Hello and welcome to my November update!

The main focus for us in early November was the P&O Cruises winter 24/25 launch and, thanks to you, we have once again achieved significant market share. It’s great to be back into our normal swing booking thousands of passengers, with Covid no longer a significant influence. I was particularly interested to see the full 2025 World Cruise being offered at really attractive prices, with the full 100-night cruise starting at less than £100 per person, per day.  There’s still a chance to take advantage of P&O Cruises launch offers which end on 1 December, so I urge you to look now for some great early booking incentives! Our own cashback offer finishes on 1 December which gives you an extra discount combined with the P&O Cruises offer.

With the P&O Cruises launch behind us, my wife and I jetted off to Barcelona to pick up Iona for a few days as she was midway through a two-week cruise to the Mediterranean. It has been a while since I have travelled with P&O Cruises and this was my first time exploring and enjoying Iona in more depth. I really like the modern, light airy feel and she feels exceptionally spacious. With some 4,600 passengers onboard I was expecting it to feel crowded, but this was generally not the case. The staff are keeping her spotless and I found them all to be very helpful and courteous throughout my short stay.

The highlight for me was the Gary Barlow show on Saturday, this being the first of a number of appearances as part of his partnership with the cruise line. The atmosphere in the theatre was amazing, and Gary is not only a fabulous entertainer but is very personable with the audience. He is a perfect match with P&O Cruises and clearly was a massive hit with those who were able to join one of his two shows onboard. Along with a few people from the travel press I was very fortunate to meet Gary before the show, when it transpired he sat directly behind me on the flight over, totally incognito and we never knew until he revealed that he recognised us from the flight. It was a lovely brief meeting with a genuinely top chap!

P&O Cruises allocated me a Conservatory Mini-Suite and I have to confess that, being very much off the front line in terms of sales, I was not sure what this actually meant. Given the name, the fact you have your own mini conservatory should not have come as a surprise and I have to say we found it really useful. It was a perfect private area separated from the main cabin, which provided an ideal place to relax in and, in my case, work! Being overlooked on the balcony was the only negative, which occurs on many of the larger new ships. Our suite, however, was really well maintained and a small issue on arrival was sorted in less than 10 minutes after a quick call to reception.

From a dining perspective, over just a few days I was able to experience the Keel and Cow, Sindhu, The Epicurean, The Olive Grove and Pearl, the main dining room. Again, I found the staff very attentive at all times and the food was generally very good. I particularly enjoyed the Keel and Cow and our waiter here was exceptional. I really recommend The Parliament Burger with blue cheese dressing, and the Tomahawk steak was also superb! Room service was likewise great; delivered in under 30 minutes my wife had a very tasty croque monsieur. The Pearl dining room has the same modern airy feel and again the staff were great. I had the duck leg confit which was well-presented and very tasty. My only observation was the lighting was a little bright for my liking, I prefer a more subdued atmospheric setting.

I hear many views about the P&O Cruises product and it was great to experience this for myself once again. Having undertaken so many land holidays lately, my main observation was just what incredible value for money the cruise was! When you break down the daily cost, P&O Cruises are offering a fantastic proposition when compared with land-based holidays. The other key observations were the friendly and attentive staff regardless of location, and the food exceeded my expectations. All in all, I had a most enjoyable trip!

Iona will, of course, soon be joined in the P&O Cruises fleet by her sister ship Arvia, which is currently undergoing sea trials. She left the shipyard in Germany last weekend and has now arrived in the Netherlands where Captain Camby will put the new ship through her paces ahead of the official handover to the cruise line. I’m sure seeing Arvia arrive in Southampton next month will be a truly momentous occasion and if she’s anything like Iona, anyone who has booked to sail on her will be in for a real treat.

Since my last update, Royal Caribbean have announced more details of their latest ship, Icon of the Seas, which is due to set sail in January 2024. I’m sure you will have seen the images of this incredible ship, which will feature the largest waterpark at sea and various ‘neighbourhoods’ which have proved popular on other ships across the Royal Caribbean fleet. This certainly looks like it will be the ultimate ship for family fun, complete with slides, theme park rides and of course the exceptional and innovative food and drink options the cruise line has become known for.

You may recall from a previous update that Sun Princess would be joining Princess Cruises fleet in 2024. It has since emerged that a number of sailings during her maiden season will depart from Southampton, the first time in more than a decade that a brand-new Princess ship has called into a UK port on its maiden season. The first cruises on board Sun Princess will be heading to the Mediterranean; three itineraries are already on sale and the remainder are available to book from 14 December 2022. We have opened up pre-registrations for Sun Princess so you can register your specific requirements with us – make sure you fill in this form and our Cruise Experts will book your chosen cruise as and when it becomes available.

This won’t be the only incredible ship visiting Southampton in the next couple of years, as it was also recently announced that Celebrity Apex will be based in the port throughout 2024. This will be the first time a revolutionary Edge Series ship sails directly from the UK, and I know there will be strong demand for these itineraries. There’s a selection of 4-to-13-night sailings to choose from departing between May and November 2024, including a 12-night cruise to the Norwegian Fjords and Arctic Circle in what will be a first for Celebrity Cruises. The on-sale date for Celebrity Apex is 15 November 2022 and, once again, if you have your eye on a specific cruise and accommodation, I’d urge you to pre-register through our website to avoid disappointment.

I must say that it is great to see so many new ships homeporting in Southampton, giving even more options for sailing from the UK which I know has become increasingly popular over the past few months.

Lastly, the final edition of Into the Blue of the year will be landing with our Cruise Club members over the next few days. This is firmly established as a leading publication within the industry and continues to be free to our members, so if you don’t already receive your copy please sign up here and we will add you to our mailing list.

Once again thank you for following my updates and I wish everyone travelling over the next month Bon Voyage and have a great holiday.

Yours sincerely

Michael Wilson