P&O Cruises unveils itineraries to mark 180th anniversary

By Phil Davies, Travel Weekly

P&O Cruises is to run two full world cruises in 2017 to mark its 180th anniversary.

Aurora’s 104-night eastern circumnavigation from Southampton echoes the trade routes of the British Empire, calling at 35 destinations in 21 countries and sailing almost 30,000 nautical miles.

Departing on January 9, 2017, the cruise features 23 new ports of call, overnight stays in Dubai, Singapore, Sydney and San Francisco, seven evening calls and transits of both the Panama and Suez canals.

Arcadia’s 114-night western circumnavigation from Southampton calls at 37 destinations in 21 countries, sailing more than 36,000 nautical miles.

The voyage, departing on January 2, 2017, includes 22 new ports, overnight stays in San Francisco, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore and nine evening calls.

Prices lead in at £10,299 per person on a Select Price rate for Aurora’s world cruise, including onboard spending money of between £350 and £1,000, depending on cabin grade.

The sailings feature in a 2017 World Cruise Collection brochure which goes on general sale on September 9.

The programme also includes a 50-night Oriana cruise to the Caribbean and Amazon departing from the UK on January 3, 2017 and a 12-night Northern Lights itinerary including an overnight stay Alta and a late evening in Tromso. Prices start at £3,999pp and £899pp respectively.

The line’s marketing director, Christopher Edgington, said: “P&O Cruises has a reputation for offering original and appealing world cruise itineraries which we spend a lot of time planning, based on extensive research and trends.

“Our round the world cruises are not a once-in-a-lifetime dream but a truly affordable and realistic holiday for empty nesters looking for long haul adventure and ‘this is the life’ memories.”

Cunard kicks off 175th anniversary celebrations

By Phil Davies

Cunard kicked off its 175th anniversary celebrations in the UK by having its three ships arrive in Southampton at the same time on Sunday.Queen Mary 2 led sister ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria down Southampton Water and into the Solent.

The ships arrived in Southampton from their respective three-month world cruises.

They then set off on their summer season of transatlantic crossings, Mediterranean fly-cruises, Scandinavian and southern European sailings.

Commodore of the fleet, Christopher Rynd, said: “It is wonderful to be back in our homeport of Southampton.

“All three Queens have just completed their world cruises and now we are sailing out in procession, into the Solent.

“What a glorious way to start our 175 anniversary celebrations.”

The three vessels will meet again in Cunard’s original home of Liverpool on May 25 as part of a weekend of celebrations which is expected to attract up to one million spectators, according to local reports.

Extending a river cruise at sea

By Tom Stieghorst

Many of the passengers I shared a voyage with recently on the new Viking Star ocean cruise ship were past passengers on Viking’s river cruise vessels.

I was surprised to hear from more than one of them that river cruises in general are too short.

Unlike on the ocean, where one can find world cruises of more than 100 days, river cruises are limited by the length of the river they sail on and rarely span more than two weeks.

Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

One woman said that to justify the trouble of packing, taking an overseas flight with all of the security and customs procedures that involves, and adjusting to jet lag in Europe, she wanted to vacation for longer than a typical river cruise allows.

This woman had enjoyed a 15-day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, and said she wouldn’t mind doing the reverse cruise back-to-back in order to get more mileage from her overseas trip.

Mind you, nearly one third of the passengers on my cruise from Istanbul had signed on for a full 50-night, 33-port grand ocean tour of Europe that will finish in Stockholm at the end of May.

So clearly, while there is some overlap between ocean and river cruise customers, there’s a certain contingent that prefers a longer voyage than is possible on the average river itinerary.

One solution is to combine the two, a concept that first launched last fall when Celebrity Cruises linked up with river operator Amras Cruises to create ocean-and-river cruise packages.

Viking could take that idea to the next level by being one company that offers both types of cruises.

There is already a lot of conversation about the topic at Viking’s headquarters in Los Angeles, according to Sara Conley, Viking’s director of public relations and social media, who added that it is logistically more difficult than it might appear.

Ocean and river cruises do not share many homeports, so there might be land transfers involved between one ship and the other. And the schedules of the two sides of the cruise business were not designed with coordination in mind, so they don’t necessarily match up in convenient ways.

At this point, Viking has just one ocean ship, the 930-passenger Star. Next year it expects to have another delivered, with a third to follow either late in 2016 or early 2017.

By that time Viking may have figured out a solution to offering the combo cruise that would give some passengers both a river cruise and a more extended cruise vacation in Europe.