Cunard Cabin Confinement

With 64 cruises under my belt, I’ve usually been pretty lucky when it comes to requiring medical help onboard, even during a huge norovirus outbreak.

That all changed during my 65th and most recent cruise on Queen Victoria from Barcelona to Southampton.

I have what is supposed to be a temporary stoma after almost dying last year when my bowel was perforated and later ruptured after what should have been routine surgery. Since this I developed a humungous, crippling, parastomal hernia. Both of these, I was told in November 2016 by my surgeon, would be sorted at the beginning of April. Then he told me in June after lodging a complaint, it would be August.

My cruise was booked in January after All Leisure Group went bust and my 2 week Voyager cruise that same date cancelled, and paid off in July based on those words. Despite two pre-assessments and complaints, no date for surgery had ever been given. I decided to go and de-stress after the constant worry and pain of the past year.

Ironic then it was the hernia which led me to being confined after I began to get ill during our first sea day between Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. I felt better in Malaga but was bad again the following day in Gibraltar.

By the time we neared Lisbon 3 days later, I had to call someone, who misdiagnosed seasickness or a bug. A visit to the doctor after my confinement was lifted confirmed my diagnosis of possibly the beginnings of a strangulated hernia and also led to another bill. Thankfully AXA repaid all quickly bar the £25 excess.

You are given all sorts of paperwork for plague, even when you don’t have it and also a light menu to order from. It really is unappetising when you’ve been unwell and very dry. Specialist cleaners sanitise your room. Thankfully in my case it was only bathroom until I’d been freed then the entire cabin reeked, including bed covers.

It was an interesting experience, particularly as a solo traveller with no one to get anything for you. How many know you are not supposed to be charged if you order room service drinks when the medical team have confined you? I didn’t until one of the nurses told me. I had to constantly fight over that when they arrived, told I wouldn’t be charged after they checked but saw it included on my final bill so got it removed eventually with a little help from the letter for the insurance. Make sure you get one.

I have to say though, I was very impressed at how seriously Cunard take any sort of vomiting onboard one of their ships. There is too much finger pointing when there are outbreaks of norovirus but often, as many of you will all have seen, a lot don’t bother with hygiene then blame the cruise line when they fall ill. It was a relief not to have it, but know they need to be cautious. 

Thankfully, in my case, I did get as better as I was able to so enjoyed the last two full days of the cruise.

My only complaint is lack of communication. You are given the same room service number you dial by pressing the dedicated button on the phone and they have no idea you have been confined.

In my view, there should be a separate room service number for medical confinement, say to the Purser’s Office. A note on your account could be added with the date of confinement and release. The Purser could then submit your order and make it clear to them drinks are free.

So if you are travelling alone and the doctor has said you are not allowed to leave your cabin, don’t forget to double check with them about room service drinks charges.

I wish you healthy, unconfined travels!

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Saga Goes Retro

When Saga started ocean cruising in 1996, the ships had dark hulls with yellow funnels. After purchase of Bleu de France in 2011, they decided to go with a light blue funnel, the new logo spread across both sides, despite renderings for Saga Sapphire having the original.

© Saga Cruises

When their newbuild Spirit of Discovery was announced in September 2015, the yellow was back!

Saga Sapphire had been with us in Barcelona and followed when we got back to Southampton on the 13th November. She sailed to Bremerhaven for her annual refit that afternoon.

Barcelona 4th November 2017

Barcelona 4th November 2017

Southampton 13th November 2017

Southampton 13th November 2017

Sailing to Bremerhaven for refit 13th November 2017

She returned on the 2nd December, proudly sporting her new livery plus name plate and new font with her name on the bow and stern as Saga begins their latest branding change. Her original noon arrival had been changed numerous times from 12pm to 9am to 10.30pm to 8.30pm and finally 9pm, but she docked for 10pm so you couldn’t see her in all her glory, but at least her funnel shone brightly, taking you back in time.

She is due to return to service on the 3rd and will meet Saga Pearl II in Southampton on the 8th, the final time these two will be together in the port as SP2 will be finishing her career from January 2018 to April 2019 in Dover and Portsmouth.

I have been a huge fan of this ship since first seeing her as Europa in 1987 and have followed her closely since being handed over to Saga. She’s one of a handful who make me excited each time I see her or know she’ll be nearby. I’ll freeze and get soaked for her as much as I did for her predecessors. It’s always been a dream to sail on her but as I’m not quite 50, rich or media, know there’s zero chance. Thanks to Saga though, I have visited her twice and she was more fabulous than I’d imagined. I understood how the late journalist Steve Read felt when he behaved like an excited kid showing me around Saga Ruby the month before he died in 2011. Some ships get under your skin. But then, like him, I’m just someone who loves ships, cruising and experiencing what the product has to offer, though resigned to the fact she’ll have to be another that got away like Canberra, Norway, Saga Rose and Saga Ruby.

