23 yrs) and George (21 yrs).

Cliff and Vanessa are now looking forward to cruising on the Astor once more and reliving some fond memories. Their favourite public areas are the Hanse Bar on Bridge Deck and the Ubersee Club on the Boat Deck.

‘Astor was such a friendly ship, because of its relatively small size. You can get to know everyone and go to places where other ships are too large to enter,’ they told CMV.

Cruise and Maritime offers cruise to the Northern Lights from Bristol

Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) has launched an offer to sail off on a ‘Land of the Northern Lights’ cruise next month.

CMV, which claims to have led the re-birth of Bristol Avonmouth as a major cruise departure port, has also reduced the cost of this cruise with substantial discounts of up to 60 percent and an affordable starting price of £799pp.

The offer comes after last year’s Planet Traveller magazine survey revealed that a significant 58 percent of respondents voted the Northern Lights as the travel experience they would most like to have.

CMV’s Discovery sails from Bristol  Avonmouth – on February 24 for 15 nights and terminates in Liverpool, from where an optional coach transfer is available back to Bristol for £25pp.

Cruise and Maritime’s, head of marketing, Mike Hall, said ‘Last week’s BBC TV live coverage featured the Northern Lights on the Stargazing programme. Since then public interest has grown substantially and we have been busy with new enquiries. Senior NASA scientists have predicted that the conditions for viewing the Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora Borealis) would be at their best this winter.’

From Bristol, the ship will head up to the Norwegian coastline and across the Arctic Circle to spot the spectacular Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. This atmospheric display of green and pink lights swirling across the sky is one of nature’s wonders.

The cruise will also include visits to Stavanger, Alesund and Narvik.

Passengers will also have the opportunity of seeing Polar wildlife, winter landscapes including the Svartisen Glacier, and an optional excursion to see the unique Igloo Hotel. The Discovery will also visit Andalsnes and Bergen before returning to Liverpool.

The per person prices are based on two people sharing an inner cabin on a full board basis with afternoon tea and late night snacks included. Also included in the fare are daytime activities, a guest speaker programme, evening ‘big show’ entertainment, complimentary tea and coffee and luggage handling.

Berlitz Cruising rates Europa 2 as best cruise ship

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new Europa 2 has been rated as the best cruise ship by the new edition of Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships, a guide book to be published in October, according to a report by The Telegraph.

It is the first time in 14 years that a new ship has been selected to take the top spot. Europa 2 takes the title from its sister ship, Europa. Both vessels are in the small ships category, with a capacity of 251 to 750 passengers, and were the only ships to have a 5-star Plus rating.

Europa 2’s accommodation is all in Veranda Suites, with balconies each measuring at least 75 square feet. All suites come equipped with a free mini bar, chargeable Wi-Fi Internet access and a tablet computer. The ship’s 251 suites come in seven categories, measuring from 301 to 1,066 square feet. The highest categories have whirlpools with an ocean view.

There are eight different restaurants to choose from, and wines and spirits are sold at prices that are cheaper than onshore.

The author of the guide, Douglas Ward, describes Europa 2 as ‘a stunningly spacious, top-notch informal ship for sophisticated cosmopolitan travellers and their families… the benchmark in contemporary cruising.

‘The choice of dining venues and types of cuisine are excellent and the service is attentive and friendly but unobtrusive. It all adds up to the very best informal cruise ship available today – unless you own a private motor yacht.’

Considered to be an authoritative cruise guide, the Berlitz publication is currently in its 29th year. The application for the Berlitz Cruise Ships 2014 edition has been released, while the paperback and ebook will be published on October 1.

At the rating, Cunard ships dominated the Large Resort Ship category, Seabourne dominated the Small and Boutique Ships categories and Silversea took five of the top 10 places in the Small Ships Category.

Norwegian launches contest to name new ships

Norwegian Cruise Line has launched the ‘Norwegians Name Their Ships’ contest, asking fans in five countries to help select the names for the cruise line’s two new Breakaway Plus class ships.

From now until September 24, 2013, Norwegian’s fans in the US, Canada (except Quebec), Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom are invited to vote their two favourite ship names from a list of ten options on the cruise line’s Facebook page.

