by Kevin Griffin
The latest issue of the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” became available in Kindle and e-book format on September 15 and will be available in hard copy next week. This year, the Guide has expanded from 688 pages to 704, reviewing a total of 284 cruise ships.
|Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2|
This year, author Douglas Ward has added a comment on security at US ports. Homeland Security has been so bad at treating cruise passengers over the past couple of years, with significant delays being caused to P&O’s Arcadia, Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa and Fred Olsen ships that one line, Fred Olsen, has decided not to send ships to the US any longer.
|Balmoral - Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines|
Fred Olsen’s 28-night Canadian cruise in the Balmoral left Southampton on September 5 and is today in Havre St Pierre, Quebec, one of eleven Canadian ports called at before her return to the UK.
Some small changes in the Guide are also noted, one being a sign of the times in that Ward has finally removed the reference to “plated service vs silver service.”
Where this section was now heads straight into a new paragraph on “self-service buffets,” where his words remain the same: “strangely, passengers don’t seem to mind lining up for self-service food (reminiscent of school lunches and army canteens) in scandalously overcrowded venues.”
Instead of silver service, Ward has added a comment on “seating arrangements.”
In the spa section, a new list presents the best spas, while in the expedition ship section, the list of ships is in need of an update, although new sections have been added to cover the Northwest Passage (where there will be three full transits and two local transits in 2013) and the Amazon above Manaus heading into Peru, where the port of Iquitos is about three-quarters of the way across the South American continent from the Atlantic.
In the summary section on the major cruise lines the headings have been changed from bold red bars to narrow grey bars, making it slightly more difficult to navigate, while Louis Cruises, now that it is down to two ships, has been moved out. However, the same “so what’s it really like” section summarises each line’sr good and bad aspects.
Louis has now been added to the smaller operators section, as have small ship operators Ambiente, Antarpply, Comodros (now Silversea’s Galapagos operation), FTI of Germany, Harmony Cruises, Oceanwide, One Ocean and Passat.
Meanwhile, on the ships themselves, the size brackets have been changed this year, which has moved some ships into a new bracket. Changes in the “Top 10” for each bracket are summarised below.
This is because rankings 2 to 5 are now taken up by the Celebrity Solstice class ships, and the Queens are followed by three of the Celebrity Millenium class, now “Solsticized.”
The Queens have fallen in ranking because where they were previously rated for their “Grill class” they are now measured on their overall ratings.
Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner and Voyager have now left this classification, going to “Small Ships,” and this has opened up a couple of spots that have been taken up by P&O’s Adonia and Phoenix Reisen’s Artania in the Top 10.
The Small Ship category has been moved up from 200-600 berths to 251-700 berths, thus bringing the two largest Regent ships into this grouping. But the top spots in this category are taken by Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa (still the top-scoring ship in Berlitz) and eight ships from Seabourn and Silversea.
|SeaDream I in London|
Presumably, the German-flag ship will not allow a Berlitz inspector on board (she was given a four-star-plus rating and a score of 1656 out of 2000 in the 1999 guide but was not listed at all in 2000, to reappear as “Not Yet Rated” a few years later).
The “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” is available for pre-order from amazon.co.uk for £12.59 (regular £17.99) with free delivery and for purchase from the Amazon Kindle store for £14.82. In North America it is available from amazon.com for $15.17 (regular $24.99) and the Kindle edition for $24.03.
The 2013 Guide will be available from Monday, October 1.
(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)