I expect she’ll be sold when the new Spirit of Adventure enters service in 2020 and that will be a very sad day. Saga Sapphire will be 39 then and with the market for older ships rapidly dwindling, my chances of sailing on her are even less. C’est la vie! Until that inevitable day comes, thousands of lucky people can continue to enjoy their cruises and the love Saga lavish on her.

Posted in Saga Cruises, Ship Stalking, Southampton | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Princess Cruises Axes P&O Recognition

For many years, if you sailed with Princess or P&O, your cruises contributed to their loyalty schemes. While P&O give 10 points per night, you also received 5 points per night if you sailed Princess, Swan Hellenic or Ocean Village. When P&O changed the Portunus Club to Peninsular Club in 2012, all Princess bookings from that date no longer counted but you still had recognition the other way around with one credit. Until now. An email has been sent notifying Captain’s Circle members of the changes, effective this month, but all past trips will still be included.

Important Information: Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Loyalty Scheme

Dear Guest,

Thank you for being a loyal member of the Princess Cruises Captain’s Circle Club. Previously, Princess Cruises has recognised your sailings history from its sister brand, P&O Cruises. This meant guests were awarded with increased membership benefits, based on sailings from both P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises.

As our brands continue to grow and evolve, so must our loyalty programmes. With this in mind Princess Cruises is ending the P&O Cruises’ sailings recognition effective from Tuesday 12 December 2017.

Details regarding the update can be found below:
1. P&O Cruises bookings that are booked by (inclusive of) Tuesday 12 December 2017 will still count towards Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Membership.
2. P&O Cruises bookings that are booked on or after Wednesday 13 December 2017 will not count towards Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Membership.
3. Guests who have previously sailed with Princess Cruises will still have their completed P&O Cruises sailings count towards Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Membership and will not drop in loyalty tier due to the change on Tuesday 12 December 2017. For example, if you have sailed before onboard Princess Cruises as an ‘Elite’ Member, you will sail again onboard Princess Cruises as an ‘Elite’ Member.
Please visit to familiarise yourself with the details on member benefits.
4. If a guest has P&O Cruises sailings history but zero Princess Cruises sailings history, they will show as a new Princess Cruises guest against any bookings confirmed after Tuesday 12 December 2017.

Yours faithfully,
Princess Cruises

The equivalent agreement with P&O Australia ends the same day.

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Farewell Eclipse

Today, the Celebrity Eclipse sailed from Southampton for the last time after 7.5 years and eight wonderful seasons.

The second of the Solstice class to set propeller in Southampton Water, she made her debut on a hazy April day in 2010 and was off again at 8pm to pick up passengers in Bilbao stranded due to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud grounded planes across Europe.

Celebrity Eclipse arrives 20th April 2010


She left on time as always, giving six blasts on her whistle then headed off to Boston.

In 2018 she cruises from Dublin, Amsterdam and Barcelona during April to November. Celebrity Silhouette replaces her in Southampton.

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Lisbon’s New Terminal Building

The Port of Lisbon have made some major changes over the past few years for cruise passengers. It used to be callers docked at Terminal de Cruzeiros de Alcântara behind the 25 de April bridge.

A little further along is the dry dock for small vessels and Terminal Cruzeiros Rocha de Conde de Obidos. I used the latter when I boarded Vision of the Seas after her 2013 refit. The terminal building was very old but is didn’t show.

By this time, the Terminal de Passageiros de Santa Apolonia had opened. It was only for calls. It is long enough to hold several ships, as shown by Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria in 2014.

On the 10th November 2017, a new terminal complex will be officially opened which include shops, bars and a viewing platform. There will also be plenty of room for taxis, buses and parked cars. Queen Victoria, Jewel of the Seas and MSC Poesia are in port that day to join in the celebrations.

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Canberra and Rotterdam 20 Years On

Lots of things happened in 1997 including the death of Princess Diana. But to ship nuts, the 30th September was a very sad day as two ships with different fates ended their careers with their respective cruise lines.

SS Rotterdam and Canberra shared a few design similarities, most notably the twin-uptake funnels. Rotterdam’s sailing life began in 1959 with Holland America Line, crossing to the US for the first 10 years before becoming a one class cruise ship, sailing to places including the Caribbean and Alaska. She was a much loved and popular ship. Her retirement was announced in 1996, stating she would not meet the 1997 SOLAS requirements unless they paid $40 million. She was sold to Premier Cruises who did the required upgrade and was renamed Rembrandt. She was with them for three years until Premier Cruises went bankrupt. Finally bought for restoration in 2003, she returned to her home port of Rotterdam on the 4th August 2009 after years of increasing costs. Six months later, she opened as a hotel where she remains to this day under new ownership since 2013. I stayed onboard a couple of nights in 2010 and only a couple of rooms were open if you were a guest. That has changed since.

