I read an interesting article about Blackbeard the pirate.  I am sure you have heard of him but did you know that he was quite ahead of his time with regard to marketing? Even today his name is recognized as being a fearsome pirate.  Maybe Johnny Depp used his character as inspiration for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean.

He was apparently British – either Edward Thatch or Edward Teach – and was a mariner with the Royal Navy.  Maybe he went rogue?  He got in tow with a privateer and then managed to capture a French merchant vessel which he equipped with 40 guns.  This out-powered anything else and he was able to blockade ports and extract huge ransoms.

The funny thing is that he apparently never used violence as such – just relied on his fearsome brand.  He grew a massive beard which he made even more terrifying by decorating it with lit fuses when he went into battle.

Who would stand up against that?


It made me think about other great brands on the seas of today with a little more of a friendly feel.  Each cruise line has its own way of reinforcing its brand and differentiating itself from the rest of the pack.

Royal Caribbean – This is not a cruise.  comeseek-ss

Reinforcing the fact that there is so much to do on their cruise ships.  Many of them are mega-ships now but having cruised on them it never felt crowded or too huge for comfort.  Amazing entertainment and great little venues like the jazz club and the comedy club.  They are right – this is not a cruise.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises – The most inclusive luxury experience.

Regent-Tagline-Gold-V2-788x255Yes this is correct – they do include everything (just about) from flights, drinks, excursions.  Your upfront price can give a little sticker shock but at the end of the day it probably works out the same.  Compare this to –

Crystal Cruises – All Exclusive.
crystal Mmmm – starts getting confusing, right?  We are used to the description all inclusive but all exclusive?  Now it is true that Crystal includes everything except the excursions. Some may prefer that and then do their own thing when they get to the port or choose from the list of excursions to book on board so maybe it is a little more “exclusive” that way.

And now for something completely different – Windstar – 180 degrees from ordinary.


Well to a large extent this is correct as they operate tall ships with sails – although they are now changing this brand somewhat with the addition of the small Seabourn yachts which are motorised yachts.

Talking about sailing ships – Star Clippers – Unique Sailing Adventures.
star clippers

And this is true – if you relish the idea of pretending to be Blackbeard for a few days on a proper sailing ship where you can hoist in the sails and climb up to the crow’s nest then this is your ship.  Just don’t try decorating your beard with lit fuses – I don’t think that would go down well with the safety crew on board.



Italy and simple pleasures

Italy is the country of simple pleasures. It became clear to me when I ordered a green salad to go with my pasta. I am not sure what type of green it was. I think it might’ve been baby spinach. But that was it. A green salad. I was provided with olive oil and balsamic vinegar . What else would I need? Certainly not one of those horrendous mixtures in a bottle we fondly call salad dressing.
And the pasta?
Where do I begin? Al dente, a smattering of sun dried tomatoes and a flash of garlic. Heaven.
There is a good reason why Italy is one of the most popular destinations. I love Rome…walk around any corner slap bang into another temple being excavated. It is a treasure trove for ancient history enthusiasts. Likewise with Florence, a great base to explore Cinqe Terra. And then there is Venice….so much to love about this city of canals.
Stresa has been a delightful surprise for me. Perched on the shores of Lake Maggiore it offers all the old fashioned grandeur of a bygone era when the aristocracy went on “the grand tour”. Stately hotels along the lake shore offer chintzy rooms and white glove service.

IMG_1729 Here you can hop on a ferry to discover the islands. Napoleon loved it here and so will you. My favourite is Fishermans Island which even has a couple of small hotels.
The old town centre of Stresa is tucked away and is full of pedestrian cobbled streets and lovely piazzas. I have never heard so much bird song ….and they do have signs in the restaurants asking you not to feed the birds. I guess the happy singing means that the patrons are ignoring the signs.
Stresa, ciao for now….but I will be back.



Foggy nights at sea

There is something sad and folourn about the sound of a ships foghorn. Is it a cry for help or a get out of my way? Either way I could not help but be moved as we heard the great reverberating sound of ms Koningsdam’s fog horn as we blasted our way down the coast of Norway shrouded in fog. It was an almost comforting feel as we sat cosseted in the Italian restaurant on board enjoying fine pasta and a chilled Sauvignon blanc. It conjured up images of Leonardo Di caprio in a life belt floating among icebergs while Celine Dion belted out the theme song of Titanic. It reminded me of those old great fifties films such as The sea shall not have them. Seriously, google it. I can’t remember who was in it. It it featured navy marines floating in mine infested waters after their air craft carrier had been torpedoed. Wow …they don’t make movies like that any more.

