Every Spring, scores of cruise ships leave the Caribbean to spend six months based in more northern climes, reversing the process in the autumn.
MIKE SOUTER joined Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas for one such ‘repositioning’ cruise:
The idea of joining a ship on one continent and having to leave it two weeks later many thousands of miles away is perhaps not for everyone.
But it’s a great way of both experiencing cruising at lower per-day cost and, for many people, is their way of getting to and from their winter home. (See the fact-box for cost comparisons).
My 12-day cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas as she left Mediterranean waters for her winter home in the Caribbean.
It was while chattering in the queue to fellow passengers that I first learned about regulars’ ingenious efforts to try to evade Royal Caribbean’s outright ban on carrying personal liquor on board. Non-booze containers such as mouthwash and water bottles were being pressed into service, the belief being that the personnel peering into the security scanners were more interested in confiscating booze- shaped objects!
The policy, which is enforced to a greater or lesser extent by most cruise lines, is of course there for one reason, to protect their huge onboard earnings from liquor sales.
Andrew Davies, who works for Fred Olsen subsidiary, Go Cruise, tells me that the legal position of such bans is far from clear and he is even aware of one passenger who is battling for his right to drink his own duty free liquor in his own cabin!
My ‘Superior balcony stateroom’, was pretty spacious and included every possible amenity. But don’t expect your toiletries to be replaced, that’s just one of the many annoying little cutbacks. On that subject, much discussion was to be heard at mealtimes about other perks, which have been stopped or reduced, especially for frequent travellers.
Andrew tells me his biggest area of complaint across the entire industry is the cost of excursions and drinks. Certainly, as far as Royal Caribbean is concerned, bar prices do not reflect the duty free status of the ship. One particularly contentious issue on board was serving you fresh orange juice at breakfast and charging you £2.50 per glass. Never once on the 12 day cruise did I see anyone taking anything other than the free alternative!
Before heading across the Atlantic, Navigator berthed first at Funchal in Madeira. It’s over thirty years since I’ve been to this lovely island, virtually on the same latitude as Casablanca. Cristiano Andrade from Mountain Expeditions, took me on a splendid excursion, high above the clouds, before leaving me at Monte, to take the 15-minute cable car ride back down to Funchal.
Tenerife gave me the chance to do important things like having a haircut, although I declined the kind offer of a cutthroat shave as experienced by the elderly gentlemen before me!
La Palma in the Canaries was a revelation. Fellow journalist Daniel Martin gave me a splendid tour of this lovely volcanic island. Some of the views, especially in the La Caldera de Taburiente national park were truly breathtaking and I shall certainly be back.
After that, six days to relax at sea, somehow completely filled with hardly a book read, before arriving for my first ever trip to Nassau in the Bahamas. My guide Debra Pinder and driver Romeo Farrington gave me a real insight into island life, meeting lovely locals such as Arlene Nash-Ferguson of Educulture and Nettie Symonette, a real island character.
Twelve days after leaving Malaga, arrival in Miami, with an excruciating delay getting off, while all the 1172 crew from 76 countries went through immigration before the passengers, with almost no explanation from the ship.
Steve and Josias at the Desoto Inn in Hollywood welcomed me back to their charming beachside guesthouse in Hollywood, where I had four happy days exploring the myriad and diverse delights of Hollywood and adjacent Fort Lauderdale.
Next week, I will be onboard the world’s biggest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, even before her maiden voyage.
La Palma: www.lapalmaturismo.com
Fort Lauderdale: www.sunny.org
Mike Souter booked his cruise through Go Cruise, who offer substantial discounts on brochure prices. 01952 402301. www.gocruise.co.uk/
Other examples of savings comparisons on repositioning cruises include:
Brilliance of the Seas
14 night Dubai - Barcelona 19/4 £649pp
12 night Mediterranean cruise 03/5 £919pp (Barcelona sailing)
Artemis - with flights
14 night Barbados - Southampton 20/3 £1016pp
14 night Caribbean 06/3 £1651pp
13 night Southampton - Miami 31/10 £778pp
11 night Canaries cruise (Ex So’ ton) 20/10 £1199pp
The Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2010 is priced at £16.99.
All photos: Mike Souter, SouterMedia.Com
A lovely view along the port side of Navigator of the Seas from the bridge wing
Dappled sunlight through the trees in La Palma
My Madeira guide, Cristiano Andrade, from Mountain Expeditions, with some freshly picked blueberries
Nassau is one of the world's busiest cruise terminals
Plaza d'Espana in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The Royal Promenade of Navigator of the Seas
We were just off Gibraltar when I took this shot of the pool deck
All photographs: Mike Souter, SouterMedia.Com
You can see all the photographs from this feature and much more of Mike Souter’s travel photography at: http://picasaweb.google.com/MDSouter