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Celebrity have announced a whole load more details about the dining arrangements on their new ship, Celebrity Edge. You can find the details here (Celebrity site); and Malcolm Oliver covered them as well, here.

I’m not going to go through the list exhaustively, just pick out what seems interesting to me.

Complimentary Dining:

This means the traditional Main Dining Room, or MDR. Here we have a definite break with Celebrity tradition. Celebrity (and Royal Caribbean, their parent) have long featured a single, large MDR on their ships. I remember the Orion restaurant on Galaxy, which we cruised on twice; and the Grand Epernay MDR on Celebrity Solstice, which was very spectacular. Both these dining rooms were on two levels, and both were enormous. Now, it seems, Celebrity Edge will have four (smaller) ‘main’ dining rooms, and they will be named Tuscan, Normandie, Cyprus, and Cosmopolitan. These will offer different menus – Tuscan will feature Italian dishes, Normandie will feature French, Cyprus will highlight Mediterranean dishes, and Cosmopolitan will feature “new American with international influences”.

The big question with the traditional dining rooms is “when do we eat?”, and the answer is that Celebrity will still provide both traditional (fixed time and table) and flexible dining options, after a fashion. If you opt for traditional dining you will be assigned to a time and table in one of the four restaurants, but you will have the option to dine in the other three “upon request”. That sounds to me as if you won’t necessarily get your usual time slot (and obviously not your regular table) if you request to go into another restaurant for a meal. And there’s no indication at the moment as to what you should do if you would prefer a regular table and time, but in a different restaurant from the one you’ve been assigned to. I expect that the Maitres’d will be very busy on the first night of the cruise….

Then there’s Select Dining, Celebrity’s name for what other lines call Freedom or Freestyle dining – i.e., different times and, on Celebrity Edge, places each night. For this, Celebrity are going to try to offer everything. They say that if you opt for Select Dining you will be able to reserve a specific time slot, if you want, in the same restaurant, or different restaurants (of the complimentary ones, of course) for each night. Or, you can just show up at random and take your chance. This sounds wonderful, until you think about the impact of having table reservations to manage. Say there are a number of reservations for 8pm (for other diners). You (without a reservation) turn up at the restaurant at 7:45, and are told that there will be a long delay; yet when you glance into the restaurant all you can see are lots of empty tables. They’re being kept empty, of course, for the diners with the 8pm reservations. Alternatively, you turn up at 7pm, get seated, and then find that you are being rushed through your meal because the Maitre’ D needs your table back at 8pm for the reservations. My view is that having a reservation system simply blocks up the freestyle dining system. It’s best, I think, to not have reservations and just have cater for people as and when they turn up. Pretty much as P&O do it, in fact, which in my experience works well.

Special Complimentary Restaurants:

There are two other complimentary restaurants, Luminae and Blu. These are complimentary, but only for passengers in certain classes of accommodation: Luminae for suite passengers, and Blu for passengers in Aqua class cabins. Blu has certainly been around for a while; I don’t know about Luminae.

(Actually, those four MDRs mentioned above sound so tempting that I’m not sure I would want to eat anywhere else, even if I could….)

Speciality Dining: (i.e. at Extra Cost!)

These days no new cruise ship is complete without its extra-cost speciality restaurants (although Viking seem to manage…) so Celebrity Edge will have its compliment thereof. There will be a steak house and a french bistro, and both of those sound perfectly sensible. Then there will be some others which frankly sound – well, I’m not sure. Here’s the list:

  • Magic Carpet: this is the bit of the ship that changes position (honest!). It’s stuck out over the edge (“Edge” – get it?) and can move up and down the ship’s side. By day it will be on deck 5 and will be associated with Raw on 5, and will offer casual sea food dining. At night – well, I think the best thing I can do is quote Celebrity: “As the Magic Carpet makes its way up the side of the ship, it reaches the very top level, where it becomes an extraordinary sky-high restaurant where we host an exhilarating and mouthwatering experience we call Dinner on the Edge. Get ready for a unique, al fresco culinary journey that satisfies your taste buds, your eyes, and your sense of wonder all at the same time.
  • Raw on 5: This will be a sea food restaurant.
  • Rooftop Garden Grill: this will feature a “backyard BBQ-inspired menu”. And the setting will be “a living urban playscape designed to satisfy your inner child“.
  • Eden: “Eden Restaurant is a place where dining is taken to new and exciting places” (Wasn’t that Magic Carpet?) Actually, I think the best thing I can do is point readers to the explanatory page about this one. I can’t wait to see what happens to diners when they hit The Cresendo….
  • Le Petit Chef. Ahem – here’s the quote: “We’re bringing your tabletop to life with Le Petit Chef – an animated character who appears beside your plate and prepares each course you’ll be enjoying right in front of you“. Of course they are.

