Tag Archives: Turkey

Cruising for young(ish) people, by a first-timer

imageNatalie Paris boards a cruise for the first time, as part of a multi-generational family holiday in the Mediterranean.

We lined the upper deck, clinging to the railings and waving farewell to the shrinking tower of St Mark’s basilica. The chorus from Time to Say Goodbye blared cheesily from loudspeakers behind us. Below, on canal-side terraces, tourists squinted up from their Bellinis as all 93,330 tons of us slid by, rudely blotting out the sun. Our Mediterranean cruise had finally begun, with a showy sail along the Grand Canal in Venice. Even for this apprehensive first-timer, it was a pretty exciting moment.

In common with most independent people in their twenties or thirties, I wouldn’t have chosen a cruise for myself. Holidays for me are about the freedom to get out and explore. And once I’m out, I tend to want to stay out. Late. But this trip was not solely about me. Our party consisted of three generations of my boyfriend’s family, all avid cruisers. One was celebrating a significant birthday and so those of us unaccustomed to itineraries and fixed mealtimes had agreed to be open-minded. What the occasion required was easy sightseeing at a reasonable price, with plenty of opportunities for ballroom dancing. "We don’t have to spend every minute together," the cruising regulars assured us, "just don’t be late back or the ship will leave without you."

Get the best out of your sweet peas

imageHow to grow beautiful, long-lasting sweet peas without too much hard work .

I have always thought that sweet peas are hard work. An expert exhibitor once told me that he dug his trenches 4ft deep before planting, and that non-stop deadheading was essential. To me, the frenzy of pink froth did not seem to justify all this effort.

A couple of years ago, however, I decided that I really should try again; we are frequently asked about sweet peas on Gardeners’ Question Time and I loathe giving theoretical answers.

I am not a fan of deep digging, and the soil depth in my garden is 50mm before it hits limestone brash. I wanted pyramids of sweet peas beside a yew hedge, and I knew this patch would be full of yew roots and dry as dust. Instead, I put three mini plants in a chimney pot, full of rich compost, directly on the soil, and gave them two gallons of water each, once a week.

The world’s best adventure cruises

imageFancy climbing a volcano, husky sledding or flying in a fighter jet? Wendy Gomersall picks the best adventure cruises for 2012.

Gone are the days when an excursion meant a gentle potter around a picturesque town centre or a scenic ride on a comfy coach. Nowadays, adventurous and unusual experiences you would never be able to enjoy at home are all part of what makes a cruise holiday so memorable.

Here’s a taster of the more “extreme” excursions on offer.

Factors to Consider when Planning a European Cruise

imageOnce you decide to take a European cruise, you will quickly find that planning the vacation is not an easy task.  There are many factors to consider when planning your dream vacation such as voyage lengths, price ranges, potential destinations, and the many different cruise lines.  This article will cover some of the factors you must think about to ensure you find the European cruise that meets your needs and desires, allowing you to enjoy a perfect vacation.

The first thing you have to think about is the time of year you will take your cruise.  If you have commitments or a work schedule that will limit when you can travel,

there may be a significant impact on selecting a destination.  You will have to decide when you can travel so you can research the European cruises that are best to take at that specific time of the year.

Cruise passengers take legal action over illness

More than 130 British holidaymakers are taking legal action against Fred Olsen after allegedly falling ill on board one of its ships.

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The cruise line was this week accused of “repeatedly failing to protect the health of tourists” on the MV Boudicca following several outbreaks of sickness.

Irwin Mitchell, a British law firm that specialises in travel-related cases, is representing 138 people who claim they suffered severe gastric illness on the ship, which sails to the Canary Islands, Europe and west Africa, between 2009-2011. Some of those passengers have blamed poor hygiene.

Fred Olsen accepts that illness has occurred on the ship, but says the symptoms suffered by passengers were indicative of norovirus – a common cause of infectious gastroenteritis that it says is beyond its control.

Georgia: Blessed in a big-hearted country

Lisa Grainger gets a surprising welcome in a former Soviet republic that may be economically poor but has many other riches.

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Within five minutes of arrival I knew Georgia was unlike any other place I had visited. On the London-Tbilisi flight, there had been only a handful of passengers, and one I had been watching with particular interest.

A dead ringer for Rasputin – tall, dressed in black and exotically handsome, with a grey bushy beard and hair bundled into a bun – he had bounded up to the plane door as soon as the wheels touched down, a little Harrods bag clutched aloft, like a Wise Man arriving to give Jesus gold.

