New luxury cruise ship Seven Seas Splendor to make maiden voyage in February, 2020

LAP OF LUXURY

Although many travel brands describe themselves as 'luxury', in the cruise world only a handful of lines qualify for the true, five-star luxury experience, according to the authoritative Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.

This year, three of those select lines are launching new ships – Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea and SeaCloud Cruises – while cruising newcomer, the international Ritz-Carlton hotel group, is launching the first of three boutique vessels.

First to set sail is RSSC's Seven Seas Splendor, making its maiden voyage from Barcelona to Miami on February 6. The 750-passenger ship will be under the command of Captain Serena Melani, the first woman in the cruise industry to helm a new cruise ship right from its launch; among the ship's many extraordinary features is a $US5 million, 300-piece art collection.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's 298-passenger Evrima was also due to launch in February but is now scheduled to make its seven-night maiden voyage on June 14, from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca.

Next up is Silversea's Silver Moon, a sister to flagship Silver Muse. The 596-passenger ship will make its debut on a cruise from Trieste to Rome on August 6, introducing the line's S.A.L.T. (Sea Land and Taste) program that takes regional cuisines to new levels, onboard and ashore.

SeaCloud Cruises' third tall ship, SeaCloud Spirit, is due to set sail on August 29. SeaCloud Spirit is a three-masted, fully rigged sailing ship that will accommodate up to 136 passengers and joins the venerable 1931-built SeaCloud and its sister SeaCloud II for Mediterranean, Caribbean (including Cuba) and Central America cruises.

SOLAR ECLIPSE

In December 2021, Hurtigruten will offer travellers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the solar eclipse from one of two expedition ships. The eclipse on December 4 will only be visible from Antarctica and it will be 75 years before a similar opportunity presents itself. "We will sail both the world's first hybrid expedition ship, MS Roald Amundsen, and her sister ship MS Fram to prime positions outside the South Orkney Islands aiming to see this spectacular natural phenomenon, if weather permits," said Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam. See hurtigruten.com.au

SPIRIT AND THE PRINCESS

Later this year Australia's oldest express train, the famous Spirit of Progress, is returning to Sydney to undertake a six-day heritage rail and sail journey to Melbourne. Departing on April 3, The Spirit of Progress will make the two day-trip south, with an overnight in Albury, where passengers will board Princess Cruises' Golden Princess for a two-night cruise back to Sydney. Cruise Express, which specialises in cruise and heritage rail holidays, has helped resurrect the Spirit of Progress to full working order to preserve an important chapter in Australian history – and celebrate nostalgic, 'slow travel'. See cruiseexpress.com.au

AHOY, BOOK LOVERS!

Returning for its second year, Cunard's Literature Festival at Sea kicks off on December 1, 2020 with a seven-day program of literary events including talks, workshops and book-signings as Queen Mary 2 sails its traditional transatlantic voyage from Southampton to New York. Among the featured award-winning authors are Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Prue Leith. McCall Smith said, "On the great liners of the past, people had time to read books and talk about them. I look forward immensely to meeting readers, talking about books, and watching the broad Atlantic go by." See cunard.com

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CRUISEQUIZ

Which international cruise line's ships don't have a Deck 17 because it's considered to be bad luck in its country of origin? Last week's answer: Queen Elizabeth

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CONSTANT CRUISER

ROSEMARY AND GARRY STAFFORD, ROSE BAY, NSW

NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN 23

LAST CRUISE We did two cruises nearly back to back. The first was a 14-day cruise to New Zealand on Majestic Princess – it went from Sydney to Fiordland for scenic cruising, and then on to Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Tauranga, Auckland, Bay of Islands and back to Sydney. A week after our return we sailed on Diamond Princess to Japan to see the autumn colours. We flew to Haneda and boarded the ship at Yokohama and travelled to Shimizu (Mt Fuji), Toba, Osaka, Kochi, Kagoshima, and Busan (South Korea).

NEXT CRUISE We're flying to Rome to board Enchanted Princess, the newest ship in the fleet, for a 25-night repositioning cruise in November this year. Ports of call include Kotor, Dubrovnik, Athens, Santorini, Katakolon, Corsica, Toulon, Barcelona, Malaga, Casablanca, Tenerife, the Azores and across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale.

DREAM SHIP Any Princess ship.

DREAM CRUISE Any cruise that finishes in Sydney so that we don't have to worry about the weight of our luggage if we have to fly home from overseas.

DREAM PORT Bora Bora in French Polynesia – the snorkelling is sublime.

BEST CRUISE TIP To get to the highest (Elite) status in Princess' loyalty program requires either 150 days of cruising or 15 cruises. The easiest way to do it is via the 15 cruises as you can do two-day cruises to build up your total, for example Sydney to Melbourne. Once you are at Elite level you enjoy perks such as free laundry, free minibar, free internet and priority embarkation.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CRUISE

Send 250-word submissions for Constant Cruiser to sally.macmillan@traveller.com.au. Use the same format as right and attach a high-resolution photo of yourself. All published contributions receive a $50 voucher from Travelgear.com.au

Travelgear.com.au has a huge range of travel accessories, from international SIM cards to luggage and gift suggestions and ships free to Australia and New Zealand. See travelgear.com.au

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