Archive for the ‘Fly Cruises’ Category

Once again it has been so long since I last posted that I ought to apologise. For whatever reason, nothing has caught my eye, or my interest in the last couple of months. But I have finally managed to crank the old brain into gear, and produced this pearl.

I posted some while ago that when we were on Azura this summer we had booked our next cruise. This will be a fly-cruise! – our first for nearly 10 years. It will be in September 2018, on Oceana, and just for seven nights – we’ll be doing the Adriatic section of her itinerary, with calls at Ravenna, Venice, Dubrovnik and Split. In addition we’ll be prefacing the cruise with two nights in Malta (the cruise starts and finishes at Malta) which we’re also doing through P&O, by using their ‘City Stay’ add-on package.

At the time we booked the cruise the flights were uncertain, and the documentation we received was a bit confusing – on the one hand it said it was a “round trip from Manchester” but on the other hand it said that the outbound flight would be from Gatwick. All of this was because at the time of booking (June 2017) flight details for September 2018 weren’t known. Obviously P&O would be chartering the regular flights for the start and end dates of the cruise itself, but not for the day we would actually be departing which will be two days before the cruise start date.

Now they are known, and we’ve got exactly what we wanted. Our outbound flight will be from Manchester with Air Malta. We’ll depart just before 11am, and arrive in Malta just after 3pm local time. That’s a pretty civilised time for a flight – we could even just about drive over the Manchester that morning (we’d want to be at the airport by 8 o’clock). However I suspect Val would prefer to not do that, so I think I hear the siren call of the Premier Inn on Runger Lane….

Coming back we’ll be on the Thomson Airline charter flight, departing mid-morning and arriving in Manchester early afternoon. We couldn’t really ask for anything more convenient.

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Once again it has been a long time since I last posted. This always seems to be a quiet time of the year, and it’s hard to think of cruises when the clocks have just changed and the nights are drawing in.

But there have been developments, of course. I suppose the most important of these would be the delivery of Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s latest ship. I’ve done a few posts in the past about her (and about her planned sister, Anthem of the Seas) but I’ve never cruised with Royal Caribbean so she’s not been at the centre of my attention. If you’re looking for better coverage about her, I think the best place to look for it would be Malcolm Oliver’s Cruiseblog, where there is a lot of content about this ship.

Something else that had passed me by was that Ventura has finished her season in the Mediterranean. She’s currently on her transatlantic voyage to the Caribbean, where she’ll start her program of winter fly-cruises on the 7th of November. She’ll be joined by Azura on 14 November. I wonder how successful P&O found Ventura’s fly-cruise season in the Med? Apart from the high summer period (basically the school holidays) I got the feeling that there were a lot of late Saver fares to be had, at very generous prices.

As for us, we are slowly but surely beginning to get excited about our Christmas cruise on Arcadia. Next step will be to book the Baggage Handling Company to, err, handle our baggage. Then there will be an excursion or two to book, before we actually get to start the cruise. But it’s only 7 weeks or so away now.

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It’s all been a bit quiet in the cruise world this last week. Add to that the Bank Holiday plus a couple of days that I spent working away, and you can see why there have been no posts. But here’s a quick roundup of recent events that seem of interest to me.

