It’s been a while since I posted an update on this site (so busy it’s been painful) and I thought to myself that an end of the year retrospective and coming year preview as it relates to our travelling would be a sensible way to break that writing fast. Of course, I’m not the only person to think this but I have been the owner of websites on the internet for a very long time so it is quite possible that I might have been the first, way back when.

Travel Review 2018

Late in 2017 we spotted a cracking cruise deal for a new ship for us which at the time of booking would also count towards our Princess Cruises loyalty and so it was that we began our travelling in 2018 in February with a weekend break to Belgium aboard the P&O Cruises ship Oriana.

We had some issues which were the sorts of things you could mostly overlook on a longer cruise but with them all occurring on such a short break they detracted from the cruise more than they otherwise could have. That said, Oriana was a lovely ship with a lot to recommend and the bits of Belgium that we saw this time around (we’ve been there quite a few times now) were lovely indeed: Damme and Loppem Castle.

You can read all the posts about this cruise on Oriana here: Oriana Cruise.


May saw the Princess Cruises ship Sapphire Princess start its inaugural season sailing out of the UK and we were on the first of those cruises, a week-long trip that took in a couple of ports in northern Spain, one in France (a change from the scheduled trip due to a French dockers strike), and Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Princess Cruises are our favourite cruise line and Sapphire is the sister ship of the first cruise ship we ever cruised on so we were excited by this trip. It wasn’t perfect by any means but we had some good experiences, particularly enjoyed the port of La Rochelle, and our biggest gripe was that the cruise itself wasn’t longer. We really need more than a week at sea at a time.

You can read all the posts about this cruise on Sapphire Princess here: Sapphire Princess Cruise.


In September we returned to P&O Cruises for a short break to northern France and Guernsey (again), this time on Arcadia, another new ship for us. This was our least engaged cruise we’ve been on in the sense that we didn’t book excursions, we didn’t really explore the ship too much, we just sort of relaxed into it a bit. That’s fine and it was a nice break but it does make the Arcadia cruise a little less memorable than others. Part of that is the ports we hit on the weekend were somewhat devoid of massive amounts of interest but the ship itself was a bit awkward to navigate in parts because of its design. I guess we’re Grand-class people at heart.

You can read all the posts about this cruise on Arcadia here: Arcadia Cruise.

Also in September we tried out a single night’s cruise – our shortest cruise by duration and distance by far – that also had the added benefits of taking place on a Saturday so as not to use up any holiday allowance and allowed us to experience a new cruise line for us as well as ticking off the experience of cruising on one of the oldest cruise ships in the world. This was an overnight cruise from Poole to Portsmouth on the Cruise & Maritime Voyages ship Astoria.

The ship was definitely old but not as old-feeling as its age might have suggested. What it lacked in some of the more modern aspects of cruising (owing to its history as an ocean liner) it made up for in service which was easily the best we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying on a cruise to date. We had a bonus on this cruise as well by getting a huge cabin upgrade and all the freebies that came with it, so that was very nice.

You can read all the posts about this cruise on Astoria here: Astoria Cruise.

In October we flew to Tokyo for a fortnight’s cruise in the region aboard our second Princess ship of the year and a return to the first ship we ever cruised on (so the sister ship to Sapphire), Diamond Princess. This was our ten-year wedding anniversary cruise and it was utterly fabulous. I don’t actually think I can think of a single thing we didn’t enjoy about this cruise. The ship was fantastic partly because of the make-up of the passengers, the majority of whom were Japanese; this transformed the ship from a hotel of Westerners exploring foreign parts into part of the whole foreign exploration experience. The ports were fantastic because it’s a culturally rich area of the world far removed from what we experience back home. I’d be happy to redo this cruise every few years.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got around to posting anything about this cruise yet because we’ve been insanely busy these last couple of months and I’ve only just finished processing photos so there’s still a way to go. You can, however, check out some previews of the sea days and port visits to Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam by taking a look at recent posts on our Facebook travel page here: Travel Page (cough, and feel free to follow if you’re not already doing so, cough).

At the end of November we took another weekend break though not on a cruise for once, this time revisiting the utterly enthralling Iceland. We stayed in the centre of Reykjavik and spent one day hitting museums and galleries followed by a night trip out on a boat to catch the Northern Lights. I cannot adequately convey how cold that experience was. On the second day we took a tour of the south coast of Iceland to see a couple of waterfalls, the black sand beach and its basalt rock formations, and a glacier. We absolutely love Iceland. Cheap, it ain’t.

