Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth returns home

A proud moment for the UK.

Portsmouth is now home to two aircraft carriers for the first time in a long time.

HMS Northumberland and RFA Tideforce also returned to warm welcomes in Devonport, say the Royal Navy. The ships’ flights made their way to their respective homes at RNAS Culdrose and Yeovilton.

It’s been a busy three months away for the Portsmouth-based HMS Queen Elizabeth which hosted British F-35 Lightning jets for the first time at sea as part of the WESTLANT19 deployment. Her sister, HMS Prince of Wales, is expected to be formally commissioned into the Royal Navy in the coming days.

Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth Commodore Steve Moorhouse said:

“Homecomings are always a special occasion, but to be returning to Portsmouth, with HMS Prince of Wales welcoming us home makes this a particularly special occasion. Two of her escorts, frigate HMS Northumberland and tanker RFA Tideforce, returned to Devonport today.”

Image Crown Copyright 2019.

The ships flights also made their way to their respective homes at RNAS Culdrose and Yeovilton.

Image Crown Copyright 2019.

Commander of the Air Group, Captain James Blackmore, added:

“The five-week period of operational tests with UK F-35s from the UK Lightning Force was significant and historic. As the last pilot to fly Harrier from the deck of HMS Ark Royal in 2010, it filled me with tremendous pride to see UK fixed-wing aircraft operate once more from a British carrier.”

An update on new tall-ship options

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For agents with clients who are looking for an alternative to the megaship experience, there is no shortage of small-ship choices.

But to be really radical, why not look at ships that are not only small but wind-powered, too?

There are two lines, Star Clippers and Sea Cloud Cruises, where guests feel the thrill of watching sails set by hand and listen to nothing but the breeze while underway. Both are in the process of building new ships.

(Windstar is another tall-ship line, but it sets its sails mechanically and also can operate under engine power.)

But while Star Clippers’ new Flying Clipper seems hung up for the time being in a shipyard dispute, Sea Cloud’s newbuild, the Sea Cloud Spirit, is on schedule to be delivered at the end of August.

That’s according to Sea Cloud CEO Daniel Schaefer. In an interview, Schaefer said the 136-passenger ship has recently been floated out and interior work is proceeding. He said the yard on its current pace will deliver the ship a bit ahead of when Sea Cloud actually needs it to make its schedule.

Building a new ship isn’t as routine for Sea Cloud as for the big lines, which crank them out every year. Its last ship, the Sea Cloud II, was delivered in 2001. The flagship Sea Cloud was built as a yacht in 1931 and converted to cruise use in 1979.

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The designs have been evolving more towards cruise ships, away from the yacht-like attributes of the original ship, Schaefer said. The Sea Cloud Spirit will have 25 balcony cabins, for example, a first for a sailing ship. It will also have an elevator, another first.

Dining tables will be round, rather than the long, rectangular ones on the Sea Cloud, he said. There will be a larger wellness area, a sauna and a second, more casual restaurant.

A third ship should really increase Sea Cloud’s availability for FIT passengers. Currently up to 50% of Sea Cloud’s capacity is devoted to charters. The Spirit will be chartered, too, but overall there should be more opportunities and itineraries for individual passengers.

In Europe, Sea Cloud will no longer have to shuttle one of its two ships back and forth between the Med and the Baltic, the line’s second most popular summer region.  It will be able to keep two ships full time in the Med, he said, and still offer Baltic itineraries with the third.

Carnival Panorama to have SkyZone trampoline park

The new Carnival Panorama will be the line’s first ship to have a SkyZone trampoline park.

The 3,000-square-foot Cruise X SkyZone will occupy space on Decks 7 and 8. It will have a “challenge zone” equipped with a climbing wall, balance/jousting beam, Sky Ladder climbing apparatus, dodge ball games and SkyHoops (an above-the-rim basketball experience).

Developed in partnership with trampoline park chain SkyZone, the indoor park will be open all day on sea days and in the late afternoon and evenings on port days.  

Sessions will be offered for toddlers, youths and adults. During “toddler time,” cruisers ages 6 months to 5 years can participate in the bouncy fun, accompanied by an adult. The fee is $5 per child and $5 per adult. 

Kids ages 6 to 15 can book 1-hour sessions for $12, which includes a pair of keepsake socks.

At night, an all-ages blacklight glow party will cost $18 and include a T-shirt. 

The Panorama is the last of three Vista-class Carnival ships and the only one that doesn’t feature a two-deck Imax theatre.

Regular year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas begin Dec. 14.