By Meryl Pearlstein
With 8 days of Chanukah and 12 days of Christmas for gifting, here are a total of 20 ways to treat your family and friends to a cruise. Choose from ocean voyages, river floats, expedition cruises and small-ship sails, each offering something sure to please everyone on your holiday list. No wrapping paper required!
Cruises in North America
On Windstar’s newly “stretched” Star Breeze, the 11-day Alaskan Splendors cruise has four departures in June, July and August, a perfect time to escape the heatwave back home. Starting with an overnight in Anchorage, the ship departs from Seward, visiting glacial formations and lagoons including Kenai fjords, Misty fjord and Tracy Arm fjord. Daily excursions find guests kayaking alongside the glaciers, dogsledding on a glacier, searching out wildlife and more. If you’ve ever wanted to see bears, otters and bald eagles all in one trip, this is the cruise for you. The voyage ends in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Hawaii is a guaranteed winner for a cruise with flawless weather, culture, scenery and varied cuisine. Norwegian Cruise Line’s seven-day Hawaii: Interisland cruise on the Pride of America brings you to five islands, starting from Oahu and visiting Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. This NCL holiday encourages you to relax and take in the lush backdrop as you drift along. For something more active, you can try your skills surfing or hiking.
Cruising in Mexico is always a pleaser and Princess Cruises knows the country well, offering seven-day sailings from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera their newest ship, the Discovery Princess with stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. For a trip you’re sure to remember, plan ahead to book the special 10-day sailing to see the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 from a port call in Mazatlán on the day of the eclipse. This one is certain to sell out even if it’s a year away. https://www.princess.com/
Ocean Sailings in Europe
An exceptional gift for a family or a group of friends, a crewed yacht cruise in Croatia is a bespoke experience where no wish is too large. Goolets, a charter company based in Slovenia, offers a variety of yachts for a range of budgets – you don’t need to be a celebrity to sail like one! For luxury seekers, the newly refitted Freedom superyacht offers comfort for 22 people with plenty to do. There’s a theater, sauna, massage salon, gym, myriad water toys and fine dining throughout your trip. The family-oriented, 30-person Ohana, also refitted, is less expensive and features a playroom for the little ones along with a media room and outdoor gym for the grownups. Short and long trips are available, offering the chance to design the cruise of your dreams among the beautiful islands and ports of the Dalmatian Coast.
Celestyal Cruises, specialists in Greece sailings, is offering a special Wave Season deal on their seven-night Idyllic Aegean sailing. For only $889 per person (based on double occupancy), you can book an interior cabin and sail from Athens to the beautiful islands of Crete, Santorini, Milos and Mykonos with a port stop in Kusadasi, Turkey as well. If you’ve been hesitant to book a cruise because of the price, this is a great option, but it must be booked by February 28, 2023.Meals and select beverages are included, and a discount is applied to optional shore excursions.
For those who like to be among the first to try a new experience, Viking’s new all-veranda Viking Neptune is just the ticket. The small ship sails various itineraries in the Mediterranean including stops in Athens, Venice, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rome and more. Pick a 15-day cruise or one as short as eight days to explore the antiquity of the region. With cities like Venice limiting the number of visitors, and overcrowding a serious concern in summer months, the spring and fall cruises are a welcome option for touring this beautiful area. If you can’t settle on a date just yet, there are sailings scheduled from now through 2024.
The combination of Spain and Portugal is a wow for a summer cruise. Beginning in Barcelona, the 10-day Andalusian Traditions cruise aboard the Regent Seven Seas Mariner stops at three beach ports in the Canary Islands while also visiting historic Alicante, Granada, and culture-rich Lisbon, Portugal’s neo-classical capital city. Wine, food and music are all featured on the cruise which leaves from Spain on July 23 and arrives in Portugal on August 1 after a stop in Tangier, Morocco.
Conjuring up the “grand age of sailing,” Star Clippers is the definition of romance on the high seas. Adding to the adventure of sailing on a beautiful tall ship, you can climb onto the bowsprit netting stretching over the ocean or further challenge your balance with yoga classes on deck. Mediterranean, transatlantic and Panama Canal sailings are scheduled for 2023 with the newest seven-night itineraries combining Costa Rica with Nicaragua or Panama. On March 18, the Star Clipper leaves from Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
If dipping your toes into a water holiday sounds more enticing when combined with a land stay, Windstar Cruises’ Dreams of Tahiti Air + Hotel Package is the perfect gift. You’ll enjoy Tahiti two ways traveling from Los Angeles. The year-round program includes round-trip air to Papeete, Tahiti and two nights’ pre- and post-cruise accommodations at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort. The cruise on the four-masted Wind Spirit yacht carries only 148 guests and sails for seven days stopping at four of the Society Islands. Polynesian culture, music, food and history are featured along with Windstar’s watersports platform with complimentary activities and snorkel gear for the week.
