January 24, 2020

Anne Vipond

About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.

Windsor Castle, The Queen’s Weekend Retreat

The Long Walk in Windsor Great Park leads to Windsor Castle.


If you’re flying to London to embark on a cruise, consider taking a quick side-trip to Windsor Castle. Located just 10 miles west of Heathrow Airport, the historic market town of Windsor is famous for the fortress-like castle overshadowing its narrow, winding streets. Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, with additions and renovations carried out by successive royal rulers, Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. It is also where the Queen likes to spend her weekends.

A chap in morning dress strolls a street near Windsor Castle.


Windsor Castle’s Great Park was for centuries the private hunting ground of the monarch. Today, its thousands of acres of sweeping parkland, woodlands and gardens are open to the public, but those of adjacent Home Park are private. They contain the royal gardens of Frogmore Estate and it is here that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have made secluded Frogmore Cottage their home – by permission of the Queen. The estate’s larger Frogmore House is where the couple’s official engagement photographs were taken. The unusual name of this royal country estate derives from the frogs that live in the area’s low-lying marshland.

Prince Harry and Meghan, a.k.a. the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were wed within the walls of Windsor Castle at St. George’s Chapel – a stunning example of 14th-century Gothic architecture with its large windows and soaring pillars. St. George’s Chapel is open to the public (except Sundays, when services are held) as are the state apartments in Windsor Castle; tickets for admission to the castle and chapel can be purchased on-line at the Royal Collection Trust website (rct.uk/visit/Windsor-castle). Changing the Guard takes place at 11:00 a.m. most days except Sundays.

Inviting sidestreets wind through the historic market town of Windsor.

Travelling to Windsor Castle by train from London takes about an hour from Paddington Station, via Slough, and passengers disembark at Windsor & Eton Central Station, which is a short walk up to the castle.

Many of England’s past monarchs have been laid to rest on the grounds of Windsor Castle. St. George’s Chapel contains the tombs of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Queen Victoria and her beloved husband Prince Albert are entombed in the Royal Mausoleum on Frogmore Estate. Outside in the Royal Burial Grounds is the gravesite of the Duke of Windsor, who famously relinquished the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, whose grave is beside her husband’s. Scandal has often swirled around the British monarchy and the kerfuffle caused by Prince Harry’s desire to modify his royal role is the latest in a long legacy.

Wave Season Deals are underway for 2020

Seabourn Sojourn in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.


Wave season is underway with most cruise lines offering special deals for the next few weeks. This is a great time to decide on a destination and pick a ship for an exciting vacation at sea. Here are a few we’ve seen:

Small ship cruise line Windstar Cruises has “Pick Your Perk” savings for wave season, beginning January 7, includes a choice of the following:
$1,000 of onboard spending (for things like shore excursions or spa treatments)
Up to $300 airfare credit
Unlimited WiFi (up to $70/day)
Guests booking a Premium Suite have an additional perk option: Windstar’s popular All-In Package, which includes unlimited Wi-Fi access, unlimited laundry service, hotel and beverage gratuities, and the top shelf Captain’s Exclusive Beverage Package featuring all wines by the glass, all beer selections, all mini-bar beverages, and a broad assortment of cocktails (a value of $89 per person, per day).

Plus, guests also receive complimentary wine (up to two bottles per cabin); up to 20 percent savings on Star Collector Voyages (cruises that are 14 days or more); reduced rates for solo travelers; and reduced deposits from $50 per guest. Guests must book by February 28, 2020 to qualify for the Pick Your Perk savings.

Seabourn Cruises also has several great cruise packages which are very enticing. Their Signature Savings Event offers veranda upgrades, air and shipboard credits and in Alaska a free ventures by the Seabourn Zodiac Shore Excursions per guest. This is an excellent offering. They are also offering a 50 percent reduced deposit and for many cabins up to a $1,000 shipboard credit.

Norwegian Cruise Line has a limited time offer of 30 percent off all cruises – fleetwide. Plus balcony cabins receive five additional free offers while oceanview cabins receive two free offers.NCL also has free or reduced airfare on select Hawaii and Asia cruises.

