7 OCTOBER 2013


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Article from BTNews 7 OCTOBER 2013


Berlitz Cruise Guide published



Out now is the Berlitz Cruise Guide 2013, literally the bible of cruising listing and rating 285 seagoing ships. 

The figures you see below in brackets are Editor Douglas Ward’s evaluation, with which we cannot argue.  £17.99 in both paperback and e-book.

Last year we criticised the book in that it was felt that the type size for the ratings were too small. 

That has now been improved, slightly, but the specifications for each ship is printed in five point and not easy to read. 

We know that the book grows and grows (752 pages as against 704 with the previous one), but your Editor had difficulty in reading the typesetting and so must others!   www.insightguides.com


Astor (Berlitz rating 1376) is a fascinating ship, originally built in 1987 and (at a cost of £14m) refurbished and technically updated just two years ago.  It is now owned by Cruise and Maritime who plan to use it on seasonal voyages from Europe to Australia, ‘Down Under’ in the northern hemisphere winter, and out of mainly Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Kiel in our summer.  She is travelling all the way to Oz from Rome on 5 November for a 36- night inaugural cruise. #####

You get to Freemantle (Perth) just in time for the Ashes Test Match.  Crew gratuities are included and Colombo, Phuket and Bali are amongst the ports of call.  Fares from £1,999 are cruise only.

Business Travel News had an opportunity to visit the ship when in Dover recently on her way to the Mediterranean.

Travel down was on the high speed Kent train service from St Pancras via Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford.  It is to be recommended and for inbound visitors to the port as a sightseeing/shopping trip to the former Olympic site and Westfield Shopping Centre.  It is just one hour.

Astor comes in at just over 20,000 tons and accommodates around 578 passengers.  The ships that did the same run in the 1940s and 1950s, often carrying the ‘Ten Pound Poms’ where much the same size and speed, but carried twice the number of emigrants, plus substantial commercial cargo.  If Australia was not for you (as was the case of this writer’s parents) and a return was made within two years, you had to pay the full fare both ways.

Astor has seven passenger decks topped out by a full size sports court together with a jogging track. Down one is a bar, open stern facing terrace and a well equipped small gym.  On another level is small swimming pool, ideal for getting wet in tropical climates. 
Deep down inside the ship is an indoor pool, much the same size as the outdoor one.  It is within the Wellness Oasis spa area with beauty salon, sauna and treatment rooms.  The medical centre adjoins.

The décor of the ship is classical with teakwood decking, polished timber railings and plenty of woodwork and veneer in all the public rooms.  The carpets are fresh and the ship has the feeling of a mobile stately home.  The décor is restrained.  The main public areas are on just three of the upper decks.  It would be difficult to get lost on this ship.

The Waldorf Restaurant offers a traditional two sitting fixed time dining option and there are two further alternatives.  On a lunchtime visit it is not really fair to judge a ship but the menu we were offered was varied and served piping hot.  The galley looks to be well sorted.  The Captain's Club seems a perfect venue for pre-dinner cocktails with the resident pianist and is also open late.  There is a show lounge too and alternative places to drink.  A quick look at the bar prices indicated very reasonable prices (unlike some of the large operators who charge at the land rate and keep the amount normally reserved for the Exchequer).

Other facilities include the ship's Library, the Card Room, an internet café, and a small shopping arcade.

Accommodation ranges from the Astor Suite, the only balcony offering, and a whole series of large superior cabins around 280sq ft, including eight internal, which were very nice-looking.  The vast majority of cabins are twins, 140 sq ft well-fitted with the latest flat screen TVs. 

Cruise and Maritime plan to change the present smoking arrangements to offer the same as the vast majority of cruise operators.  www.cruiseandmaritime.com


BTN recently requested from all the major cruise operators details of bargains available in the immediate future, with the results you can see, somewhat edited as a taster for each operator in order not to make it too long.  Readers are best advised to contact their cruise consultant or the cruise company direct for a much larger selection and up to date availability.  If your favourite line is not mentioned it is probably because BTN did not get the information.

