Starting off is the positive news that in the wake (that’s a cruise-related pun there and you’re welcome to it) of last month’s Site And Social Updates post where I began with the travails of getting back into the writing lark this month I seem to have gotten back into my stride to some extent. Several new updates have been posted covering our arrival aboard Diamond Princess in Xiamen, China as well as the first few posts of extensive coverage in Vietnam so if you want to take a look at them (and they’ve got lovely photos in them, if I do say so myself) then pop over to the cruise diary portfolio now.

Website Changes

No new changes on the website although I am writing this blog entry with the Gutenberg editor now. The travel entries that aren’t part of the blog on this site are of a different type that Gutenberg doesn’t work with (although I think it’s a trivial change to make them do so by indicating the custom type supports the REST API). When WordPress got the update for the new editor I wasn’t impressed with it, primarily because support for the Tiled Gallery was missing and that’s how I display all images on this site. That support has now been added so I’ve disabled the classic editor for the time being to see how the new editor works. As it turns out, because the new editor doesn’t work with the portfolio type that I post all the travel updates with this hasn’t made a huge amount of difference other than with blog posts – such as this – having a bit of a learning curve to work through. But it seems okay so far.

2019 Travel Plans

We’d booked out most of our annual holiday before the end of last year but still had six days to play with. Had. Past tense. This week we’ve gone and finally found something to eat up the remainder of our time.

We had been toying with the idea of three long weekends and spending them either in the UK or on mini-cruises. The only problem with that plan was that we object to spending money in the UK while it’s going through a period of separating itself from our friends across the channel to the detriment of almost everyone. We have no loyalty to a country that wants to be a bully on the world stage lauding up past glories when it could be a cooperative spirit putting the people first and setting an example to be emulated. Quite frankly: Britain, you can mostly get fucked as far as we’re concerned.

So we dropped back to looking at trips abroad. We have been thinking about some European city breaks – Prague, Budapest, and Riga have all figured in our reckoning over the last few months – but our first love where travel is concerned is cruising so we kept getting drawn back there. Mini-cruises from Southampton would be practical but we have done quite a few of them and while we like Bruges and Guernsey we quite fancied the idea of something different.

The first line we started looking at in detail was Cunard as they do some short trips to Germany (a country we’ve never visited which constantly surprises us almost to the point of doing something about it) but their Transatlantic crossing also held some appeal because its duration would be perfect for the holiday allowance left to us. The thing that put us off that option, though, both this time and when we’ve considered it before is that it seems like an awful waste of holiday to simply spend the time at sea. We like experiences. We like ports and history and archaeology and architecture. You don’t get much of that in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We still want to do the famous crossing one day but some decades in the future when we’re retired makes more sense as we’d also like to tack on some time in New York prior to departure.

We then took a nose at what Princess Cruises offered. Princess, as you may know, are our favourite cruise line. We’ve cruised with them quite a lot and are creeping towards that coveted Elite status so any cruises help. The thing is that we’re already cruising with them twice this year and the only cruises available that fit in with the time we’d be looking to travel and the duration involved would be almost identical to one of those already-booked trips, albeit on a brand new ship at twice the price. So we passed.

This brought us to Marella Cruises (formerly Thompson, all connected with TUI; it’s all very confusing). This is another cruise line we’ve never cruised with before so we took a look at some of their offerings late in the year of about a week in length. We saw some that were in the Mediterranean that looked fairly interesting but one jumped out at us. Subsequently, we’ve now gone and filled up our travel allowance calendar for the year as we’ve booked a week aboard the Marella Discovery in November. Despite saying that we didn’t like the idea of multiple days at sea this is actually going to be a cruise where we only get off at the end as the bulk of the time aboard will be slowly cruising from Naples across the Mediterranean then passing through the Suez Canal (exciting!) and concluding with an overnight in Jordan to allow us to get to Petra (very exciting!) The good thing about Marella is that the price includes the flights, transfers, tips, and a basic drinks package. The slightly awkward thing about this cruise is that we have to fly to and from Manchester so we’ll be adding some hotel time before and after that but that does mean we’ll get a chance to explore the northern city. When I get around to doing the full write up of the cruise I’ll also talk about the booking process through an online travel agent as well as the disconnected nature of TUI as a travel entity; it’s not been the smoothest of booking experiences but I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end.

We’ve been eagerly reading through posts from Paul and Carole and from Emma who’ve all experienced Marella Discovery before.

Monastery, Petra, Jordan

The Monastery at Petra, Jordan by Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

A summary of our 2019 travel plans (all cruises), therefore, is:

  • March: South and Central America aboard Star Princess.
  • May: Mini-cruise to Amsterdam on Celebrity Silhouette.
  • September: A week in the western Mediterranean on Emerald Princess.
  • November: Naples to Petra via the Suez Canal on the Marella Discovery.

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages have started taking bookings for their first cruise ship. We won’t be cruising with them. The ship design looks fine. The ship features look nice. The dining options sound great. The pricing is bloody horrific. Whatever demographic they’re going after – and the suspicion is that they’d really like to fill the ship up with clones of Richard Branson in this thirties; rich, healthy, young and young-at-heart; turn every cruise into an episode of Made In Chelsea At Sea – seems completely unsustainable for a ship of that size. Uniworld tried to do something similar with river cruising over a year ago and that went spectacularly badly very quickly with vessels that only needed to attract about a hundred passengers in the fairly elite setting of Europe. Quite how the people at Virgin think they’re going to succeed on vessels with close to three thousand capacity cruising out of the retirement capital of America is anyone’s guess. Should I prove to be wrong and the ship really does attract who it’s setting out to attract in the numbers it needs then it feels like it really wouldn’t be our kind of ship anyway. A shame but we won’t lose any sleep over it.

On The Internet

The usual conclusion to this monthly post now with a look at some of the things that I’ve found interesting to read on the internet recently.

Can’t honestly say that Sri Lanka‘s ever been anywhere of note on any list of places we’d want to visit but this post covering a train journey from Kandy to Ella has gone some way to making me rethink that. The Sri Lankan landscapes and views from the train look absolutely stunning.

By way of contrast, Morocco is high on our list of potential destinations, partly because it’s so close. I’ve been to Morocco before (when I was much younger) but my wife hasn’t. This sort of trip described by Bella – Highlights of Morocco in Two Weeks – comprises a fabulously mouthwatering mix of descriptions and photographs.

The Norwegian Epic cruise ship crashing into some of the platforms at San Juan makes for impressive viewing. It’s a good lesson in physics that demonstrates how you don’t need high speed to destroy things if you’ve got mass on your side.

Some lovely and remarkably colourful photos of Granada, Nicaragua here which I’m mostly including as around this time next month (at time of posting) we should be seeing some of these with our very own eyes.

Another place we’re visiting is Lima, Peru and we’ll be very close to a park that until recently was home to hundreds of cats. The video below shows how it was just a couple of years ago and it would have been fantastic to experience. But we’re just as glad that the stray cats have been mostly found new homes now.

In this cruise diary aboard Ventura during a short cruise to Amsterdam you can see how people view ships in different ways. We, for instance, preferred Ventura to her sister ship Azura.

We absolutely loved Ushuaia when we visited the city back in 2016 and this post covering Top Things To Do At The End Of The World might give you an idea why if you’ve not read our posts about the Argentinian city.

And finally, during our shall-we-or-shan’t-we dithering over how to use up our holiday we took a look at some videos, one of them being a new release from Gav and Luke covering Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

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