I must have missed this earlier, but thanks to spotting some comments on Facebook I’ve now picked it up.

I understand that the position is that whereas in the past most room service items were free, from May/June (the actual date varies ship by ship), all items on the room service menu will be chargeable. In some cases the items were on the old menu and were free but will now be chargeable – for example,  baguettes (from the Daytime Bites section of the new menu) will now cost £1.50 – the same items in the ‘Throughout the Day” section of the old menu were free. In other cases the old complimentary item seems to have disappeared and been replaced by different chargeable items – for example, previously the “Main Courses” section included dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Citrus Poached Salmon and Traditional Caesar Salad which no longer seem to be available at all. They’ve been replaced by a new (and, to be fair, wider) range of “Large Plates” which includes Southern Fried Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lasagne, and Great British Beef and Ale Pie. These will all incur a charge of £4.75.

In some cases there were charges on the old menu – for example, there was a Chicken and Bacon sandwich, which consisted of a “grilled escalope of chicken served on a mini french baguette with salad and crisp bacon, topped with fresh salsa”. That cost £1.50. The nearest equivalent on the new menu is a P&O Cruises Club Sandwich, consisting of chicken, bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise, so not quite the same thing. The charge isn’t the same either – the new Club Sandwich will cost £4.75. In other cases the old chargeable item has simple vanished – for example, I can’t see a direct replacement for the Seafood Pie (salmon, cod, prawns and peas in white wine sauce, and topped with cheese mash) which currently costs £4.50.

Looking at the whole picture there does appear to be a wider range of items available so that’s good. It’s disappointing, however, to see a charge for the “Children’s Sandwich Selection” – ham, egg mayo and cheese (presumably that would be three different sandwiches?) with orange juice, fruit yoghurt and a brownie. For the sake of going up to the buffet the child could get something equivalent for free and the parent wouldn’t be asked to fork out the £2.00.

The one exception to all this will be breakfasts – they will continue to be complimentary, and they appear to be the same continental breakfasts as before. But you can’t order breakfast throughout the day – “breakfast” stops at 11am.

Here’s when the new menus and charges will be introduced, by ship:

Ship Date Cruise number
Aurora 29 May 2017 R706
Ventura 31 May 2017 N713
Oriana 5 June 2017 X710
Oceana 8 June 2017 E709
Adonia 15 June 2017 D708P
Arcadia 18 June 2017 J707
Azura 30 June 2017 A717
Britannia 22 July 2017 B721

I had expected that similar charges would be appearing on Cunard, but it seems not to be the case – Room Service will continue to be complimentary on the Cunard ships. That said, the menu doesn’t look as comprehensive as even the old/current P&O menu, let alone the new one. I could be wrong of course – if anyone knows differently, please let me know.

Finally, here are the old and new menus as PDFs.

Old Room Service menu    New Room Service menu

I subscribe to a news feed that sends me Carnival Corporation’s news releases. These cover the whole of the Carnival empire, so I receive notifications about news releases to announce new ships, new developments, occasionally information about corporate share dealings – and very occasionally, something about P&O UK. And yesterday there were not one but two notifications. Boy, was I excited! (I live a quiet life.) And then I read them.

One was about new flavours of ice-cream. They’ll come from an award-winning supplier called “Jude’s Ice Cream“, and they’ll be available “across all the ships in dedicated deck areas”. There will be eight flavours in individual 120ml tubs (Very Vanilla, Truly Choc, Strawberry Tease, Salted Caramel, Ginger Spice, Gin & Tonic, Brown Butter Pecan and Flat White Coffee).  Family friendly ships will additionally serve the following nine flavours in cones: Very Vanilla, Truly Choc, Strawberry Tease, Salted Caramel, Mint Choc Chip, Honeycomb, Raspberry Ripple, Malted Banana and Dairy Free Coconut Sorbet. Here’s the link to the news release. So there’s another factor to consider when choosing your P&O ship: if you go on an adults-only ship you won’t be able to buy Mint Choc Chip, Honeycomb, Raspberry Ripple, Malted Banana (?) and Dairy Free Coconut Sorbet flavours of Jude’s Ice Cream. They don’t like to make it easy for you, do they?

I was still adjusting my world-view to accommodate this when the second news release arrived. This one was about new names to headline the Limelight Club on Britannia. I won’t go through the full list of names, but it includes Anne Reid, the star of Last Tango in Halifax – apparently she has enjoyed a career as a cabaret performer in addition to acting. Another name is  “The One and Only” Chesney Hawkes. (Here’s a question for you: without looking it up, name any other Chesney Hawkes hit.) Plus there are other people who’ve done well on TV talent programmes – actually, “done reasonably OK” might be more accurate. Here’s a link to this news release.

