Following the launch of its "Discovery Collection" of shore excursions in the Mediterranean and elsewhere last year, Celebrity Cruises has now released a new range of Australia and New Zealand small-group experiences accompanied by local insiders, and available on cruises aboard Celebrity Solstice. Among the options is a visit to Cloudy Bay winery in the Marlborough region in the company of a winemaker, a ride on the Steampunk Train and visit to a blue penguin colony in Dunedin, and a tour of the Yarra Valley to taste craft wines, chocolates and ice-creams.
Phone 1800 754 500. See celebritycruises.com.au
Aqua Expeditions has scheduled two special departures in 2019 on Aqua Mekong with acclaimed Australian chef David Thompson, known for his expertise in Thai cuisine, and a consulting chef on the ship since its inauguration in 2014. Guests will accompany Thompson to local markets to learn about Vietnamese ingredients, attend a master cooking class, and participate in an interactive Q&A session, and will also dine on the dishes he creates during the cruise. The four-night sailings between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh depart on August 16 and September 13, 2019.
Phone 1300 124 204. See aquaexpeditions.com
CALL OF THE WILD
Wild Earth Travel is sailing across the top of the world to explore the Russian Arctic aboard renowned Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov this year. The expedition crosses the Arctic Circle to visit isolated, pristine Wrangel Island and the scenic shores of Chukotka. Wrangel Island is perhaps best known for its large polar bear population, while this Arctic region is also home to the world's largest population of walruses and significant numbers of grey and humpback whales and elusive bowhead whales. The cruise has departures on July 8 and 22, and August 5, 2019.
Phone 1800 107 715. See wildearth-travel.com
Windstar Cruises has announced it will spend $344 million on improving the guest experience on its three Star Class ships. The all-suite ships will be lengthened to increase capacity from 212 to 312 passengers and allow the addition of 50 new suites, as well as two new dining locations, a new retail space, much-enlarged fitness centre and new spa facilities. More environmentally friendly engines will also be installed. The work on Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride will take place in Italy between October 2019 and November 2020.
Phone 1300 749 875. See windstar.com.au
Ecruising has a journey departing on May 23, 2019, that takes passengers from Tokyo to Alaska and Canada before finishing in San Francisco. The 28-night package starts with three hotel nights in Tokyo before guests embark on Crystal Symphony for a 22-night cruise that visits northern Japanese island Hokkaido, Petropavlovsk on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, Dutch Harbour in the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak Island and various ports in Alaska. The ship then sails down the Inside Passage to Victoria and Vancouver, with three hotel nights in San Francisco rounding off the adventure.
Phone 1300 369 848. See ecruising.travel