Celebrity chefs at sea

Celebrity chefs Curtis Stone and Jacques Pepin are among those who have tied their names to cruise lines.
Celebrity chefs Curtis Stone and Jacques Pepin are among many high-profile culinary stars who have tied their names to restaurants on cruise ships.

Over the festive season break australiancrusingnews.com has checked out the growing number of international celebrity chefs that have linked their names to cruise lines with signature restaurants that now rule the waves.

Japan’s Nobu Matsuhisa, America’s Thomas Keller, Britain’s Marco Pierre White, France’s Jacques Pepin, and Australia’s Curtis Stone are just some of the high-profile culinary stars in the ocean-going mix.

Their restaurants at sea usually offer similar menus to those they run on land, but at far less cost. And the added bonus is that the celebrity chef is sometimes on board the cruise ship for special events, and may even give cooking classes.

Here is the link to a more detailed article by Veronica Matheson, (author of australiancruisingnews.com) that appears in the winter edition of  FWT (Food,Wine,Travel) Magazine.




THE recent death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro has ramped up interest in this laid back Caribbean island where tourism continues to grow.

Oceania Cruises' ship Marina off Cuba's lively capital Havana which she is scheduled to visit in March.
Oceania Cruises’ Marina, off Cuba’s lively capital Havana, which the cruise ship is scheduled to visit in March.

For many, a cruise to Cuba is a much welcomed option with more companies setting their sights there in recent weeks. True, the people of this tropical island are mainly poor, but they love life and dancing to lively salsa music. And somewhere in the background someone will always be tuning up a much-loved ‘50s Cadillac to keep it movin’.

Cuba was a country off-limits to American travellers until recent times when US President Obama eased restrictions on a 50-year old embargo between the two countries.

Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have just announced that they will be sailing to Cuba in coming months, with overnight port calls to the island’s lively capital Havana.

The news is a real joy to Frank Del Rio, CEO of the Norwegian fleet who says, “As a Cuban-American and founder of Oceania Cruises, I am incredibly proud that one of Oceania’s vessels, Marina, will be our company’s first ship to sail to Cuba in March. This is truly a dream come true for me and I cannot wait for our loyal guests to experience the sights and sounds of my hometown Havana, and to get to know its rich culture and its warm and welcoming residents.”

Swiss-based MSC Cruises already has MSC Opera home porting in Havana, and Adonia, under Carnival’s Fathom line, started sailing there earlier this year. However, Carnival will end Fathom cruises in May with plans to have Cuba on itineraries of some of the other ships in its fleet at a later stage.

Royal Caribbean has also had approval from the Cuban government for Empress of the Seas to sail there from April, and Azamara Club Cruises is also scheduling cruises to the tropical island.

Cruise ships sailing to Cuba offer “people-to-people” exchanges between Americans and Cubans as allowed by U.S. rules governing visits to Cuba. But, President-elect Donald Trump may undo the US-Cuba relationship if certain conditions are not meant.

♦♦♦♦ australiancruisingnews.com is taking a festive break and will be back on deck on January 18, 2017.





It’s that time of year when the awards come thick and fast in the travel industry, including some focused on cruise lines.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' ship Europe 2 is rated tops in two leading 2017 cruise guides.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ ship Europe 2 is rated tops in two leading 2017 cruise guides.

With hundreds of cruise ships to choose from australiancruisingnews.com was surprised to see two of the best known guides for cruise ships – the annual Berlitz Cruise Guide for 2017, and Stern’s Guide to Cruise Vacation 2017 – had both rated the same ship as “the best” on the high seas.

The Berlitz Guide awarded Europa 2 and her sister ship Europa its highest distinction as the only 5-stars-plus cruise ships worldwide. Out of a possible 2,000 points, Europa 2 was awarded 1,860 points to lead the category “top 5 small ships with 251 to 750 passengers”. Europa scored second place with 1,852 points.

Both luxury cruise ships, each carrying 516 passengers, are with the German Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary year.

Berlitz guide author Douglas Ward, who spends more time at sea than on land, judged 295 cruise ships from large to small and scored them on a range of criteria such as ship fittings, accommodation, food quality, service, crew, entertainment and the cruise experience.

