The secret’s out – cruising is a wonderful way to see the world, and the number of us going on cruises is rising faster than any other type of holiday.
During a magical cruise along the River Napo in Ecuador four years ago, I saw more wildlife in a week than I had done in a lifetime – and was hooked. Although adventure and discovery are my preferred type of cruise, close behind on the wish list come the winter sun destinations of the Caribbean, the Med and the UAE. For what could be nicer than sunbathing on the top deck, enjoying a glass of something sparkly while watching the sun dance around on the turquoise water? All the while knowing that your luxurious cabin and a top chef’s restaurant are just a short stroll away, and that tomorrow you’ll be escorted ashore to see some of the world’s most spectacular sights – and there’s a totally different port of call the next day.
Cruise holidays are whatever you want them to be, the service on board is second to none (leaving many five-star hotels standing), plus they’re often the best way to see a country – whether it’s sailing into far-flung destinations such as Japan or Antarctica, gliding along Europe’s great waterways or even around our own coastline. But don’t just take my word for it – jump aboard!
1. DISCOVER JAPAN
The Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Norwegian fjords are still the top three cruise destinations for Brits. But as more people discover the benefits of cruising, the demand for new places to explore by water increases, so in 2017, the place everyone is talking about is Japan.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association of UK and Ireland’s (CLIA) recent Asia Cruise Trends study, it’s the biggest destination in the continent. It is the second-most popular destination in the world for Princess Cruises, whose passengers can choose between a short sailing combined with a land holiday or 14 nights or more in the Pacific Ocean.
Passengers want to see the “real” Japan as they travel from north to south of Japan’s four islands. A typical itinerary includes sailing into Osaka for Kyoto and the iconic tea houses and Geishas.
Kobe is another key port. Explore former merchants’ mansions in Kitano-cho at the foot of the Rokko Mountains, and try the prized Kobe beef. Navigator
William Adams was the first Englishman to reach Japan in 1600 and he became the first Western Samurai. Discover his legacy during a port of call to Nagaski.
In Kanazawa, on the west coast, explore the home and history of the Samurai and Geisha before stepping on the Shinkansen Bullet train to Tokyo. Other calls to consider are Aomori, to see cherry blossom displays in spring, and Sakai, a town devoted to Japan’s cartoon culture, manga.
Who sails there?
- Diamond Princess (princess. com, 0843 374 2401) has 16 nights round trip from Kobe on 20 May 2017 from £1,969pp cruise only; return flights from £642pp.
- Nautica (oceaniacruises.com, 0345 505 1920) has 15 days from £2,760pp, including flights, departing Hong Kong to Shanghai on 20 February 2017.
- Silver Wind (silversea.com, 0844 251 0837) has 16 days from £5,950pp, departing Tokyo to Hong Kong on 22 September 2017.
2. CHOOSE A STAY-CRUISE-ATION!
Have you ever thought about sailing around our 7,500-mile coastline? Forget traffic jams on busy roads – sail into cities such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Dublin and Belfast. In St Peter Port, Guernsey, you can walk the cliffs before getting back on board, at Cobh, in Ireland, taste whiskey at the Jameson Heritage Centre and perhaps be one of the first to visit the V&A Museum of Design in Dundee, when Saga Sapphire makes her maiden call next July.
Smaller ships can sail into tiny ports including Holyhead off the coast of Wales for tours of Snowdonia National Park, and Falmouth for Dartmouth on the English Riviera.
CLIA reported a 12 per cent rise in departures from the UK last year. Andy Harmer, VP Operations, CLIA Europe said, “We can sometimes forget what’s on our doorstep. The Scottish Islands provide the chance to view amazing wildlife, and how about sailing up the River Thames to take in London’s incredible skyline, visiting the Giant’s Causeway or Balmoral Castle?”
Who sails here?
- Try a one-night sampler cruise from Southampton to Falmouth on Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca (fred.olsen cruises.com, 0845 869 0650) on 31 March 2017, from £79pp.
- Saga Sapphire (saga.co.uk/ cruises, 0800 50 50 30) 12-night Highland Fling cruise, from £2,352, departs Dover on 31 July 2017.
- Aegean Odyssey (voyagesto antiquity.com, 01865 302550) 16-day England, Ireland & Scotland cruise, from £2,495, departs London Tilbury on 13 July 2017.>
3. Sail from the UK
Did you know there’s a cruise port within 90 miles of any UK home? That means you can start your cruise adventure from the UK without having to go through laborious airport check-ins. As Andy Harmer says, “The idea of not flying, no long periods at sea and no borders to cross, is appealing to many and, with more than 50 ports to choose from around the UK, I predict UK sailings will continue to prosper.”
Although the main ports are in Southampton, Dover and Portsmouth, you can also sail from Bristol, in the South West, Tilbury or Harwich in the South East, as well as Greenock, near Glasgow, which all make for convenient no-fly options.
The Port of Tyne is convenient for sailings over to Scandinavia and Liverpool makes it easy for a cruise to Iceland. In the South, you’ll find world cruises often depart from our biggest port, Southampton.
