Tag Archives: P&O

Sailing solo

Single cabins on cruise ships are all the rage now, what with the launches this year of NCL’s Norwegian Epic and P&O’s Azura, both equipped with shiny, new, headline-grabbing cabins for solos.

The trade publication Travel Trade Gazette has done a little price check on these single cabins, comparing similar(ish) cruises on Epic, Azura and Fred. Olsen’s Balmoral, which is also solo-friendly.

The cruises are all slightly different – Epic is nine nights and Azura, 14 nights, for example, and Epic is a fly-cruise while the other two are ex-Southampton. But if you distil it down to a straightforward price-per-night comparison, this is how it comes out:

  • Norwegian Epic £87.66
  • Azura £112.78
  • Balmoral £180.90

Big difference, isn’t it? If you’re buying purely on price, Norwegian Epic is a clear winner.

But do people really care only about the price, just because they’re single? Yes, it’s important and a matter of principle, too, but surely ending up on the right ship for you is a bigger factor?

There's more to solo cruising than the price

Couples and families who cruise for the first time are rarely encouraged to buy purely on price, yet with singles, it seems to be the only way in which cruises are compared, particularly at the moment, with all this focus on single cabins.

So, single cruisers, what’s your checklist when booking? Is it more than the money? A decent bar where you can feel comfortable, propped up alone with your Martini, or big, lively tables at dinner, or classes where you can meet like-minded people? We’ve compiled our own list of single-friendly cruise lines on Cruise Critic but we’d love to know your views!

SJB

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Filed under Advice

Get an eyeful of Eyjafjallajokull

I’m probably tempting fate, talking about Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the dark days of the ash cloud. On the other hand, it’s peak season for cruises to Iceland and I’ll bet it’s the first topic of conversation for anybody cruising to Reykjavik.

So why not splash out on a scenic flight over the volcano, ash plume permitting? Several cruise lines, including Voyages of Discovery, Azamara, P&O Cruises and Fred. Olsen, offer a light aircraft flight of an hour and a half, zooming in low over the smouldering beast. Amusingly, P&O’s website is the only one I visited that acknowledges the recent eruption; the others word the description of the tour as though nothing had ever happened.

Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupting/Shutterstock

Eyjafjallajokull in full flow in May 2010

The flightseeing tour (which costs £200 upwards) is undeniably breathtaking and you’ll see other unpronounceable geological features, like Tindfjallajokull, Blahnjukur and the river Jokulgilsa. And the volcano Hekla, of course, reckoned to be the next Big One, Eyjafjallajokull having merely been a supporting act.

Meanwhile, in preparation for your visit, check out Cruise Critic member FlyerTalker’s cringe-worthy volcano humour here!

And for the armchair traveller, here’s a webcam, which shows Eyjafjallajokull itself, steaming peacefully. For now.

SJB

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Filed under Destinations

A whine about wine

Visit the home page of Cruise Critic today and you’ll see a section called Things To Know Before You Go, packed with information on all those cruising mysteries – tipping, dress code, staying in touch… and one of the most contentious subjects of all: bringing your own alcohol on board.

Cruise lines’ attitudes to BYO alcohol range from perfectly reasonable to nannying to apparently illogical. I’m not campaigning for the idea of bringing truckloads of your own booze on board and depriving the cruise line of bar revenue. Just a couple of innocent bottles of wine.

It’s summer in the Mediterranean. Wine-tasting excursions abound. Ships are calling at ports where the shops are stocked with delicious, cheap French rosés from small Provencal growers, while passengers are enjoying tastings in exquisite Tuscan country estates. What’s wrong with loving a new wine so much that you buy a bottle to enjoy with dinner that night?

Yes, of course we’ll pay a corkage fee, just like we would in a restaurant at home. Yet some cruise lines are completely relaxed with this, while others forbid it completely.

Take P&O, for example: a blanket ban on BYO. Also, Fred. Olsen, MSC and Royal Caribbean. Any booze you buy on your travels is confiscated and handed back to you at the end of the cruise. Costa allows you to bring a bottle, in theory, but the procedure is so complicated (you have to write a letter two weeks in advance for approval and produce both the letter and the wine on embarkation for inspection) that it’s hardly worth bothering.

Cunard, though, along with Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line will allow you to consume your own wine for a corkage fee of around $20. And hats off to foodie-friendly Oceania Cruises, which assumes that you may have enjoyed one of its shore excursions so much that you’d quite like to buy some regional wine ashore and crack it open at dinner to remind you of the day.

Less so Azamara, which insists you can only bring your own wine at the beginning of the cruise, thus removing all spontaneity.

I know there are plenty of logical arguments against letting guests supply their own wine: loss of revenue, diluting the cruise line’s own effort, storing everybody’s wine, chilling it, reuniting each bottle with the right owner.

But why do some cruise lines treat us like adults and others like irresponsible kids?

SJB

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Filed under Dining