Cunard Line | Queen Mary 2 Ship Tour

She is one of the most iconic passenger ships of modern times and the last true ocean liner sailing the classic transatlantic passage from Southampton to New York and back. I have sailed the one and only RMS Queen Mary 2 a few times already and even though they say “some things cannot get better”, I found out during my latest visit to the queen in the port of Hamburg that they surely can. Having been remastered just a few months ago, QM2 returns into service with retouched interiors that once again reinforce her statement: You are not taking a cruise. You are about to make a journey. Continue reading

Mittelthurgau Travel | MS Excellence Princess Ship Tour

With an overall length of only 135 meters, Excellence Princess is actually one of the larger vessels floating on the European river network these days. Built in 2014, 186 passengers travel in luxurious outside cabins and junior suites in a highly familiar atmosphere, pampered with outstanding cuisine and first class service. I enjoyed a full week of Swiss hospitality on the Rhine River and I would most definitely go back onboard anytime. Continue reading

Project EDGE | From Infinity to Beyond

It is getting there. Celebrity Cruises´ long awaited prototype ship is finally becoming reality. Continue reading

Project EDGE | A short update on the cruise industry´s best kept secret

Just having returned from a beautiful Mediterranean cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox a few days ago (yes, there will be a blog post about this trip!), I could not miss out to gather any new information from the crew onboard concerning Celebrity Cruises´ well guarded secret Project EDGE. Continue reading

Short Cruises 2015 | Cross-country done differently

Norwegian Sun leaving the port of Vancouver.
Norwegian Sun leaving the port of Vancouver. © Shipm8s.com by #tamme wichmann photography

Just imagine the following:

You have been on a road or caravan trip for a few days or for weeks and have explored the beautiful landscapes of the territory that you have visited. Mountains, lakes, woods, wildlife, sunsets and sunrises. You´ve witnessed it all. And openly, there is almost no better way to experience the exceptional variety and beauty that the Northwestern states of the Americas have to offer, than by caravan or camping. Continue reading

MSC Lirica | Italia Infernale – around the world´s most famous “boot” in 4 days

How else could you circle the home of culinary highlights, desirable fashion and extraordinarily famous design in less than a week, if not by ship. By cruise ship, to be exact.

Yacht or sailing boat would probably be a little bit more exciting, definitely more exclusive, but hey, the price was right, the time even righter, so why complain?

Spreading wings for my four-days adventure
Spreading wings for my four-days adventure

The journey begins in beautiful Genoa, one of the largest and from ancient times of transatlantic crossings still highly known ports on the upper west coast. It is home port to MSC Cruises and also popular starting point for excursions to Cinque Terre National Park and the splendid Portofino (both are away around 1 1/2 to 2 hours by car).

Since the flight connections between Munich and Christopher Colombo airport did not offer a proper arrival time for the ship´s departure date, I had to plan an additional night before. But not the worst thing, as I have learned a few years earlier (learn here about my hotel recommendation).

Genova, as it is written in Italian, is utterly romantic. Its impressive and beautiful architecture is reminiscent of bygone glamorous and glorious days. Most of the splendid buildings pile up the hills around the several bays that the city was founded on.

Warm summer evenings awaken small alleyways and sleepy Piazzas to new life, when the Genovese toast to life during candlelight dinners, celebrating the Ligurian cuisine, life, love & happiness.

The perfect prelude for my 4-nights Med mini cruise from Genoa to Venice, making stop in Civitavecchia (Rome) and Dubrovnik (Croatia).

The pool deck goes well with the Mediterranean sun
The pool deck goes well with the Mediterranean sun

It is a warm and sunny Tuesday early afternoon when I arrive at Stazzione Maritime where MSC Lirica is moored. The Check-in has already begun and with my red Priority Boarding Card in my hands, I make my way to the ship.

My inside stateroom is located aft on Deck 9. Its interiors have seen better days (MSC Lirica is scheduled for dry dock in August 2015 for enhancement. Learn more about MSC´s Renaissance Program here) but are otherwise in good shape for the ship´s age (12 years). The same applies to the rest of Lirica´s public spaces (click here for the complete photo gallery).

But since I am not here to examine irregularities, I rather concentrate on the fantastic weather (no naturalness for April) and the beautiful scenery as MSC Lirica blows her horn and slowly leaves port 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure. People have gathered at the shores and wave us good-bye as we maneuver out of the port. I get goosebumps instantly (as always). This is what it must have felt like for the people centuries ago as they sailed towards an unknown future, leaving behind their lives and loved ones.