  • I suppose the big news is that Quantum of the Seas will be home-ported in Shanghai from May 2015, after first doing an inaugural (winter) season from New York. The deployment of sister ship Anthem of the Seas to Southampton for the summer 2015 season is still due to happen – indeed, they must have already started selling cruises on her. After that, however, she will relocate to New York for the winter 2015/16 season and I gather that is a change – she was originally slated to spend winter 2015/16 in the Caribbean;
  • Back to Quantum of the Seas, there’s still no firm word as to when she will be in Southampton (she’s due to make a call there on her way from the builders to New York). However, looking at the entries on CruiseTT my guess would be that it will be 10 November. Still nothing on the Southampton VTS Cruise Schedule for 2014 about the call, however;
  • Getting into Dock Gate 4 at Southampton is still a possible problem; the dual carriageway along Platform Road isn’t finished yet. However Host Sharon on the the Cruise Critic P&O forum said (in answer to a question about this) “You still have to go round the park BUT there is now a dedicated lane just for Dock Gate 4 which makes it so much easier.” So you still have to go round the gyratory;
  • People are generally reporting efficient-enough transport arrangements for Ventura’s Mediterranean fly-cruises – she’s now done one complete Genoa to Genoa round trip and is currently on her way back to Venice. No real word yet as to popular they are – i.e. is the ship full or half-empty, and if the former, is it because they’ve been selling the cruises off very cheaply;
  • And finally there’s been a statement by the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) about the Venice ban on large ships. You’ll remember that an outright ban on ships over 96,000 toms was introduced, to come into effect in November 2014, and also that it was overturned a month or so ago. The CLIA have announced that, notwithstanding the overturning of the ban, they will observe it anyway. This is actually less significant than it sounds, because the lines will have planned their 2015 deployments into Venice with the ban in mind. For example,  P&O had already planned and have announced some weeks ago that they will replace Ventura (113,500 tons) with Oceana (77,500 tons) for their Mediterranean fly-cruises in 2015. So when the cruise lines say they’re going to voluntarily observe the ban, that simply means that they will stick to the plans they made when they were expecting the ban to in force. Here’s a link to a story in the Independent about it.

Having said “nothing much happened this week”, that is of course strictly in the world of cruising. Looking a little further afield but still staying within the world of passenger shipping, I (like all of you, I’m sure) have been horrified by the accounts of the sinking of the South Korean ferry, and the consequential loss of life. A dreadful event. While one’s first concern must be with those who lost family members, nevertheless I await the accident investigation report with interest.

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The 2014 summer cruising season is beginning to get into gear.

For P&O, most ships have now started their summer programs. Aurora and Adonia are still on the final stages of their 2014 World Cruises but they’re on the homeward stretch of those – they will finish them before the end of the month – and Arcadia has already started her main 2014 program. Oriana is finishing off  her last ‘Caribbean No-Fly’ cruise of the winter, while Azura and Ventura have already returned from the winter Caribbean seasons. Ventura is now into her Mediterranean Fly-Cruise season, and is presently on her way back to Genoa after her first call in Venice.  I was pointed to this YouTube video of Ventura sailing up the Giudecca canal past San Basileo. That tug at the front seems to be doing a whole load of work…. Finally, Oceana is doing her summer cruises, although in her case she’s temporarily stuck in Barcelona while remedial work is done on a propeller shaft seal.

As far as Cunard is concerned, all three of their ships are still are still finishing off the world cruises, but (as with the P&O ships) they’ll be liver before the end of April

Back to Ventura. The first passengers have embarked on the first Mediterranean Fly-Cruises and have therefore experienced the travel arrangements. The stories are mixed. It seems that the journeys out to join the ship, at Genoa at least, are going well. As long as the charter flight is 100% for the cruise, P&O and the airline have been able to make almost the same arrangements as for the Caribbean fly cruises – once passengers have checked their bags in at their departure airport, they don’t see them again until it arrives outside their cabin. They do need to go through passport control, but the stories I’m reading suggest that this is quick. (Certainly that matches my experience from my visit to Rome the other weekend – I was given a much closer scrutiny on return to Leeds Bradford airport than on arrival at Fiumicino.) Of course, anyone not flying with P&O on the day of embarkation will have to recover their baggage at the airport, either because they’ve flown in a day or so early, or because they’ve arranged their own flights.

There are some suggestions that things are a little more chaotic when returning from Italy, at least when the departing airport is Venice – there are stories of disorganisation and shouting and arm-waving. On the other hand, that could just be Italians being Italian…. The first disembarkations at Genoa will take place this week, so we should get some news about that soon enough.

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I’ve read today that passengers on many of this summer’s Mediterranean fly-cruises on Ventura have received letters from P&O advising them they will have to pay Italian or Spanish VAT on some on-board purchases. Some cruises will pay Spanish VAT on drinks as well. It’s all very complex, and it’s all due to the fact that many of the cruises will not be leaving EU waters; hence, VAT will be payable.