Bars and Lounges: (this sounds more like it!)

Well, it seems there’ll be 11 of them, but no real details yet.

And that’s it! Who would have imagined that getting some food could be so exciting?

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More on Swan Hellenic

I did a post a few weeks ago about the future of Swan Hellenic. The brand is currently owned by G Adventures who took it over when they purchased a chunk of the failed All Leisure Group at the end of 2016. At the time they said that they would relaunch Swan Hellenic in 2017, but obviously that didn’t happen.

I was at the Destinations Show in London last week where G Adventures had a stand, and I took the opportunity to speak to someone about Swan Hellenic. Unfortunately they didn’t really know anything – the message was “keep watching the website and wait for announcements”. However they did say one thing of interest – my enquiry, which I made early afternoon on the first day of the show, was the fourth or fifth they’d had. So there is some interest in Swan Hellenic out there.



As I said in my last post, P&O have announced that they are to get another big new ship. This will be delivered in 2022, and will be a sister to the earlier big ship which is due in 2020. As yet, we have no details of either of them.

However….. P&O being part of Carnival Corp, it doesn’t get new ships to its own design. The hull and the organisation of the superstructure (including the open decks) will be shared with all the other ships that Carnival Corp is building to the same design. Of course there will be differences – I’m sure that P&O will get a British design agency to provide a detailed design for the cabins and all the public spaces, but the actual layout will be very similar. For example, while the style of the restaurants and bars will differ from ships of one line to those of another, the actual restaurants and bars will be in the same locations on each ship, and will be the same size on each ship. Similarly, the number of decks – public and accommodation – will be the same. An example would be the similarities and differences between Royal Princess and Britannia.

With that in mind I did a bit of research and found that the first of the new ships to be delivered will be, I believe, AidaNova. She’ll be delivered to Aida Cruises (obviously) at the very end of 2018 – Aida are selling cruises on her for December. And on the Aida Cruises website were the deck plans, which I downloaded and have attached above.

First thoughts – she’ll be big: the superstructure will include six full accommodation decks plus parts of another two, and there will be a further two decks in the hull each of which will be two-thirds accommodation; so call it nearly eight decks of cabins. On the bright side, those cabins in the hull decks will probably be ‘ocean view’ cabins rather than balcony, and therefore perhaps a bit cheaper. I haven’t had the chance to get my head around all the features of the public decks, and in any case those are the areas that are most likely to differ on the P&O ships. However, I did spot one thing: is that a promenade on deck 8, continuing down to deck 7 at the stern? That would be a welcome return if it is – we really missed that on Britannia.

Apologies for the small size of the PDF file, please use the embedded tool bar to get as much from it as you can. Alternatively, here’s a link to the same deck plan on the Aida site – it can be downloaded from there.

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P&O have announced that they are to get another new ship. This one will arrive in 2022, and will be a sister to the one that’s due in 2020.

Malcolm Oliver spotted this news before me, so I think the best thing I can do is provide a link to the post on his blog.

Here’s a link to the relevant page on the P&O site (which doesn’t actually say much).

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I’ve just received a tweet from Celebrity Cruises to the effect that Celebrity Edge was floated out today. Here’s a link to the tweet, which includes a video:

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Moving the Blog….

So, for my 1,001st post, here’s a bit of boring technical information.

I’ve had this blog for almost 10 years, and for most of that time it’s had the address ‘tomscruiseblog.co.uk’. This is itself mapped onto the original, basic ‘.wordpress.com’ address that the blog originally went under, and which is actually still there – the actual basic address for the blog is ‘tomtotley.wordpress.com’ . Recently I was able to get my hands on the ‘tomscruiseblog dot com’ domain name and I’ve registered that, so fairly soon) that will become the main address of the blog. However, all being well the .co.uk address will continue to work – I gather that I can map that address onto the new one – so there’ll be no need to change links. However, the ‘tomtotley.wordpress dot com’ address won’t work after I’ve made this move so if anyone is still using that you’ll need to switch to tomscruiseblog dot com (or tomscruiseblog dot co dot uk).