The name options allude to sailing, travel and adventure vocabulary including Bliss, Discovery, Dreamaway, Escape, Journey, Muse, Passion, Sailaway, Treasure and Triton. The word ‘Norwegian’ will be a prefix for all names, as with all the line’s ships.

Those who vote will also enter a contest to win a cruise on the first ship’s inaugural sailing. To vote, UK fans can go to Norwegian’s UK Facebook page.

Norwegian’s chief executive officer, Kevin Sheehan, said: ‘We have the most passionate and engaged fans. We know that nothing makes our community more excited than the anticipation of our new ship launches and these two are our largest and most innovative ships ever. It’s so important to us to involve our community of Norwegians in this exciting process. We have listed name options that speak to the character of our brand and allude to the uniqueness of Freestyle Cruising.’

Set to debut in the autumn of 2015 and spring of 2017, Norwegian’s new Breakaway Plus ships will be the largest in the line’s fleet, with 4,200 passenger berths each. The cruise line launched the 4,028-passenger Norwegian Breakaway earlier this year; while sister ship Norwegian Getaway will start sailing from Miami in February.

The cruise line is also looking to launch its interactive touchscreen signs – which were first introduced in its Breakaway – fleetwide by summer of 2015. The self-service kiosks allow passengers to make reservations for restaurants, shore excursions, order special items and get directions at locations around the ship.

New Domain Acquired by

A UK based online cruise travel agent, has acquired the domain name

The new domain has been acquired for a payment of around $80,000, and the company can use the new name from 2013.

Seamus Conlon, the managing director of, said, ‘People may have thought that we were crazy in spending so much money on the purchase of but it has certainly paid for itself as it is now the largest cruise community in the UK.

As the Internet develops further, it’s becoming more and more important to have the right URLs and that’s why we have invested in We also wanted a non-country specific URL for our future development plans. We need to make sure that we have control of this URL to ensure consistency across our brand and maintain our number one rating on Google across the various sites.’

The company owns a portfolio of other cruise-related domain names, including, and, and the The company also acquired, two years ago, for £560,000, which is the highest purchase price for a domain name in UK.

The company has been awarded several commendations in the last few years, which are claimed to be for its outstanding service, the most important of the awards being ‘World’s Leading Cruise Travel Agent’, which it achieved in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The company website claims to be one of the principal cruise communities in the UK, offering around 119,265 cruise opinions, and 180,190 cruise questions and answers.

The curse of two ships: siblings on the stricken liners

THE mother of a Costa Concordia ‘hero’ is suffering the same “nightmare” as she waits for her daughter  to return – who was stranded on the stricken sister ship.

At the beginning of the week a worried Jayne Thomas said she had to learn about the second disaster via an email from a friend.

Frantic Jayne has heard nothing from dancer daughter Becky, 23, since a blaze broke out on the Costa Allegra, leaving it adrift in the Indian Ocean.

Incredibly, her 19-year-old son James had been working on the doomed Concordia, which capsized off the Italian coast in January, killing 32.

The teenager was labelled a hero after helping rescue terrified passengers escape by acting as a human ladder.

Jayne, 48, from Sutton Coldfied,  Birmingham, said: “I only found out when one of Rebecca’s friends sent me an email having heard the news.

“We’ve had nothing from either Costa or the agency that Becky and James worked for.

“I’m not really expecting anything to be honest, we heard nothing when the Concordia went down.”

James and Becky both work for the same agency as dancers aboard Costa’s ships.

But Jayne never dreamed she’s be suffering the same worry again as when the Concordia sank in January.

“I never dreamed it could happen again,” she added. “I’ve been on both of those ships to see my children.

“In the email I got it told me the ship was on fire and that it had been extinguished in a couple of paragraphs so it was bittersweet news.

“There was a moment of agony when I read it though, fire is what I fear most, it’s the worst thing that can happen on a ship.

“Apparently it’s the engine that has caught fire but it’s all speculation at the moment, nobody really knows.