Cruises to the Med and the Canaries depart from almost every port and mini-cruises to the Continent for first-time cruisers depart from Dover and Southampton with convenient train connections. Swan Hellenic, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Fred. Olsen, Saga, Cruise & Maritime, Voyages to Antiquity, Norwegian Cruise Line are among the cruise lines that will offer regular sailings from the UK in 2017.
woman&home Travel offers sailings from the UK on Cruise & Maritime’s (CMV) new addition to the fleet, Colombus. It will sail from London Tilbury in summer and autumn 2017 with a programme of cruises to Continental Europe, Norway, Iceland, the Baltic, the British Isles, Spain and Portugal, the Canary Islands and the Caribbean.
Depending on your time and budget you can choose from a three-night mini- cruise to Amsterdam and Antwerp to a 46-night cruise to Grand Cuba, Belize, Panama and the Caribbean.
Visit newmarket.travel/iwh or call 0330 160 7854 quoting code IWH to see our latest offers and special deal.
4. The A Stars
Adventure is another expanding area of the cruise market, and Antarctica, Alaska and the Arctic all offer very different experiences…
ANTARCTICA is the coldest, most remote region in the world, 600 miles from the nearest civilization. The Great White Continent is separated from the mainland of Ushuaia, in Argentina, by the infamous Drake Passage. In 2015, there were 36,686 visitors, compared with around one million to Alaska.
Fewer than ten per cent of those visiting Antarctica were from the UK, but figures are set to rise with cruise companies adding new sailings during winter 2016/17.
Choose between expedition or scenic cruises to witness the majestic landscape, marvel at gigantic icebergs, watch penguins and wonder at whales breaking the icy silence. Expeditions are on smaller ships, offering adventures such as cross-country skiing, snorkelling, ice climbing, kayaking and camping overnight, while scenic sailing tends to be on larger ships where the experience is more a voyage to take in the scenery.
The best time to travel to Antarctica is from the end of November to the end of February. Some expedition cruises include the Falklands and South Georgia. There are usually expert lectures on board, but many excursions come at an extra cost, so be sure to check what’s included.
Who sails there?
- Seabourn Quest (seabourn.com, 0843 373 2000) 21-day Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia cruise, from £7,499pp (cruise only), departs 2 February 2017 from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile.
- MS Midnatsol (hurtigruten.co.uk, 020 3582 6642) 15-day Adventure from Cape Horn to the Penguins of Antarctica, from £4,763pp, departs 21 January 2017 from Santiago de Chile
THE ARCTIC If you want the chance to see polar bears, cross the Arctic Circle on a cruise ship to the Svalbard archipelago.
It’s a beautiful sailing north along the length of Norway to watch the landscape change from forested hills to tundra, and on summer cruises, passengers can enjoy the 24-hour midnight sun.
Watch for whales and walruses throughout the sailing and at Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, on the island of Spitsbergen, look for the Arctic fox and reindeer, as well as the polar bears.
Ny-Ålesund is the world’s most northern settlement and was the departure point for historic expeditions to the North Pole, so embrace the sense of adventure on dog-sledding excursions or zodiac tours to get close to the glaciers.
Take a winter cruise to the top of Norway and you could be rewarded by seeing the Northern Lights. Alta is a favourite port of call and cruise ships often stay a night or two to maximise the chance of seeing the magical aurora borealis.
Who sails there?
- Balmoral (fredolsencruises.com, 0845 314 2421) has a Wonders of Spitsbergen 14-night cruise from £1,799pp, departing Newcastle on 10 June 2017.
- MS Nordstjerneen (hurtigruten. co.uk, 0203 8117262) offers a six-day Spitsbergen and polar bear adventure from £1,248pp, departing Longyearbyen (cruise only) on 8 June 2017.
- Saga Pearl II (saga.co.uk/cruises, 0800 50 50 30) offers a 15-night Northern Lights cruise from £2,768pp departing Southampton on 2 February 2017.
ALASKA is America’s Last Frontier – an unspoilt landscape of glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and mountains with an abundance of wildlife. During summer, temperatures can reach up to 72F, with long days of sunshine in this vast land that’s north-west of Canada. The cruise season runs from May to September, when ships sail into Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Glacier Bay before crossing the border into Victoria, British Columbia.
Nature reserves make up 85 per cent of the landscape and visitors can join tours to look for bears, take boat rides to get up close to sea otters, eagles and seal pups or zip-wire through tree canopies. From Juneau, Holland America offers guests the unique experience to soar above five glaciers in a DeHavilland Beaver float plane, followed by a fireside King Salmon feast at the picture-perfect Taku Lodge.
When sailing, nothing beats relaxing in the ship’s cocktail lounge, scanning the horizon for whales. But, if you’re too busy enjoying yourself to spot them on the cruise, you’ll have plenty of opportunity on one of the many whale-watching trips organised by Holland America. The best stretch of water is in Victoria, where your odds of seeing humpback and orca whales close up increase to 90 per cent.
