It’s Stir-Up Sunday this weekend, when households traditionally mix their Christmas puddings. Cruise lines are intent on getting us to focus our attention a little further into the future, to 2018.
PRINCESS CRUISES took over a hotel swimming pool in central London last night to announce their biggest-ever season of ex-UK cruises. For the first time, the line will offer more than 1 million bed-nights on sailings to northern and southern Europe.
The 2,700-passenger Sapphire Princess (above), built in Japan in 2004, will make its maiden visit to Europe to sail 16 cruises from Southampton between April and October. Fares from £799 for a seven-night holiday.
To get here, Sapphire Princess will operate a 38-night voyage from Singapore, with calls en route including Cochin and Dubai.
Royal Princess, launched in 2013 by the Duchess of Cambridge, will return in May 2018 to sail round-Britain cruises that include overnight stays in Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Fares from £1,539 for a 12-night sailing.
Pacific Princess will sail round-trip cruises from Dover to northern and southern Europe, including a new 12-night European Capitals itinerary with an overnight in Amsterdam. Fares from £1,519.
THOMSON CRUISES want to whisk us away to the Caribbean – possibly to stock up on rum for the pudding, cake and mince pies.
For the first time the company will have three ships in the region. All-inclusive ship TUI Discovery will be based in Bridgetown, Barbados; sister ship TUI Discovery 2, joining the fleet in the summer, will sail out of Montego Bay, Jamaica and its itineraries will include overnight stays in Havana, Cuba.
Meanwhile, Thomson Celebration will move to a new home port – La Romana in the Dominican Republic, where passengers will be able to combine their cruise with a stay at the Sensatori Resort Punta Cana.
Direct Thomson flights will take customers to the Caribbean from Cardiff, Doncaster Sheffield, East Midlands, Glasgow, Newcastle and Stansted airports, joining existing flights from Birmingham, Manchester and Gatwick.
Closer to home, Thomson Dream will be home-ported in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, and Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, from next November. The fleet’s smaller ships, Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit will leave the fleet in November.
MSC CRUISES plan a return to ex-UK cruises from 2018, when the 2,100-passenger MSC Magnifica will be sailing out of Southampton from April to November.
The itineraries include voyages to Spain and Portugal, the Norwegian fjords, and a round-Britain cruise calling at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edinburgh, and Invergordon.
The same ship will undertake MSC’s first world cruise in 2019 – a 119-day marathon visiting 49 ports in 32 countries, and with no more than five consecutive days at sea.
OCEANIA CRUISES announced a 2018 programme with 71 new itineraries including an array of “trophy voyages” that visit new and unusual ports of call or focus on exploration.
Examples include the 20-day Vikings and Royals cruise on Nautica, showcasing the best of the British Isles and venturing further afield to the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Sister ship Sirena will sail an 85-day European Grand Tour – starting from Miami – that visits 48 destinations in 15 countries. There are overnight stays at the ports for Florence and Pisa, Jerusalem, and in Venice.
CELEBRITY CRUISES will base a 2,800-passenger Solstice-class ship in Ireland during April and May 2018. Details of the destinations planned for the five cruises are yet to be announced. Celebrity say they will be the first major cruise line to use Dublin as a home port.
LUXURY yacht Crystal Esprit, which carries just 62 passengers, is also heading for the Caribbean. Launched almost 12 months ago in The Seychelles, the ship will sail from Marigot Bay, St Martin every Sunday from November 2017 and throughout 2018.
Esprit is currently in the Arabian Gulf; she will be back in The Seychelles this winter, and the Adriatic – shuttling between Venice and Dubrovnik – next summer.