“I just hope they’re telling the truth this time. Originally when the Concordia went down, they told us that there was an electrical failure and everything was going to be fine

“They said it right up until they abandoned the ship.

“I just can’t believe it’s happening all over again it’s like a nightmare.“

The fire broke out when the Allegra was 260 miles from the Seychelles coast. There are said to be no casualties among the 1,049 passengers and crew members.

Costa Cruises said in a statement that the fire broke out in the electric generators’ room and was quickly extinguished.

According to Jayne the vessel has since been taken under tow to a nearby island by a French fishing ship that responded to the Allegra’s mayday call.

Jayne had been in contact with Becky three or four times a day. They last had a conversation on mobile messenger service WhatsApp, yesterday morning. The mum said: “I said, `Good morning, how was your sleep?’ She said she was fine and getting on with the day.“

Fellow dancer James had previously told how he had acted as a ‘human climbing frame’ after the Concordia disaster.

According to mum Jayne the two had always wanted to dance.

“They have always danced and it was what they both always wanted to do,” she added.

“They both did diplomas at Leicester College of Arts, graduated within six months of each other and got jobs last year.

“I don’t think there’s any chance this will put Becky off, she’s always wanted to travel as well as dance.

“She said to me ‘I could go backpacking, but why bother when I can do it in more luxury?’

“I think this might be the end for James though, he had a big ordeal and has already turned down one offer of a job on a Norwegian cruise ship.”

After going through the same ordeal twice Jayne admits she will feel. Differently about cruise ships.

“I never, ever imagined this could happen,” she said. “The allegra was supposed to be completely safe, or that’s what they said.

“It’s smaller, so easier to keep safe. But I have to say, I will feel a bit uneasy if I go on a ship again.

“I’m not going to stop going, you don’t stop flying just because a plane has crashed, but it will certainly feel different.”

Half of Cruisers Don’t Purchase Travel Insurance

A new study by an independent cruise comparison website,, has revealed that more than half, 52%, of cruisers don’t purchase travel insurance for their holiday, however, in contrast, only 13% of holidaymakers who choose ‘beach holidays’ admitted to not purchasing travel insurance for their trip.


The research, conducted by, was part of a study into the attitudes holidaymakers have towards purchasing travel insurance and certain aspects of the bookings process. 1,281 holidaymakers were subsequently polled.


Initially, the respondents were asked by, ‘Do you purchase travel insurance when taking a holiday?’ Of the respondents that usually went on a cruise for their holiday, 52%, answered ‘no’.


Furthermore, 13% of the respondents who said ‘beach holidays’ were their usual choice of trip, admitted to not purchasing travel insurance, along with 4% of the respondents who frequently went on skiing holidays.


The respondents to the study who admitted to not purchasing travel insurance for cruises were asked to explain their reasons for their decision.  More than a third, 34%, stated that the reduced risk of ‘luggage going missing’ was why they didn’t feel the need to purchase travel insurance.


Furthermore, less than a fifth, 19%, of the cruisers who admitted to not purchasing travel insurance stated that it was because they were not ‘relying on flights and transfers’. An additional 14% of the cruisers asked admitted that they didn’t purchase holiday insurance because of the ‘safety’ onboard a cruise liner.


According to the results from, more than half, 52%, of the respondents who said that they didn’t go on cruise holidays and also didn’t purchase travel insurance cited that the ‘expense’ of the cover was their reason for not purchasing  the protection.


Danielle Fear, Managing Director of, had the following to say:


“Travel insurance can be an additional expense to a holiday; however I would still strongly suggest purchasing it, as it acts as a great form of protection against a variety of possible scenarios and events, including baggage loss and theft. Much like a person searches for the best possible deal on their holiday price, there are different insurance packages available at varying prices, so it is worth conducting a detailed search for the best possible deal.”


She continued: “If people are considering a cruise holiday I would strongly suggest purchasing some form of insurance, more for peace of mind than anything. There is something magical about a cruise liner and sailing into the sunset, as the holiday is certainly full of adventures. If cruisers are insured, they can rest assured that everything is covered, allowing them to kick back and enjoy the experience

Bring legends to life in Vietnam

It all began as a legend. Back in time, in a land where the mountains meet the sea, a beautiful, young fairy, Au Co, falls in love with Long Quan, the Dragon Lord of the Sea. Their children, better known as the Hung Kings, became the early leaders of ancient Vietnam.