I’m sorry, I know I ought to be more enthusiastic, but it’s a struggle. The Anne Reid thing sounds good – she’ll have a raft of memories to regale us with between songs, and that will probably produce a great show, but I can’t get excited about the others. But horses for courses. I ought to say that I’m not against the Limelight Club in and of itself. We spent an evening there with Jaki Graham in 2016. But she was a seasoned performer and entertainer and did a good show, even if her music wouldn’t normally be my first choice, and we enjoyed our evening very much. Am I perhaps being too judgemental?

Over recent years Fred. Olsen has made a strong point of their use of regional ports around the UK for passenger embarkation and departure. Their 2017/18 brochure has a page headed “Your local, global cruise line” with a map showing the 10 UK departure ports listed for cruises in that brochure – Southampton; Dover; Tilbury; Harwich; Newcastle; Rosyth; Greenock; Belfast; Liverpool; and Falmouth. Indeed, Fred. Olsen’s use of regional ports has almost become their USP (along with their use of smaller ships), and I’ve always applauded this. But in their recently announced 2018/19 schedule the set of UK departure ports has been reduced by half – there are no departures in that schedule from Tilbury, Harwich, Greenock, Belfast, or Falmouth. (It’s worth stressing at this point that there are no changes to departures prior to the new ones listed in the new schedule – the 2017/18 schedule is unchanged.)

This is a significant change by Fred. Olsen – or seems so – so I contacted them and asked for confirmation and reasons. I’ve received the following reply from their PR team: Continue Reading »

I’ve done a number of posts in the last few years about Liverpool’s cruise terminal. The earliest of these were about the dispute over financing when Liverpool City Council (who own and operate the terminal) announced their intention to start using it for turn-rounds as well as for day calls – the dispute was because national and EU funding had been obtained for the existing structure on the basis that it would be used for day calls only. Then I visited the terminal in 2015 and had its operation, capabilities and limitations explained, and also received news that Liverpool was seeking to build a new terminal capable of handling turn-rounds for much bigger ships – up to 3,600 passengers. Since then Liverpool City Council has been taking this project forward.

The present position, as I understand it, is that a suitable site has been identified – the old Princes Jetty, along the waterfront a short distance north of the current terminal and pontoon. I gather that the plan is for piles to be driven into the river Mersey at that spot and the terminal to be supported on them; then a new linkspan will connect the new terminal to the existing docking pontoon. Before any eventual construction there would need to be various acquisitions and lease extensions, and among the land owners involved is the Duchy of Lancaster which apparently owns the bed of the Mersey!

In and of itself the proposed next step isn’t especially exciting – it’s to seek city council approval to appoint consultants to prepare detailed designs and project plans for the terminal, and to take other preparatory work forward e.g. the costs of the acquisitions and leases mentioned above. But if agreed – and the council will take a decision on 21 April – then it’s a further step forward.

Also emerging at the current time are skeleton proposals to include a new hotel and a multi-story car park in the plan. The hotel, which would be around 240 beds, would hopefully be able to rely on overnight cruise passenger business as a foundation. Car parking facilities would be required anyway to store cruise passengers’ cars while on their cruises, and this would need to be reasonably close to the terminal, but I gather that the latest ideas see the car park as being larger than the required size for just cruise passengers. Although these additions may impact on the timescales to approve and develop the terminal, it’s good to see that ‘joined-up’ thinking is happening – obviously, a new terminal capable of handling turn-rounds for 3,600 passengers will inevitably require accommodation and car parking infrastructure.

I’m pleased to see this project progressing. I believe that if it’s brought to a successful completion it will be the largest cruise terminal in the UK outside Southampton – I’m not aware that any of the other embarkation ports, e.g. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle have anything of this size. Even the London terminals (at Tilbury and Greenwich) are smaller than this. I hope they’re able to bring it to fruition.

Here’s a link to a newspaper story about this.

 

 

Carnival Corporation have just announced that Majestic Princess, the third and most recent ship in the Royal Princess class (OK, fourth if you count Britannia) will spend the ‘Austral Summer’ season, from September 2018 to March 2019, home-ported in Sydney. That’s a bit of a surprise because Majestic Princess has been touted as Carnival Corporation’s biggest-yet commitment to the Chinese market.

Majestic Princess was delivered to Princess Cruises earlier this month, and is currently on her maiden voyage (from Civitavecchia back to Civitavecchia). Then she’s set to do a short Mediterranean season before starting a 56-night voyage from Barcelona to Shanghai on 21 May and arriving at Shanghai on 9 July. On the way she’ll call at Dubai, Cochin, Colombo, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh city, Hong Kong, and several ports in Japan, plus other ports too numerous to mention.