Ward says Europa 2 is an ultra contemporary ship that is only a few years old, and very traditional in its style, catering for guests, predominantly Germany, “who love to dress for dinner”.

In Stern’s Guide, Europa 2 took top ranking with the highest distinction, 6-stars-plus for cruise ships worldwide, and Europa was also honored with 6-stars.

“Having cruised on over 800 ships, I can honestly say that no other ship was as exquisitely beautiful as the Europa 2,“ author Steve Stern said.

Commenting on the success of his ships, Karl J. Pojer, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, says the company’s aim is to create unique cruise experiences for guests.

Right now Europa 2 is cruising from Tahiti to New Zealand and will cruise on to Australia over Christmas-New Year, while Europa is sailing from Mumbai to Singapore, hl-cruises.com


Dressing gowns are fine for heading to the spa, but not suitable attire for the dining room.
Dressing gowns are fine when heading to the spa, but not suitable attire for the dining room on a cruise ship.

Cruise passengers are so relaxed on a cruise ship that they often lose their normal inhibitions. Let’s face it, they are unlikely to meet their fellow passengers again when back on land.

Take the evening australiancruisingnews.com was heading off to her cabin to pick up a warm wrap before heading out on deck.

Along the corridor she sighted a male passenger who was stark naked. The temptation was to turn back, but she continued walking. As she passed the man he nodded, “Good night!” with a cheerful smile

Later, heading back along the corridor she found he was still standing “starkers” and still smiling.

Turns out the man accidentally locked himself out of his cabin as he retrieved a message that had been left on the rack outside his door. He was waiting for a crew member to let him back in.

“Starkers” can also be the sight in hot climes where passengers want an all-over suntan and prefer facecloths from their cabin as cover-ups for vital parts rather than a slightly more modest bikini or speedos.

Sometimes the offenders just happen to be the very overweight, who should be covering up big-time and not exposing their wares.

Then there are the unawares who leave cabin curtains open, jump out of the shower and go to the window to check out the weather, only to find someone gazing in at them port side.

Some passengers dress just as they might alone at home. They even turn up to meals in PJs and fluffy slippers, or in dressing gowns. Their excuses range from having a spa treatment later, or running out of time to change for lunch.

australiancruisingnews.com would love to hear from readers about their onboard cruise ship “sightings”.






One of the record number of cruise ships heading to New Zealand this summer is Europa 2 which was named the top cruise ship in the annual Berlitz Guide to Cruising.
One of the record number of cruise ships heading to New Zealand this summer is Europa 2 which was named the top cruise ship in the annual Berlitz Guide to Cruising.

New Zealand has been rattled by an earthquake, but this is not expected to affect the itineraries of the many cruise ships sailing there this summer. The main ports affected by the quake – Wellington and Marlborough – are already back in action.

A record number of passengers are cruising to New Zealand as word spreads internationally of the country’s stunning clean, green landscapes – seen so evocatively in films such as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

The country also has the advantage of deep water ports to accommodate the giant cruise ships that now sail to Australasia.

The youngest and most luxurious ship ever to cruise to New Zealand, Seabourn Encore, arrives in February, just one month after she is officially named in Singapore.

Also sailing several cruises to the North and South Islands of New Zealand is Royal Caribbean’s 167,000 tonne giant Ovation of the Seas.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia’s Brett Jardine says a record 33 ships will be cruising New Zealand waters between now and April next year.

These ships will make almost 800 visits to New Zealand ports, with port calls to many new destinations, including Stewart Island at the very tip of the South Island where the flightless Kiwi bird is found.

Mr Jardine says the record season reflects New Zealand’s growing popularity as an international cruise destination. “The country’s popularity as one of the world’s hottest cruise destinations is clearly evident this summer.”

A typical cruise itinerary tends to include Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa, Port Chalmers and Fiordland. Bay of Islands, Napier and Picton also receive a significant proportion of cruise activity.

Research has shown that up to a quarter of cruise passengers return to New Zealand within a year of their cruise for a more in-depth visit.

Other maiden visits to New Zealand this summer, mainly from the port of Sydney, include the luxury Azamara Journey which sails in scenic Milford Sound; Norwegian Star which makes seven maiden calls; Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 which debuts in Auckland on December 20 with eight inaugural calls around the country; and Oceania Cruises’ Sirena which makes six maiden calls to local ports.