Georgia: Blessed in a big-hearted country

imageLisa Grainger gets a surprising welcome in a former Soviet republic that may be economically poor but has many other riches.

Within five minutes of arrival I knew Georgia was unlike any other place I had visited. On the London-Tbilisi flight, there had been only a handful of passengers, and one I had been watching with particular interest.

A dead ringer for Rasputin – tall, dressed in black and exotically handsome, with a grey bushy beard and hair bundled into a bun – he had bounded up to the plane door as soon as the wheels touched down, a little Harrods bag clutched aloft, like a Wise Man arriving to give Jesus gold.

Cruising on Seabourn Odyssey

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Graham Boynton thought cruising wasn’t for him. That was until he took a trip with his family on Seabourn Odyssey from Istanbul to Athens.

There are some things in life that one should avoid confessing to when in serious company. For example, in the mid-Seventies it was social suicide to admit liking Abba’s music, as it is today with Sir Cliff Richard’s canon; equally, to claim a secret fondness for the novels of Barbara Cartland or the paintings of Vladimir Tretchikoff remains cultural death.

The best cruise deals on offer

This is the time of year when cruise companies unveil many deals and special offers. Sara Macefield highlights some of the best.
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This time of year is traditionally when cruise companis bring out some of their most tempting offers. Known as the “wave” period, it runs during December and January and is marked by discounted prices and other benefits, including cabin upgrades, free port parking and complimentary drinks.

With more ships to fill than ever before in 2011, competition is fierce. Here’s a selection of some of the best deals. Prices are per person and include flights unless otherwise stated.
THE MEDITERRANEAN

Customers booking a winter 2012 cruise with Thomson (0871 231 3235; www.thomson.co.uk) by January 31 can enjoy free drinks as part of the company’s £1 million “Great Bar Giveaway”. Thomson Spirit will be based at Limassol, Cyprus, in March and April, 2012, offering one-week eastern Mediterranean voyages visiting Alanya in Turkey, Alexandria and Port Said in Egypt, and Ashdod in Israel. Prices start at £799 and include a free, all-inclusive upgrade.

Experience Carnival Cruises’ newest “fun ship” Carnival Magic, which launches in May and promises, among other things, corkscrew waterslides, an aqua park, mini golf and a seaside theatre. Carnival (0845 351 0556; www.carnivalcruise.co.uk) offers a 12-night fly-cruise from Barcelona with calls including Marseilles, Civitavecchia (for Rome), Naples, Venice (where it spends a night) and Messina in Sicily. Prices start at £1,209, with departures on May 22.

Cruise specialist agency, The Cruise Village (01253 341014; www.thecruisevillage.com) is offering a Royal Caribbean International cruise from Palma aboard Grandeur of the Seas from £381, though this excludes flights. The one-week sailing on May 22 visits Barcelona, Ibiza, Malaga and Gibraltar before returning to Palma.

Spend autumn in the eastern Mediterranean aboard Seabourn Quest, the newest ship of upmarket line Seabourn (0845 070 0500; www.seabourn.com), due to launch in June. A seven-night Turkish Delights and Greek Isles sailing from Istanbul to Athens, starts at £2,149 and includes a suite upgrade. The cruise departs on October 10 with calls at Dikili and Kusadasi in Turkey, plus the Greek islands of Mykonos, Rhodes, Patmos and Mylos.

Cultural cruise line Voyages to Antiquity (0845 437 9737; www.voyagestoantiquity.com) has axed supplements for single travellers on its “Sicily is the Key to Everything” sailing from Athens to Rome on May 20.

The cruise calls at ports in Italy, Malta and Sicily and costs from £2,250. Discounts of up to £1,000 are offered for couples. Also included are tours, wine with dinner and gratuities.
SCANDINAVIA AND THE BALTIC

Hurtigruten (0844 448 7601; www.hurtigruten.co.uk) is offering free cabin upgrades on bookings for selected voyages made by March 31. An 11-day Pearls of the Baltic Sea sailing departs on April 25 from Oslo, calling at Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn and Gudhjem before returning to Oslo. It costs from £2,511 cruise-only.

Noble Caledonia (020 7752 0000; www.noble-caledonia.co.uk) is offering savings of up to £500 on a Baltic Renaissance cruise booked by February 28. The 14-night sailing on Island Sky departs on August 9 from Stockholm and finishes in Leith. Ports of call include Helsinki, St Petersburg (where it spends three days), Gdansk and Copenhagen. Prices now start at £3,895.
THE MIDDLE EAST AND FAR EAST

Enjoy a break in Dubai and travel back to the UK amid the grandeur of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 on this 21-night package from Reader Offers (0845 458 8909; www.readeroffers.travel). The cruise departs on March 29 and includes four nights in the emirate followed by a 16-night sailing through the Arabian Sea and Red Sea into the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

Ports of call include Sharm el Sheikh, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Prices start at £2,399 and include flight; hotel stay and breakfast; upgrade from inside cabin to balcony stateroom; and $300 on-board credit for customers booking Princess or Queen’s Grill suites.

