Elvis may have left the building 40 years ago but his fan base just keeps on growing. The 2018 Parkes Elvis Festival last month attracted record numbers of Elvis impersonators, musos and music-lovers – and Elvis-themed cruises are another growth industry. Although April's Elvis and All That Jazz cruise in the US sold out several months ago, there's still time to book Cruise n Groove: Elvis Presley, sailing out of Sydney on Radiance of the Seas in November.
Meg Hill, managing director of Cruise Express, has seen bookings for music cruises double over the past year. "As Australians become more seasoned cruisers, they are increasingly seeking more specialised or themed cruises to indulge particular passions like opera, jazz, rock or country music," she says.
Music cruises coming up this year include two that are setting sail from Southampton in May: Back to the '80s on board Navigator of the Seas and Bravo! A Cruise of the Performing Arts on board Celebrity Silhouette.
Performers on Back to the '80s include Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley, the Go-Go's Belinda Carlisle, UK duo Go West and Kim Wilde of Kids in America and You Keep Me Hangin' On fame. The seven-night round-trip cruise goes to Bilbao, Vigo and Lisbon in Spain, departing on May 6.
The seven-night Bravo cruise, departing on May 19, features opera superstar Katherine Jenkins, multi-talented singer Alfie Boe, uber-cellists Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd-Weber and a host of top names in the performing arts. Celebrity Silhouette visits Cherbourg (France) and Spain's Vigo and Bilbao. A highlight is a private tour of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, followed by a reception in the atrium.
In November, Radiance of the Seas will host Australia's own Bravo! A Cruise of the Performing Arts, starring award-winning performers such as Todd McKenney and Teddy Tahu-Rhodes with popular TV personality Kerri-Anne Kennerley on board as presenter.
Country music fans can bootscoot their way onto the seven-night Cruisin' Country 8 Pacific island cruise on Radiance of the Seas, which leaves Sydney on October 9. Top-rating artists include John Williamson, Gina Jeffreys and James Blundell and keen amateurs can hone their skills with dancing lessons, guitar workshops and open-mic sessions.
A seven-night Rock the Boat 2018 cruise will sail from Sydney for the Pacific islands on October 28, also aboard Radiance of the Seas. Veteran rockers Foreigner will headline the cruise along with an illustrious line-up of Australian musos, including The Romantics, Russell Morris, Shannon Noll and The Eurogliders.
THE PORT Moscow, Russia
WHO GOES THERE APT, Scenic, Travelmarvel, Uniworld, Viking.
WHY WE LOVE IT Russia's populous capital is the country's booming business hub. It is packed with historic and architectural monuments as well as towering skyscrapers and shabby Soviet-era apartment blocks and is buzzing on a major scale. Parks, theatres and a thriving nightlife add to its growing international appeal.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? River ships are docked at North Pier, which is about an hour by foot and metro from the city. Bus tours have to be carefully timed because of the choked traffic. Most river cruises include two or three days in Moscow, so take an organised tour the first day for an overview of key sites (the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, GUM department store, Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square). Half-day tours to Novodevichy Convent and the Cosmonaut Museum are well worth taking. Once you're oriented, pick and choose from additional special-interest tours, such as the Kremlin Armoury or take a map with directions in Cyrillic and English directions and do your own thing.
MUST SEE Garage Modern Art Museum in Gorky Park; Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the largest church in Russia; Bolshoi Theatre (book well in advance to see a ballet); Old Arbat pedestrian shopping area, for touristy souvenirs; Sparrow Hills at night, for views of the river and city.
MUST EAT Borscht, of course; blini, traditionally filled with smoked salmon, caviar, dill and smetana (sour cream) but they can be served with almost anything; pelmeni, dumplings stuffed with savoury mince, or vareniki, the vegetarian version; pirogi, stuffed sourdough dumplings. Ask your Russian cruise director for restaurant recommendations.
NEED TO KNOW Credit cards are not accepted everywhere, so keep some cash roubles in your pocket. You usually have to pay about 40 roubles to use public toilets and some churches charge a small photography fee.
More than 27 million people are projected to cruise this year, according to an annual report released by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) Australasia.
Cunard's youngest ship, Queen Elizabeth, will be cruising Down Under for two months next year, in a first for the famous line. The elegant, 2080-passenger ship will be based in Sydney and Melbourne between February and April 2019, and now's the time to book – the short cruises are expected to sell out quickly. Itineraries range from two to 18 nights and include Australian coastal cruises in WA, SA, Victoria, Tasmania as well as several cruises to New Zealand. On board, the emphasis is on Cunard's grand heritage; expect traditions such as ballroom dancing and afternoon tea in the Queen's Room, formal dining and art deco elegance throughout. There's plenty of nightlife in the clubs and bars as well as entertainment in the pub and Royal Court Theatre. See cunard.com
More UAE with MSC
MSC Cruises has operated cruises in the United Arab Emirates for seven seasons and in November this year MSC Lirica will join MSC Splendida in the region. MSC Lirica, which was stretched and refurbished in 2015, will sail extended itineraries of 11 and 14 nights. Two overnight stays in Dubai and cruises to India are on offer for the first time and fares are family friendly (under-12s cruise free when sharing a cabin with their parents). Highlights of cruises from Dubai to India include calls at Abu Dhabi, where the new Louvre Museum opened recently, and picturesque Muscat in Oman. In India, Lirica will visit bustling, historic Mumbai, Goa – famed for its beaches – and temple-studded Mangalore. The season runs from November to March. See msccruises.com.au