Stanley Tollman, chairman of the Travel Corporation, which owns luxury river-cruise company Uniworld, calls its collection of 13 vessels "work-of-art ships". It is an apt description. Every ship is an individual, decked out with the finest furniture, exquisite fabrics and, of course, antiques and artworks from all over the world.
Across the fleet you might spot pieces by Matisse and Picasso, the Murano glass horse from the Tollman family's glass factory in Venice or the huge sapphire Baccarat chandelier that once graced New York's famed Tavern on the Green restaurant.
The ships are designed to reflect the regions in which they sail – Europe, Russia, Egypt, India and south-east Asia – and having just launched the sumptuously revamped SS Bon Voyage in France, Uniworld will introduce four more Super Ships next year.
First to set sail, in January 2020, will be Mekong Jewel, a spacious, all-suite, 68-passenger ship that will offer 13-day itineraries between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. A few days later, SS Sphinx will make its debut on the Nile. Egyptian artworks, fabrics and hand-carved furnishings will adorn the 42-suite ship, which promises to be the "most luxurious on the river".
In March, SS Sao Gabriel launches on Portugal's Douro, another destination that has become very sought-after in recent years. Its 50 lavishly appointed suites will have butler service and guests will enjoy plenty of fine Spanish and Portuguese wining and dining.
SS La Venezia also sets sail in March. The fully transformed River Countess will cruise through and around Venice, the Po river and outlying Venetian islands. As the elegant, slimline SS La Venezia will accommodate a maximum of 130 guests, it can expect a much warmer welcome in La Serenissima than ocean-going megaships.
Cruise lines are returning to Turkey after a few years' hiatus and Celestyal Cruises' new Eclectic Aegean Route takes in destinations of particular interest to Australians. Seven-night itineraries in October and November 2019 and from April to October 2020 include Cannakale, for the Gallipoli Battlefields and ancient city of Troy; Istanbul; Volos in Greece, to see the clifftop monasteries of Meteora; and the perennially popular Greek ports of Santorini, Mykonos and Athens. Celestyal Crystal accommodates 1200 passengers and very reasonable fares include 23 shore excursions and a drinks package. See australia.celestyalcruises.com
Find out everything you've always wanted to know about Arctic expedition cruises with Adventure Canada at free seminars in Sydney on July 9. Cruise Traveller's managing director Craig Bowen and product manager Sam Patton, who recently sailed the Northwest Passage, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, will host the events and cover everything from ship info to packing lists and the ins and outs of Zodiac travel. Exclusive offers and light refreshments will be available at the 2pm to 3pm and 6pm to 7pm sessions. Spaces are limited; register at arctic-seminar.eventbrite.com.au
There is no chance of missing Norwegian Cruise Line's latest ship when it's in port – Norwegian Encore's colourful hull artwork, by celebrated Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo, is designed to make a big impression. Encore is the fourth and final ship in the Breakaway-Plus class and is packed with NCL's favourite features, including a two-deck go-kart track, laser tag, massive aqua park and hot-off-Broadway shows such as Kinky Boots. Norwegian Encore's inaugural cruise from Southampton to Miami starts on November 2, 2019. It will then cruise to the Caribbean from Miami. See ncl.com
When will Princess Cruises' newest ship, Sky Princess, make its maiden voyage?
Check this space next week for the answer.
Last week's answer: The Magic Carpet
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JOHN HARLOW, BOSSLEY PARK, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN 27
LAST CRUISE An eight-night cruise to New Caledonia on P&O Cruises' Pacific Explorer. We had a great time stopping at Noumea, Mare and the Isle of Pines. They are all lovely ports – Isle of Pines in particular has such fantastic natural beauty and for me it is a world-class destination.
NEXT CRUISE Our next cruise is something completely different, a 14-day Rhine river cruise. We travel from Budapest to Amsterdam, which will be an interesting contrast to ocean cruising from Australia.
DREAM SHIP Our dream ship should have fine food, a good selection of entertainment and activities and, of course, clean, comfortable accommodation.
DREAM CRUISE As long as I am with my wife and meeting very friendly people, crew and passengers, then I am on my dream cruise.
DREAM PORT The Isle of Pines for its natural beauty, pristine beaches and waters. A great place to relax and soak up the ambience.
BEST CRUISE TIP Just enjoy the cruise – don't over-plan. Try new things and most of all enjoy the company of new-found friends.
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