Cruise Critic’s top picks for 2019

The 169,000 ton Norwegian Encore won Cruise Critic’s award for best new ship.


(CNN) — Viking Cruises dominated the 12th annual Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards for the third year in a row with five wins in 2019. Royal Caribbean International, AmaWaterways and Crystal Cruises tied for second place with three awards each, all of which were revealed on December 4.

“Our list of winners represents just how much the industry continues to change — and the fact that there really is a cruise for every traveler,” said Colleen McDaniel, executive editor of cruising website Cruise Critic.
“Whether you’re a family or adventure-seeker, solo traveler or foodie, these are the absolute best lines to try in the upcoming year.”

Cruise Critic’s editors name winners in three categories: ocean cruises, luxury cruises (all on ocean ships) and river cruises.Viking won three luxury awards (best enrichment, best spa, best value for money) and two river cruise awards (best for first-timers and best itineraries). It’s no surprise that Disney Cruise Line won the best for families in the ocean category, and Disney’s Adventures by Disney earned top honors for families in river cruising — and both won for the fourth year in a row.

A member of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Class, Norwegian Encore is the Cruise Critic pick for best new ocean ship.
“A number of fantastic new ships launched this year, but what made Norwegian Encore stand out to our editors was the sheer depth of offerings available for every traveler,” McDaniel said.
“From an onboard go-kart track and virtual-reality simulators, to nearly 20 restaurants and a dual-deck, adults-only escape — there’s something on board for everyone. And while the ship isn’t an entirely new concept — it’s not first-in-class — the line has clearly taken what’s worked on its previous ships and perfected it on Norwegian Encore. It’s truly an exciting addition to the industry.”

To see all the results of Cruise Critic picks for 2019 visit: Cruise Critic

Carnival introduces dress code

Carnival ships will have new dress code according to the company.


South Florida Sun Sentinel (12/28/2019) A new ban on clothing that might be considered “offensive” has frequent Carnival Cruise Lines travelers wondering who gets to decide what the word means.

Carnival’s announcement this month of the new ban has triggered a debate over the difficulty of regulating speech in an era when society is more divided than ever, socially and politically, and discourse seems to have no bounds. It also raised questions about whether the ban is even enforceable and whether it infringes on free speech rights.

Carnival’s brand ambassador and senior cruise director, John Heald, revealed the addition to Carnival’s dress code on his popular Facebook page, saying it was added to the FAQ section of Carnival’s website “in the past few days.”

The new section reads: “All guests are expected to ensure their clothing and accessories are respectful to fellow guests. Specifically, items worn during the cruise should not contain any message that may be considered offensive or contain nudity, profanity, sexual innuendo/suggestions. In addition, clothing/accessories should not promote negative ethnic or racial, commentary, or hatred or violence in any form.”

Asked what prompted the change, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said it resulted “after some incidents were reported in the media about other travel sectors where customers were wearing clothing with very threatening messages.”

Among competing cruise lines, websites of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian include no policies regarding offensive or respectful messages or attire. Disney Cruise Line asks guests to avoid wearing T-shirts with offensive language and/or graphics to its adults-only onboard restaurants. During nights in which guests are encouraged to wear costumes, Disney asks them to choose ones that are “family friendly, not obstructive, objectionable, offensive or violent.”

In an example of Heald’s social media reach, 23,500 followers responded to a poll he posted asking whether they agree with the policy.

A decisive majority — 93 percent — of respondents said they agreed.

Carnival features first Roller Coaster at sea!

Carnival’s Mardi Gras will enter service next summer for seven day Caribbean cruises.