Across the North Sea, P&O were making plans for a new flagship. Little did they know when Canberra entered service in 1961 that she would end up becoming their best loved and most famous ship. The last passenger liner built at Harland and Wolff in Belfast, at 45,270grt she was the largest post-war one built. Named after the Australian capital, she would be on the UK-Australia run, knocking days off the older ships. The England cricket team travelled on her. She also undertook cruises. Along with Oriana for Orient-Lines, she began the return to Southampton for P&O with berth 106 (Mayflower Terminal) their home. In order to reduce fuel consumtion and sort the soot problem, she had extensions added to her funnels and covered the first class stadium, turning in into a theatre, increasing her tonnage to 45,733grt. With aeroplanes becoming more common, cutting travel time to Australia drastically, her line voyages dried up. P&O attempted to base her out of New York for one class cruising but they weren’t popular. Her withdrawal was announced in 1973, for either scrapping or re-engined with diesel engines. Two months later, they said she would replace Orsova on cruising. With so many going to the breakers due to aircraft and fuel prices, she had a very lucky escape and 9 years later became a war heroine!

Much is made of QE2 in the Falklands while ignoring Canberra’s far greater and more dangerous role. The P&O liner was requisitioned on the 5th April 1982, three days after the islands were invaded by the Argentine military, who assumed Great Britain wouldn’t put up a fight for a group of islands thousands of miles away. How wrong they were! She arrived back in Southampton on the 7th and sailed with almost 4000 troops for the South Atlantic on the 9th after conversion, arriving on the 20th. In the thick of it later in San Carlos Water, she was a very visible target for Mirage Jets, whose pilots constantly tried to claim their prize. Instead HMS Ardent was sunk and HMS Argonaut damaged. Argentine media reported she was sunk.

In comparision, the QE2 was requisitioned on the 3rd May, arrived the 5th and sailed 12th. Canberra was still going strong in her war role by the time the Cunarder arrived in safe waters on the 27th May after being delayed by fog and ice. After a rendezvous to cross land troops at Grytviken, Canberra returned the following day to San Carlos Water while the QE2 sailed home, docking in Southampton on the 11th June. The Argentinians surrendered on the 14th June but Canberra’s role wasn’t over. She helped repatriate prisoners of war and proudly returned home to a rapturous welcome, battle scarred and rust streaked on the 11th July, QE2 in drydock having arrived 30 days earlier. Troops had banners unfurled stating Canberra Cruises Where QE2 Refuses. She was the nation’s and armed forces darling, her popularity increased. She was the Great White Whale, QE2 nicknamed the Black Pig by the military. There had never been a welcome like it before or since.

She successfully returned to service in September even more popular than ever and had even been in port the same day as QE2.

She took part in the Spithead Review with QE2 in 1994 but due to the same SOLAS regulations which resulted in many ships going, P&O announced her withdrawal in 1996. Her replacement had already arrived the previous year in the form of the new Oriana, inspired by Canberra (particularly funnels) but in a modern design.

Canberra set sail on her farewell cruise to the Med on the 10th September 1997. The Golden Cockerel, which signifies the fastest in the fleet, was handed over to Oriana in Cannes. She returned into a foggy Southampton on the 30th September 1997 to a rapturous welcome but P&O were silent about her future.

She was moved from Mayflower Terminal to QEII Terminal on the 1st October after QE2 sailed, as Oriana was due the following day. Emptied of anything valuable or they could sell like crockery and Falklands plaque removed.

Finally, on the 10th October, it was announced she was going to be scrapped and set sail at 9pm that night for Gadani Beach, Karachi.

Because of her draft, she didn’t make it easy for them and it took a year to completely dismantle her. Later, it emerged Premier had offered to buy her as well as Rotterdam but P&O turned them down. With Rotterdam still being around, you can’t help but wonder what Canberra’s future would have been had she been a fleet mate of the Holland America Line ship. All that’s left of Canberra are a few souvenirs, photos, film and memories but she will never be forgotten or any less loved as she was the day she left.

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Captain Apostolos Bouzakis Passes Away

A familiar face to many who sailed with Celebrity Cruises, the company have announced the sad news that he has died:

“It is with heavy hearts that we regretfully announce the passing of Captain Apostolos Bouzakis, a great man and beloved member of our Celebrity family.

Captain Bouzakis passed away this morning in his home in Greece, surrounded by his wife and two children. As a member of our Celebrity family for 27 years, he was highly admired, respected, and loved by his crew and all who knew him.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time, and to our crew members who sailed or worked closely with him on board Celebrity Reflection.

This is a devastating loss, and he will truly be missed.”

I met Captain Bouzakis during what Celebrity had renamed the “Official Maiden Voyage” (8th-18th August 2009). He was a very nice, friendly man. It was my only cruise with him at the helm. Condolences to his family and friends.

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