And even when I thought it could not get better, I meet a fellow co-worker and old friend of mine there on the aft deck. Together, we stare with delight to the fading horizon and the setting sun, immersing the sky in the most amazing orange explosion. Ciao Genova! A la prossima!

Taking a relaxed stroll in Civitavecchia
Taking a relaxed stroll in Civitavecchia

The next morning, I wake up in the port of Civitavecchia. From the pier it is only a shuttle bus ride and a few minutes walking to the train station from where you have easy access to Rome, the eternal city (for schedules and prices, check this link). As I have done this many times before, I decide to stay this time on the ship and in town. If you have never been to Rome, make sure to buy your train tickets online in advance and take one leaving before 8 am. All trains after 8 am are completely over-crowded, especially if there are several ships in port that day. The same applies for the return! Check especially the times carefully! Travel time is approximately an hour to/from Roma Trastevere (closest station to St. Peter´s, click here for a possible city tour).

So while the majority of the passengers (my friend included) have departed, I stroll for an hour through the town of Civitavecchia, spending a moment on the walkway next to the sea and enjoying a cappuccino and some Antipasti at this stylish corner bar (I could not find the name, but it is situated right at the corner of the main street Strada Statale and Via Giordano Bruno).

But before I head back to the ship, I have to send my picture postcard. If you need to mail anything in Italy, you will have to collect a number from a vending machine inside the post offices (stamps are ONLY available there). Counters have different jobs, some do letters and stamps, some do banking, etc. Therefor, make sure to get the “right” slip. Numbers are called automatically and payments are accepted in Euros only!

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Sea days are best to find out your personal cruise paste…

As I return to MSC Lirica, I am cheering to the fading sun with my Sprizz Veneto. While the ship leaves Civitavecchia and heads to the open sea, passengers of every ship in port exchange cheers and waves. MSC Lirica navigates towards the South and before the evening concludes under the motto “Notta Italiana” (Italian Night), we wave green, red and white napkins to Italian pop classics and feast on Tiramisu and Limoncello. A little bit of Italy at sea. A little kitschy, yet fun.

The next day is a full day at sea. Sounds boring? Not at all. Sea days are particularly good for actually sleeping in and getting your individual cruise paste. While most of my fellow passengers enjoy the offerings of the onboard activity program, it is workout time for me before stretching out on one of those comfortable sun loungers on deck.

And workouts at sea are fun! Can you imagine to run your errands on the treadmill or work your abs or biceps while enjoying panoramic views of Sicily on one and the Italian mainland on the other side?

MSC Lirica passes the “Street of Messina” before entering the Ionian Sea. It is one of the busiest seaways in the world and the view is astonishing.

The rest of the day, I spend relaxed and wrapped up in towels on my sun lounger. The wind is chilly, but the warm sun caresses my skin while I listen to my favourite music and watch the other guests participating in the activities on the pool deck.

Dubrovnik´s historic part of town is a one-of-a-kind.
Dubrovnik´s historic part of town is a one-of-a-kind.

The second evening onboard is all about dressing up. It is gala night.  In general, I love to put on something fancy, but on short escapes like this one I rather keep things low-key. That´s why I decide to dine in the buffet restaurant today (another reason are my quite unspectacular neighbours at the dinner table). And since we will reach my second best highlight during this cruise tomorrow, Dubrovnik, I retreat with a bottle of proper prosecco and the amusing in-room video programme to my stateroom.

Energized, ready for the day and again blessed with outrageously good weather, MSC Lirica reaches early in the morning Dubrovnik, the “Adriatic Pearl” and also called “Croatian Athens”.

Dubrovnik and its historic part of town (UNESCO World Heritage since 1979) count to one of the most beautiful European cities around. I have never been before, so I step of the ship as one of the first ones after a decent breakfast on the outside terrace with view over the port and the other cruise ships.

The pier lies around 30 – 45 minutes by foot from historic Dubrovnik. If you walk up the hill and onto Franjo Tudjman Bridge, you can take amazing photos from the area and the ships themselves. For old Dubrovnik, you will have to go into the opposite direction. Most cruise companies offer a shuttle service (MSC charges 13 Euros), I prefer to walk though.

A great way to learn about a country is its food!
A great way to learn about a country is its food!

The route leads along the main street past panoramic viewing points and gorgeous and opulent architecture. Some of the buildings are abandoned or simply run-down, but you can guess how rich and elegant life must have been here long time ago.

Then finally, I reach the city´s ramparts that enclose the historic and world popular district which also serves as scenery for the popular TV series “Games of Thrones“.

I could spend more time here, but in the few hours that I have, I will have to decide wherever I want to circle the city on the ramparts or simply walk the narrow and enchanted alleys inside. I decide for the inside and am not disappointed.

