Travelling with a famous person adds an extra element of excitement and fun to your holiday and this year several well-known stars of screen, stage and sport are hosting ocean and river cruises.
Scenic has three hosted river cruises lined up: Getaway host Catriona Rowntree will cruise the Seine on June 19; author and historian Peter FitzSimons will also cruise the Seine, on June 19; and Ray Martin will cruise the Mekong on August 22.
A Scenic spokesperson said, "Catriona is one of Australia's most well-travelled women and we know our guests love sharing in her travel knowledge from 20 years spent travelling the world with Getaway. Peter's extensive war history knowledge makes this cruise a must for history enthusiasts as it is a fantastic opportunity to visit this fascinating part of France with an expert host to enhance the experience. And Ray is a great storyteller with a wealth of interesting material from his years in journalism that he will be sharing with guests on board." See scenic.com.au
Popular movie critic duo Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton will be leading Travelrite's Film Festival at Sea cruise, a circumnavigation of the British Isles onboard Celebrity Silhouette in August. There will be screenings of films chosen by Pomeranz and Stratton followed by lively discussions in the theatre.
Travelrite is also offering a Royal Islands of Britain cruise in June, hosted by media personality Tim Webster – this one is onboard Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess – and a cruise of Iceland, Greenland and Scotland with the extremely well-travelled, well-known George Negus in August, onboard Holland America Line's Prinsendam. See travelrite.com.au
There are still a few last-minute spots available on Chimu's 12-day Antarctica voyage in February, which will be accompanied by TV's high-profile partners Andrew Denton and Jennifer Byrne. They have visited the White Continent several times and will be presenting special lectures, insights and hosting a trivia night onboard the 110-passenger Sea Spirit. The voyage is raising funds for the Make a Difference (MAD) project. Actor Samuel Johnson will be onboard Chimu's 10-day Epic Antarctica adventure in March – he will take a polar plunge (with no dry suit) to raise funds and awareness for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. See chimuadventures.com
Closer to home, sports fans can meet rugby league stars Steve Price and Steve Mortimer on P&O Cruises' Holden State of Origin cruise on Pacific Jewel in May, or on Pacific Aria in June. Fares include a bronze ticket and transfers to ANZ Stadium or Suncorp Stadium, seven nights of footy-themed entertainment, Q&A sessions, photo opportunities and a star-studded, post-game wrap-up. See pocruises.com.au
MEET THE CREW
NAME Sara Bakin, from Britain
POSITION Youth activities manager, Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas
MY JOB I manage the shipboard youth recreational activities, entertainment and "edutainment" for those under 17.
A TYPICAL DAY… starts with coffee, followed by a walk around the jogging track to breathe in the sea air and spot some dolphins (if I'm lucky!). I head to the children's club next to make sure everybody is having fun and to join the children for a game of dodgeball. After winning, I go to my office to complete the children's planner for the next day so they can check out all the child-only and family fun activities available onboard. Lunch is always followed up with a deliciously large dessert, and then I'll host a family activity such as prize bingo or the famous selfie hunt. In the evening I put on my dancing shoes and jump on the deck to show off my best disco diva moves and give out prizes to our junior groovers.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENTS There are so many! But my top three would have to be seeing whales breaching in Alaska, gazing at the breathtaking scenery in New Zealand's Milford Sound and sailing past an active volcano in Hawaii.
FAVOURITE CRUISE PORT Sydney – nothing beats watching the sun rise above Sydney Opera House as we go under the Harbour Bridge to dock at Circular Quay.
INSIDER TIPS Make sure the children pack their funkiest pyjamas for PJ night and their disco outfits for our super-fun parties.
Travel health planning should ideally start at least six weeks before you go away, but it is never too late to seek good advice. See smartraveller.gov.au to see what vaccinations you need.
Wine Education Courses at Sea
Wine lovers on Cunard cruises can now study the subject in depth and receive a certificate (if they pass the exam) from the world's largest provider of wine and spirits qualifications, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Courses will be held on Queen Mary 2's westbound trans-Atlantic crossings and world voyages and will be rolled out to Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth later this year. WSET works with approved program providers in more than 70 countries to offer its qualifications to interested enthusiasts and industry professionals, ranging from level one Awards in Wines, Spirits and Sake to the prestigious level four Diploma in Wines and Spirits. Guests can book a WSET course by calling Cunard ahead of their journey or speaking to the sommelier onboard. See cunard.com
Two new ships for Lindblad
It's going to be a big year for Lindblad Expeditions: not only is the renowned adventure travel company launching two new ships, it is celebrating 50 years of operating in the Galapagos Islands. National Geographic Endeavour II officially launches in January – Lindblad bought the ship from Australis and has spent several million dollars and more than a year refitting and customising it. National Geographic Endeavour II now accommodates 96 passengers in 52 outside cabins and will sail 10-day itineraries year-round in the Galapagos. Lindblad's 100-passenger National Geographic Quest, which is being built in the US, will set sail on a voyage to Alaska and British Colombia in June and will specialise in cruises to the tropical coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and through the Panama Canal to Belize. See au.expeditions.com
Vanuatu pops up onboard P&O
P&O Cruises Australia is strengthening its relationship with the Vanuatu community by becoming the first cruise line to sell locally made products onboard its ships.
Guests on cruises calling at Vanuatu's capital, Vila, can now buy handicrafts such as woven bags, a range of skincare products and soaps, specialty coffee, chocolate, spices and the nation's popular vanilla at a special onboard pop-up stall dedicated to locally made products. So if you've been too busy sightseeing or exploring around Vila to check out the shops and markets, as the ship sets sail you'll be able to buy presents and souvenirs on board. P&O Cruises president Sture Myrmell said, "Every sale helps support business in Vanuatu and ensures communities benefit from the growth of cruising."
DEAL OF THE WEEK
MSC Cruises is offering big discounts on its Arabian Highlights fly-land-cruise package. It includes return airfares, transfers, one night's accommodation, and a seven-night cruise on MSC Fantasia visiting Dubai, Muscat and Khor al Fakkan in Oman, and Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Weekly departures from Australia until March 17, 2017; from $2589. Phone 1300 028 502, see msccruises.com.au
CAPTAIN COOK CRUISES FIJI Book any 11-night Lau and Kadavu Discovery Cruise, seven-night Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands cruise, or seven-night Four Cultures or Colonial Discovery cruise and receive three free nights. Fares for the seven-night cruises start from $1995, for travel until March 31, 2018; offer valid until February 28, 2017. Phone 1300 86 3454, see www.www.captaincookcruisesfiji.com
CRUISE TRAVELLER Sail from Greece to Madeira onboard Voyages of Antiquity's 350-passenger Aegean Odyssey this spring. The 18-night fly-stay-cruise package departs Australia on April 14 and includes three nights in Athens, the 16-night cruise, 13 shore excursions and wine or beer with dinner onboard. From $6795 when booked by February 28; phone 1800 507 777, see cruisetraveller.com.au