As you might expect there’s been no write-up of the Iceland trip on this site yet either and in this case I haven’t even processed the photos yet but you can expect reviews of our hotel, what we saw and did in the capital, and the places we visited on our tour in due course.


Travel Preview 2019

In 2018 we had five cruises and one European break but we didn’t actually visit any new countries at all (although we did hit new places in countries we’d already visited) so what is currently in the pipeline for 2019? Fewer trips, certainly, but we will be checking off some new countries this time around.

In March we’re flying to Chile to pick up the Star Princess where we left her in 2016 (South America Cruise) to continue our cruise northwards towards Los Angeles via Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico, none of which we’ve visited before. We’ll also be crossing the equator on that cruise so another achievement to check off the list. We’ve already paid for that cruise plus a load of excursions that should see us visiting Inca ruins, hitting an observatory up a mountain, and exploring the crater rim of a volcano among others.

In May we’ve worked out that we can try out a new cruiseline for us – Celebrity Cruises – for a short break to Amsterdam (which we enjoyed very much when we visited before: Amsterdam Cruise) that won’t use up any of our precious annual holiday allowance. The cruise departs on a Saturday and arrives back Tuesday morning but the Monday is a Bank Holiday and we should be back early enough to head straight to work.

In September we’ll be back with Princess Cruises on our quest to reach Elite Level loyalty as we take advantage of a free flights and transfers offer on a week’s cruise in the western Mediterranean aboard Emerald Princess, another new ship of the Grand-class for us. We’ll be starting at Barcelona and ending in Rome with Gibraltar, France, and a couple of ports in Italy inbetween. We’ve not even looked at excursion options here yet as we want to get our South and Central America cruise out of the way first.

In December we’ll be visiting a Fred Olsen cruise ship, Black Watch, for a single night aboard while it’s docked in Southampton. It’s a special Christmas party night on the vessel so while it won’t be cruising anywhere it’s close enough by to treat the evening as a Christmas do in a fancy hotel and get a chance to see what the vessel is like as well as the service and quality of food should we decide to try them out in the future.


And that’s it for 2018’s travel accomplishments and the plans we’ve made for travelling in 2019. We still have six days of holiday to book for 2019 but we keep dithering as to when we want to take them and where we might want to go, either home or abroad. We’ll think of something.

3 Comments

  1. Diana webster

    Hello Mark&Marie
    Thank you for the updates, they have all been very interesting
    I understand about squeezing everything into your annual leave, after working full time for nearly 40 years I am starting part-time from today 1st January and will work Wednesday-Friday from now on, but that is flexible and looking forward to everything I want to do
    I have been looking at a few short cruises from Southampton to try out different cruise companies and ships, please could I ask what were the problems with your trip on Oriana.in February?
    I am very keen on a 4 night trip P&O 1st February to Bruges and Amsterdam, but my husband has heard the short cruises are full of hen parties and isn’t interested, any comments you have would be helpful
    Many thanks and Happy New Year to you both
    Diana Webster

    • Diana Webster

      Thank you for the reply.
      I did read the February review after I asked you the question and pleased to hear that P&O are trying to stop groups with no fancy dress and less drinking.
      Thanks again
      Regards
      Diana Webster

    • There’s a full review of our Oriana cruise here – https://www.neonbubble.com/travel/po-oriana-two-night-cruise-to-belgium-review/ – but to summarise: the issues were with slow and incorrect and unavailable bar service and some terrible food in one of the venues. It’s something we’ve noticed that P&O really need to improve and I think they’re definitely trying to raise their game and become more like Princess in that respect so it’s something that may well improve over time. Otherwise, it’s a nice ship though at the smaller end of ship sizes for our personal taste; yours may differ.

      There’s no issue with hen or stag dos as this is an area that P&O stamped down on a couple of years ago. Again, P&O have been trying to scale up their offerings so they’ve been slowly shifting away from the cheap and cheerful cruising option towards a more refined side (see: Rob Brydon adverts). People wearing matching clothing or party hats/fancy dress, for instance, simply isn’t allowed.

      Amsterdam and Bruges is a great little cruise. Amsterdam’s one you can walk off the ship and into the city in about 20 minutes. Bruges is a bit more involved but well worth a visit.

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