Fascinated by the authenticity, the history and the atmosphere in this sacred place, I soak up every glimpse that I can. It is simply extraordinary! Click here for my full photo tour through Dubrovnik.

Unfortunately, time is running out. MSC Lirica is already sailing at 3 pm for our next and final destination during this trip. And while I have only seen a fraction of what Dubrovnik has to offer, I stare with enlightenment at the sea while the lily-white colossus steers its bow towards Venice.

With new impressions and all these colorful pictures in my mind, I close the chapter on Dubrovnik for this time. And while I stand at the railing being spoiled by the Mediterranean sun, I am anxiously waiting for the next highlight of this journey: The sailing on Canal Grande into Venice.

This voyage, just like a trip through the Stockholm archipelago, should belong to everyone´s cruise repertoire. Since more and more larger cruise ships are being banned from Venice´s busiest waterway (as an experienced cruiser I very much respect and support this controversially discussed matter), this experience is something absolutely extraordinary and should not be missed at any cost if you have not done it before.

Ask at the front desk the actual arrival time scheduled and at what time the pilot comes onboard (set your watch approximately an hour prior to the pilot´s arrival on the ship).

IMG_4765Sailing past Piazza San Marco with a panoramic vista from one of the top decks is priceless. Even if the weather is everything but gorgeous. But with all the unexpected sunshine I had the last couple of days, how could I possibly complain about the foggy and rainy welcome that this morning holds in stock for our arrival? It is almost spooky how the ancient buildings suddenly pop out of the fog while the city slowly awakens.

Just a few hours later, I stretch my head to catch the last glimpses of one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world before the plane dives into the clouds.

These past four days have vanished like ice-cream in the sun. In my baggage, eternal memories. Ok, you can get faster from Genoa to Venice, that is for sure! But touching three UNESCO World Heritage sites in one trip, three world-class destinations and hours of tranquility on the Mediterranean sea at the same time, come on! That is simply outstanding!

Safe & happy cruising, folks!

A priceless view! Even on a foggy morning.
A priceless view! Even on a foggy morning.

Grand Hotel Savoia | Grandezza “Made in Genoa”

I love Genoa! The capital of Liguria is justly called “La Superba” (“the proud One”). No wonder with all this impressive history and beautiful architecture.

It is birthplace of Christopher Columbus and Niccolo Paganini and parts of the historic center have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006.

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The lobby of Grand Hotel Savoia. Traveling back in time…

So wherever you chose to cruise out of Italy´s largest port or to simply explore this romantic hotspot for a memorable weekend, make sure to pay tribute to the beauty of this Mediterranean empress by staying at a place, that builds bridges between the glorious past and the promising future: Grand Hotel Savoia.

Built in 1897, the hotel has hosted many prominent guests over the centuries. From members of the aristocracy, European royal families, celebrities and political figures. The hotel´s beautifully appointed interiors are quite reminiscent of the golden ages of transatlantic ocean liner travels. The elegant, maritime flair is omnipresent and made it therefore absolutely perfect for me to overnight before one of my last cruises in April 2015.

With its close location to Stazzione Marittime, MSC´s main cruise terminal (10 minutes by foot), and Genova Principe, the city´s main train station and stop for the airport link, Volabus (6 EUR one-way), Grand Hotel Savoia is the perfect luxury getaway for my short stay in town. The pink palace has a magnificent rooftop terrace with excellent vistas onto the port and the surrounding mountains, as well as a uniquely designed lobby that you should pay visit to, even if you should not be staying at this gorgeous place.

Rooms are tastefully decorated and feature a luxurious bathroom and a very comfortable bed, free WiFi and modern LCD TV´s with a good choice of channels. Breakfast (until 10:30 am) is generally included in the rate, as well as the usage of the whirlpools on the roof-top terrace and the modern (but not too large) fitness center. The access to the elegant and stylish spa costs extra (25 EUR as of April 2015), but seems recommendable, as I have learned from other guests.

One thing to be aware of is the outdoor playground for families with children on the third floor. If you are sensitive to this kind of noise, make sure to get a room in one of the higher floors or with street view.

The service is welcoming and very Italian. As I stayed for one night only, I didn´t eat at any of the hotel´s restaurants. I had a peek onto the breakfast buffet though, which looked quite tempting with different selections of warm and cold dishes, cold cuts, spreads and Italian bakeries.

If your flight arrives in the early evening, there is plenty of bars and trattorias in the area for a quick bite and a drink.

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Should you plan to arrive by car, the hotel holds 20 parking spaces (12 Euro per daytime use/25 Euro per nighttime use). Depending on the season, it might be a good idea to place a reservation before your arrival!

