MONDAY MYTH BUSTER – MYTH: CRUISES ONLY GO TO TOURIST HOT SPOTS
“I can show you the world,” sings Aladdin in the eponymous Disney classic. Well, being in possession of a magic carpet, lucky old Al could travel from Aqaba to the Russian Steppes in the twitch of a camel’s tail. For those of us without any airborne Axminster, taking a cruise is an excellent way to travel far from the Madding Crowd.
Yes, the cruise industry offers plenty of voyages to perennial tourist favourites (and indeed it would be remiss not to), but look beyond that quick trip to the Med and cruising can really take you off on an adventure.
Keep transfer time at a minimum with a cruise around an ancient history-steeped realm, made up of over 6,000 islands and boasting spectacular coastlines and beautiful landscapes: the British Isles. A great option for those who don’t wish to fly, the British Isles is rich in diverse cultures, customs and traditions and is home to a fascinating mix of places from remote islands to bustling coastal towns.
Turn summer on its head with a bracing cruise to the Arctic. Head north in July/August to catch the Arctic’s flora in full bloom, watch glaciers calving and spot polar bears, walruses and the native birds before they migrate. Sail with Hurtigruten and you can even enjoy a spot of silent whale watching from an electric powered schooner.
Big-ship sailings are available with lines like P&O, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line, midsize ship sailings can be booked with lines such as Saga and Fred Olsen, luxury sailings are offered by Seabourn and Oceania, and ice-strengthened expeditionary cruises capable of sailing further north are offered by Silversea and Lindbland Expeditions amongst others.
Next year will see the launch of luxury expeditionary yacht Scenic Eclipse which will head to the Arctic on its maiden voyage. With an on board helicopter and a 7 person submarine capable of diving to depths of 200m, the Eclipse really will take you into the heart of the rugged, ice-kissed landscape.
For a historical voyage in more clement climes try a European river cruise with lines like Avalon Waterways, Viking River Cruises, Voyages to Antiquity or CroisiEurope. Cruise and Maritime Voyages offer a week-long cruise of the river Seine designed to take in the delights of several stunning medieval cities such as Honfleur, Antwerp and Rouen, where you can visit Monet’s House and Garden.
Take an Emerald Waterways cruise to UNESCO world heritage site the Douro Valley where you can visit quaint villages, enjoy history lectures, have an on board yoga lesson, see pre-historic stone carvings and hike through vineyards. Or for a Scandinavian twist visit Sweden’s waterways with Fred Olsen aboard the ship Boudicca and gaze in wonder at the fjords before reaching Malmo, Visby, Stockholm (a city sprawled over 14 islands that are linked by over 50 bridges) and going on to Gothenburg.
Head further afield with a cruise on the Mekong River where you can experience the majestic architecture of Angkor Wat and the floating markets of Cai Be. Also filled with Eastern promise is the APT luxury cruise on the Irrawaddy river on which you can visit the Tantkyitaung Pagoda encircled by 32 elephant statues, watch a pottery making demonstration in Yandaboo and take in the ancient ruins of old Pyu kingdom capital Sri Ksetra in Pyay.
Tired of Brussel sprouts-filled festive seasons? Then spend Christmas day in Cochin with Celebrity’s 2017/18 festive voyage to India. Swap a dispiriting game of charades for a stroll along Fort Kochi beach, visit the church where famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama is buried and watch a Kathakali dance. Or, smile your way through a UK Christmas with your relatives then reward yourself with Celebrity cruise from Quito in Ecuador to the Galapagos, taking in Daphne Island – home to sea lions, pelicans and blue-footed boobies – before heading to volcanic Isabela Island with its large land iguanas and giant tortoises. You can even walk through the remains of an underwater reef uplifted 6 metres by a volcanic eruption.
Finally, if you simply can’t decide which of the myriad cruise destinations to pick (and you have a lot of free time on your hands) then book onto Oceania’s Round the World in 180 days cruise. This really is a cruise for all ages – the youngest sailors to have completed the trip were aged 6 and 9 – which visits all the tourist hot spots as well as lesser known but fascinating destinations like Nuku Hiva, Corinto, Kaohsiung, Newfoundland, Salalah and the Bay of Fundy.
Words: Sarah Glayzer