That’s what makes cruising so special. It doesn’t have to have Caribbean islands and umbrella cocktails to make it special…it is a tradition many years old which is enjoyed in the waters of the arctic or the Antarctic, through the famous canals of the world such as Panama or Suez. It is the art of travelling in the style of a bygone era and personally I love the foggy nights on the sea.


Do you roll or do you cube?

Ok I have another question for all you experienced travellers out there.

Do you roll or do you cube?

I am a cuber myself…. Found these packing cubes and loved them – I can never really make sense of doing the roll without getting the whole thing creased.  What I like about the cubes is that everything is packed in individual cubes and packing and unpacking is so much easier.
packing cubes

No one will know what the inside of your suitcase looks like – whether you are a roller or a cuber – that is unless you get stopped going through security and then they have to check your bag.  Then all will be revealed.
Having been told that she couldn't take shampoo on her flight, Gina began frantically washing her hair.

Are you a roller, a cuber – or just a messy disorganized (OMG I forgot my passport/underwear/shoes) sort of person.

messy suitcase

Now these sort of people are more common than you think and they don’t really think of themselves as messy or disorganized.  The chaos that follows them around is not of their making.  It’s just the way they were born – let’s call them creative, imaginative …..

Which of these individuals do you think those guys on Border Patrol would rather have?

Now if they have a cuber then it is pretty easy for them.  Pick out the individual cubes – no need to open them.  You can give them a squeeze generally while you look for suspicious articles.  Rollers on the other hand – not so good.  They are going to have to pick out those roly rolls of shirts and leggings and then you are going to have to re-roll.  Both of these, however, are pretty easy for security to check.

Miss Messy on the other hand is another story.  Security is going to have to claw through pj’s tangled up with hairbrushes, and inside out jeans (probably with holes in them).  The thing is that security probably won’t mind dealing with Miss Messy because she will be beautiful, disarming, creative and imaginative.  Unlike Miss Roller and Miss Cuber.
messy bun

Oh well…….




It is bad enough these days on a flight what with arm rest hogs, carry-on idiots and unkempt smelly fellow passengers.  Now it seems some think they can drink AND fly – in the air.  My goodness.

That’s what happened back in 2015 when John Cox flew from Birmingham to Sharm el-Sheikh on Monarch Airlines.

First of all he was drunk and abusive on the flight.

And then he started not one fire – but two.   (As reported below in the Mirror)

“Cabin crew found the blaze in a toilet in a waste paper basket and used two fire extinguishers and water to put it out.

The captain issued a “strongly worded” announcement warning passengers about the risk of smoking on board and the consequences of it.

He also debriefed the crew who were told to remain vigilant and it was decided to carry on with the flight, with four remaining fire extinguishers on board.

Just minutes later, when the plane was 100 nautical miles north west of Egypt at 35,000 feet, the captain received another warning about a fire.

This time it was discovered in the waste basket of a second toilet.”

So he ends up in court and pleads guilty to arson and gets 4 and a half years in jail.  Apparently appeals because he is going through a bad time with his divorce and the death of his mother – which is a shame.

But not enough to sway the Appeal Court who promptly increased his sentence to 10 years.

No wonder he needed another smoke outside Court.


It made me think about the days when smoking was allowed on flights.  Do you remember?  Are you old enough? 😊

smoking on a flight

If you ended up in the last seat of the non-smoking section you might as well have been sitting in the smoking section.  Ugh – terrible.

However – as a life-long non smoker I do have some sympathy for smokers on these long flights.  Nicotine is addictive and yet it is legal.  So put a smoker – especially a nervous one who is going through personal problems – on a long flight and maybe he or she will do whatever they can to have a smoke.  Even if it means almost setting fire to the plane.  You also have to ask how did he get so drunk?  Was it on the plane and if so why was he given so much booze?  If it was before departure why was he allowed to board and shouldn’t there be some control at the bars or duty free shops within the airport area.

Lots of questions which Mr Cox can mull over during the 10 years he is going to spend inside.

A flight fit for a King.

Have you flown KLM recently?  Chances are the co-pilot might have been the King of Holland.

That’s right.  He is a commercial pilot and from time to time (in between his kingly duties) he likes to fly as a co-pilot on KLM flights.  He says that people don’t really recognize him in his uniform but some people recognize his voice.


