Posts Tagged ‘Cruising’

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.

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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!

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TV Programmes about cruising

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.

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The biggest ships

I’ve just read a Cruise Critic list of the 30 biggest cruise ships currently at sea – here’s a link. What’s interesting is that the smallest of the thirty is 130,000 gross tons. Just as a comparison, the original Cunard Queens were just over 80,000 GRT and Titanic was about 50,000 tons.

If I could stir myself I’d do a list of all the ships bigger than the Queens, how many of them there are and when they were built. My guess is that the total is well over 50, possibly nearly 100, and they’ve all been built in the last 20 years. We are living through a golden age of passenger ship construction.

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There has been silence….

…for which I must apologise.

The truth is that I have been on holiday (non-cruise). You can read about it here, in fact. But I’m back now – have been for a couple of weeks, in fact – so it’s time to knuckle down and blog about cruising. Except I’m finding it hard to find anything to blog about.

Never mind – something will occur, I’m sure. Actually, there is one thing I want to do, although it will require some research, and that’s do some coverage of the ‘Cruise ships are major polluters’ comment that’s been made recently. I don’t yet have a genuine feel for the balance of the argument so I can’t at the moment comment. No-one likes to think that the things they like to do – drive, fly, cruise – are causing pollution and adding to greenhouse gases, but realistically we all know that they must be. Where should we draw the line? So I’m going to see if I can get my head around the issue regarding pollution caused by cruise ships. It may be a while before I’m able to publish anything, however.

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A New Post!

Time for a new post – except I don’t really know what to post about, at the moment.

Perhaps I should explain what Tom’s Cruise Blog is for and what I like to post here. It started simply as a place to post my (probably too) long and indeed ever-lengthening review post about the cruises that Val and I do. We first cruised in 2005 – a week on board MSC Sinfonia in the Med, a fly-cruise – and as with so many other people, we were immediately hooked. We did another very short cruise later that year, and since then we’ve done at least one every year, sometimes two. Given that for most of that time we were both working, that’s pretty good going. I’m now retired but Val isn’t yet, so our cruises (which we take together) still have to fit into a working person’s timetable.

So at first the blog was just a place to put those reviews and images. But then it started spreading. I’m the sort of person who likes to delve down into the detail of anything that interests me – I have to know how it all works. So I got very interested in the technology – the ships, the ports, the systems – and indeed the industry, and I started doing blog posts about any topic connected with the industry that caught my interest, on the basis that other people might be interested in them as well. Some of these were big events; the sinking of the Costa Concordia, for example. Other things have been smaller – the rise of regional port cruising, perhaps. Something I’m not terribly interested in is simply rehashing the cruise lines’ press releases (of which I do get an awful lot…). I’m not terribly interested in the arrival into Southampton of Harmony of the Seas, for example. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to cruise on her – in fact I think I’d enjoy that a lot as we do prefer bigger ships – but I’m not that bothered about all the hoopla about her. And as for that claim of being the biggest cruise ship in the world – well, yes, technically she is, given that her gross tonnage figure (227,700) is a fraction higher than both of her sister ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas (225,282). But what does that mean? Put all three of them side-by-side (that would be fun!) you wouldn’t see any difference. Gross Tonnage is a measure of internal volume, not the weight or displacement of the ship, so it’s a very artificial measure. If on a new ship you enclose what was an open promenade on an earlier sister ship, then the gross tonnage of the new ship is likely to be greater simply because that promenade is now an internal space and thus contributing to the gross tonnage. The two sister ships will still be the same size…. I was interested in Oasis of the Seas, the first of the class, but now? “Oh, another one of those….”.

But good news! – it’s almost time for this year’s cruise. We’ll be on Britannia in just under two weeks, for a 7 night Fjords cruise (our first to that area). Will we like Britannia? Will we enjoy the fjords? You can find out almost as soon as we do, by coming back to Tom’s Cruise Blog from May 29th.

(You might also want to have a look at Tom’s Travel Blog. In my retirement I’ve been doing a few non-cruise trips here and there, and I’ve blogged about them as well. Here’s a set of posts for a trip to New York that I’ve recently returned from, and here’s a set of posts about a holiday in Crete last year.)

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While we were on Azura we had a conversation at breakfast with an elderly couple who were not enjoying their cruise. We gathered it was their first and was likely to be their last. Everything had gone wrong, it seemed, and they were pretty unhappy.

I was quite surprised by this so I gently quizzed them about the problems they’d experienced. It soon became clear that they’d booked the cruise all by themselves, and had made some mistakes. Among these were:-

  • they hadn’t really understood the difference between (in P&O terms) Club and Freedom Dining, and didn’t really know much about Select dining at all;
  • their knowledge about what they were paying for on board, and of the payment mechanism (their Cruise cards) seemed rather sketchy;
  • the woman had some mobility issues. Unfortunately they had not deciphered the symbols in the excursion summaries and had booked some excursions that were not appropriate for her, e.g. ‘Rome on your own’, and others that involved significant walking;
  • Unfortunately, they had misunderstood the instructions for rejoining the coach at the end of the “Rome on your own’ excursion and had to make their own back to Civitavecchia, by taxi, at a cost of €150….
  • They also found tendering extremely difficult, again because of the woman’s limited mobility. This cruise originally had three tender ports, although that was reduced to two as a result of the switch from La Spezia to Livorno.

I think they were also rather confused by the embarkation process. Their embarkation slot was mid afternoon but as a result of the traffic problems around Southampton that day it was late afternoon before they arrived (by coach) at the terminal. I got the impression that they expected that they would then embark immediately, as they were already ‘late’. Encountering a full Mayflower terminal and having to wait until all those who had arrived before them were cleared was a bit of a shock and probably meant that their enjoyment of the cruise was affected right from the start. Then they found the passage through the Bay tough as well, and I gather that one of them at least suffered from mal de mer for a while. So it was several days into the cruise before they were able to start enjoying it, which was when they started to hit the problems with excursions, etc.

All of the above is not to criticise that poor couple in any way, and certainly not to laugh at them. It did bring home to me the extent to which those of us who have done a few cruises know the ropes. Even when things change, or are different on a different line, we are able to put the differences into a context that we understand. This couple had no such context; they were truly adrift, and seemed to be just gritting their teeth and getting through it. (I didn’t think to ask, but I wonder what they made of the muster drill?)

I think I hadn’t really understood just how valuable it is to first-time cruisers to have a source of information. Some of us had family or friends who were able to give advice. In our case we were subscribers to a cruise discussion forum where we were able to ask questions of experienced members; I remember that there was one member whom I pestered with some emails with questions, and she very patiently answered all of them. Finally, of course, there are travel agents. Some of these – possibly a lot? – may not be much use, as they aren’t cruise specialists and the employee you end up talking to might not know anything about cruising. This would be especially true in a small agency, I would think, but the larger agencies and specialist cruise agencies would be an excellent choice. And of course there are the online TAs who specialise in cruising, and who can give excellent advice, or at least point first time cruise holidaymakers in the direction of that advice.

Unfortunately the couple we spoke to on Azura had not been able to avail themselves of any of these sources of information, with the unhappy results described above.

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