'Destination immersion" seems to be the phrase of the moment, and although it just means spending more time in port getting to know a place, it makes me think of being immersed in a tub of water or a bubbling mud bath. Anyway, it's a welcome trend that was started by Azamara Club Cruises with its Azamazing Evenings program, and one that's being embraced by Celebrity Cruises, among other cruise lines.
Celebrity's new Signature Event Sailings take destination immersion a step further by offering cruises that include access to major sporting and cultural events around the world.
If you're a film buff, Celebrity Equinox's May 11 cruise from Barcelona, which calls into Cannes during the city's famous film festival, will appeal. There will be a VIP party on shore featuring live music and cocktails, and on the ship there will be screenings of past prize-winning movies. A film historian will be on board to give insights. P&O Cruises' World Cruising's Azura, Silversea's Silver Spirit, NCL's Norwegian Epic and SeaDream II will also be at Cannes for the festival.
Other big-ticket events included on various cruise lines' itineraries next year are the Monaco Grand Prix in May (Azamara, Crystal Cruises, Windstar Cruises); the historic Redentore Festival in Venice in July (Celebrity); the British Open in Edinburgh in July (Azamara, Celebrity); and Chinese New Year in Hong Kong (Celebrity, Crystal).
Having your accommodation and tickets all looked after in one package makes it a lot easier than booking everything yourself, and once the party on shore is over, the cruise carries on to fresh ports.
Meet the crew
NAME Jacqueline Todd, from Canada
POSITION Guest services supervisor/groups co-ordinator, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Spirit.
MY JOB It's similar to working at the front desk in a hotel, but a lot more exciting. I assist in all group bookings and functions onboard Carnival Spirit and provide information.
MY TYPICAL DAY You will see me all over the ship. If I'm not running around, I'm at the guest services desk.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT All the people and friends I have met have enriched my life forever.
FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS I love Mexico, but here on the Spirit I love Mystery Island in Vanuatu. The snorkelling is like no other.
TIP FOR PASSENGERS Don't be afraid to try something new.
While you are up there - in the Arctic, that is - you can now add overnight dog-sledding and snowmobile safaris to a Hurtigruten voyage. The 30-kilometre husky ride is along the Finnmark dog race track, and the snowmobile trip takes you along a frozen fiord to Pasvik Valley. The trips can be combined with Hurtigruten voyages departing between January 5 and April 5, starting or ending in Kirkenes, Norway.
Adventure in five-star style
This month, Lindblad Expeditions is making more changes to its newest ship, National Geographic Orion. The Observation Lounge will feature a library and a self-serve drinks station, while the Lounge will have a "circle of truth" space for presentations by experts. In March, the ship was fitted with exploration tools including tandem kayaks, a remotely operated vehicle reaching depths up to 300 metres, scuba gear for 24 divers, and a glass-bottom boat.
OFFER OF THE WEEK
The Cruise Express 37-day fly/cruise/stay "European Sojourn" hosted tour includes two cruises - 12 nights in the Mediterranean on Celebrity Constellation and a 14-night round-trip from Southampton to Iceland and Norway aboard Celebrity Eclipse. Departing Australia on June 5, the package starts at $11,990. Phone 1300 764 509, see cruiseexpress.com.au.
CRUISEABOUT Get a 43 per cent discount and free cabin upgrade when you book select Cunard cruises before September 30. Phone 1300 450 133, see cruiseabout.com.au.
ACTIVE TRAVEL is offering $1000 off flights when you book one of eight Arctic voyages in Canada and Greenland in 2015. Valid to September 30. Phone 1300 783 188; activetravel.com.au.
Cunard's Insights program attracts high-profile speakers from all walks of life, and the onboard presentations are always packed out. Next year's line-up includes the former president of South Africa, F. W. Klerk; BBC journalist and war reporter Kate Adie; British actor Robert Powell; broadcaster and royal-watcher Caroline Aston; and motorsport commentator Murray Walker. Q&A sessions follow many of the talks, and it's advisable to arrive at least 10 minutes early to make sure you get a seat.