Seabourn's Seabourn Encore will have the feel of a private yacht with onboard marina
Seabourn Cruise Line’s Seabourn Encore will have the feel of a private yacht with onboard marina

Australian cruisers cannot believe their good fortune. Suddenly, every cruise line wants their patronage. What’s more those same cruise lines are sending some of the newest ships in their fleet Down Under.

January sees the arrival in Australian waters of Seabourn Cruise Line’s newest ship, Seabourn Encore, which carries 600 guests and creates the feel of a luxury yacht with pampered guests. She even has a marina at the ship’s stern so that guests can get off with ease for a day kayaking, wind surfing or snorkelling.

Encore will be making nine maiden calls to Australian ports from Darwin to Geelong between January 22 and March 17.

Built in the Fincantieri shipyard, Seabourn Encore has just reached an important maritime milestone with the completion of sea trials off the coast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea.

Her first sailing on November 30 will be a 34-day cruise from Athens via the Suez Canal to India and on to Singapore for a gala naming ceremony in early January, before she sails to Australia, seabourn.com

Next month, the world’s sixth largest cruise ship Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, launched only this year, will sail into Australian waters after a season in Asia. Based in Sydney, she will sail itineraries to New Zealand and the South Pacific islands until late February when she cruises back to Asia, returning to Australia in November 2017 for another summer in local waters.

Ovation carries almost 5000 guests, has 25 onboard dining options, 35 bars and cafes, and all manner of attractions to engage guests, royalcaribbean.com.au




Myanmar's Strand Hotel in Yangon which is just about to open after renovations has a "sister" in The Strand river cruise.
Myanmar’s Strand Hotel in Yangon, just about to reopen after renovations, has a “sister” in The Strand river cruise ship.

Myanmar has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 countries to visit in 2017.

Indeed, switched-on international travellers are already in Myanmar, often on a river cruise to see the country’s glorious sights, including sky-piercing golden stupas and pagodas, en route between the ancient cities of Bagan and Mandalay.

australiancruisingnews.com notes that another cruise is now in the limelight as the legendary Strand Hotel in Yangon has added The Strand river ship to its portfolio.

It certainly adds a further touch of class to the river scene as the Strand Hotel was built in 1901 by the legendary hoteliers, the Sarkies brothers. No sooner had she opened, than the Strand Hotel became known as “the finest hostelry east of Suez”.

Right now the Strand Hotel is in the final stages of renovations, and due to reopen within weeks, in all her refined grandeur.  Overseeing the operations is the vice-president of the Strand Hotel, Olivier Trinquand, who says the building’s total integrity has been retained, with the addition of contemporary touches such as air-conditioning and an up-to-the-minute communications system.

Frenchman Olivier says cocktails in the rattan furnished Sarkies Bar and the hotel’s fine dining room will continue to offer distinctive tastes of Myanmar, while service will hark back to colonial days, with a butler to unpack/pack luggage and iron guests clothing.

Such dedicated service is also found on The Strand  river cruise, which carries a maximum of 42 passengers for 4 days on the Ayeyarwady (Irawaddy) River from Bagan to Mandalay (or in the opposite direction).

The Strand cruise has access to private moorings close to landmarks along the river, and a highlight is an exclusive overnight mooring at Ava which allows passengers access to the beautiful temple of Maha Aungmye Bonzan after the crowds leave in the evening. The Strand is also the only river operator to offer visits, on north and south bound itineraries, to the photogenic U-Bein teak bridge, which was built in 1850 across Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura.

The Strand currently offers passengers booking a Superior Suite for a minimum of one night at The Strand Hotel, and a Strand Cabin on The Strand cruise between Bagan and Mandalay, complimentary round-trip domestic flights from Yangon to connect with the cruise, thestrandcruise.com






The American celebration of Halloween has spread world-wide, including celebrations on Australia's Sydney Harbour where Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Spirit was welcomed by a sea-going coven of witches.
America’s annual celebration of Halloween has spread world-wide, including celebrations on Australia’s Sydney Harbour where Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Spirit was welcomed by a sea-going coven of witches.