In March 2012, Halong Bay’s premier cruise provider, Bhaya Cruises, will be launching two unique, new vessels dedicated to the “Mother of Vietnamese Civilization,” which will soon become legends themselves. The Au Co is the first and only luxury operator to offer a 3-day, 2-night cruise in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Edgar Cayanan, Cruise Operation Manager, said: “The Au Co plans to set new standards in terms of luxury. It will present a journey guaranteeing its guests an experience of a lifetime. The Au Co’s daily trip will not only lead through the natural wonders of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site,Halong Bay, it will also discover the Bays of Lan Ha and Bai Tu Long. Cat Ba Island and its renowned National Park will also be revealed.”

The vessels combine state-of-the-art safety standards and innovative Oriental design, providing luxury and dedication in every detail. Each ship has 32 spacious cabins of minimum 20 square meters each. It also boasts private balconies and well-equipped bathrooms.

The numerous activities en route, the culinary experiences, and the atmosphere will please both the active traveler and those just seeking pure relaxation. Whether you enjoy the stunning scenery, a wellness treatment, or a glass of wine from the Chef’s exclusive selection, the trip promises to be an unforgettable one.

Tran Thanh Nam, CEO of the group, said: “The Au Co strives to provide minimum impact on the local environment and will operate under the concept of sustainable tourism. It’s the owners’ major goal and commitment to support local communities and conserve the beauty of the Gulf of Tonkin for future generations.”

The Au Co’s launching ceremony in Hanoi will take place on August 18 in Hanoi and on August 23, 2011 in Hochiminh City. Travel agents, tour operators, and the press are welcome to meet the Au Co team at IFTM Top Resa in France (September 20-23, 2011) at booth number N11 pavillon 7.2; ITB Asia in Singapore (October 19-21, 2011) at booth number D10, Hall 601; and WTM in UK (November 7-10, 2011) at booth number AS786.

Save 50%* off Nile cruises 04 July 2011 – October 2012

7-night Nile cruise holiday from £699 for first traveller and £349.50 for the second

A Nile cruise is not just a relaxing sail down the Nile – it offers holidaymakers access to the world’s largest open air museum and some of the most amazing ancient archeological monuments and sites that still stand after 6,000 years.

Discover Egypt

is currently offering a special saving on a selection of Nile cruises – a seven night Nile cruise for two with the second person paying half the price.

Enjoy a full board seven night cruise on board the five star Viking Princess with ten guided excursions, return flights and transfers in resort from just £699 for the first person and £349.50 for the second person.
Packages on board other ships, the Royal Viking, have prices starting from £899 with second traveller from £449.50 and Alexander the Great, from £1,399 and £699.50 respectively. Half price single supplement offers are applicable on board the Viking Princess and Royal Viking.

This offer is valid for travel between 04 July 2011 and October 2012 on selected departures from Gatwick. Flights from Birmingham, Heathrow or Manchester are available at a supplement.

