Ports & Ships Cruise News

Jan 23, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

  • Farewell planned for BLACK PRINCE

  • Who’s the best ......?

  • Speaking of small ships....

  • Brand new look and feel for Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner


    Farewell planned for BLACK PRINCE

    The ship started life as a passenger and car ferry with dual personality – that was back in 1966 when Norwegian ship operator Fred Olsen operated her for six months of the year – the winter - between the UK and the Canary Islands and Bergen Line took her over during the rest of the year to sail between the UK and Norway under the name of VENUS.

    Not too many ships can boast such a beginning but it lasted for 20 years until 1986 when Fred Olsen bought out the Bergen Line and converted the ferry into a fully fledged cruise ship bearing the name BLACK PRINCE. In the process Fred Olsen Cruise Line quickly moved into the role of a key player in the emerging cruise market in the UK.

    Now, after a long and successful career with Fred Olsen the former cruise ship will be retired later this year, in October to be exact. The 11,209-gt, 441-passenger Black Prince’s Farewell Season will begin on 9th September 2009 with a ten night Around the UK cruise from Liverpool, then a three night mini cruise from Liverpool to Southampton. The season continues with a 10 night Historic Home Ports cruise from Southampton back to Southampton; followed by her final cruise of 14 nights to the Canary Islands. The ship returns to Southampton on Friday 16th October, 2009.

    “This is a very sad announcement for the company to make as Black Prince is one of the best loved ships that caters to the UK market, and many passengers have cruised on her so often that even they have lost track of the number of holidays they have taken. We know that there will be thousands of passengers who have sailed on her who will be very sad on that final day,” said Fred Olsen Cruise Lines managing director Mike Rodwell.

    And while on the subject of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which nowadays operates with a fleet of five ships mostly from UK ports on worldwide itineraries, the company has just launched its latest Captain’s Collection brochure, which features 64 cruises departing in 2009 at very competitive prices including the Captain’s Bonus – onboard spending credit.

    Brochures or more information on all these special cruises are available from Triton Cape Sea Travel on 021 443 9030 or email

    Who’s the best.....?

    CRYSTAL SYMPHONY at sea – a personal favourite

    Which are the world’s best loved cruise ships? Ask a dozen people and you may expect at least half as many answers; after all the question is a very subjective one and dependant on each individual’s own point of view or even idiosyncrasy.

    In the case of some cruise publications, the question is left to an acknowledged expert in cruising, someone who gets to experience many ships but who, at the end of the day will make his or her own decision based on his or her own experiences. But, one may ask, who then is the typical passenger, and can such an ‘expert’ be expected to answer for everyone.

    Each year the noted travel magazine Conde Nast attempts to answer such a poser by appealing to its readers who cast votes based on their own experiences. Up to 400 ships are commented on (I didn’t even realise there were as many passenger-carrying ships afloat), but each ship is judged on the basis of certain criteria, including activities, facilities, cabins, crew and service, ship design and layout, food and the dining experience (always an important factor with cruising), itineraries, schedule and shore excursions.

    The responses gathered in come mainly from American readers, who also constitute the majority of passengers anyway. Rated on the basis of the best five in each category, some of the decisions may appear surprising, with others as more as expected.

    Large ships

    The five best large ships were adjudged to be Disney Wonder, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Summit, Disney Magic and Coral Princess.

    Best medium size ships

    The top five in the medium ship category were Crystal Serenity, Crystal Symphony (no surprises there in my opinion), Seven Seas Voyager, Seven Seas Mariner, and Viking XPRS – the latter operates what is primarily a ferry service between Helsinki and Tallinn and is an unusual choice.

    Best small ships

    According to the readers the best five small ships are Bizet, Sea Cloud, Overoi Philae, River Baroness and River Duchess. Again one or two unexpected choices among these!

    If one had to ask the question, “which is the best ship to cruise along the southern African coast” I wonder what the answer might be? Based on sheer passenger numbers the scales would probably be tipped towards one of the MSC/Starlight Cruises ships, a response that could only add grist to suggestions of subjectivity. I very much doubt that my choice would lean that way although that could change later this year when MSC SINFONIA (pictured below) arrives as the summer’s resident ship.

    Speaking of small ships....

    As reported above, two River ships have been adjudged among the best in the world by Conde Nast readers and although I have never personally ‘tasted’ the pleasures of river cruising, the idea of spending a week or more on the rivers of Europe seems more and more enticing.

