EYES ON ASIA
Asia has long been a surprisingly overlooked cruise destination, but that has changed, with more Asian ports receiving more ship visits. Next year, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, Crystal Cruises has developed a particularly interesting Asian cruise season with visits to new ports (including Belawan in Indonesia, Sanya in China and Aomori in Japan) and more overnight stays, as well as later evening stays in ports such as Sihanoukville in Cambodia, Keelung in Taiwan and Pusan in Korea. Some cruises concentrate on Malaysia, Vietnam or Indonesia, while two are all-China. Phone 1800 251 174. See crystalcruises.com.
IN THE PINK
Cruising is generally a glorious self-indulgence, but now travellers can give a little back from their time afloat. Aussie-owned company Chimu Adventures is leading an expedition to the Antarctic in November 2015 in support of the McGrath Foundation. Proceeds from cabin sales on the "Pinktarctica" voyage will support breast-cancer nurses and raise awareness of breast cancer. McGrath Foundation director Tracy Bevan and artist Ken Done will accompany the 12-day journey from Ushuaia on board the expedition ship Sea Adventurer. Phone 1300 213 045. See chimuadventures.com.
ONLY WAY TO GLIDE
Aqua Expeditions launches a third luxury vessel on the Mekong this month. The 20-cabin Aqua Mekong (which will also be chartered by Abercrombie & Kent) sails between Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia and features five-star comforts such as walk-in rain showers, on-board spa and Vietnamese-influenced cuisine. Kick back and relax: with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, you don't even need to budge as you watch bamboo forests, Buddhist pagodas, jungle-tumbled mountains and stilt villages float by. All accompanied by a gin pahit once the sun is over the yardarm, of course.
Phone 1800 243 152. See aquaexpeditions.com.
Iceland has a seafaring history that started with the Vikings, and there's still no better way to arrive in this land of fire and ice than by sea. In June next year, Cruise Express is offering a 21-day Voyage of the Vikings tour to Iceland, which includes a 14-night cruise out of Southampton on Celebrity Eclipse. The cruise takes in several Norwegian fjords, the remote Faroe Islands and the highlights of Iceland, including a visit to the quirky art deco town of Akureyri the "capital" of northern Iceland which sits snug at the end of the country's longest fjord.
Phone 1300 764 509. See cruiseexpress.com.au.
In recent years, clever marketing by European river-cruise companies has extended the sailing season right into November and December with themed Christmas cruises, and it seems passengers can't get enough of old towns draped with fairy lights. Many are shorter itineraries, but Scenic Tours is offering longer festive floats. A November 24 cruise between Budapest and Amsterdam takes in Christmas markets in places such as Vienna, Rothenberg, Nuremberg and Cologne, while the reverse trip, departing December 15, spends Christmas Day in Linz, with an Austrian Christmas feast and midnight mass and (hopefully) plenty of gluhwein.
Phone 1300 723 642. See scenictours.com.au.