CROSSING THE LINES
As cruising continues to attract ever more fans across the globe, so the industry is becoming more diverse. Traditional ocean lines are venturing into river cruising, long-established river-cruise companies such as Scenic and Viking are making successful inroads into ocean cruising, and international hotel group Ritz-Carlton is planning to build three high-end, 298-passenger ships for its new Yacht Collection. Its first, Evrima, is due to set sail in June.
Boutique company Aqua Expeditions is the latest to cross the divide; having made its name in luxury river expeditions on the Amazon and Mekong, it is now going coastal, launching the beautifully refurbished 30-passenger Aqua Blu around Indonesia later this month. Aqua Blu will be equipped with kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and diving and snorkelling gear for year-round cruises exploring Raja Ampat, Ambon and the Spice Islands, and Komodo National Park.
Crystal Cruises continues to expand at a rate of knots. In 2015 it operated two classic ocean ships, Serenity and Symphony; by 2018 it had added five river ships (Crystal Mozart has now moved elsewhere) and Crystal Yacht Esprit. Next up is the first Crystal Expedition yacht; the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor joins the fleet in August 2020 and will be sailing in local waters soon after. The 800-passenger Crystal Diamond, the first in a new class of luxury ocean ship, is due in 2022.
It all adds up to good news for cruisers because there are more ship and itinerary choices than ever before. And it's not all about luxury – Viking is planning to have 16 of its phenomenally popular adults-only ocean ships sailing the world by 2027.
Ponant has released two new cruise collections that are guaranteed to tempt adventurous travellers – The Caribbean and Latin America (38 voyages, departing between September 2020 and April 2021, that include evocative destinations such as the Caribbean, Belize, Grenadines, Martinique, Guatemala and the Amazon River); and the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Polynesia (48 voyages, departing between October 2020 and May 2021, to exotic places such as the Seychelles, Madagascar, India, Easter Island and more). Itineraries range from seven to 16 nights on the world's youngest fleet of small-scale, luxury expedition ships. See au.ponant.com
Discover the sights and sounds of America on an eight-night music-themed cruise along the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers – the birthplace of many popular music genres – onboard the American Queen Steamboat Company's 166-passenger American Duchess, a beautifully reconstructed paddle-wheeler. The ship departs Louisville, Kentucky on May 3, 2020 and en route to Clarksville, Tennessee, the onboard lectures and entertainment will focus on the sounds of New Orleans jazz, Delta blues, Memphis rock and soul, and Nashville country. Book by December 31, 2019 to save up to $US1000 a couple. See cruisetraveller.com.au
SHORT AND SWEET
Evergreen Cruises and Tours has launched a series of shorter cruises for travellers who might be time-poor but still want to experience Europe's waterways, often as part of a wider overseas trip. Itineraries include the eight-day Jewels of the Rhine (Amsterdam to Zurich); nine-day Eastern Europe Enchantment (Bucharest to Budapest); and nine-day Delights of the Danube (Munich to Budapest). Evergreen's fleet of Emerald Star Ships (Scenic's sister company) are among the most modern afloat and offer great value; fewer inclusions means fares are lower than on ultra-luxury river lines. See evergreentours.com.au
Which cruise ship now cruising locally has a Lawn Deck planted with half an acre of living grass? Last week's answer: The Panama Canal connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
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EVELYN FREELAND, MAROUBRA, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN
We took our very first river cruise in May with Viking, from Budapest to Amsterdam. River cruising is great, visiting a new port each day. When we're selecting a cruise, the main factor is that it takes us to new places. Most of the ports were new to us and each one had outstanding stories and history to learn. We're currently compiling our river-cruise wish list for the future.
For years I've wanted to do Norwegian Cruise Line's trip around the Hawaiian Islands onboard Pride of America, and an invitation to a friend's 60th birthday next September gave us the perfect opportunity.
Until recently, we had only ever cruised on 2700-passenger ships; however, sailing on smaller ships (Holland America Line's Prinsendam and Seabourn's Seabourn Quest spring to mind) have shown that small can be just about perfect.
Generally speaking, to somewhere new. Tahiti would be ideal: we've never been there before and the idea of balmy nights on deck is very seductive.
So many to choose from, but New York stands out as the starting point for a special cruise to New England and Canada.
BEST CRUISE TIP
First, work out your ideal itinerary and then find the ship, which can make or break the trip. I always check the ship's age; there's a lot to be said for the design and space of the newer ships. And remember, cruising can take you to places you've never dreamed of.
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