Cruising into the future: the glorious truth about life at sea

Today’s luxury ships offer facilities to rival the most glamorous hotels and everyone can find a cruise to suit their needs. So let’s ditch a few myths about holidays afloat…

Carnival Legend – it’s the length of three football pitches – packs in the family fun

Carnival Legend – it’s the length of three football pitches – packs in the family fun

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Cruises have changed out of all recognition in recent years and are no longer seen as the preserve of the newlywed, overfed and nearly dead.

As maritime meandering comes of age, fleets of sparkling new ships are offering every facility you can think of – plus many you couldn’t begin to imagine. They have something aboard for everyone, from families and foodies to adventurers and cultural buffs.

For those still on the fence, here we debunk some of the most common cruise misconceptions:

Live it up in Las Vegas then cruise the Californian coast – the ultimate flexible holiday

Live it up in Las Vegas then cruise the Californian coast – the ultimate flexible holiday

Cruises are too rigid – I want more flexibility to explore

Some of the most enjoyable cruise holidays include stays ashore, and there is a fabulous range of combinations on offer. Combine Florida’s theme parks with a Caribbean voyage, or stay in Las Vegas then sail along the Californian coast. Cruise-and-stay can simply mean tagging on a few nights in one of the cruise’s port stops, such as New York, Miami or Hong Kong. Alternatively, step up to a cruise-and-tour option to indulge in a variety of tempting trips. One of the most popular among Britons is Virgin Holidays Cruises’ spectacular Rocky Mountaineer train ride through the Canadian mountains, followed by a cruise to Alaska. The company also offers beach-and-cruise breaks with a stay in Barbados followed by the chance to sail around the Caribbean. Virgin’s cruise-and-stay selection additionally offers: New York breaks with voyages to Bermuda or the Bahamas; Fort Lauderdale and Miami stay with the Caribbean, and Singapore with Vietnam and Thailand.

There’s something for everyone aboard Carnival Sunshine, from a super-splashy waterpark to a Serenity area

There’s something for everyone aboard Carnival Sunshine, from a super-splashy waterpark to a Serenity area

Cruises aren’t family friendly

As long as you pick the right cruise ship, it can be a veritable playground of family-focused activities. Carnival Cruise Lines is among the most kiddie-orientated companies afloat thanks to its fun and friendly atmosphere and host of attractions. In addition to the Camp Ocean kids’ clubs, with activities as diverse as Build-A-Bear workshops, pirate parties and teen karaoke sessions, there’s a stack of deck attractions, such as water play zones and speedy water slides, daredevil ropes courses and Carnival’s SkyRide aerial bike ride. The fun continues ashore with child-friendly excursions encompassing boat trips, kayaking adventures and visits to animal attractions. Family-friendly dining onboard is another plus with a choice of restaurants and the ease of flexible buffets in the Lido Marketplace. Family cabins, some with their own private deck area and pool, complete the all-around generational appeal.

Irresistible dishes created by the celebrity chef Curtis Stone for Princess Cruises

Irresistible dishes created by the celebrity chef Curtis Stone for Princess Cruises

The food won’t be up to scratch

It’s a well-known joke among cruise veterans that passengers can easily put on a pound in weight for each day of their cruise because of the culinary temptations: the range of dining spots covers everything from speciality restaurants to snack bars serving pizzas, burgers and ice creams. Princess Cruises has even teamed up with Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone to bring passengers the culinary pleasures of his “Share” menu. Travellers can also sample upscale Tuscan-inspired dishes at Sabatini’s, a classic Italian trattoria, and succulent prime cuts at the Crown Grill steakhouses. Cruisers on Majestic Princess can try the Chinese cuisine of Harmony, the restaurant set up with chef Richard Chen, and the La Mer bistro, established with French chef Emmanuel Renaut. Princess has also carved out an impressive reputation for its excellent Chef’s Table dinners, hosted by a ship’s executive chef, and its balcony dining, where breakfast and dinner are served in the privacy of your own balcony.

The whimsical Rooftop Garden is a peaceful haven for guests aboard Celebrity Edge

The whimsical Rooftop Garden is a peaceful haven for guests aboard Celebrity Edge

Cruise ships are claustrophobic

With the world’s largest cruise ships taking nearly 7,000 passengers and boasting different neighbourhoods across 18 decks, the last thing anyone will feel is hemmed in. Even on smaller ships, there are lounges, bars and spacious open-deck areas. Modern ship designs are geared to bringing the outside in, with light and airy interiors, while the decks, too, are becoming increasingly imaginative. One of the best exponents is Celebrity Cruises with some of its ships boasting half-an-acre of real grass where passengers can play bowls or take picnics. Its new ship Celebrity Edge promises to push the boundaries with notable design firsts: the Magic Carpet, a cantilevered moving platform on the side of the ship that transforms into different venues; Eden, a giant glass-fronted entertainment venue with windows stretching up three decks; and the whimsical Rooftop Garden, inspired by children’s playgrounds.

