WE HAD the opportunity to wrap up 2012 in style, cruising from Bali to Melbourne on Regent's Seven Seas Voyager. We joined the ship before Christmas for a leisurely 10-night meander through some interesting ports of call in Western Australia, and through the Great Australian Bight. Seven Seas Voyager was in the middle of a new "Grand Voyage". Not a world cruise as such, it's a long voyage visiting multiple countries, with segments starting and finishing in different destinations.
Grand voyages and world cruises are an evolution of the line voyage, when people used ocean liners to travel between continents. The good news is that they're back in fashion. Silversea Cruises has a number of Grand Voyages in 2013, including a 39-day cruise from Las Palmas to Istanbul by way of Morocco, the Greek islands and Egypt on Silver Wind departing on March 2. In 2014, however, Silver Whisper will leave Los Angeles on January 6 for a 113-day World Cruise to Barcelona, visiting 59 destinations in 29 countries along the way.
Princess has a unique 90-day Round Europe cruise on Dawn Princess, a round trip from Sydney departing on July 13, visiting iconic ports of call including Athens, Venice and Cannes, as well as destinations in south-east Asia, the Maldives, Jordan and India.
Then, in 2014, Pacific Princess will head out of Fort Lauderdale on January 20 bound for Athens on a World Cruise with highlights including more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage locations. At the luxury end of the scale, Seabourn Sojourn will embark on a 116-day world cruise also from Los Angeles on January 4, 2014. En route to Venice, and for the first time on a world cruise, it will explore Western Australia with stops scheduled in Bunbury, Geraldton and Exmouth.
Package of the week
Explore the Mediterranean and Caribbean with a 35-night package from eCruising. Departing on October 13, it begins with a flight to Barcelona and a three-night stay. Then board Norwegian Epic for a 27-night cruise with ports of call including Naples, Rome (Civitavecchia), Marseille, a trans-Atlantic crossing, and further stops in St Maarten, the US Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. The cruise ends in Miami with a two-night stay, followed by three nights in Las Vegas before flying home. Book by March 31 for a balcony stateroom priced at $6639, or a mini-suite at $7739, both a person, twin share. 1300 369 848, ecruising.travel.
Royal Caribbean is building a third Oasis-class ship. The unnamed vessel, a sister to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, will be delivered in mid-2016 and continue the line's trend towards huge ships and initiatives such as themed neighbourhoods.
If you're under 35 and love to party, consider a Croatia Blue (croatiablue.com) cruise. There are two new seven-night itineraries to choose from, exploring the Dalmatian Islands on a vintage motor-sailing ship. Swim and snorkel by day, then dance the night away at a Croatian hot spot.
P&O Cruises has partnered Save the Children Australia to give something back to the Pacific island communities it visits. Guests will donate $1 through their on-board accounts to raise more than $1 million in four years to fund initiatives such as a new kindergarten in the Vanuatu province of Sanma.
LAUNCHED 2003 PASSENGERS 134 REGULAR HAUNTS The Rhine, Main and Danube rivers BEST FOR Couples THE DETAILS A 10-day cruise from Amsterdam to Antwerp (or the reverse) is priced from $3809 a person, twin share, with departures between March 23 and April 25. 1300 780 231, uniworldcruises.com.au.
Need to know
1. Fresh from a makeover in 2012, this luxurious river cruiser has a new look, with highlights including soft blue and green colours, stylish soft furnishings, fine artworks and a marble-floor lobby in chocolate brown and white.
2. Its 63 river-view accommodations come in five categories; those on the Rhine Deck sport open French balconies. Features include Savoir of England beds, pillow menus, marble bathrooms, L'Occitane bath products and flat-screen TVs.
3. River Duchess also has four spacious, lavish suites, with a host of perks including daily fruit and cookie plates, a DVD player and iPod docking station, a Nespresso coffee machine, bottled water and free laundry service.
4. Uniworld is one of only three cruise lines to earn the Top Dining award from the Zagat Cruise Lines Survey. The ship's Palace Restaurant handles all meals in an open seating basis, featuring menus of quality international cuisine.
5. All guests enjoy complimentary specialty coffees and teas from the 24-hour bar, use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks, and free internet with wi-fi access. River Duchess also has a library, sun deck, fitness centre and sauna.
Port watch: Waitangi, New Zealand
Need to know The main access point for the Bay of Islands region in the country's far north, Waitangi is also an area of great historical importance for New Zealand. Ships anchor in the bay and use tender boats to ferry guests ashore to a pier. If you are not taking an excursion, the town and nearby areas can be explored on foot.
Do not miss The Waitangi Reserve is one of New Zealand's most important sites, where Chief Hone Heke Pokai led other Maori chiefs to sign treaties with British authorities in 1840 at the small white Treaty House. This part of New Zealand, however, is best experienced by boat. The pick of the excursions is a catamaran tour visiting the islands, landmarks such as Cape Brett Lighthouse and the famous Hole in the Rock off Cape Brett. Kayaking the bay is also another popular pastime for the adventurous.
I would like to send my daughter and her new husband on a cruise. They're in their early 30s and money isn't an issue. What do you suggest?
- S. Myer, Clovelly.
Cruising has moved up in the rankings of romantic holiday options and there are plenty of small, intimate ships exploring exotic locales with romance in mind, such as SeaDream Yacht Club and Seabourn Cruise Line.
For a truly romantic experience, however, it's hard to beat MS Paul Gauguin. Purpose-built to cruise the south Pacific, it spends most of its time in Tahiti.
It also offers all-outside accommodation, is boutique in size and is all-inclusive.