Next month we are going to look at river cruising and also the short sea crossings with the re-launched www.discoverferries.com

Crystal Serenity
(1714 speaks for itself) has always been popular with clientele looking for more traditional high quality cruising.  For the 2 November Rome to Lisbon 12 day cruise Crystal has come in with some special solo fares starting from £2,150.  The entertainment is first class and likewise the lecture programme.  Spirits and wines are complimentary. www.crystalcruises.com

Disney is coming back to the Mediterranean in 2014 with its floating theme park Disney Magic (1490) which is geared for adults too.  Mainly from Barcelona cruise only packages start from £537 for four nights and operate in June, July and August. www.disney.com

Marco Polo from London Cruise Terminal – Tilbury 20 October for 12 nights to the Baltic Cities & St Petersburg. Price from £599pp for an inner cabin and £699pp for an ocean view. www.cruiseandmaritime.com

MSC Splendida (1530) has a regular 7 nights offering calling at Genoa, Marseille, Barcelona, La Goulette, Palermo, Civitavecchia and back to Genoa with a lead in price of £329 cruise only.  Ideal for the Med in winter with a covered swimming pool in a stylish Italian ship. www.msccruises.co.uk

Norwegian Jade
(1371) 11 nights Western Mediterranean departing 22 November.  Prices from £799 are based on two people sharing an inside stateroom including return flights from London.  Rome, Florence, Monte Carlo, Toulon, Barcelona, Valencia, Cagliari, Carthage, Palermo, Naples, Rome. www.ncl.com

Oriana (1448) 11 nights 16 November adults only Southampton, La Coruña, Casablanca, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Lisbon.  Very British.  Club and Freedom dining.  Coach transport is available from London or train from Waterloo.  From £599. www.pocruises.co.uk

Queen Mary
2 (1673) 11 nights 30 November  'Iberian Serenade' Southampton, Lisbon, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas, Funchal, Southampton.  New ‘Getaway’ fare from an amazing £699 per person.  There is a crossing from New York 27 October at £599 including flight.  Marvellous value. www.cunard.com

Regatta (1541) 18 nights 18 October. Montreal, Quebec, Boston, New York, Bermuda, Bahamas, Miami.  The price includes return UK flights, all meals, complimentary soft drinks and bottled water.  From £2,759 balcony cabin including US$300 on board credit, per stateroom, to spend in the on-board bars, shops and spa. www.oceaniacruises.com

Ruby Princess is a fine resort ship (1434) and leaves Rome for Venice 5 November via Naples, Santorini, Kusadasi, Mykonos, Piraeus, Katakolon, Corfu and Dubrovnik, 12 nights in total.   Flights/transfers from London Heathrow with a balcony stateroom   from £1,166. www.princess.com

Seabourn Quest (1707) 7 nights 13 November from Rio de Janeiro, Ilhabela (Sao Sebastiao), Paranagua, Porto Belo,  Montevideo and Buenos Aires.  Veranda Suite, tips and gratuities, fine dining, open bars and fully stocked mini-bar including return flight from £3,059.  www.seabourn.co.uk

Seven Seas Mariner (1645) 12 nights 8 December Rio (overnight), Buzios, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Santos, Porto Belo, Rio Grande, Montevideo, Punta Del Este, Buenos Aires (overnight). Including flights, transfers and all-inclusive on-board.  £3,799 with balcony, up to 19 FREE excursions plus a one night pre-cruise luxury hotel stay in Rio. www.rssc.co.uk
Silver Spirit (1762) departs on 24 October 2013 for a nine-day voyage from Venice to Civitavecchia (Rome).  Prices start from £2,750 per person based on double occupancy in the Vista Suite.  Calling at Venice, Koper, Split, Dubrovnik, Valletta, Messina, Sorrento and Civitavecchia (Rome).  No tipping and drinks included. www.silversea

Zuiderdam (1422) by Holland America has a fine reputation and on offer is a 7 night cruise in the Eastern Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale on 12 December just before the holidays. Starting price is US$799 and you need to fly to Miami.  Ft Lauderdale, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg (St Maarten), Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; Ft Lauderdale. www.hollandamerica.com

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