After all, I pretty much regret not to have planned more time for my stay at the hotel. But one things is clear: Next time, I know better!

For more information about Grand Hotel Savoia, visit the website.

Infinite Cruise Lust | Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises present cruise highlights for 2016/17

Cruise line´s catalogue and route presentations for the upcoming seasons can be quite unspectacular. Thinking of huge conference halls lacking fresh air, neon light and doubtful finger food bits way above room temperature on a loveless decorated laminated plastic table in one corner of the room. Urgh.

Carnival Cruise Line has always had a different approach to things, that we all know. So it is no wonder at all, that the official Caribbean´s No. 1 invited not only to a simple catalogue presentation, but to an interactive cookery get-together where you feasted on international, freshly prepared nibbles, enjoyed fine Italian Prosecco and decorated your own, personal cupcakes while learning about the exciting new addition to the Carnival fleet and quite some route highlights for the upcoming seasons of the largest cruise operator in the world.

The hip living room atmosphere of Kochgarage (an event location in downtown Munich, Germany) created the perfect setting for a laid-back yet classy evening and just the right place to learn more about another exciting brand of the Carnival Corporation: P&O Cruises.

Founded in 1837 as Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, P&O Cruises looks back on 175 years of maritime experience and is the oldest cruise line in the world. It currently operates a fleet of eight ships offering contemporary and elegant British cruise traditions on worldwide sailings.

P&O Cruises is particularly strong in the market of short cruises and world sailings, operating mostly out of its home port Southampton. The majority of the fleet (Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceania & Ventura) is tailored for couples and family cruise vacations  while some ships (Adonia, Arcadia and Oriana) are exclusively designed as Adult-only vessels.

But before I get more into detail about  P&O and its highlights for next year, lets focus again on what is waiting for you on the Carnival shores.

Holding something in stock for every taste: Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises
Holding something in stock for every taste: Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises

Besides new ports, new itineraries and new cruise regions (or shall I say “returning” cruise regions), Carnival fans may surely look forward the most to the newest addition to the company´s fleet of fun ships: Carnival Vista.

Currently developing at Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, Carnival Vista will be the largest ever-built fun resort for Carnival Cruise Line when entering service in May 2016. She will not only host the first IMAX theatre aboard a cruise ship (featuring a three deck movie screen), she will also thrill with the first open bike course (SkyRide) 46 meters above sea level and the largest WaterWorks Aquapark so far.

New ventures, new cabin categories and new areas (indoor & outdoor) will make Carnival Vista a destination of its own, taking the indoors out and creating the “Future of Fun”, as Carnival proudly claims.

And with the introduction of this brand new resort next year, Carnival will also return (at least for one season) back to Europe, offering eight- to 13 nights sailings in the Mediterranean.

Vista´s other route highlights include the transatlantic passage from Barcelona to New York with an overnight on the Bermudas, as well as two 11 nights-Caribbean sailings out of the Big Apple in November 2016.

While New York receives additional attention with the deployment of Carnival Sunshine on several Caribbean, New England and Bermuda cruises between June and October ´16, the new catalogue surprises in general with longer sailings from many of the company´s departure ports.

Carnival is extending its presence in the Bermuda market by adding sailings from Port Canaveral, Norfolk, Charleston and Baltimore.

Fans of the Aloha State can explore Hawaii´s extraordinary beauty on five magnificent itineraries between January and November 2016.

And if you are more keen to experience the wonders and wildlife of amazing Alaska, try one of these fun vacations aboard Carnival Legend.

Together with an array of short getaways, Carnival Cruise Line is spoiling its fans with 25 itineraries lasting longer than 10 days in 2016! This may promise more vacation, more ports and more fun than ever before during a Carnival cruise holiday.

In my eyes, it will be only a matter of time until the Fun ships will return to markets such as South America or further in the near future.

But no worries. If you would like to stay within the Carnival family to see all those places that the blue, white and red colored fun ships do not sail to, simply decide on a different brand. Like P&O Cruises, for example.

Like mentioned before, P&O looks back at over a century of experience in the cruise industry.

It offers a high quality cruise experience on eight elegant ships, bringing modern British cruise traditions to the seven seas. From weekend getaways to world cruises, P&O holds something in stock for everyone. Its newest masterpiece “Britannia” (as mentioned in this article before) is particularly interesting for solo travelers and younger crowds, offering contemporary design, state-of-the-art technologies and innovative food and entertainment concepts.

Lovers of the British way of life will feel at home on any of the company´s eight floating luxury hotels. And do not fear that you will be served Fish´n Chips day in, day out.