King of Holland

Seems like a lot of royalty like to fly – Prince Charles does / did.   He learned to fly on a Chipmunk basic pilot trainer, a BAC Jet Provost jet trainer, and a Beagle Basset multi-engine trainer; he then regularly flew the Hawker Siddeley Andover, Westland Wessex and BAe 146 aircraft of The Queen’s Flight until he gave up flying after crashing the BAe 146 in the Hebrides in 1994.


Prince William is a helicopter pilot – which for some reason sounds strangely more sexy than being a commercial pilot.  And he looks very cute in his uniform.

Love the name badge – Will Wales.  His younger brother Prince Harry followed in his footsteps and chose helicopters rather than planes.  Also looks pretty good in uniform.  Other Royals have taken to the air too –  Though George V, king from 1910 to 1936, was photographed in Royal Air Force uniform with only honorary wings, three of his heirs earned pilot ratings. His second son, Prince Albert, saw combat in the Royal Navy, then entered the fledgling RAF in 1918 as a non-flying officer. Shortly after World War I, he trained to fly. WW2 - King George VI disembarking from a plane at an R.A.F station.

World leaders too like to get their wings.
George Bush

It is George H.W. Bush, president from 1988 to 1992 and one of the youngest naval aviators of World War II, who has the most impressive record of America’s pilot-presidents. Not quite 19 upon receiving his wings, he flew TBM Avenger torpedo bombers from the carrier USS San Jacinto in 1944. It was said that Bush was “one of Grumman’s best customers,” having ditched one Avenger with engine trouble and parachuted from another. On a mission over the Bonin Islands, Japanese flak set Bush’s Avenger afire. He remained airborne long enough to reach open water. Though his two crewmen perished after bailing out with Bush, the future president was rescued by submarine. After the war, told that the Japanese army routinely cannibalized captured fliers, Bush quipped that he was so thin he would have made a poor meal. For his 58 combat missions, Lieutenant Junior Grade Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.  –  Pretty impressive!

Which world leader would you NOT like to see as the co-pilot of your next flight?

Ummm –

  • Sorry – not going to go there –

don't go there

It’s a big fat ship

Competition between the river cruise companies is hot and each one is looking for something unique so as to set their brand apart.  Viking has its long ships with sleek Scandinavian design and outdoor dining, Avalon has its panorama staterooms with huge floor to ceiling windows and now AMAWaterways has come to the party with the biggest European river cruise vessel ever to be launched in 2019.  As someone pointed out in one of the industry blogs the ships on the Yangtze River in China would still dwarf our European river cruise ships.
Image result for huge ship meme

Cruise critic reported as follows –

“To be named AmaMagna, the behemoth will have the same length, height and draft as the line’s other vessels, but at 22 meters it will be twice as wide, allowing for larger cabins — most about 300 square feet — with a capacity for 194 passengers (40 more than Crystal Mozart).

Its width also means it will be the only ship docked in ports that allow two-deep berthing.

Rudi Schreiner, AmaWaterways’ co-owner and president, said the new ship will feature ocean-style cabins, multiple dining venues (including outdoor dining), an elevator that goes all the way to the top of the ship, a heated top-deck pool and hot tub with bar, expanded entertainment and spa offerings and a water sports platform with zodiacs, canoes and other recreational equipment.

The ship will also boast a fitness center large enough for small group classes, hosted as part of the line’s new wellness program, which will roll out next year to one ship per river.”

Now this is going to be quite something being that wide and there are a few innovations on the ship that will be interesting to explore further.

I am not sure what this report means by “ocean style cabins” and I am assuming that the larger space will mean larger staterooms.  (I hate using the word cabin.  Just doesn’t conjure up the right feel).  I do like the idea of having an elevator going all the way up to the top deck.  This will mean that the river cruise will be more accessible for guests with mobility issues.
AmaMagna cabin

So now that AMAWaterways has thrown down the gauntlet what will the other river cruise companies come up with?  It will be interesting to see.  They cannot have longer or taller, so what else could they do?

Uniworld has made some changes to its program with the introduction of U by Uniworld.  They have taken two of their ships and have completely stripped and redesigned them to accommodate the 21-45 age group.  There will be a disco on board with guest dj performers, yoga and biking ashore, sleek modern design and an emphasis on stops that incorporate the European festival scene.   I did hear that the disco is what they call a silent disco with everyone wearing headphones.  A wise choice.  Imagine being docked next to them with that bass going thump, thump, thump all night.
Image result for it's all about that bass humour