W&H INSIDER TIP Holland America runs free picture editing workshops with a resident “techspert”. They will not only help you take great pictures from the deck but also tell you how to edit them, use Photoshop and understand how to use your camera better – even the one on your phone.
Who sails here?
- MS Eurodam (hollandamerica. co.uk, 0843 374 2300) seven-night round trip from the Port of Seattle, from May to September, starts from £699pp (cruise only). Return flights from the UK to Seattle with British Airways from £602pp.
5. Arabian Dreams
The lure of winter sun, desert adventures and a great choice of flights from UK airports means the Middle East is another popular new cruise destination.
There’s plenty of razzle-dazzle in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – booming cities of glass and steel with luxurious hotels, opulent palaces and majestic mosques.
Several cruise lines will base ships in the UAE throughout the winter, and Dubai’s Port Rashid is expected to welcome around half a million cruise tourists this year.
In Abu Dhabi, a new cruise terminal has just opened as a district of
world- class museums is being created. The Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre
Abu Dhabi opens in 2017, and will be followed by the Guggenheim Abu
Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum. For adventurous types, destination
expert Ben Fogle has devised an exciting on-shore excursion for
Celebrity Cruises, which includes a 4×4 Jeep experience, a camel ride,
and sandboarding on the dunes and traditional local cuisine under the
Who sails there?
- Celebrity Constellation (celebritycruises.co.uk, 0844 493 2043) has 14 nights from £1,299pp (cruise only), and offers Ben Fogle’s shore excursion (see above). Regular sailings throughout winter 2016-17 from its home port in Abu Dhabi.
- Thomson Celebration (thomson. co.uk/cruise, 0203 451 2682) has 14 nights from £1,265, departs Dubai on 16 January 2017, including return flight from Birmingham Airport.
- Azamara Journey (azamara club cruises.co.uk, 0844 493 4016) 10-night Arabian Gulf & Emirates cruise, from £2,039pp (cruise only), departs Dubai 14 November 2017.
- MSC Fantasia (msccruises.co.uk, 0203 426 3010) has a seven-night round cruise departing Dubai from £1,019pp incl Emirates flights from London. Sailings from December 2016 to March 2017, price based on 17 December departure; calls to Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Khor al Fakkan and Sir Bani Yas Island.https://cms.womanandhome.com/index.php/Articles/edit/id/540579
6. The strand cruise in Burma
It’s not just ocean cruises that are catching holidaymakers’ imaginations, river cruises are showing phenomenal growth, especially in south-east Asia.
Last year, Burma saw a 40 per cent rise in passengers keen to see the fairytale Buddhist shrines and learn about everyday life along the river. Luxury boutique river cruiser ships include The Strand Cruise, which operates a schedule of three- and four-night itineraries on the Ayeyarwady River (also known as The Elephant River), between the ancient cities of Bagan and Mandalay. The 27-cabin vessel has a swimming pool, you can have a relaxing massage on board, and the upper deck is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner.
The vessel has access to private moorings and a highlight of the itinerary is an exclusive overnight call at Ava, allowing passengers access to the beautiful temple of Maha Aungmye Bonzan. When the crowds have gone, Strand Cruise guests can visit the temple to enjoy a peaceful evening.
Who sails there?
- Cleveland Collection (cleveland collection.co.uk, 0203 111 0812) offers a three-night Stand Cruise from Mandalay to Bagan from £1,369pp, sharing a Deluxe air-conditioned cabin. Price includes three meals during full sailing days, breakfast on day of disembarkation, sightseeing and English speaking guide.
7. Europe’s Best River Cruise
There are some great value cruise deals on European river cruises, and woman&home, with Riviera Travel, offers a choice of five-, eight- and 15-day sailings to cultural cities and pretty villages along the Rhine, Seine, Danube, Moselle and Douro. Jump off Rivieria’s elegant five-star cruise ships and step straight into Budapest’s Central Market or visit castles along the romantic Rhine as the ships sail into the heart of these historic destinations.
The five-day Amsterdam, Volendam and the Dutch Bulbfields cruise starts from £709pp, while eight-day cruises start from £1,099pp, and 15-day cruises from £1,799pp on selected departures to November 2016, and April to October 2017. Prices include return rail and Eurostar, or flights, taxes and transfers; five-star cabins with hotel-standard beds, private bathrooms and river views; full board and exceptional cuisine plus fully inclusive touring programmes.
Cruise the world from just £137 a couple a night! woman&home Travel (newmarket.travel/iwh200006, 0330 160 7854, quoting code IWH and Q9CRWD), offers a 121-night World Cruise on 5 January 2018, departing London Tilbury on CMV’s Columbus. PLUS, if you book before 31 October 2016, we’re offering up to 25% off the first person and the second passenger is half-price*. The cruise includes four continents; three oceans; 40 ports of call including Tahiti, Auckland, Sydney, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai; and Panama and Suez transits as well as full-board accommodation, Captain’s Cocktail parties, and big show entertainment, cabarets and classical interludes. First person pays from £11,029 and second person pays from £5,519 (including saving)