These are some of the highlights that holidaymakers will visit along the way:
• Valley of the Kings – one of the most famous archeological sites in the world and a World Heritage site since 1979. The valley is a burial site where tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs for 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC. Its most famous tomb is that of Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.
• Temple of Hatshepsut – the temple of Queen Hatshepsut is close to the Valley of the Kings and is one of the most significant monuments of ancient Egypt. Considered the closest Egypt came to Classical Architecture and marked a turning point in the architecture of Ancient Egypt. Queen Hatshepsut was a rare female Pharaoh (late 16th century – 1482 BC) and considered by Egyptologists as one of the most successful.
• Valley of the Queens – the burial place for the wives of Pharaoh’s and often their children, located close to the Valley of the Kings. The area is said to hold seventy tombs that are all lavishly decorated, one of the most famous being the tomb for Queen Nefertari carved out of the rock.
• Colossi of Memnon – this is one of the most imposing ancient monuments on the West Bank and features two huge stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that have sat in the Theban necropolis for 3,400 years, just across the Nile from Luxor.
• Temple of Karnak – the Temple complex of Karnak is the largest ancient religious site in the world and is a vast mix of ruined temples, chapels, pylons and other buildings, including the Great Temple of Amun and a massive structure started by Pharaoh Ramses II between 1391-1351 BC).
• Temple of Luxor – another spectacular temple complex in the city of Luxor that was started by Queen Hatshepsut, with later additions added by Amenhotep III and Rameses II.
• Temple of Horus (Edfu) – located near the city of Edfu this is the second largest temple in Egypt after Karnak and one of the best preserved. It is dedicated to the falcon god, Horus and was built in the Ptolemaic period between 237 and 57 BC.
• Temple of Sobek (Kom Ombo) – located 40 kms from Aswan in the town of Kom Ombo this temple was built in 180 BC with later additions added in Roman times. The temple stands on what was an important crossroads between the caravan route from Nubia and trails from the gold mines in the eastern desert. On a bend in the Nile, a spot favoured by crocodiles, the temple was dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god.
• Temple of Philae – Philae is an island in the Nile close to Aswan and the previous site of an ancient Egyptian temple complex. The complex was relocated in a major feat of engineering to the nearby Agilka Island after it was nearly lost under water in the 1960s due to the construction of the High Dam. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.

Big is Beautiful for Cruise Giant

Cruise Critic Announces the Best Ships Based on Reviews and Ratings from Thousands of Cruisers

Big certainly appears to be better when it comes to cruise travel with the news that Oasis of the Seas, a 5,400-passenger mega-ship, which is less than two years old, has swept the boards in the first of an international awards scheme, based purely on passenger ratings.

Cruise news and reviews web site Cruise Critic today announced the winners of its first-ever Cruisers’ Choice Awards. Cruise Critic boasts the world’s largest online cruise community with more than 700,000 members and 70,000 cruise reviews.

The Cruisers’ Choice Awards are based on ratings submitted by cruisers and include dedicated awards for the top-rated ships according to U.K. consumers. This is the first time the site has released annual ratings for cruise ships.

Said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of Cruise Critic, “The reviews and ratings submitted by our members are an outstanding resource for cruise travellers and offer a fantastic insight into the different cruise experiences you will find on each ship.

“These awards recognise the ships that rank highly with passengers by providing exceptional facilities, accommodations, activities and service.”

The Winners

The Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards are divided into three ship classes — small, mid-sized and large — based on passenger capacity. Awards are given to the top 10 ships in each class. Awards are also given to ships in special categories, which include: Value-for-Money, Service, Dining, Cabins, Entertainment, Shore Excursions, Public Rooms, Family, Fitness and Embarkation.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas dominated the U.K. awards in the large-ship class and was rated best overall, as well as best for cabins, dining, embarkation, entertainment, value, fitness and public rooms among U.K. passengers. Said Spencer Brown, “This ship, which sails in the Caribbean year-round, has confounded the soothsayers who claimed that the mega-ship floating-resort experience would be a turn-off for cruise travellers. The reviews and ratings that we have seen clearly demonstrate that Oasis of the Seas is providing a winning formula and truly exceptional levels of quality.”

In the mid-sized class, Thomson Spirit was rated best overall and best for dining, entertainment, value, service and shore excursions by U.K. passengers. “Thomson offers an authentic cruise experience which focuses on camaraderie and community — not simply having all the latest amenities onboard,” continued Spencer Brown. “Passengers enjoy a traditional cruise with a modern twist.” Thomson recently announced that it will resume sailing from a number of U.K. regional ports in summer 2012, ending a three-year exodus from homeport cruising.

Azamara Journey and sister ship Azamara Quest cleared the decks in the small-ship class with the former winning best overall and best in six categories. “Azamara has undergone an onboard and onshore makeover that clearly resonated with travellers,” said Spencer Brown. “The two-ship cruise line’s new focus has blended culinary excellence with itineraries that offer exotic ports of call.”