Interestingly you can’t search for any more Majestic Princess cruises on the Princess website after that date (July 2017). I assume that she will be spending the next year-and-a-bit cruising from Shanghai, on itineraries that aren’t bookable from the main Princess website. If so she will certainly be spending the first winter (2017/18) sailing out of China, but not her second – that’s when she’ll be undertaking these voyages out of Sydney. Is it possible that bookings for the first winter aren’t meeting expectations?

I did a post about a year or so ago when I heard that Santorini was going to introduce a scheme to limit the number of cruise ship passengers visiting the island. This was because the number of visitors were simply overwhelming the available facilities. At its most fundamental, just getting from the ship up to the main town of Fira has become a challenge – you can either use the cable-car which, because of its limited capacity, generally means queueing, or you can 800 feet walk up a steep path, avoiding donkey droppings as you walk and keeping out of the way of the donkeys as well – their view seems to be that it’s their path! Then having got up to Fira, visitors will find that there are few taxis and that the buses are full.

The post last year followed on from the announcement of the intention to apply limits. Obviously there was a further problem last year in that the cruise lines had already published their schedules and sold cruises, so it wouldn’t have been possible to introduce the restrictions scheme at that time. However we are now in 2017 at the beginning of a new summer season and I decided to revisit the topic.

My understanding is that there was an attempt to limit the numbers – or at least manage them – on a voluntary basis during last summer. I’m still trying to get hard information as whether a firm scheme has been, or is being, introduced for this year. If I get further information I’ll post it here.

However I have found some other information that suggests that cruise traffic to Greece is set to fall by about 30% in 2017 generally, compared with 2016.I’m not sure yet of the reasons for this, but it’s possible that among the factors in play may be these: a) cruise lines are reluctant to send ships to (or near) those Greek islands affected by the refugee crisis and b) are also avoiding destinations in Turkey because it’s no longer seen as being as safe or stable as it was. As a result of this the lines are just not sending as many ships into the eastern or southern Mediterranean as was the case in previous years.

In the case of Santorini the fall in numbers is even greater. Someone has done the necessary work and has concluded that expected ship calls there will be 35% lower in 2017 than in 2016. The actual number of calls will reduce from 558 to 363. Of course as ships get bigger the passenger number may not drop by the same extent, but even allowing for that it looks as if the pressure on Santorini should be lower this year than last; and that this may be the result of wider tourism and economic factors rather than any specific restrictions at the island itself.

Oriana at the Amsterdam cruise terminal, 2012

I’ve read a story that suggests that the city of Amsterdam is considering a building new cruise terminal further away from the city centre than the the present one.

I’m sure that many of my readers will have visited Amsterdam on a cruise and will be familiar with the cruise terminal there. It’s quite handily-placed – you can walk from there into the heart of the city. I’ve always reckoned that it takes about 10 minutes or so to get as far as Centraal station (from where trams can be caught) or a few minutes more than that to get to Dam Square. So as long as you’re active, the current cruise terminal is very handily placed.

So why is Amsterdam considering doing this? City officials are worried about the capacity of the city to take further visitors, and they’re looking at the future (this is at least five years away, btw).  The city planners are looking to a time when not only will more ships be calling at the city but they will be bigger, and that this could increase congestion. Apparently the locks at the North Sea end of the NordSee canal – the route into Amsterdam – will be widened in the coming years, possibly to the point where they can accommodate an Oasis-class ship. The planners’ aim is to make Amsterdam city centre a destination for arriving cruise passengers, and not necessarily the destination.

Well, it’s a nice thought and I understand their motivation. Amsterdam is after all a living commercial city, it’s not just a tourist destination. Indeed, arguably tourism should come second to the city’s business which has always been – well, ‘business’. But I’m not sure how successful they’ll be. We’ve been to Amsterdam a few times, and while it’s true that on our last visit we did an excursion away from the city, that was on the second day of the visit; on the first day (or afternoon) we headed straight into the city – had the usual walk around and then found a bar somewhere near Rembrandtplein, if I remember correctly. I have a feeling that walking the canals, visiting the museums, and enjoying a drink will always the No. 1 attraction of Amsterdam. At least from the current cruise terminal we could walk to a point where we could pick up public transport. If a new terminal is any distance out, special arrangements will have to be made to get people into the city centre, and I really don’t think Amsterdam could handle a fleet of shuttle buses every time there’s a big cruise ship in port.

But it’s interesting that the city is considering this. We’ve begun to hear about restrictions on cruise passengers, of one sort or another, from a range of ports around Europe. Venice has already done it, and there was talk about Santorini also restricting the daily passenger load. I have a feeling that it’s inevitable. It would be really interesting to get the figures for the numbers of cruise passengers calling at these popular places 20 years ago and compare them with the figures for today. I think we’d be shocked by how much they’re increased – I wouldn’t be surprised if the average daily passenger load in the popular spots has increased three- or four-fold that time.