Vernon Buxton's Cruise News & Views

May 16, 2007
Author: Vernon Buxton

Welcome aboard…

My own comments in the main part are in red, as usual.

Clifford Foggitt of Starlight Cruises in Johannesburg mailed me this week to update the prices I had for MELODY’s repositioning cruises between Italy and South Africa. Thanks Clifford...I had clearly referred to an older brochure! Apologies!

The lead-in price is actually from R15,600 for 21 nights from Genoa to Durban. A deluxe suite will cost a mere R28,920…which is little more than R1,000 a night…and that, dear readers, is still the bargain of the century.

The bulk of bookings will emanate from Europe, according to Clifford, who added that these repositioning cruises have become coveted among seasoned cruisers who still remember Union-Castle, Ellerman & Bucknall, Lloyd Triestino, and Holland-Africa, to name a few. Which includes this dude, Clifford, and I’d give my eyeteeth to do that voyage up or down the east coast of Africa.

I remember – and boy does this date me!!! – having dinner aboard Ellerman’s CITY OF EXETER in Beira harbour in the 1950s. Hey, I was two bricks and a piddle-pot high, but I recall being absolutely impressed by all the wood panelling in the main lounge and dining room. I could write an entire report on those memories alone.

Those were simple vessels, half cargo/passenger, with basic public rooms and very nice cabins. A small swimming pool was about the only concession to ‘cruising’, although there were markings for deck quoits on the compact but very appealing promenade deck.

I remember my parents raving about the meals…oh yes, a choice of six soups (three hot, three cold), about a dozen entrees…and a vast range of sweets too. The cheese board was ridiculously extravagant. Coffee, cigars and cognac out on deck was part of the ritual.

Black tie was the norm for gentlemen, and no lady would lower herself appear for dinner in a short dress!!! That was then…and it was a better world, trust me! I bet there are thousands of you readers who would readily concur!!! Frankly, discipline is so lax these days one tends to wonder if we’re not overdue for another world war?

Pre-prandial libations in the CITY OF EXETER’s front-facing lounge included a violin quartet, and stewards served drinks wearing white gloves…naturally! Then passengers repaired to the dining room, where the resident four-piece band played charming songs like….“Oh, wouldn’t it be fine-a…to be in Carolin-a…in the morrrrrrrrrn-ing!”…or…“Toot-toot-Tootsie…goodbyeeeee!

Looking back, it was all so simple, elegant and utterly fulfilling. There was no need of rock-climbing walls or ice rinks. Conversation with like-minded people was the daily succour, and in between one read according to one’s intellectual desires. All rather frightfully, frightfulleh…you know!

Beira was a most alluring Portuguese town in those days…very much the holiday destination for we Rhodesians…and I could write screeds about those days too. Getting on to ships like the CITY OF EXETER, CITY OF DURBAN, CITY OF YORK, BRAEMAR CASTLE, RHODESIA CASTLE, KENYA CASTLE, the AFRICA and EUROPA, the PRINCIPE PERFEITO or the INFANTA DOM HENRIQUE was as easy as pie…the port captain’s permission was pretty well the only requirement.

So, you see, those memories alone would be enough to attract me to the MELODY’s east coast voyages. The route takes a heck of a lot of beating in terms of interesting ports of call…in a very acceptable floating hotel. And the prices are still unbeatable!

By the way, Clifford also confirmed that his brother, Allan Foggitt, MD of Starlight Cruises, was in Civiteveccia for Monday’s christening of MSC ORCHESTRA. Sophia Loren did the honours, and we hope to get a report from Allan on his return.

Clifford sent me a PR blurb revealing that, among other dazzling features on this ship, by the pool there is a maxi screen measuring 28 square metres (7 x 4 metres). This enables passengers to watch a film under the stars and listen to the sound in their own language, via headphones.

In an e-mail Clifford says:

Hi Vernon
I wouldn't mind settling down in front of that 28 sq m screen at the pool and watching the two Super 14 semis - Do you suppose if I conveyed this desire to them they might abandon the launch on Monday and bring it forward to Saturday?

Sure Clifford, I called Sophia and instructed her to get her famous derrier and décolletage over to Civitevecchia pronto…just for you…but I won’t repeat what she said to me…in Italian, of course!

Tell you what, Clifford, you should talk Allan into instigating a select ‘familiarisation trip’ so that we can go check out the charms of MSC ORCHESTRA ourselves. This vessel is clearly a state-of-the-art representation of modern-day cruising…and the way to really attract South Africans to MSC is to start spreading awareness.

Remember, we might easily get an invite from Costa, or Celebrity, or Royal Caribbean, or NCL or Crystal or Silversea, or P&O, or Cunard…even Saga (whose current travails are revealed below.)

Dream on…

…and so to this week’s news of interest!

Suddenly…Celebrity has a new brand!

Last week Celebrity announced a new brand that would begin sailing immediately.

The new brand, called Azamara Cruises, will basically take most of the Expedition brand and move it a step more upscale, from the "premium" category, to what the line is calling the "deluxe" category, which is a step below the "luxury" category. (What confusion is this?)

It will initially utilise the line's two former Renaissance ships, being acquired in a transfer from parent Royal Caribbean's Pullmantur brand, which were originally designated to become part of the Expedition sub-brand. They will be renamed AZAMARA JOURNEY and AZAMARA QUEST.

(Last week, remember, we read they would become CELEBRITY JOURNEY and CELEBRITY QUEST…can’t keep up!!!)