Carnival Cruise Line today revealed additional details on BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, and the centerpiece of the Ultimate Playground, an expansive open-air recreation area on Mardi Gras, set to debut in August 2020.
The announcement was made at the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Conference in Orlando by Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy who was joined by the line’s Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal. Carnival partnered with industry leader, Munich-based Maurer Rides, to showcase BOLT at IAAPA which brings together innovators from the world’s largest theme parks and attractions.
Duffy revealed that BOLT’s all-electric, motorcycle-inspired vehicles will be adorned with metallic red and blue stripes and an eye-catching yellow lightning bolt. The vehicle will also feature a digital speedometer display and speakers with new sound effects that will activate to enhance the exhilarating, one-of-a-kind experience.

New Carnival Mardi Gras has first at sea roller coaster.


Cameras will be located along the 800-foot-long track, as well as within the vehicle itself, providing riders with unique photo keepsakes as they take in 360-degree views and race 187 feet above the sea with drops, dips and hairpin turns achieving speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Guests choose their own speed so no two rides will ever be the same.
“Whether guests want to get an adrenaline rush or take it slow and enjoy the breathtaking views, BOLT will have it all,” said Duffy. “Combining the most talented designers, technicians and attractions professionals in the industry, we’ve taken FUN to a whole new level with this amazing onboard experience that is also a true game changer in our industry.”
BOLT will take center stage in the Ultimate Playground, one of Mardi Gras’ six themed zones, spanning Decks 18-20 and home to the largest WaterWorks aqua park in the Carnival fleet featuring three unique heart-racing slides designed for all-ages fun.
Blue Lightning will offer 312 feet of high-speed twists and turns, while the 229-foot-long Orange Thunder drop-down slide will propel guests into a wet ‘n wild splash zone. Back by popular demand, Carnival’s signature Twister slide encompasses 265 feet of thrills for the young and young at heart. Other features will include a splash-tastic zone just for kids with a 150-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket and numerous water toys.
The expanded SportSquare recreation complex features a 600-foot-long suspended ropes course – the longest in the fleet – a nine-hole miniature golf course, a jogging track and outdoor fitness equipment, and a basketball court.
A virtual tour of The Ultimate Playground can be viewed here: Carnival Bolt

Cruise Industry has big Impact on US Economy

The cruise industry contributes greatly to local economies throughout North America.


(Cybercruises) The cruise industry is an increasingly dominant player in the U.S. tourism sector according to a new study from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association.

The newly released CLIA 2018 Economic Impact Analysis found the cruise industry in the U.S. had an economic impact of over $52.7 billion in total contributions in 2018 alone, marking an increase of over 10 percent since 2016.

The increasing popularity of cruising to and from the United States is evident throughout the report, as is the inextricable correlation between the industry’s growth and its economic impact across the country. Nearly 13 million cruise passengers worldwide embarked from ports in the United States in 2018—an increase of nearly nine percent from 2016.

With increased embarkations come increased onshore spending. In 2018, cruise lines, their passengers and crew spent a record $23.96 billion in the United States—a 33 percent increase since 2010. Additionally, 2018 saw a new peak in the cruise industry’s U.S. expenditures, generating 421,711 jobs across the United States and contributing more than $23.15 billion in wages and salaries, a nearly 13 percent increase since 2016.

Combined, these numbers reflect the growing consensus cruising has evolved into a mainstream choice for travelers of all means and backgrounds, as well as a leader in the tourism sector. The cruise industry recognizes with growth comes added responsibility to ensure the destinations we visit remain a welcoming and beautiful place to both live in and visit for generations to come.

For more information about the cruise industry, the full 2018 CLIA Economic Impact Analysis, and details on the cruise industry’s economic impact in each of the top ten states, please visit: https://cruising.org/news-and-research/research/2019/november/contribution-of-the-international-cruise-industry-to-the-us-economy-2018

Sky Princess Begins Inaugural Season in Europe

The new Sky Princess begins cruises in Europe this fall. The 143,700-ton ship can handle 3,660-guests.


Sky Princess, the first purpose built Princess MedallionClass ship, recently set sail on her inaugural season in Europe. Representing an evolution of the design platform used for her sister Royal-Class ships – Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Majestic Princess – the 143,700-ton, 3,660-guest Sky Princess offers an elevation of spectacular style and elegance that Princess is known for, in addition to new distinct features.

