We watched the last of the Jane McDonald Programmes this evening. Overall, we enjoyed them. I don’t think they were especially about cruising; they seemed to be more about her on a cruise, and given her personality it was mostly her. But if you’re making a TV programme you need a presenter or anchor who is going to engage the viewers, and Jane McDonald certainly did that.

The programmes themselves were varied, and we thought that was due to her own different responses to the different cruises. We got the feeling that she could take or leave the MSC megaship – the best bits of that one were definitely the sequences ashore. The second one, on the small Scottish ship, was very good – she seemed very relaxed in those surroundings and that came through. The third one, we felt, was in direct contrast – she seemed awkward and out of place on the river boat, and seemed very unrelaxed. And we thought the dirndl was a definite mistake!

The final episode was much better, probably the best of the series. She seemed to respond to the ship – medium-sized, not too many people – very positively. Indeed, she was obviously loving the day in the spa, and also the dressing room chat with the dancers. And of course the scenery was stunning. That came across as an enthusiastic endorsement of cruising in Alaska.

Based on the best two programmes I wouldn’t be too surprised if there was a second series. Best moment? – possibly her singing ‘Amazing Grace’ in Fingal’s Cave.

Celebrity have announced that not only will the details of their much-anticipated, much-concealed Celebrity Edge ship (and class) will be available on 13 March, but bookings will open the same day as well. Her first cruise will take place in ‘Fall 2018’ – I imagine we’ll get the actual date on the 13th.

The Celebrity Edge story has been shrouded in mystery. Even now, there’s very little information around about the design of the ship – Celebrity have kept the details very tight. However, here’s a link to a post I did in November with as much information as I could find at that time.

One thing that became obvious as I did the Newbuilds page was the relatively modest size and capacity of this new ship/class. At only 117,000 tons and 2,900 passengers it will almost be a medium-size ship; these days, I would probably regard “large ship” as beginning at around 150,000 tons and 3,500 passengers. So an interesting choice for Celebrity, and perhaps serves to distinguish them more clearly from their parent Royal Caribbean.

Unfortunately I shall be travelling on 13 March – I’m having a non-cruise holiday visiting some places in Asia that I’ve wanted to see for a long while – so it might not be until the weekend afterwards that I can get to cover the revealed details. But if the Lone Pine hotel in Penang has decent wifi, and if it’s too hot in that part of Malaysia to do anything else, I may be able to post something.

Well, this is interesting. There’s a report to the effect that Carnival has ordered two new ships to an enhanced ‘Carnival Vista’ design for delivery in the early 2020s onwards. There’s also an option for a further four ships. The new ships will serve the Chinese market and the design will be tailored accordingly.

What’s interesting about this are two further pieces of information. First, the ships will be built at a shipyard in Shanghai; specifically, at the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co. Fincantieri is involved in the deal, and it seems they will be providing “technical support and design work”. Secondly, it seems that the ships will be operated by a new Chinese cruise brand, which will be a joint venture between Carnival Corporation, China State Shipbuilding Corporation (presumably the owners of the shipyard company), and CIC Capital. This latter is an operating subsidiary of the China Investment Corporation (CIC) which is a sovereign wealth fund and is responsible for investing (part of) the People’s Republic of China’s foreign exchange reserves. In 2014 it apparently had $740Bn in assets under management, so basically it’s a monster.

I’m not sure how these ships map onto the list of new builds I published a couple of weeks ago but I’ll try to get clarification. I’m also not clear how this new cruise brand relates to the presence of Costa in the Chinese market. Up until now Costa had been the favoured Carnival brand for the Chinese market, although Princess is playing there as well. However, it looks as if the first of new ships won’t be available until 2023 which is still five years away. Here’s a link to a press release on the Carnival Corp site.

There are posts flying around this morning from all the usual cruise TAs announcing that P&O and Cunard will be revealing their winter 2018/19 schedules shortly. The timetable seems to be as follows:

  • 13 March: Schedules revealed and ‘pre-registration’ available, for both lines;
  • 23 March: Bookings open for P&O loyalty club Caribbean, Baltic and Ligurian tier members;
  • 27 March: General P&O bookings open for Winter 2018/19 cruises (not 2019 World cruises);
  • 28 March: Bookings open for Cunard World Club members, for both winter cruises and 2019 World cruises;
  • 29 March: General Cunard bookings for all cruises;
  • 30 March: Bookimgs open for P&O 2019 World cruises.