Azamara president Dan Hanrahan, who coincidentally (?) is also president of Celebrity, described the brand as, "expressly designed for travel enthusiasts who appreciate what a cruise vacation has to offer, but are looking for something a little different, and a little more special.

“What's special about Azamara Cruises is its distinctive combination of impeccable service, exceptional cuisine and off-the-beaten-path destinations, with truly immersive excursions."

(Sounds somewhat Swan-Hellenic, what say you, folks?)

"Azamara" is a fabricated word from Romance language roots. "Aza" meaning blue and "mar" meaning sea.

Both ships will sail their previously announced programs (which are consistent with the new Azamara goals) on more unusual itineraries to less-called-on ports. Hanrahan announced Friday that Azamara will later initiate Asian programs and even around the world itineraries.

Asian cruises would be good…this is a completely under-serviced area…and a smart ship in that neck of the woods would certainly attract the American market. Star Cruises pretty well has Asia-Pacific to itself at present, but does not attract Americans.

Think of all those splendid ports, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Nagasaki, just for starters…could be the round-trip of a lifetime!

Onboard, passengers will be in for a deluxe experience with butler service being provided to every stateroom and suite. All accommodations onboard will also have fresh- cut flowers, fresh fruit, Elemis toiletries, use of Frette cotton robes, complimentary slippers, plasma TV's and plush European bedding.

More details of the new brand are available on the line's website at

As for the rest of the Expedition brand, namely CELEBRITY EXPEDITION, it will be rolled into the Celebrity brand, although it is still expected to operate its Galapagos program.

Carnival ups the ante on its branding…just like Celebrity!

Each of Carnival's Fantasy-class ships is getting a new name as the ships cycle through dry-dock to get the ‘Evolution of Fun’ enhancements.

Each of the eight ships will have CARNIVAL added to its name to make the Fantasy Class ships consistent with the newer ships in the fleet. In addition, on the bow, the Carnival logo will appear in front of the name, and the type style will also be updated.


‘Evolutions of Fun’ adds water parks and an adults-only sundeck to each ship, although Carnival has yet to provide actual details.

Saga’s over-50 cruises face being sunk by law to let in young ravers

Saga holidaymakers face the prospect of sharing Mediterranean cruises with the 18 to 30s crowd, under changes to discrimination law.

According to The Times in London, the company has been offering sedate overseas cruises and foreign coach tours exclusively to the over 50s for years. But legislation banning all discrimination in the provision of goods and services – including on ground of age – means that it may have to open its doors to all comers.

Ministers will publish their plans for the Single Equality Act, a manifesto commitment designed to end discrimination in all its forms, next month.

Saga has been told that the law would require it to offer all cruises, resort and touring holidays and numerous financial products to everyone irrespective of age, unless ministers make some services exempt.

The Government’s push to outlaw all discrimination has already caused friction with the Roman Catholic Church, which said that it was not prepared to allow its adoption agencies to enrol gay couples. The Government responded by giving the Church more time to prepare for the change.

(In a cathedral, a gay chap walks towards a Catholic priest who’s waving that smoking ‘censer’ pot around and says to him: “I’m mad for your drag, dahling, but your handbag’s on fire!”)

Now you know why Catholics are anti-gay adoption!!!

Anyway, back to the Saga saga…the cruise line has warned ministers that the company will go under unless it can restrict its services to the over 50s. Company insiders said that ministers seemed not to have considered the effect of the law until it was pointed out to them.

Ministers said that they were prepared to consider Saga’s request for special treatment.

In a memo sent to them, and seen by The Times, Saga states: “We fear the unintended consequences of such legislation might be to subvert our cruise and holiday business, and our financial services business, whilst causing great collateral damage to our brand.

“One must also question whether Saga as a business could survive if it is forced to abandon its ethos, its branding so painstakingly built up, and to suffer the inevitable perturbation of its local customer base.”

Cruise holidays would suffer most if no exemption were granted, with the over 50s unlikely to pay to travel on cruise with young people.

The vast majority of Saga’s revenue comes from insurance policies and other financial products, rather than holidays. Paul Green, Saga’s communications chief, said: “There is a danger from blunderbuss legislation. It could bring to an end older people enjoying discounts on their fish and chips, or cheaper care insurance.”

Saga has already felt the force of age discrimination legislation. Last year it was forced to scrap a new employment agency for the over 50s when prospective employers said that they would not be able to use it for fear of breaking age discrimination laws.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which is drawing up the Single Equality Green Paper, said that a “common sense” approach was being taken.

One Maggi Howell of Westcliff on Sea, England, said: “What about my human rights? I do not want to even think about holidays with a crowd of young people and I am sure they do not want to holiday with me.

“For heavens sake, has this country gone completely mad. This shows the ridiculous position that results in trying to legislate for everything.”

Other letters to The Times…..

Sir, if Saga is forced to drop its age limit perhaps it should make it abundantly clear that music composed later than 1969 will not be permitted anywhere on board. I don’t think many ravers will apply.
Robert Davidson, Edgware, Middx

Sir, if Saga is to be compelled to accept a comprehensive, rather than age-limited, clientele, how soon might I - at 77 - make my first Club 18-30 booking?
PB Hetherington, Chigwell, Essex

Touche, Mr Hetherington.
One can only imagine the widespread muttering this development has sparked. I’m inclined to agree with the above Maggi…it’s possible that Britain HAS gone completely mad!

SAGA ROSE at Durban – picture Terry Hutson. 

I’m away this week…but my next column will still appear next Wednesday. It’s about ships I would want – or not really want – to sail on! At the end of the day, any vessel that causes a bow wave is good enough for me. I’m a cruise slut!

in Johannesburg



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