Witches, warlocks and all things ghostly and ghoulish have been celebrated across the world in recent days, including spooky antics on Sydney Harbour as Carnival Spirit sailed into her home base at the weekend.

Sporting pointy black hats, flowing capes and perched on high-flying brooms, a coven of witches – paragliding and water-skiing – swooped on the 88,500-tonne as 2600 guests onboard looked on.

In the spirit of Halloween, Carnival Spirit also became home to a scary eight-legged guest Fangelica a huge redback spider, which sailed into town on the ship’s bow.

australiancruisingnews.com notes that Halloween is celebrated annually across the US-based Carnival Cruise Line’s 24-ship fleet, including its two Australian ships, Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend. Guests onboard all these ships enjoyed a range of Halloween activities at sea, including costume parties, themed movies, trick or treating and fun dining menus featuring witches’ brew, spider snacks and scary cheesecake.

Carnival Spirit regularly sails from Sydney on week-long cruises to the South Pacific taking in New Caledonia’s island of Mare, Noumea and the Isle of Pines, while longer cruises also visit the ports of Denarau and Suva in Fiji.

Carnival Legend follows similar South Pacific cruise itineraries, and sometimes take in Vanuatu, or cruises across to New Zealand, carnival.com.au






It seems that Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson prefers to go on a sea-going voyage rather than an ocean cruise.

Originally, Sir Richard named his latest venture – a cruise line – as Virgin Cruises. Of late, he has ditched “cruises” and replaced it with “voyages”. Apparently,  Virgin Voyages better matches “the daring, unexpected adventures” the new fleet plans to deliver.

australiancruisingnews.com understands the good knight is on a mission to change cruising for good, and “create something that is really fun.”

Virgin Voyages has just announced a contract for three ships to be built by the Italian ship builder Fincantieri, featuring a futuristic design, and adopting a new clean energy system that will save thousands of tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The plan is for this bold new fleet to offer an irresistible holiday at sea. There are also reports that passengers on board the new fleet of ships will be known as “sailors”.

Steel cutting for the first Virgin Voyages’ ship will begin early next year, with the keel laying later in the year. The yet to be named vessel is expected to sail into Port Miami in 2020 for voyages in the Caribbean, and will accommodate 2700 passengers and 1150 crew, virginvoyages.com


The in demand Aranui 5 carries passengers and freight on destination-rich-itineraries in Tahiti
The in-demand Aranui 5 carries passengers and freight on destination-rich-itineraries in Tahiti

There is always big demand for berths on ocean-going vessels that carry cargo and passengers, and the new freighter Aranui 5 is a prime example of that demand.

As australiancruisingnews.com notes this freighter is fully booked this year, and almost at capacity next year for her destination-rich-itineraries in Tahiti. As a result 2018 booking are already being taken.

Aranui’s 14-day cruises sail to nine islands across three French Polynesian archipelagoes – the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands – which are some of the most beautiful untouched islands in the world.

The Australasian representative for Aranui Cruises, Laurent Wong, says the freighter’s fare includes shore excursions at 17 scheduled ports of call, a twice weekly laundry service, all main meals, and a complimentary glass of wine with on board lunches and dinners.

He says Aranui 5 is an authentic seafaring adventure with all the comforts and ease of cruising. “As a working ship, she also offers a rare experience to see first-hand the freighter’s operations as it dispenses a lifeline of food, fuel and mail, to the remote island ports she visits.”

Her itinerary includes Bora Bora and its famed blue lagoon; the chance to walk in the footsteps of writer Robert Louis Stevenson and artist Paul Gauguin on Nuka Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa in the Marquesas; as well as calls to the picturesque Tuamotu ports of Rangiroa and Takapoto.

During the roundtrip cruise from Papeete (Tahiti) the freighter drops off cargo while guests head off on excursions that include hikes, 4WD tours, visits to archaeological sites, and a picnic on a secluded beach in Bora Bora. Throughout, the guests enjoy all the comforts of a cruise ship, including a restaurant, bars, computer room, and outdoor swimming pool.

In late 2015, Aranui 5 replaced Aranui 3 which had spent more than 12 years servicing the remote Tuamotu and Marquesas archipelagoes. There is no Aranui 4 as the number is considered bad luck by the third generation Tahitian-Chinese family who own the cruise company, aranuicruises.com.au