CRUISING has become a popular option for many holidaymakers, and while most people take to the sea to enjoy the sun or explore somewhere new, for some it's a way to enjoy a break with like-minded people. Welcome to the world of theme cruises, where fans of sport, dance, movies and everything in between share their passion.
Cruiseco has responded to demand with a seven-night Cruise N Groove voyage on Rhapsody of the Seas. Departing on October 5 from Sydney, the cruise will head for the Isle of Pines and Noumea; on board and performing will be legends of the Motown and disco eras, including the Temptations, Leo Sayer, Marcia Hines and the Village People.
If rock'n'roll is more your style, the 2013 Simple Man Cruise on Norwegian Pearl departs from Miami on October 20 (simplemancruise.com). Stopping at Key West and NCL's private island of Great Stirrup Cay, guests will enjoy four days of southern rock shows, including Lynyrd Skynyrd. If your musical taste lies even further south, Norwegian Pearl will also host the Best Country Cruise Ever departing from Miami on January 12, 2014 (countrycruising.com). The seven-night Caribbean cruise features Trace Adkins and Neal McCoy.
P&O is offering its first Mother's Day-themed cruise this autumn. Departing Sydney on May 10, the three-night cruise on Pacific Jewel has gourmet dining at Luke Mangan's Salt Grill, Australia's largest spa at sea, a chocolate cafe and adults-only haven the Oasis.
Crystal Cruises has one on-board Crystal Symphony aimed at fans of the stage and silver screen. Leaving New York on November 2, the 14-day cruise to Miami has highlights including Marilyn Monroe tribute artist Susan Griffiths and lectures by Turner Classic Movies historian Jeremy Arnold.
Package of the week
Book by February 16 for a free upgrade on selected staterooms and a shipboard credit of up to $US60 on a 21-night Canada-Alaska package from eCruising. Departing on August 31, it begins with a three-night stay in Las Vegas, before heading up to Calgary to explore Banff and Lake Louise. You join the Rocky Mountaineer train in Jasper for Vancouver by way of Kamloops, and finally you board Princess Cruises' Star Princess for a seven-night Alaska cruise, ending in Seattle. Priced from $6879 a person, twin share, including flights with V Australia, hotel accommodation, the train and the cruise. 1300 369 848, ecruising.travel.
Avalon's newest "suite" ship, Expression, will be launched in Europe by best-selling New York-based travel writer Patricia Schultz, who penned 1000 Places to See Before You Die. She will christen the ship in Cochem on the Moselle River on May 6.
Royal Caribbean is offering three new itineraries in its 2013-14 Australasia program. They include two new South Pacific sailings on Voyager of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas, and, due to a growing demand for shorter cruises, a three-night weekend cruise on Voyager of the Seas in January 2014.
Amsterdam enjoyed a record number of cruise ship visits in 2012, a total of 145, an increase of 18 per cent on 2011. This year is expected to be even better, with the Dutch city set to welcome 150 ships and more than 300,000 passengers.
LAUNCHED 1999 PASSENGERS 680 REGULAR HAUNTS Europe, Australasia, Asia, India and Africa BEST FOR Couples THE DETAILS A 16-night south Pacific cruise from Sydney to Papeete, departing on November 4, is priced from $2699 a person, twin share. 13 24 88, princess.com.
Need to know
1 Ocean Princess began its life at sea as Renaissance Cruises' R4. After Renaissance closed in 2001, it was bought by Princess Cruises and relaunched in 2002 as Tahitian Princess, then renamed Ocean Princess in 2009 after a major upgrade.
2 At 30,277 tons, it is one of two Princess' smaller ships and ideally suited to summer cruising. Over 90 per cent of its accommodations are outside, with 73 of these sporting private balconies.
3 Accommodations range from inside staterooms to large suites, with a decor featuring blue and cream with warm wood. Standard facilities include a TV, safe and hairdryer, with suite guests enjoying additional perks including a CD/DVD player, complimentary mini-bar and upgraded bathroom amenities.
4 The formal dining operates on a fixed seating basis, with alternatives including Italian restaurant Sabatini's, the Sterling Steakhouse and Ultimate Balcony dining for guests with balcony accommodation. The casual option is the Panorama buffet.
5 There is one pool with two jacuzzis, a Lotus Spa and gym, a jogging track, a 24-hour internet cafe and a library. Entertainment includes a theatre with Broadway-style shows and first-run movies, a casino, and enrichment lectures.
Port Watch: Bratislava, Slovakia
Need to know Slovakia's capital city is a popular port of call on Danube river cruises, lying at the heart of central Europe, about 50 kilometres from Vienna, near the Austrian border. It's a charming maze of narrow streets, historic buildings and places to shop, eat and drink. Ships dock near the old town, which allows for easy exploration on foot.
Do not miss Bratislava has a long history and most of the city's popular sights are accessible from the river. Top of the list are Bratislava Castle, which sits on top of a hill, and St Martin's Cathedral, which is one of the city's biggest and oldest churches. Also worth a look are the Grassalkovich, or Presidential Palace, a rococo/baroque summer palace with an attractive French garden, and the Slovak National Theatre, in which legendary artists including Mozart and Haydn performed.
Is it true that river boats sometimes dock side by side?
- A. da Silva, Watsons Bay.
Yes, this is true, and it's an accepted part of river cruising. Traffic on rivers has increased over time, making it necessary for one ship to moor next to the river bank and another to dock beside it. Guests on the second ship embark and disembark across the top decks of both and, at really busy times, ships can be three deep. The assignment of docking is down to the authorities at the port of call; neither the cruise line nor a ship's captain has any control or influence over which ship goes where in the docking.