Whether you want to learn to scuba dive or salsa, there’s a cruise for you

Whether you want to learn to scuba dive or salsa, there’s a cruise for you

I won’t learn anything new

Cruising is all about new experiences, different destinations and the opportunity to try something fresh. There could be classes on digital film-making, salsa sessions or even scuba diving lessons. With so many new vessels equipped with show kitchens, budding chefs can brush up their culinary skills, too. On the tall ships of Star Clippers, the entire cruise can be a learning process and a refreshing taste of sailing in some of the world’s biggest yachts, powered by Mother Nature. Simply observing the crew shimmying up the masts is fascinating enough, but passengers can help to heave up sails as the ship departs and learn how to tie nautical knots and navigate by the stars. Test your climbing skills by climbing nearly 50ft to the crow’s nest or try kayaking and water-skiing from the ship’s water-sports marina.

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Puerto Vallarta Welcomes Return of Carnival Miracle

Carnival Miracle

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board has announced the return of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Miracle to Puerto Vallarta after a seven-year absence.

Connecting San Diego and Puerto Vallarta, the ship is scheduled to make its first call in December 2019.

For the 2019-2020 winter season, the Carnival Miracle will offer 10 voyages from the Port of San Diego. The schedule kicks off on December 1, 2019, with a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera featuring calls at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.

Other cruise lines that sail from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta include Holland America Line and Disney Cruise Line.

For 2018, Puerto Vallarta is projecting 154 calls with 404,734 passengers, up from 145 calls in 2017.

According to the tourism board, calls to the destination are expected to increase annually and Puerto Vallarta’s International Port (API) is committing $22 million for an extensive renovation and construction project to the port infrastructure.

In charge of the project is the local company, Puerto Mágico PV. The work will cover La Hacienda, a new passenger centre, a Tequila distillery, an art gallery, artisan shops, a cultural centre; El Nido, a new commercial centre with a food court, a 400-car parking lot; and what is set to be the biggest aquarium in Latin America. The port will also be accessible to non-passenger, open to visitors and local residents. The project is scheduled to be unveiled before the end of 2018.

A tale of two cruise lines

Image result for silverseas muse

Two European businessmen created two different cruise lines in the 1990s. Both have been successful in their own terms, but one formula for success has a lot more scale than the other one.

The two lines are Silversea Cruises and MSC Cruises. Silversea was formed in 1994 by building two new ships straight out of the gate for the luxury market. It was marketed primarily, if not exclusively, in North America.

MSC took a different route. Created from the leftovers of the Lauro Lines in 1995, MSC operated used, some would say very used, tonnage. Like Carnival Cruise Line, it deployed its older ships to cater to the mass market. It was marketed primarily to Europeans, with a few winter itineraries in the Caribbean.

Silversea’s first newly built ship, the Silver Cloud, was a thing of beauty. It was instantly competitive with other luxury vessels.

MSC’s first newly built ship didn’t arrive until a decade after the Silver Cloud was delivered and it was a takeover of an option that couldn’t be exercised by the Greek line Festival Cruises when it went into bankruptcy.

Since launching, Silversea has acquired a fleet of nine ships, with two more vessels on order.

With the delivery of the MSC Seaview, MSC has 15 ships in its fleet, with another nine on order through 2026.

Image result for msc seaview christening

Last week, Silversea and Royal Caribbean announced an agreement in which Royal will get a 67% equity stake for $1 billion. Silversea gives up its autonomy as a private company in exchange for continued growth and investment in its brand.

MSC is investing in its own future with a $10.5 billion newbuild program, and its autonomy is not in doubt.

MSC took a slower, less glamorous route to success but in the end, it is the company that stands independent.

Two major differences steered MSC and Silversea towards different outcomes. The first is that MSC Cruises was a side project for MSC chairman Gianluigi Aponte, whose main business, container shipping, made it easier to secure the financing that kept MSC’s order book growing.

The second is that MSC operates in the low-price, high-profit segment of the cruise business. Catering to the mass market may not be where the glamour is, but it is where the money is. The finances of both MSC and Silversea are private, so it is perhaps unfair to say one is more profitable than the other.