There’s a nice picture here showing Queen Mary 2 berthed at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal yesterday.
It’s less than a month to our cruise, and our thoughts are beginning to drift towards it. We’ve done a couple of our standard pre-cruise activities: we’ve received the brochure booklet, we’ve read it, we’ve discussed it, and we’ve made decisions. One of them is that we are not going up to Rome from Civitavecchia – I got a very strong signal from Val that she really didn’t fancy all that hassle again, for a visit to a city that I don’t think she likes that much. I know when to graciously capitulate…. We’ve had preliminary discussions about foreign currency – do we need more €s than we already have? And we’ve started musing about which evening we might have our meals in the White Room and East. (Note, not *will* we do this, but *when* we’ll do it.) So everything is coming along swimmingly.
(Except – I sometimes get a feeling that I am wishing my life away – and given the age I am, that’s not a wise thing to be doing. But it is hard not to look forward to a cruise that we booked more than a year ago.)
On other issues, I may get the chance to go to Southampton on 7 June to see Royal Princess arrive. I had expected that I would see her sailing out on 14 June on the second of her pre-maiden short cruises – we should be around Southampton that day. But Val has pointed out that her movements for work that week may mean that she won’t have packed before the 14th, so we may not in fact be in the Southampton area in time. So the 7th is coming into focus, for a trip on my own. I’m hoping to hear from an internet friend what time of day Royal Princess is expected to arrive in the port, and as long as it’s not too early I’ll be there. Here’s an image of Royal Princess on shipspotting.com, taken in mid-April – more handsome-looking in this photo than in the press release artists’ impressions.
I’ve done a number of blog posts about this question in the last couple of months as there were some things about the way the scheme was working in practice that did concern me. However, it looks as if there have been some changes.
I did a post in late February in which I said that at that time P&O were offering Getaway fares on cruises all the way out to late July, five months beyond the then current date. In that post I said that this didn’t seem to match P&O’s original description of Getaway fares, which they said would be ‘last minute offers’. Today I’ve had a look at the current availability of Getaway fares, and the situation seems to have improved quite a bit. They are currently available on all cruises from now up until cruise R313, which sails on 24 August. That’s about three and a half months from today. (There’s also one other cruise, A321N, which sails on 31 August which is offering Getaway fares.)
That seems a lot better than the situation in late February / early March. I always accepted that the offers would start at around the three-month mark because that’s when P&O start finding out which bookings aren’t going to be completed. There will always be some would-be passengers who made a reservation, paid a deposit but who, when the final payment is due, are unable (or unwilling) to complete it. It’s also at the three-month mark that the line starts to have a real feel as to how full the ship will be. So I’m quite bit happier with the situation as it seems to be today. My argument was never with the concept that P&O might offer cheap last-minute fares; they’ve been doing that for decades. No, I was unhappy with their interpretation of ‘last minute’. It isn’t five months.
I’m also pleased to see that P&O are differentiating between what Vantage fares & Getaway fares will get for their respective passengers – I did another post here about that. Indeed, the real change is that for all those cruises between now and mid-August for which Getaway fares are available, the actual cabin types on offer for these fares seems to be restricted. If you want a wider choice then you can still book a Vantage fare, even for cruises in early June, which will give you a choice of any available cabin plus all the other Vantage fare benefits.
P&O have posted this video on YouTube about the recent refit of Ventura. It features a walk-round by Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, which may or may not tickle your fancy. There’s nothing really new in it – nothing we didn’t know – but it’s interesting to get P&O’s take on what they see as important.
How do we know this? – we recently received our ‘Excursions’ booklet. We still get the booklet because we haven’t ‘gone green’. Going through the booklet together and deciding which excursions we fancy doing and which destinations we prefer not to do one is one of the pre-cruise rituals that we very much enjoy. In addition to making some real decisions about the cruise, it’s also a big signal that it isn’t very far away. Last week we received the booklet for our forthcoming cruise on Ventura.
We’ll be visiting three ports that are new to us, plus other ports with which we are familiar. The new ones are Valencia, Monte Carlo, and Ajaccio. As regards Valencia there’s a walking tour of the historic parts of the city that looks attractive. We’ve done these walking tour excursions before, and they’ve generally been very good – we did one in the Alfama district of Lisbon a few years ago that was excellent, and we very much enjoyed our guided walk across Venice. Then for Monte Carlo, there’s a choice between another walking excursion, or just wandering and gawking; and we’ve heard from other family members that on a first visit, just gawking is probably the way to approach it. Then for Ajaccio – well, we’re not sure. Among the possibilities are some that would introduce us to the city, and other choices that would be more a general introduction to Corsica, which is a place I’ve been wanting to visit for decades. So I’d welcome some feedback on this destination, please.
As regards the other ports of call, most of them are very familiar: Barcelona, Civitavecchia, and Gibraltar, and I think we’ll do our own thing in each of those. Certainly in Barcelona and Gibraltar; however, Val isn’t as enamoured with Rome (the city) as I am, I’ve just had my Rome fix (I spent a weekend there on my own in April – pictures here) so it is just possible that we might do a non-Rome excursion from Civitavecchia. There’s quite a good choice of those, in fact.
But that leaves on more port of call – La Coruna. We’ve been there before and did the walking tour. (Wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great – possibly because La Coruna isn’t a great place anyway?). We’ve also done an excursion to Santiago de Compostela (from Vigo) and frankly we didn’t much enjoy it. So what to do, what to do? The trips out onto Galicia don’t sound that exciting. I’m wondering if the best thing wouldn’t be to just wander around the town and the harbour. Again, comments from readers would be very welcome.
I’ve done a few posts about the P&O and Cunard Vantage Fares / Getaway Fares issues. Here’s a page which will lead you to them. I continue ti be unhappy about some things in the Vantage Fare / Getaway Fare distinction, and especially about the difference between what P&O said initially about Getaway fares (‘last minute offers) and the reality. This is that Getaway Fares have been and continue to be made available on cruises up to five months away. Five months away isn’t ‘last minute’; my belief is therefore that P&O will never lower the price of a Vantage fare, they’ll simply announce Getaway Fares for the relevant cruise, as far in advance as they feel like, and that the Price Promise is actually worthless.
On 24 April the Advertising Standards Authority delivered its verdict on a couple of complains against Fred Olsen Cruises. This line had advertised cruises using a headline that read “Book now and get the best deal – guaranteed!”. Subsequently Fred Olsen offered fares on the same cruise on a two-for-one basis that was cheaper per person than the “Best Deal – Guaranteed!” price. The ASA accepted that there was small print in the Fred Olsen offer that defined exceptions, modification, etc (not unlike the way P&O can offer Getaway Fares that are cheaper than the Vantage Fares but which don’t trigger the Vantage Fare Price Promise), but found for the complainants. They summarised:
We considered, however, that consumers were likely to interpret the claim “best deal – guaranteed” to mean the price they paid for their cruise would not be bettered. We understood the subsequent “Two For One” offer meant that the cruises could have been booked at a cheaper price. We therefore considered that the claim was likely to mislead consumers into believing they would always pay the best price.
Here’s a link to the page with the summary of the ASA decision.
It’s time to talk a bit more about Royal Princess. Remember, the significance of this particular ship to UK cruisers is that she is the first of three to the same overall design, and the third of these will go to P&O, in 2015. Royal Princess herself will go into service this June – she will be named by the Duchess of Cambridge in Southampton on 13 June. Unless she’s sprogged by then, of course…. But the baby isn’t due until ‘around mid-July’ so Princess – the cruise line, not the Duchess – ought to be safe with this appointment. Still you never know….