All chefs cooking for P&O Cruises are members of the renowned Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

So wherever you opt for a romantic short escape ( 2 nights, 3 nights) or a journey of exploration, these 2016 P&O Cruises itineraries are absolutely NOT to be missed!!! They are your CRUISE MUSTS and my personal favourites:

So you see, 2016 is holding some very exciting adventures for us cruise fanatics. Wherever you want to enjoy it in the laid-back atmosphere of a Carnival fun ship or feel the excitement of discovering far-away places around the globe, Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises take you on the vacation that you have always dreamed of.

I know what I would be loving to do next…

What an evening! Inspired by all these news, my cupcakes turned out quite Carnival, don´t you think?
What an evening! Inspired by all these news, my cupcakes turned out quite Carnival, don´t you think?

Luxury short cruises 2015 | A few distinguished recommendations

Oh, my ocean. How I am longing to be with you! I miss you every single day. Your tender voice, when your white top waves tremble in fountains of spray, and your gentle touch, when your soft breath breezes through my hair.

I love loosing my sight in the eternal blue of your mystical depths while I taste the salt of your presence on my lips. How could being close to you ever be enough, when I can be closest?

This might sound a little kitschy, but I mean every word of it!

Being a cruise enthusiast, I could cruise every day, all year-long. Too bad, that work and life do interfere with this wish of adventure on a regular base. And since my last name is not Gates, Trump, Buffet or Lee Wachtstetter, it looks like that I will have to wait for my dream to come true open end.

But I am not the only one. Cruise lines have gotten more and more considerate of the fact, that these days, people have to work more for their money, while having less free-time to spend it. Or they are just tired of having only one vacation per year. Whatever the reason is, short breaks are booming more than ever. The will to travel and to take a little time out remains unbroken.

And the cruise lines react. While it has been common in the US market for many years, short cruises begin to become more and more popular in Europe. And I love it! Let me outline just a few advantages in stock for you:

  1. They provide the opportunity to take some time off on a regular base, if only for a few nights, while not being stuck to just a single destination.
  2. You get a taste of each different product available on the market that will help you to identify, which one suits your needs the best.
  3. You are sovereign to rumours and hearsay from others and independent from cruise review publishing.
  4. And the best part: They are affordable and come at a much better price value than to that of a comparable luxury weekend in a major European hot spot, full board included!

Take a look at these luxury short cruises highlights in 2015 in Europe. I am sure, you have not been aware of at least a few of them. No matter, what your personal preference is like: Windjammer, yacht-style or ocean liner. It is all on offer!

See for yourself, why this year is a fantastic time again to take a well-deserved break. Or start doing so! Brought to you only here on HideousJourneys.com.

AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES
5 Night Grand Prix Voyage, May 2015

CELEBRITY CRUISES
Celebrity Eclipse, May 2015

CRYSTAL CRUISES
Crystal Symphony, November 2015 | Crystal Harmony, May 2015

CUNARD LINE
Queen Elizabeth, May – October 2015 | Queen Mary 2, June – October 2015 | Queen Victoria, December 2015

HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES
Europa | Europa 2 | Hanseatic

PONANT YACHT CRUISES
Getaway to Croatia, May 2015 | Napoleon Bonaparte´s Corsica, May 2015

SEA CLOUD CRUISES
Mallorca to Nice, April 2015 | Lisbon to Valencia, April 2015 | Nice to Nice, April 2015 | Valencia to Nice, May 2015 | Portsmouth to Hamburg, June 2015 | Hamburg to Oslo, June 2015 | Venice to Venice, August 2015 | Hamburg to Hamburg, August 2015 | Barcelona to Nice, September 2015 | Las Palmas to Las Palmas, November 2015

SEADREAM YACHT CLUB
Piraeus to Istanbul, May 2015 | Monte Carlo to Monte Carlo, May 2015 | Monte Carlo to Civitavecchia, May 2015 | Piraeus to Istanbul, September 2015

SILVERSEA
Barcelona to Civitavecchia, April 2015

STAR CLIPPERS
Malaga to Rome, May 2015 | Cannes to Cannes, May 2015 | Venice to Venice, September 2015 | Cannes to Cannes, September 2015 | Cannes to Cannes, September 2015 | Athens to Malta, October 2015 | Rome to Rome, October 2015 | Cuba, December 2015

WINDSTAR CRUISES
Barcelona to Rome, April 2015

Not too bad, don´t you think? Happy cruising, folks! And don´t forget: Life is too short to drink bad champagne…

P.S. Stay tuned for my next post outlining the best & most-affordable mini cruises for 2015!!!

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The Grill Class aboard Cunard liners reserves exclusive spaces to premium passengers.