By Susan Hanson
Originally appeared in April 2015 issue of Virtuoso Traveler
This is the Virtuoso.com execution of the April 2015 Virtuoso Traveler
cover story on '26 Reasons To Set Sail Now.' (Essentially, 26 reasons to consider cruising as your next vacation.) To make it more manageable online, we broke the story out into five sections; use the arrows to navigate. If you're interested in booking a cruise as your next vacation, connect with your Virtuoso advisor – or click here to find one.
You can also explore Virtuoso's Voyager Club program, which offers tremendous amenities for cruisers.
1. Small Fortunes:
Seeking hidden Caribbean coasts, SeaDream Yacht Club enjoys rare access to some of the region’s tiniest ports. The line’s twin mega-yachts, 112-passenger SeaDream I
and SeaDream II
, are small enough to enter such overlooked gems as Anegada in the British Virgin Islands and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Union Island, hailed as the “Tahiti of the West Indies.” Complimentary water-sports equipment from the ships’ marinas – including WaveRunners and stand-up paddleboards – allow for intimate exploration of secluded bays and untouched beaches.
2. Picture-Perfect Moments:
Shutterbugs can join two immersive, 15-day photographic expeditions through the wildlife-rich waters of Baja California. Thanks to Lindblad Expeditions’ exclusive alliance, a professional National Geographic
photographer will be on board the 62-passenger Sea Lion
for informative talks, shore excursions, and hands-on instruction.
3. Continuing Education:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises recently joined forces with the Smithsonian Institution to bring some of the world’s most authoritative voices on board a majority of the line’s voyages in 2015 and 2016. The lecture series includes top minds in such diverse fields as history, art, and geopolitics, who will lead discussions and provide deeper insights into destinations stretching from South America to Asia. The new enrichment series complements Regent’s shore-excursion program, which provides unlimited, complimentary tours in every port of call.
4. Personalized Voyages:
True to Viking River Cruises’ claims that its new Longships offer all of the amenities of a fine, floating hotel, the line introduced a new concierge service throughout its fleet of river cruisers. Want a private tour of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg? Tickets to the Mariinsky Ballet? The onboard concierge service is just one way that Viking lets guests customize their trips, including tailor-made shore tours and travel guides for exploring independently. In addition to Russia, Viking cruises to China, Southeast Asia, Egypt, and across Europe.
5. Pretty Perspectives:
Guests of Disney Cruise Line sip signature cocktails while watching Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família roll past at the Skyline bar, which features altering city-scapes from around the Continent. As the “views” change, so do the music, art, and drinks. It’s just one of the themed venues that line the adults-only Europa entertainment district on the 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy.
6. Art For Art's Sake:
With one of the most highly regarded art collections at sea, Oceania Cruises showcases works by masters such as Miró and Picasso, along with emerging artists like Carlos Luna and Li Domínguez Fong. A new complimentary, self-guided audio tour offered on the 1,250-passenger Marina
provides behind-the-scenes insights into the dozens of curated pieces aboard each ship, as well as the artists who created them.
7. Solo Time:
Tauck has eliminated single supplements on its 2015 European river cruises for guests in outside Category 1 cabins. Solo travelers who want more space and amenities can still save $1,000 on dozens of sailings while staying in Category 4 and 5 staterooms featuring floor-to-ceiling French balconies.
8. Wild Times With Jeeves:
Watching the mating dance of blue-footed boobies now comes with personal butler service, thanks to Silversea Expeditions. Year-round Galápagos voyages aboard the newly upgraded, 100-passenger Silver Galapagos
pair your sense of adventure with all-suite accommodations and Relais & Châteaux-inspired cuisine, along with a fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks and an expert expedition team.
9. High-Flying Adventures:
Daredevils cruising with Royal Caribbean International will experience an adrenaline rush from the first-ever skydiving simulator at sea. Take the 23-foot leap aboard the line’s 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas
and its soon-to-debut Anthem of the Seas
10. Sleek Ships:
Seabourn plans a repeat performance of its groundbreaking Seabourn Odyssey
when it unveils the 604-passenger Seabourn Encore
in late 2016. The cruise line enlisted the help of master designer Adam D. Tihany, who describes the new ship as “imbued with a sense of spontaneity and exhilaration [to] elicit surprise and delight.”
11. Pedal Power:
River-cruise line AmaWaterways provides a fleet of more than two dozen bicycles (plus helmets) for use in ports across Europe. Passengers can join complimentary guided cycling tours or venture off on their own along scenic riverside pathways.
In the same vein, Virtuoso advisor Lynda Turley
of Saratoga, California notes: “Hoping to explore your Jewish roots? AmaWaterways offers heritage cruises along the Danube that visit synagogues and focus on the region’s rich Jewish legacy.”
12. Classic Concerts:
Music legends Crosby, Stills, and Nash will croon their folk-rock hits during an eight-day transatlantic sailing aboard the 2,620-passenger Queen Mary 2
. The Grammy-winning trio plans to perform three concerts when Cunard’s flagship sails from New York to Southampton as part of the company’s 175th anniversary celebration.
13. Time To Soak It All In:
One of just two Princess Cruises’ ships built in Japan, the recently refurbished, 2,670-passenger Diamond Princess
honors its roots with an 8,800-square-foot Japanese bath and garden complex that replicates a traditional onsen experience. Features include an outdoor lounge area with footbaths, a dry sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows, open-air skylights to connect with nature, and a stone bath with an utaseyu (cascade) of hot water designed to invigorate tired muscles.