First, here are the relevant cruises:-

  • all 7-night cruises departing from Genoa;
  • half of all 14-night cruises, whether departing from Genoa or Venice;
  • but not 7 night cruises departing from Venice.

This is apparently because one of the destinations on the Venice to Genoa cruise is Kotor, in Montenegro, which is not a member of the EU. Since the cruise is calling at a non-EU port, that therefore means those 7-night cruises avoid on-board VAT. In contrast, the 7-night cruises from Genoa only call at ports in EU countries, so VAT will be levied. Passengers on 14-night cruises will only pay the VAT for the leg from Genoa to Venice. Arguably they ought not to pay it at all – every 14-night cruise will call at Kotor at some point – but if the on-board systems are set up to charge VAT from Genoa to Venice then I don’t suppose they can apply it only to passengers on 7-night cruises; in practice, they’ve got to apply it to all passengers.

Spanish VAT will apply because the first and last cruise of Ventura’s season will be between Malaga (after the transatlantic voyage in spring) to Genoa, and vice-versa in the autumn.

So what will VAT be charged on?

  • Italian VAT (22%) will be charged on on-board purchases in the shops, photo gallery, and products bought in the spa, but not the cost of treatments;
  • Spanish VAT (21%) will be levied on the same things;
  • In addition, Spanish VAT at 10% will be levied on bar charges, select dining charges and room service charges when the ship is in Spanish waters;
  • But there’s no mention of Italian VAT being levied on drinks or food. Sensible people, the Italians….

You can read the full details here.

Update: I ought to make it clear that passengers won’t have to pay both Spanish and Italian VAT on the same cruise. In fact, the main cruise for which Spanish VAT will be levied will be N407D, which is the cruise that departs from Malaga on 26 March, take 7 nights to get to Genoa, and then continues to Venice – on that one, Spanish VAT will be charged and not Italian VAT.

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It seems that P& have had to arrange for regional flights for Ventura’s fly cruises in the Mediterranean this year. (They start in the spring, of course.) As originally advertised, flights were only available from London, Birmingham and Manchester. However it’s now been announced that flights for 14-night cruises will be available from various regional airports. Here’s the list:

  • Bournemouth – 2 cruises, 28 May & 17 Sep;
  • Belfast – 1 cruise, 23 July;
  • Cardiff – 4 cruises, 2 April, 30 April, 11 June, & 3 September
  • East Midlands – 2 cruises, 20 August & 15 october (that last one returns from Malaga, as it’s the final cruise of the season – Ventura then heads straight back to the Caribbean);
  • Glasgow – 2 cruises, 25 June & 9 July;
  • Newcastle – 3 cruises, 16 April, 14 May & 1 October;
  • Stansted – 1 cruise, 6 August.

All of the flights from those regional airports are to and from Genoa, so the cruises from them can only start and finish there. However there is also:

  • Edinburgh – 15 cruises from Venice, and it looks like it’s every two week cruise starting from there.

I imagine that in order to make the flights work, it will only be possible to book a two-week cruise with the return flight from the regional airport – it won’t be possible to to book a one-week cruise and a one-way flight from them.

Here’s a link to the P&O website page.

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I gather that there has been a change in the embarkation port for some of Ventura’s fly cruises next summer. It is now planned that passengers will embark at Genoa instead of Savona. (There’s no change to the other embarkation on these ‘pendulum’ cruises, which remains Venice). The change is sensible, I think, as P&O’s flights would in fact be into Genoa airport, and this will make transit between the airport and the quayside easier.

Mind you, there seems to be some uncertainty about all this on the P&O website. Some description screens still refer to Savona, while the summary for each of these cruises says ’embark Florence/Pisa’ and ‘disembark Ajaccio’ which definitely can’t be right. Then the detailed itinerary screens shows an unlabelled day at each end of the cruise: the day before Florence/Pisa at the beginning of the cruise and final day of the cruise after Ajaccio.

Update: the P&O website now seems (27 September) to have been updated with the information regarding the substitution of Genoa for Savona.

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