Boutique or behemoth, river or ocean, regal or relaxed – from a sea of choice, Louise Goldsbury nominates 10 great cruises in the next year.
Apr 19, 2016 2:00pm
Boutique or behemoth, river or ocean, regal or relaxed - from a sea of choice, Louise Goldsbury nominates 10 great cruises in the next year.
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1. Transatlantic style
Crossing the Atlantic on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is a classic cruise experience. Some voyages are themed, such as the music-led Blue Note Jazz at Sea with jazz singer Gregory Porter, but for unmatched glamour and gowns, join QM2's inaugural Transatlantic Fashion Week voyage. Arriving in time for New York Fashion Week, the freshly revamped ship will host the event's founder Fern Mallis, British designer Dame Zandra Rhodes and fashion historian Colin McDowell.
Queen Mary 2's seven-night "Transatlantic Fashion Week" cruise departs Southampton, England, on 1 September. cunardline.com.au
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2. Chef on board
Aqua Expeditions' 40-passenger river ship Aqua Mekong has as its consulting chef David Thompson, whose latest Thai restaurant, Long Chim, opened late last year in Perth (an outpost of his Singapore eatery). This year the world-renowned chef will be on board for two Mekong cruises, leading masterclasses and taking guests to Vietnamese and Cambodian markets to shop for local ingredients used in his dishes (pictured is his salad with tamarind dressing).
Aqua Mekong's seven-night "Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh" and "Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City" cruises hosted by David Thompson depart on 22 April and 13 May, respectively. aquaexpeditions.com
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3. Antarctic pioneer
Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered expedition travel to Antarctica in 1966; 50 years later his family company runs global voyages and continues to lead the field in Antarctica with an exceptional team of polar, wildlife and undersea specialists, plus a National Geographic photographer and video chronicler. Lindblad's ultimate three-region voyage, in the company of only 102 passengers on the well-appointed ice-class Orion, adds the unmissable spectacles of South Georgia's king penguin colonies and the Falkland Islands.
National Geographic Orion's 21-night "Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands" has departures in November this year and January and February next year. au.expeditions.com
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4. Bordeaux crossing
Already highly regarded for its on-board food and wine, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has developed a new "connoisseur collection" of itineraries tailored to food lovers. Our pick is its Bordeaux cruise along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde, on which passengers can enjoy a wine-paired lunch at Château de Cazeneuve, taste wine at Saint-Émilion (Château Fonplegade pictured), try Cognacs at the house of Rémy Martin and take sundowners on Patiras Island in the Gironde Estuary.
River Royale's seven-night "Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux" has departures from Bordeaux in June, July and August. uniworld.com
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5. Southern belle
Among the first companies to introduce Australians to river cruising, Scenic has announced plans to build its first ocean-going expedition ship in 2018 - with a seven-seat submarine and two helicopters, no less. Among Scenic's diverse global cruising options is a leisurely voyage aboard a steam-powered paddlewheeler on the Mississippi. Starting with two nights in Nashville, this week-long cruise from Memphis ends in New Orleans, where travellers decamp to a hotel for three nights of live music and soul food.
American Queen's 13-night "Southern Belles and Mississippi Cruise" departs Atlanta on 20 May and 11 November. scenic.com.au
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6. Longer Galapagos
Most Galapagos cruises last three or four days, but it takes a week to do the archipelago justice, given the abundance of wildlife and the fact that some creatures are confined to only one island. Highlights of Celebrity Xpedition's 14-night voyage include encounters with giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, and snorkelling with marine iguanas. Not ready to go home? Take a tour extension to Machu Picchu in Peru.
7. Nobu at sea
Nobu Matsuhisa's celebrated Japanese-Peruvian fusion is served every day in the sushi bar and the Silk Road restaurant on Crystal Cruises' two ships, but on one Alaskan voyage on Crystal Serenity in July, the master chef will personally host dinners including an omakase. There are treats ashore, too: a crab feast in Ketchikan, a salmon bake in Juneau and traditional English afternoon tea in Victoria, British Columbia. Other stops include Skagway, Sitka and Prince Rupert, and scenic cruising in Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage.
Crystal Serenity's nine-night "Grandeur of Alaska" departs Vancouver on 17 July. crystalcruises.com
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8. Caribbean Caviar
On a bad day, the entire Caribbean can seem overrun by disillusioned passengers, big ships and touristy towns. The best way to see this marine playground is on the smallest ship you can afford. A 102-passenger SeaDream yacht, for example, can negotiate the pint-sized coves of the British Virgin Islands and French West Indies. Don't miss a swim in the bioluminescent bay on Vieques, or the beach party at Jost Van Dyke island where Champagne and caviar are served at a floating bar by crew, in uniform, waist-deep in the ocean. On balmy nights reserve a Balinese bed on a private deck to sleep under the stars.
Seadream II's seven-night "San Juan-San Juan" departs Puerto Rico's capital on 8 April next year. seadream.com
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9. Seychelles by submarine
Crystal Yacht Cruises, an offshoot of luxury line Crystal Cruises, launched its first ship, the 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, late last year, equipped with a two-person submarine (30-minute rides cost $860). That alone is almost enough reason to book, but its season in the Seychelles is the clincher. Zodiacs, jet skis, water skis, wakeboards, fishing rods and other aquatic toys are provided for playtime. Land-based pleasures are considered, too, with overnight stays at seven of eight stops allowing the added freedom of evenings, as well as sunny days, ashore at white-sand islands such as Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
Crystal Esprit's seven-night "Seychelles Round-trip Victoria" has multiple departures from January to March next year. crystalyachtcruises.com
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10. Bali to Fiji
South Pacific cruises from Australia tend to start with two long days at sea. Instead, fly to Bali and make a beeline for the destinations. Next year Paul Gauguin Cruises, known for its impeccable service, embarks on voyages between Indonesia and Fiji via Komodo Island, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Paul Gauguin's 17-night "Bali to Fiji" departs on 7 June next year. pgcruises.com