Introduced on Sky Princess are new luxury Sky Suites boasting expansive views from the largest balconies at sea. In addition, two new entertainment experiences are offered – Phantom Bridge, a world’s first game combining digital and physical elements for the ultimate immersive escape room, and Take Five, the only jazz theater at sea, celebrating the iconic sounds, culture and history of jazz.

With the debut of Sky Princess, Princess Cruises marks the first time a ship has been built as a Princess MedallionClass™ ship. Powered by the OceanMedallion™, the global hospitality industry’s most advanced wearable device, MedallionClass vacations deliver a new level of service for a vacation that is more seamless, effortless and personalized. Considered a breakthrough in the vacation industry and a CES® 2019 Innovation Award Honoree, the complimentary OceanMedallion features leading-edge technology that delivers personalized service through enhanced guest-crew interactions, while eliminating friction points and enabling interactive entertainment.

Sky Princess will make her debut in North America on Dec. 1, 2019, for a season of Caribbean cruises from Ft. Lauderdale.

Additional information about Sky Princess and Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel advisor, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com.

Carnival expands presence in Alaska

Carnival Freedom will be plying 7-day cruises in 2021 from Seattle.


Carnival Cruise Line will increase its presence in Alaska, deploying Carnival Freedom from Seattle beginning in April 2021, operating Carnival’s popular week-long Glacier Route voyages, and joining Carnival Miracle which will operate 10- and 11-day Alaska cruises from San Francisco beginning in May 2021.
Carnival Freedom 7-day cruises from Seattle, 2021
Carnival Freedom will operate 21 Alaska cruises departing every Tuesday. Port calls on the week-long Glacier Route voyages include Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, as well as Victoria, B.C., and scenic cruising of Tracy Arm Fjord. There’s also an eight-day cruise featuring Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Victoria and cruising Tracy Arm Fjord. Carnival Freedom offers a wide range of onboard amenities, including dining venues ranging from casual choices like Bonsai Sushi Express and Guy’s Burger Joint to an elegant reservations-only steakhouse, along with a luxurious spa and a spectacular WaterWorks aqua park. Hundreds of balcony staterooms and suites — perfect for watching the passing scenery — are available as well.

Carnival Miracle’s Two- to 16-Day Voyages from San Francisco and San Diego
Carnival Miracle, which launches Carnival’s first-ever service from San Francisco in March 2020, will return to San Francisco in 2021 to operate a summer schedule of 10- and 11-day Alaska cruises that visit some of the region’s most beautiful and popular ports. Ten-day cruises call at Juneau, Skagway, and Icy Strait Point or Ketchikan, Victoria, and scenic cruising of Tracy Arm while the 11-day cruises include calls in both Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan. The ship will also operate a series of 16-day Carnival Journeys Hawaii cruises. The program also includes unique four-day long weekend cruises to Ensenada. Carnival Miracle will also sail from San Diego in 2021-22 offering two- to six-day voyages visiting a variety of destinations in Mexico and Baja California, including Ensenada, Catalina Island, and Cabo San Lucas, as well as series of 15-day Carnival Journeys cruises to Hawaii. Carnival Miracle’s San Diego-based schedule runs from Oct. 3, 2021 to April 18, 2022.

Seabourn’s Alaska Experience

Exploring the Inian Islands by Zodiac.


Expedition cruising has long been popular in Alaska. The intricate waterways of this vast coastal wilderness invite exploration by small ships and is a voyage that can really awaken your awareness of the natural world.

Dining is casual in the Colonnade on the Sojourn.


Should you be looking for both luxury and expedition-style cruising, Seabourn’s 450-passenger Sojourn offers the relaxed ambience of a private club and an expedition team of seasoned guides ready to take you wildlife viewing in Zodiacs and kayaks. The Sojourn follows a route less travelled, tracing narrow channels avoided by the larger ships and anchoring at remote wilderness locations. An excellent example is the Inian Islands in Icy Strait where we climbed into Zodiacs to take a close look at a sea lion rookery and a kelp-filled cove where sea otters congregate.