Explore Vietnam on a nine-day voyage from Hong Kong to Singapore with Silversea Cruises (0844 770 9030; www.silversea.com). Highlights include the outcrops of Ha Long Bay and an overnight stop in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh. Other calls include Haiphong (for Hanoi), Chan May (for Da Nang) and Nha Trang. Prices for the Silver Shadow voyage start at £4,223, including drinks and gratuities. A $1,000 on-board spending credit per suite is also included, along with a free shore excursion in Ha Long Bay.
ALASKA

P & O Cruises (0845 678 0014; www.pocruises.com) has slashed £1,100 off the price of its 72-night sailing to Alaska – the first time the line has cruised in the region in nearly 40 years. It departs from Southampton on April 12 and includes two transits of the Panama Canal, with calls in the Caribbean, Mexico, the US west coast and Alaska. Prices start at £6,399 and adults receive an on-board credit of £250.
THE CARIBBEAN

Across-the-board savings of up to 20 per cent are being offered by tall-ship line Star Clippers (0845 200 6145; www.starclippers.co.uk) on bookings for Mediterranean sailings made by January 31. Customers looking at Caribbean and Central America cruises need to book by April 30.

A saving of £177 is offered on a six-night Caribbean pre-Christmas cruise on Star Clipper, departing from St Maarten on December 17. The itinerary includes Nevis or Saba (depending on the wind); Iles des Saintes in the French Caribbean; Falmouth Harbour, Antigua; and St Barts. Prices start at £708, excluding flights and port charges.

Windstar Cruises (020 7292 2369; www.windstarcruises.co.uk) has reduced the price of one of its Caribbean voyages by more than £650. A round-trip cruise from Barbados on March 13, calling at St Kitts, St Martin, St Barts, Iles des Saintes and St Lucia now starts at £2,485.
RIVER CRUISES

AmaWaterways (0808 223 5009; www.amawaterways.co.uk) has waived its 50 per cent single traveller supplement on four seven-night “Tulip Time” sailings of the Dutch and Belgian waterways with stops including Antwerp and Ghent. Prices now start at £1,095 based on two people sharing, or £1,376 for single travellers, departing on March 28. Other departures are April 1, 8 and 25.

Avalon Waterways (0800 668 1865; www.avaloncruises.co.uk) has reductions of up to £900 per couple on some river cruises. Save £450 per person on a Danube cruise to the Black Sea, which departs from Vienna for Oltenita (for Bucharest) and includes stops in Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria. Prices start at £1,705, departing on March 30 or April 9.

Savings of up to £3,200 per couple are offered by Titan HiTours Elegant River Cruises (0800 988 5858; www.titanhitours.co.uk) on the 15-day “Imperial Capitals of Europe”, which visits seven countries. The trip starts with three days in Istanbul before passengers fly to Bucharest to join the River Princess at Giurgiu for the Danube sailing. Stops include Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Belgrade. The cruise, leaving on April 16, costs from £2,499 if booked by January 31.

Discounts of up to £500 are offered on various sailings by Viking River Cruises (020 8780 7900; www.vikingriver cruises.co.uk). An eight-day Rhine Discovery sailing from Amsterdam to Basel is down from £1,395 to £895 and includes wine with dinner, six escorted tours and a programme of talks and demonstrations. There are weekly sailings between May and October, but bookings must be made by January 31.

What to avoid

Some ex-UK cruises finish at an overseas port, so think ahead to arrange transfers accordingly (or ask your cruise line or travel agent to). Don’t fall into the trap of leaving your car at a UK port and returning to an airport miles away.

Beware the Bay of Biscay – especially in the winter, when conditions here and in the English Channel and North Sea can be enough to turn the strongest stomach.

Don’t confine your cruise departures to Southampton. While this is the UK’s premier cruise port, there are regular sailings from around Britain, including Dover, Tilbury, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle, Greenock and even central London at Tower Bridge.

If you’re cruising between the UK and the Mediterranean, remember that the first and last two days of the voyage will be spent at sea – and the weather won’t necessarily be good. So make sure you pick a ship with enough facilities to keep you entertained, especially if travelling with children.

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