Hello and welcome to my September 2023 update!

After a month of continuous rain in August, I have the best-looking lawns and the most colourful display of summer bedding plants I have seen for many years; but at long last it is great to see some long overdue late-summer weather and dine outdoors again, at least occasionally!

Talking about the weather, Mallorca witnessed some intense conditions over the August Bank Holiday weekend and, if you managed to see any of the news reports, you will have noticed that it had some very serious consequences. Unfortunately, Britannia was in dock in Palma during the storm and the winds were so strong she broke free from her berth and suffered damage to a lifeboat. Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but it is another example of the changing weather patterns we have seen this year.

Last month, I mentioned the importance of letting us know your dietary and mobility needs, so this month, I thought it useful to remind you about passport requirements. There has certainly been a lot of confusion, largely caused by the UK Government adding free months to early renewals pre-September 2018; that practice ceased in 2018, but there are still passports in use with additional months added.

The first fact you need to consider is the validity period needed on your passport when you travel, as most countries require a minimum period at the point of entry. Commonly, a minimum six-month validity is required, but some countries and areas such as the EU Schengen Zone only require three months. However, to confuse matters, many cruise operators insist on a minimum six-month validity, regardless of the destination to which you are travelling, so it is important you check the cruise operators’ own policies should your passport be close to renewal. The abiding rule here is that the cruise operators’ minimum requirements prevail.

When travelling to the EU Schengen Zone, there are two points that are catching travellers out and there has been a lot of media discussion about this over the past few weeks.  Firstly, as already mentioned, you need the correct minimum validity on entry, depending on the cruise operator with which you are travelling. Secondly, and most importantly, for the EU Schengen Zone your passport should be no older than 10 years at the point of entry to your last destination.

To make matters a little more complex, please be aware that the EU Schengen Zone includes a few countries that are not necessarily associated with the EU itself. Here is a full list: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Following on from last month’s announcement that P&O Cruises would be hosting a number of wellbeing and lifestyle-themed cruises on Arvia and Iona in 2024, we were fortunate enough to welcome our account managers from P&O Cruises to our headquarters. They introduced us to these exciting themed cruises, which are all about enhancing wellbeing and helping guests adopt a healthy lifestyle. The themed cruises will feature special guests including TV presenter Cherry Healey and the talented stylist Kat Farmer. Following this training, I am confident my team is fully equipped to help our customers plan and book their wellbeing and lifestyle cruises, providing expert guidance and advice along the way. To get a taste of the fantastic experiences, our employees enjoyed a delightful selection of healthy snacks and delicious smoothies, and were also treated to rejuvenating massages and luxurious face masks.

You will recall that I mentioned the brand-new cruise line Explora Journeys in my last update, and several members of our team have since experienced the product for themselves. The reviews from EXPLORA I have been glowing and you can read my daughter Katie’s account by following this link. This is the first of several ships to launch under the brand, and it was announced in the past few days that the float-out of EXPLORA II had taken place, closely followed by the steel-cutting ceremony for EXPLORA III. I will be watching with interest to see how this luxury brand from MSC Cruises develops.

There are also other luxury cruise ships to keep an eye out for over the coming months and years. Silver Nova, the latest ship from Silversea, recently set sail for the first time and we will, of course, bring you our first-hand reviews of what it’s like on board as soon as we are able. Oceania Cruises has also released details of the maiden season of its next ship, Allura, which is set to join the fleet in the summer of 2025. Having set sail on sister ship Vista myself earlier this year, I have high hopes for what she will bring to the luxury market.

If you’re in search of a short cruise in 2024, then you may be interested to learn that Virgin Voyages has just announced eight new sailings departing Portsmouth in 2024 onboard Resilient Lady. The departures are between three and six nights and will visit a number of popular European ports including Zeebrugge for Bruges and Amsterdam – you can read all the details here on our website.

We are also approaching awards season, and I would once again like to make an appeal for your votes in both the Wave Awards and The British Travel Awards. 

Voting for the Wave Awards closes this Friday (15 September), and we have been nominated in the Favourite Cruise Travel Agent category. Anyone who registers their vote will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a free 2024 cruise for two with Riviera Travel. Please visit this link to cast your vote.

The British Travel Awards are the largest consumer-only voted travel awards in the UK, meaning the winners are solely decided by the public. We are fortunate to have been nominated in the Best Travel Agency for Cruise Holidays category, so if you haven’t done so already, please visit our website to cast your vote before it closes on 1 October. Thank you to those of you who have already voted, as our continued recognition would not be possible without your support.

Lastly, some exciting news about a recent awards win for our team. We were honoured to have been named the winner of the ‘Passenger Favourite’ category at the P&O Cruise Line Passenger Association Awards 2023, which was voted for by a 14k-strong independent group of P&O Cruises passengers. Considering there were over 20 nominations, I was humbled to learn that we won by a considerable margin with 40% of the vote. I would like to extend my personal thanks to everyone who took the time to show their support.

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