If I learn anything more before those dates I’ll post it here (although I will be away from 6 to 17 March).

We finished all our remaining episodes of The Cruise yesterday evening and we’ve just watched the first of the Jane McDonald programmes so here’s a quick report on what we thought of them.

We watched three episodes of The Cruise last night, and I think we enjoyed them more than we did the first three. It’s always interesting trying to work out why the producers have picked the people to highlight that they did, and also to wonder about the people they didn’t pick. I can see why they picked Timothy, and also Scott the the hotel engineer. Not only personable individually, they worked well as a contrast – Timothy was generally rather over the top but Scott came over as an enthusiastic ‘ordinary bloke’. I’m not sure about Nico the kitchen worker who wanted to work on reception – I never thought that was going to work, and to be honest I found myself cringing a bit during the segments with him. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy the first few programmes so much, and why the final set seemed better.

That said, I thought the content was more interesting in the second half of the series. Without Nico to shepherd, Timothy came more into his own; I liked the scenes with the rest of the guest services team (the sequence with the bags that had been dropped in the water); and while the ‘poo tank’ section was perhaps more information than I really needed it was visually good and revealed some more of the hidden side of the ship. I also enjoyed the glimpses we saw of the bridge  during the sequences with Lauren, the newly-arrived second officer. So for me the series improved as it went along, and I could enjoy another one next year.

We didn’t know what to make of the Jane McDonald programme, however. It’s the first time I’ve really encountered her and she definitely comes across as a larger-than-life person. I enjoyed that aspect of the programme, but I wasn’t sure about the things we saw; the way she spent her time during the cruise. (Although the shark sequence was good.) Of course, it’s very possible that what we saw was a fair reflection of a 7-night Caribbean cruise out of Miami on a big MSC ship…. in which case, I don’t think it’s for me! But the programmes to come will feature cruises of different types – we’re promised a Hebridean islands cruise (possibly on Hebridean Princess?); a river cruise; and an Alaska cruise, on what looked like a Holland America ship – and those will probably generate rather different programmes. Roll on the next programme!

I’m a sucker for them – even though they often don’t satisfy.

Recently we (Val & I) have been watching the second series of “The Cruise” on ITV which of course features guests and crew on Regal Princess. We enjoyed the first season (in 2016) but so far haven’t been grabbed so much by this season. Possibly some of the featured characters haven’t been quite so gripping – or maybe they’ve just been a bit more annoying. But the final episode is being broadcast tonight (10 February) so I’ve no doubt we’ll watch it to the bitter end (on catch-up, generally). I think I’ve enjoyed the bits with the engineer most – there have been some interesting insights into how the thing works. I especially liked the view of the sanitation control room; and the bit about the leaking fountain in the atrium was also good.

Just to confuse things, at 9 o’clock tonight there’s another cruising programme (Channel). This is the first of 4 programmes featuring Jane McDonald, who (I gather) rose to fame in an earlier Cruise show in the late 90s when she was a headline singer on Galaxy. She was able to leverage the exposure she gained on that show not only into a musical/performance career but also a general media career.

Jane vowed she had left cruise ships behind but now she’s back where it all began

I don’t think this will be a documentary-soap in the same way as the ITV series have been, as I’ve read a comment that she will “present a new four-part travel show” and that she will be “…filming reviews of cruise holidays”. So we shall give it a watch.

I’ve learned some more about the return of Swan Hellenic.

As Malcolm Oliver said, the brand has been bought by G Adventures, who had already bought two other All Leisure brands – Travelsphere and Just You. However they have not chartered Minerva, the ship that Swan Hellenic was using to deliver its cruises and it’s not yet known what ship they will use. Cruises will start in 2018, and they’ll publish details this summer.

My thoughts? Well, I can’t help thinking things are stacked against them. Running a single-ship operation is a big challenge; there are all sorts of economies of scale that they won’t be able to achieve. Hopefully, they’ll integrate the booking side of things into their existing businesses. I have a feeling that this new version of Swan Hellenic might turn out to be different from what has gone before. After all, you’ve got to ask what the management team at G Adventures can bring to the table that the ALG management couldn’t. It wouldn’t surprise me if Swan Hellenic’s cruises became more integrated with the existing businesses – perhaps some sort of 50/50 land/cruise holiday? We shall see.