From the old world to the new – by sea

It’s exactly 175 years ago today that a Cunard ship made its first passenger crossing of the Atlantic. The steamship Britannia carried 115 passengers and 89 crew on the voyage, which took 12 days to reach Halifax, Nova Scotia from Liverpool, and went on to Boston and New York.

That first Cunard ship would fit comfortably inside the main dining room of Queen Mary 2 (above), which leaves the Mersey today on a one-off voyage to recreate the crossing, and which remains the only vessel providing a scheduled Transatlantic service between Southampton and New York

David Bowie and Rod Stewart are […]

MSC Cruises first to base a ship in Cuba

MSC Cruises is to become the first major operator to base a ship in Cuba. The company has cancelled MSC Opera’s winter season sailing in the Canaries in order to base it in Havana.

The move comes as President Obama bids to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Castro regime and lift the trade embargo which has been in place for half a century.

American operators are still not free to trade with Cuba. British lines such as Thomson, Fred Olsen and Saga have visited Cuba in recent years, but none has home-ported a ship for the length of time planned by […]

Newbuild Silver Muse to become Silversea’s luxury flagship in spring 2017

Luxury line Silversea Cruises showed today that they can keep a secret – an announcement that they have ordered a new ship to be delivered in the spring of 2017 came out of the blue.

Silver Muse, being built by Italian shipyard Fincantieri, will carry 596 passengers, and is an evolution of the design of Silver Spirit, which was launched in 2009.

With typical exuberance, Silversea say it will “redefine ultra-luxury ocean travel, enhancing the small ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodations that are the hallmarks of the Silversea experience.”

Flagship Muse will expand Silversea’s fleet to nine ships; there are currently […]

Norway Explorer becomes 13th ship in Hurtigruten fleet

Norwegian specialist Hurtigruten has acquired a new ship to boost its fleet to 13. The vessel is on her way from Portugal – where she was built in 2009 – and has been given the temporary name of MS Norway Explorer.

A total reconstruction is planned before the ship sails under the Hurtigruten flag next year, when she will start service along the coastal route between Bergen and Kirkenes, replacing MS Midnatsol which will be joining MS Fram on expedition voyages to Antarctica.

Few details have yet been released about the Explorer’s former life; the 7,025-ton vessel  was built at Estaleiros […]

Branson orders three ships for Virgin Cruises

Can the golden boy of British commerce find success at sea? Richard Branson has announced the first details of Virgin Cruises – which he expects to emulate earlier instances of the brand, like his records, planes, and trains. And hopefully prove easier to get off the ground than his Intergalactic space travel venture.

Branson arrived by helicopter at the Perez Art Museum in Miami for today’s press conference, dressed in trademark Virgin red shorts and with a red captain’s cap over his flowing blond locks.

He announced a deal had been struck with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for three ships to be […]

Galápagos cruise fleet is joined by an old friend

Back in 2010, I travelled on a memorable cruise around the tip of South America on board the delightful Via Australis (above) – a 136-passenger ship that took me as close as I have ever been to glaciers and penguins.

In January this year, visiting Chile on a cruise aboard Golden Princess, it was something of a disappointment to see sister ship Mare Australis (below) laid up in Punta Arenas. She looked rather forlorn, hauled out of the water and sitting on wooden blocks.

I was delighted to discover last night that Mare Australis has a new life, and a new […]

Fun and games – and history – as Fred Olsen cruise fleet unites in Norwegian port of Bergen

Four of a kind – Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet will be together in one place for the first time when they meet in the Norwegian port of Bergen on July 28.

Marching bands and other entertainment will greet the ships’ 4,000 passengers, who will be given the chance to compete in an inter-ship treasure hunt around the city. The crews will take part in a tug of war competition.

The event coincides with the 200th anniversary of the birth of the first Fred Olsen, who founded a shipping company that operates ferries in the Canary islands and offshore […]

Join me at the Planet Cruise Holiday Show

I’m looking forward to a day out at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl on June 28 – not to watch the cricket, but to take part in the Planet Cruise Holiday Show.

I’ve had my arm twisted to join three “expert” panels advising on Cruising for Newcomers, Where to Cruise, and Premium and Luxury Cruising – I’d better start doing my homework.

The forums will be hosted by travel broadcaster Jonathan Beaumont, and the day’s events in the theatre also include presentations from Oceania Cruises, Hurtigruten, CelebrityCruises, an introduction to river cruising, and a question and answer session with Planet Cruise TV […]

RMS St Helena will make historic visit to London before retirement in 2016

The last sailings of RMS St Helena next year will include a rare visit to the UK. The two-week trip from the remote South Atlantic island, via Tenerife, used to be a feature of the ship’s regular service, but in recent years it has been confined to a shuttle between Cape Town and Ascension, with an occasional diversion to Tristan da Cunha.

The island’s first airport will open for business in May and the ship, which is the only regular link to the outside world for the 4,000 islanders, will be retired in July.

The 6,700-ton vessel was built in Aberdeen […]

Double world first for Carnival – four new cruise ships will be the greenest and biggest

Taking an unprecedented leap forward in technology and design, Carnival Corporation is to build four vessels powered by liquefied natural gas, which it claims will be have the biggest passenger capacity in the world

The ships, carrying up to 6,600 passengers each, will measure more than 180,000 tons. Two, to be built at the Meyer-Werft yard in Germany, have been designated for Carnival’s Aida brand. No announcement has yet been made about who will operate the other two, which will be built in Turku, Finland.

The multi-billion dollar deal is part of a contract already signed for the delivery of […]