Seabourn Sojourn docked near Sitka.


After a few hours exposed to the elements, I was happy to return to the pampered warmth of the ship. Everywhere on board the staff were friendly and attentive, whether offering to carry my plate to a table during the buffet-style lunch in the Colonnade or escorting the ladies to their tables in the elegant Restaurant at dinnertime. Our room stewardess, a young woman from South Africa, was as cheerful as she was efficient, and the level of service throughout the ship lived up to Seabourn’s well-deserved reputation.

A couple shares a quiet moment near the bow of the Sojourn.


With one of the highest passenger space ratios in the cruise industry, the Sojourn had a wonderful sense of spaciousness, both in our balcony suite and throughout the public areas. One of our favorite spots was the Seabourn Square with its floor-to-ceiling windows, cappuccino bar, shelves of library books and overstuffed sofas where we could sip our coffee and have our pick of several daily newspapers from around the world.

The last afternoon of the cruise all guests were invited to the show lounge to watch a brief film shot during the course of our 12-day cruise. We relived the remarkable moments of our cruise, then applauded not only the expedition team gathered on the stage, but all of the ship’s crew – representing 52 nations – as they squeezed onto the stage. Conviviality is what sets cruising apart from other forms of travel and the friendliness on board the Sojourn made it hard to disembark when the ship docked in Vancouver the next morning.

SEABOURN SOJOURN: 32,000 tons, 450 passengers, 330 crew. Launched 2010.
For information on Alaska cruises or other destinations visit: Seabourn Alaska

Rain or Shine, Alaska is Spectacular

Seabourn Sojourn anchored in Endicott Arm.


Rain can spoil most vacations, but not a cruise to Alaska. The weather on my recent trip aboard Seabourn’s Sojourn was, in a word, wet – yet this didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the ship’s expedition staff. Embracing the elements, they guided small groups into the wilderness to experience firsthand the raw beauty of Alaska that no amount of rain can wash away.

With rain pelting down, the young woman piloting our Zodiac past sapphire-blue icebergs at the head of Endicott Arm gazed with happiness at the cascades of white water plunging down the sheer granite slopes of the fjord. “I know you probably don’t want to hear this,” she said, drawing our attention to the subtle colors and patterns of the glistening rock faces, “but it was such a dry summer, we really needed this rain.”

Sunset in Misty Fjords.


Our 12-day September cruise aboard the Sojourn was an opportunity to visit remote fjords and forested islands bypassed by the large ships, and to do so while enjoying the country-club conviviality of a 450-passenger luxury ship. The service was attentive but not stuffy and the atmosphere was friendly. One evening guests were encouraged to join a pre-dinner block party at which we mingled in the corridor outside our suites. It helped that the ship’s stewards served cocktails and the captain came along with a smile and handshakes.

Sea lion rookery near Alert Bay, British Columbia.


We called at an interesting array of ports, from attraction-filled Juneau and Ketchikan to less-visited ports such as Sitka, Wrangell and Prince Rupert. The ship’s route was similar to an expedition cruise, tracing narrow channels and anchoring in remote wilderness locations at which excursions by Zodiac, kayak and tour boat were offered to get a close look at sea lion rookeries and tidewater glaciers. While anchored in the pristine solitude of Rudyerd Bay, the ship became a base for waterborne excursions and floatplane rides over the scenic Misty Fjords.

The Seabourn Sojourn is a 30,000 ton luxury class ship.


Sea mammals and bird life abound along the Inside Passage and one of our best Zodiac excursions was to view humpback and killer whales in the waters near Alert Bay in British Columbia. Few things in life are more exhilarating than watching a whale surface as you drift nearby in an inflatable boat. And few things are more pleasurable than returning to the warm ambience of a luxury ship like the Sojourn to soak in a hot bath or ponder the dinner menu while sipping a glass of champagne. The weather can do what it wants.