The first cruise I ever sailed on was not an unmitigated success. A faulty propeller shaft left the ship with only half power and we were almost marooned in Marmaris until a pair of Turkish tourist ferries acted as tugs and eventually hauled us off the quay.
The next day a Mediterranean storm blew up out of nowhere and battered us about a bit, leaving the ship with a pronounced list to port – so much so that the water in my bath would not drain away because the plughole was at the higher end.
The final indignation came when it was decided the ship would have to be put into dry-dock in Malta for repairs and the passengers were flown home to the UK instead of spending a week sailing to Dover.
It says a lot about Fred Olsen’s Black Watch that despite all that, I became hooked on cruising and the rest, as they say, is history. Not sure Black Watch feels the same about me though – on another cruise a few years later I endured two days in a Force 12 storm in the Bay of Biscay which was fierce enough to leave the ship with a disfigured bow.
But I was delighted to see Fred Olsen Cruise Line walk off from the first-ever Cruise International Awards yesterday with three top prizes.
From the 180,000 votes cast on the magazine’s website, they came away with the award for best live entertainment – thanks to performances by the OperaBabes; best Educational Cruises – for their Vistas enrichment programme; and the big one, Ocean Cruise Line of the Year.
They were also runners-up to giant P&O in the Best Value Cruise Line category.
Nigel Lingard, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Sales and Marketing Director, said: “We are delighted to have been voted Cruise Line of the Year and we would like to say a very big thank-you to the magazine’s readers and our legion of loyal supporters
“These awards are testimony that we are hitting the mark with our onboard added extra activities, as both our cultural enhancement programme Vistas and our Music & Laughter entertainments programme have received recognition. We will continue to listen to our guests to ensure that they benefit from the very best onboard cruise experience that we can possibly provide, and we look forward to next year’s Cruise International Awards, where we hope to repeat this year’s successes!”
Adam Coulter, Editor of Cruise International, said: “Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines arguably offers the most quintessentially British of all cruise experiences. The combination of warm, friendly crew; prices in pounds sterling; a very British country house-style atmosphere – formal but not stuffy; and value for money is what keeps passengers coming back time and time again – 60 per cent are repeat bookers. A great win for Fred. Olsen – congratulations!”
The awards were presented by Nick Hewer – Alan Sugar’s right-hand man from The Apprentice – whose only experience of cruising until now has been the episode of the award-winning series where contestants battled with each other on a series of tasks aboard Grand Princess.
He is about to go on his first cruise, with Seabourn (winners of the Best Luxury Cruise Line vote), and told the audience that his 87-year-old father-in-law was already a fan. “He’s been on three cruises and finds them a great way to meet women,” he said, adding: “He’s an ex-Spitfire pilot, so that helps as well.”
The other big winners were Hurtigruten – not strictly a cruise line because their ships are effectively luxury ferries carrying passengers, cars and cargo on a scheduled service up and down the coast of Norway – but nevertheless voted runners-up to Fred Olsen as Best Cruise Line. They also picked up awards for best shore excursions and for the fact that Cruise International readers consider the Norwegian fjords the best “hidden gem” in the world.
River Cruise Line of the year is Viking, and another river operator, Uniworld, took the prize for Best Dining .
The studio cabins for solo travellers on Norwegian Epic were considered to be Innovation of the Year and the Aurea Spas on MSC ships took the Best for Well-Being award.
No surprise that Disney walked off with the Best for Kids Award or that Cunard’s christening of Queen Elizabeth earned the Most Outstanding Launch trophy. That event also led to Her Majesty being named Cruise Celebrity of the Year, although I doubt if she is clearing space on the wall at Buckingham Palace to display the trophy.
There was a prize for the reader who sent in the best cruise picture, won by Henrietta Sali from Hungary for her shot (above) taken on board MSC Armonia.
Cruise International readers chose Sydney as their favourite destination – presumably more because they dream of going there than because they visited the Australian port during 2010 – and the ludicrously youthful Håvard Ramsøy (he’s 38 and took his first command at 34) of Norwegian beat Royal Caribbean’s Hernan “Dreamy” Zini for the Coolest Captain crown.
Captain Greybeard was ignored for that trophy, and also failed to conquer Carnival’s John Heald for the title of Blogger of the Year. Iglu were named best Cruise Travel Agency.
Some of cruising’s biggest names may be disappointed with their performance in the awards. P&O picked up only that Best Value prize; lavish musical productions, climbing walls and ice rinks gave Royal Caribbean the award for Best Entertainment Activities, and in the same category Princess were commended for their Movies Under The Stars outdoor cinemas. Celebrity, Holland America and Thomson were among those who came away empty-handed.
They’ll all be hoping for better luck next year.