14. Tall Tales:
Spin spine-tingling yarns while climbing the 60-foot-high lookout station (in a safety harness, of course) aboard Star Clippers’ fleet of three authentic tall ships. Modern-day explorers can set sail in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and through the Panama Canal, as well as on transatlantic crossings.
15. Two-Steps And Tangos: Dancing with the Stars
fans will soon be able to strut their stuff on a number
of voyages with Holland America Line. Celebrities and professional dancers from the show will be on board to perform choreographed routines, while guests get their groove on during complimentary dance classes and competitions. Even those without twinkle toes can participate by voting for their favorites. Dancers with the highest score from each sailing will win a free cruise aboard the 2,106-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam
to compete for the overall title in January 2016.
16. Penguin Poses:
Yogis traveling to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions need not give up their practice aboard the 199-passenger Ocean Endeavour
. Joining Quark’s fleet for the 2015-16 season, the newly refurbished, ice-strengthened ship will be the only one in the region to focus on health and wellness with daily yoga and fitness classes, healthy meal choices, and other activities to keep guests in tip-top shape while exploring the bottom of the world.
17. Windows To The World:
Avalon Waterways’ guests can see more of Europe when sailing in a Panorama Suite on one of the river-cruise line’s Suite Ships. Open-air balconies are pushed to the edge of each vessel, bringing the villages and castle-dotted countryside right inside each stateroom. What’s more, the beds are turned toward the floor-to-ceiling windows for optimal viewing pleasure.
18. Deep Experiences:
Certified divers on select South Pacific voyages with Paul Gauguin Cruises will have the chance to join Jean-Michel Cousteau on several dives off the water-sports marina aboard the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin
. The celebrated oceanographer and environmentalist, who will also present lectures and videos of his work, is part of an impressive lineup of guest luminaries to be found on board throughout 2015.
19. Best Bets:
Players of three-card poker and blackjack can raise the stakes with Crystal Cruises this year. The line is now allowing guests to convert shipboard credits into slot vouchers and special table-game chips at the Nevada-style gaming casinos aboard the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity
and 922-passenger Crystal Symphony
20. Walking The Plank:
Families find plenty of ways to play at the three-story Sports Complex on Norwegian Cruise Line’s 3,969- passenger Norwegian Breakaway.
Features include Free Fall, the fastest drop water-slide at sea; a ropes course; a nine-hole miniature golf course; and the Plank, which extends eight feet over the side of the ship.
21. Swinging Affairs:
Legendary Red Sox players accompany baseball fans on an eight-day Caribbean sailing aboard Celebrity Cruises’ 3,046-passenger Celebrity Reflection
. Hall of Famer Jim Rice, 2004 World Series closer Keith Foulke, and other greats will travel on the round-trip Miami voyage for Q&A and autograph sessions.
22. Creature Features:
While in Darwin during an 18-day Australia voyage aboard the 686-passenger Azamara Quest
, Azamara Club Cruises’ guests can pay a private visit to Crocosaurus Cove – a giant aquarium that houses nearly 200 crocodiles – to watch as some of the ship’s officers drop into the “Cage of Death.” Afterward, there’s a chance to hold a baby croc while it’s being fed. The event is part of the line’s exclusive collection of complimentary shore experiences that reveal local cultures in some extraordinary way.
23. Field Trips:
International Expeditions offers educational tours that have kids leaving the schoolhouse behind for the wilds of Costa Rica, the Amazon, Nicaragua, or the Galápagos Islands. These student travel programs provide hands-on lessons in science, conservation, and indigenous cultures while providing opportunities to make a positive impact on fragile environments. A complete course curriculum is included, as are expert naturalist guides in each country. A nice touch: Teachers travel for free with as few as ten students.
24. Grand Cru Getaways:
Foodies escape to central Burgundy with French Country Waterways, leisurely cruising through the history-rich region while sipping its finest Chablis. Every meal aboard the 12-passenger luxury barge Nenuphar is a memorable event, featuring fresh ingredients and accompanied by Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines. The tastiest highlight: dinner ashore at the three-Michelin-starred Le Relais Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu.
25. Massages On The Mekong:
Since launching in 2014, Aqua Expeditions’ 40-passenger Aqua Mekong
has been making a splash along its namesake river with modern styling and inspired Asian cuisine from Michelin-starred executive chef David Thompson. Among the ship’s many bespoke features: a spa offering a full menu of holistic treatments, including Khmer massages and Vietnamese aromatherapy.
26. Winds Of Change:
Windstar Cruises is expanding its small-ship fleet yet again with the addition of two reimagined all-suite sailing yachts. Following stem-to-stern transformations this spring, the 212-passenger vessels – rechristened Star Breeze
and Star Legend
– will debut in Nice on May 6 and Rome on May 25, respectively. Notable features include the top-deck Yacht Club, perfect for coffee and conversation; Windstar’s signature AmphorA Restaurant, with Murano glass accents and a new outdoor dining area; and the Star Screening Room, showing new-release films. The two ships will join sister Star Pride, which debuted in 2014, and, not to be outdone, will undergo its own renovations in 2016.
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