We visited the Manchester Cruise Show yesterday, and we enjoyed it. It was held in (part of) ‘Manchester Central’, which I’d never of before this; but once I learned that this was the new name for the refurbished G-Mex Centre, I was happy. We drove to Hazel Grove, got a train from there to Manchester Oxford Road, and walked the fairly short distance from there to the venue. Mainly through eerily quiet and empty streets, which I gather are the result of the current state of the ‘Bus Priority’ roadworks going on in Manchester. Even the tram didn’t appear to be running.
We arrived just after 11 o’clock and were a little surprised to see some people already leaving (it had only started at 10 o’clock). But perhaps it was the nature of this particular instance of the show that caused the early departure. Whether deliberately or perforce the focus of this show was on destination cruising and smaller-ship cruising and the exhibitors were firmly in those niches: destination specialists such Voyages to Antiquity, luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Oceania, and Silversea (they do all have small ships), and several river cruise lines. The nearest exhibitors to main-stream cruising were Fred Olsen, Thomson and Saga, and again they qualify because many of their ships are small. (Fred would also argue that they’ve become more destination-focused as well.) So perhaps the early leavers had been looking for P&O, Royal Caribbean and all the other large-scale lines who simply weren’t there. I ought to say that the Cruise Show at the NEC next weekend (20/21st September) will include the mass-market lines.
We stayed until about 3:30. We wandered round and had chats with people on the Avalon and Viking stands (both river cruising companies), Oceania, and Voyages to Antiquity. We had thought about having a chat to representatives from Fred, but there was a queue for their stand – perhaps there were some deals available. So we missed them out.
We also attended three talks in the ‘Meet the Lines’ theatre, from Regent Seven Seas, Viking, and Voyages to Antiquity. All three were well delivered and gave a good insight into what each line could offer. You’ll not be surprised that the Regent speaker talked about the quality of their suites and the all-inclusiveness of their offering, arguing that although the apparent price seemed high, once you’d added the extra costs for a cruise with a mass-market line, you weren’t too far away from their price (except that they were better anyway, of course….); the Viking talk majored on the fleet of new Viking Longships that they’ve introduced in the last few years; and Voyages to Antiquity stressed the quality of what we might as well call their enrichment activities, and the nature of the ports their little ship can get into.
We very much enjoyed the day. Regular readers will already know that we’ve come away from our last cruise – maybe our last couple of cruises, to be honest – feeling a bit cruised-out. We’re rather regretting having already booked next years’s cruise, in fact. Following today we’ve decided that perhaps it’s that mass-market cruising that we’re tired of, and we thought that the choices from the likes of Regent, perhaps Oceania, and Voyages were very attractive. Of course there’s the small issue of paying for them…. We did wonder about cancelling next years’s cruise on Azura, but a quick check this morning reminded us that we’ve already paid a £500 deposit and that’s too much to walk away from. So we’ll do Azura next September, and in the meantime we’ll be saving hard for something different in spring or early summer 2016. We haven’t decided what, yet, though Val has been talking a lot about Regent. What we will do in the meantime is get ourselves on these companies’ mailing lists and see what offers emerge from now on for 2015; this might guide us in deciding when to make a booking and with which line.
Finally, it’s invidious to single people out – all the lines’ representatives that we met were professional and friendly – but Rachel from Voyages and Clive from Regent were especially helpful.