    Unique Boutique River Cruises, the company that operates the two ‘small ships’ listed in the previous story, will be inaugurating the first Annual President’s River Cruise onboard the new, luxurious RIVER BEATRICE and sailing along the enchanting Danube.

    Guy Young, President of Uniworld, will be the host during this eight day event sailing from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary.

    “This trip is going to be extra special in so many ways,” he says. “In addition to all of the wonderful inclusions guests receive when travelling with Uniworld, we are going to be offering several one-of-a-kind exclusive inclusions only available during this cruise. This is going to be an unforgettable experience for all who travel with us. I look forward to introducing the beautiful new River Beatrice and sharing this experience with our valued travellers.”

    Space on board the new ship is limited – this is no mega ship of several thousand passengers and would-be travellers are advised to book early. According to the cruise company’s publicity, travellers paying in full by the end of January can save up to $600 per stateroom – cruise prices otherwise run from $2,799 per person upwards.

    What does the cruise offer? Highlights on the new ship include 7 nights onboard in a riverview stateroom with extra comforts such as plush robes and slippers, L'Occitane body products special travel set, an exclusive gift from Valrhona Chocolate, and fresh fruit delivered daily.

    All meals are prepared fresh every day using the best ingredients brought onboard from the itinerary’s ports of call. There is complimentary fine wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner, bottled water in the staterooms and 24-hour availability of specialty coffees and teas. Plus of course the Presidents Welcome and Farewell Cocktail receptions and dinners to dress up for.

    That aside, tours ashore in Passau, Salzburg, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest will be fully hosted with English-speaking local guides. A visit to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to observe a morning training will take place and passengers can attend a Mozart and Strauss concert at Palais Auersperg also in Vienna. Another highlight is a cocktail reception which is to be held at Artstetten Castle with Princess Anita von Hohenberg, royal descendant of the Hapsburg lineage, plus a guided tour of the castle’s museum and crypt.

    Passengers will also attend a dinner at Griechenbeisl , one of the oldest restaurants in Vienna where such notables as Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Strauss, Brahms and Mark Twain once dined. I’m not sure what Mark Twain was doing among those musicians but after all, I suppose he was famous for another reason and that is what matters.

    When you have finished wining and dining, and looking through castles and listening to onboard lectures about the places still to be visited, the cruise provides the complimentary use of bicycles to see how the other half lives.

    Airport ransfers on arrival and departures days are also covered in the fare.

    Uniworld Boutique is a Los Angeles-based cruise company, which operates river cruises in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China and Egypt. Details can be found at www.uniworld.com

    River Beatrice moored overnight

    Brand new look and feel for Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner

    Fort Lauderdale - Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) has announced that the first phase of the company's most ambitious refurbishment program ever is now complete. The line's 700-guest all-suite, all-balcony luxury vessels, SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER and SEVEN SEAS MARINER, have completed their respective dry-docks just in time to debut on their 2009 World Cruises.

    The refurbishment program, which cost approximately $40 million - the largest investment on existing tonnage ever by RSSC - was overseen by the line's Vessel Operations team working in conjunction with renowned marine architectural firm of Yran and Storbraaten of Oslo, Norway. The resulting feel aboard each ship is fresh, elegant and luxurious, while retaining the warmth and charm for which RSSC is acclaimed.

    The ships' public spaces are now resplendent with elegant new furnishings, carpeting and accents, while radiating a new sense of warmth and sophistication. From the bold jewel tones of Signatures, to the elegant Chablis and Merlot palettes of Compass Rose, or the soothing colours of sand and sea in the Observation Lounge, every area exudes a new sense of style and elegance.

    “Both ships have never looked better, they are nothing short of stunning,” said Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “Seven Seas Voyager and Mariner each set the benchmark for ultra-luxury cruising when they were introduced. They are now setting new standards and are now undoubtedly the most beautiful vessels in the industry,” he added.

    Reaction to the new look and feel of the ships has been universally positive from guests and travel agents alike. Members of RSSC's newly-formed Regent Seven Seas Council, comprised of the line's top-producing travel agents, visited Seven Seas Voyager in Los Angeles last week.

    “I have always sold RSSC to my clients with confidence,” said Greg Nacco of Cruise Specialists, a Council member. “But now, with the recent refurbishment and the Free Shore Excursions, I am even more passionate about the product. We've had a number of clients already return from their cruises raving about the changes,” he added.

    The second phase of the refurbishment program, a similar makeover for the third ship in the RSSC fleet, SEVEN SEAS NAVIGATOR, is scheduled to take place in April 2010.

    SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER - now fresh from a complete refit

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