Hello and welcome to my May 2023 update!
My May update comes to you from the Tyrrhenian Sea, as I sail from Rome to Malta on Oceania Cruises’ new ship, Vista. Along with agents from all over the world, my wife and I are here to sample the new ship, give the crew valuable experience before they enter into full service, and also enjoy the christening ceremony in Malta. So far I am pleased to say she is a lovely ship, contemporary in design, but still very stylish indeed! The décor is very light and airy, and a lot of attention to detail has clearly been given. I really like the choice of lighting – even the light fittings along the accommodation corridors are beautiful.
At the start of the voyage, the weather was lovely with exceptionally calm seas, and so we were out on the upper sun deck enjoying the day, which included a sail past the island of Stromboli. The design of the outdoor areas is one of my favourite features, with very comfortable sun beds nicely spaced apart, and each one covered in a crisp white fitted towel. Here on the sun decks, Oceania has used light teak woods very effectively, contrasting the usual white-painted structures to make one of the best outdoor spaces I have seen at sea. At night, the clever use of LED lighting transforms the space into a very sophisticated area!
Day two could not have been more of a contrast; overcast, cool and trying to rain all day. Throughout the day, contractors were busy building a huge covered theatre to the side of the berth in Malta. With my wife suffering from a fractured knee, walking around Valletta was not an option, particularly with the damp weather, so it was a perfect opportunity to explore the ship and enjoy lunch on board. The high staff-to-guest ratio is very evident wherever you are, and service is excellent at all times. Being onboard during the day also gave us a nice preview of what we could expect later in the evening, with a balcony view of Harry Connick Jr. rehearsing ‘My Way’ – amazing!
So far, we have experienced The Grand Dining Room which was excellent, plus Toscana the Italian-themed restaurant, and the Polo Grill. They have all been first class and of course, each meal has been served with complementary wines. Cruising is such good value for money and, coupled with what Oceania Vista has to offer, this is without doubt a great recommendation for those looking for superior luxury cruising on a mid-size ship.
As expected, the christening was a very glitzy event with some 1,200 guests. It was good to learn how this family business started 20 years ago founded by Frank Del Rio, and today is still very much a family concern with his son Frank Del Rio Jnr. at the helm. Whilst now part of NCL Holdings along with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, it was this family connection that dominated all of the speeches, very similar to our own history right through to today.
Back home, the main event of the past week has undoubtedly been the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. As you’d expect, many of the cruise lines we work with marked the event in style; Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 embarked on a memorable five-night Coronation Celebration voyage, which included an exclusive dinner inspired by the King’s favourite ingredients. Princess Cruises also held a series of special events on board its ships sailing out of Southampton. I also saw plenty of images on social media of crew and guests alike enjoying the celebrations on board Fred. Olsen’s Bolette and Balmoral. It was great to see the nation come together for such a historic occasion.
Turning to life at Bolsover Cruise Club, I mentioned last time I personally have been involved in system development and this has continued to dominate my time over the past month. The complex module to calculate deposits effectively was finally completed last week and whilst I’m away, staff across the business are being trained in how to use it. This will be invisible to you, the customer, but it helps my staff process deposits correctly, particularly where add-on extras are concerned. With so many operators offering different deposits, even by cabin grade and duration, this is a highly complex operation that will be made more seamless with this feature.
Last week, our website team finally exchanged contracts with a new website provider and as such, we are expecting this to be up and running by the end of the year. We are all excited that this will give us a very effective website that enables online bookings, but rest assured we will continue to offer industry-leading telephone support, setting us apart from our competitors.
Looking forward, I have decided to replace our booking script in full to make it substantially more agent friendly and this will be my main focus in May. Over the coming months, I will keep you posted on these script changes and our exciting website development.
Since my last update, we have seen the launch of the P&O Cruises summer 2025 season, which always proves to be one of our busiest times of the year. I am delighted we have booked many of you on your cruises of choice from the new collection, which includes sailings departing between March and October 2025. The itineraries include a number of firsts for P&O Cruises, including maiden calls for Arvia in Toulon and Malaga, while Britannia and Aurora will set sail on brand-new British Isles, Norway and Scandinavia cruises. There’s a good balance between exciting new destinations and those I know remain firm favourites among our customers. If you haven’t yet seen the new itineraries, follow this link for more details.
I also notice that significant progress is being made on the new Cunard ship Queen Anne, which is due to set sail on her maiden voyage in a little under a year’s time. The float-out ceremony has now taken place in Italy, so the countdown is now on until she embarks on her first cruise, a seven-night roundtrip voyage from Southampton on 3 May 2024.
Over the next few weeks, you will see on our social media channels that various members of our team are out experiencing the products we offer. Make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram for an insight into their time on board. We have staff sailing on Celebrity Apex and Regent Seven Seas Splendor to name just a couple, so be sure to take a look.
Those of you who have signed up to receive our Into the Blue magazine will have started to receive their copies in the last few days. The main feature in this edition focuses on the various areas of the Mediterranean, which I must admit remains one of my personal favourite destinations. As always, if you are not already a Cruise Club Member, you can sign up to receive Into the Blue and join our email lists by clicking here.
Once again thank you for following my updates and I wish everyone travelling over the next month Bon Voyage and have a great holiday.