Just to complicate matters further, I’m also moving the blog away from its present site to a new one. The present blog has been hosted by wordpress.com for all of its life, and it’s been effective. However, the level of subscription I’ve got (basically, the free deal..) gives me very restricted access to amending the site – I can’t add plugins, I can’t make changes to the css, and I get very restricted information about my visitors. Moving to an independent hosting provider will give me all of those. There won’t be any changes immediately, but going forward – who knows?

I’ll probably trigger the domain name change and the hosting provider move later this week. I’ll leave the tomtotley.wordpress dot com site in place for a while, until I’m sure that my visitors are finding the new site, but sooner or later it will go. I’ll do another post when I’ve made these first changes.

We plan to restart the operation of Swan Hellenic in early 2018 with a new ship and new voyages…..

About a year ago the All Leisure Group collapsed, taking with them two cruise lines, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery. Some parts of All Leisure Group live on – the Travelsphere operation, which was apparently profitable, was taken over by G Adventures and has continued to trade.

G Adventures also took over the Swan Hellenic brand, and made statements to the effect that they would make an announcement about the line’s future sometime in 2017. (I did a post about this here.) We’re now into 2018 and there has been no word. There is still a basic web page for Swan Hellenic, but it just repeats G Adventures’ statement and asks for contact details.

I tried contact G Adventures last week to enquire about their plans for Swan Hellenic but received a reply that pointed me back to the Swan Hellenic webpage. Here’s the text:

If you would like to receive updates regarding Swan Hellenic, please sign up for the annoucement emails here: https://swanhellenic.com/

So I did this and on the response screen following the registration page there’s this further message:-

We plan to restart the operation of Swan Hellenic in early 2018 with a new ship and new voyages that will continue the brand’s extraordinary legacy. Itineraries will be announced this summer.

So perhaps the best way to find out what’s happening with Swan Hellenic would be to register your interest on the Swan Hellenic web page.

But I would counsel anyone doing so to not hold their breath while waiting. Running a cruise line is so very different from what G Adventures currently does (and very successfully indeed, I should say) that I’m not surprised that they’re taking longer than they anticipated. Indeed, I’ll actually be surprised if G Adventures are able to bring this plan to fruition at all – it really is so very different from what they do. Perhaps they’re actually looking to sell the brand on to a company who have the relevant experience and resources.

Finally, it looks as if the Voyages of Discovery operation has died completely – there have never been any plans to resurrect it.

This is a holding page until I get the whole blog transferred here from the .co.uk site. In the meantime:

Here’s a link

to the existing .co.uk blog.

I did a post on my other blog, Tom’s Travel Blog, about this earlier today. Strictly speaking it’s not cruise-related, but it occurs to me that just as I have sometimes used Premier Inn’s ‘SleepParkFly’ deals when flying out of Heathrow on non-cruise trips, other people may use them when going on fly cruises. So I decided to cross-post it here.

The point of all this is that at the moment it’s not possible to book a Premier Inn ‘SleepParkFly’ package at any of their Heathrow hotels. Here’s a link to the post with all the details on my Travel Blog, and here’s a general link to Tom’s Travel Blog.

In its short existence the Viking ocean cruise line has won a lot of praise and many awards. Going against the run of the mass-market lines, it has embraced a smaller scale – its medium-sized ships (48,000 tons) can take just 930 passengers each. There’s no nonsense with that being ‘lower berths only’, either – there are no ‘upper berths’ on a Viking Cruise ship, it’s just two people per cabin. And off course all cabins have a balcony.

So far, so typical for a luxury cruise line. What is not so typical is the way they’re expanding. They currently have 4 ships at sea – Viking Star launched the line in 2015, Viking Sea arrived in 2016, and was followed in turn by Viking Sky and Viking Sun in 2017. Viking Orion will join them in 2018, with a sixth ship, as yet unnamed, launching in 2019.

Within the last few days the line has confirmed a further four new ships, to be delivered in 2021, 2022 (two) and 2023, bringing the total to ten ships. Subject to small changes to detailed design points based on the experience gained from the early ships, all ten will be identical. Certainly they’ll all be the same size, have the same passenger capacity, and exude the same Scandinavian minimalist design.

It’s only fair to say that prices on them are above the mass-market average – it looks as if it’s at least £200 per person per night for a basic balcony cabin in mid-season. But for that money it looks as if you get a very interesting and high quality product. I have to admit, we’re tempted. I can’t see that we’d be able to do it every year – possibly just the once, in fact! – but sometime in the next few years Val will be joining me in retirement, and a cruise on a Viking Ocean ship would be an ideal way of marking the event. Up until now the fleet has been spread very thinly around the world, but as the number of ships grow so will the number of cruises in different locations. Watch this space…..

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