Can’t wait to go sailing but not ready to pull out your passport? Give the gift of a Maine windjammer cruise on one of the Maine Windjammer Association’s eight hand-built tall ships. You can choose the length of your voyage from three days to a week and enjoy the pleasures of an itinerary that literally changes with the wind. Think of this as glamping at sea. Sailings from Penobscot Bay in Maine begin late spring and end when the foliage turns brilliant in the fall.
If a leisurely river cruise is more to your liking, Scenic Cruises offers a new excursion filled with history, gastronomy and romance. On Scenic’s beautiful five-star Space Ship, you’ll join a maximum of 163 guests on the eight-day Charming Castles & Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle, an all-inclusive, luxurious journey past castles and vineyards with stops at villages including Koblenz and Basel. The sailing offers a choice of 18 excursions ranging from Riesling wine tastings plus walking and biking tours in Strasbourg and half-timbered towns. You won’t need to think about anything on this cruise — your butler attends to every whim. There’s also a Salt Therapy Lounge to help you decompress. A thoughtful touch, gratuities and airport transfers are part of the package.
Indulge your foodie love on a land-and-sea-cruise along the Saone and Rhone rivers on the eight-day Sensations of Lyon and Provence itinerary on Emerald Cruises’ Emerald Liberté. The sailing celebrates France’s past and present with stops at storied ports including Arles, Avignon and Lyon, considered to be France’s gastronomic hub. Visits to the area’s beautiful vineyards and towns are the stars of the itinerary with guided port tours along with guided biking, hiking and canoeing. Top Chef France finalist Fabien Morreale boards each sailing to prepare a seasonal Provencal dinner. The trip culminates in Nice.
For an immersion into the wonders of Asia, Emerald Cruises also offers “Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong” on the 84-passenger Emerald Harmony. Leaving from Ho Chi Minh City, the 13-day sailing on the Mekong River starts at $2795 per person. Happily, all gratuities are included as are wine and beer with on-board meals, making this a wonderful value.
Riverside Luxury Cruises begin sailing along the Danube this spring with the refitted, former Crystal Mozart. Renamed the Riverside Mozart, and brought to life by the team behind luxury hotel company, Seaside Collection, the newly enhanced ship is all about luxury and features a wellness center with Finnish saunas, steam rooms, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi. 3-, 5- and 11-night cruises are offered, each visiting Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.
Expedition cruises are a great choice for the more adventurous traveler. Dubbed a way to enjoy “active luxury,” Seabourn’s new ship Seabourn Venture, take you to remote northern coasts on the July 16-31 Iceland & Greenland Wild Shores sailing. Active excursions, preceded by onboard lectures, are led by a 26-person team of scientists, historians and naturalists. Daily activities include kayaking along scenic fjords, scuba diving or venturing into the deep in one of two custom-built submarines. The ship itself is pure luxury, designed by Tihany Design.
For the person who’s been “everywhere,” Aqua Expeditions offers luxury small-ship expeditions to exclusive locations with an emphasis on style and design. The choice for a distinctive, socially distanced holiday, many sailings offer an early-bird discount for the year ahead. The 1:1 guest:staff ratio and maximum 16-40 guests ensure as bespoke a sailing as you could have without chartering your own yacht. Choose from river explorations on the Amazon (Peru), the Mekong (Cambodia and Vietnam), and coastal yacht voyages to the Galapagos and Komodo National Park, Ambon and Spice Islands.
Antarctica seems to be on everyone’s minds, and Silversea has made it easier than ever to explore this amazing continent. With their Antarctica Bridge itinerary on the new Silversea Endeavor, you’ll skip four days of sailing, flying business class directly to King George Island where you’ll maximize your time exploring the continent. The six-day luxury expedition avoids the oft-rough Drakes Passage and is a godsend for those with limited time or those who would prefer to spend more time in port than on the ocean.
Quasar Expeditions sails to the Galapagos on the M/Y Grace, offering nature lovers a luxurious, environmentally way to see the more than 30 different species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and 100 species of birds. The yacht, which holds no more than 16 passengers, was once owned by Princess Grace Kelly and has been extensively renovated to enhance its sustainability and comfort on this safari-like expedition.
This is a historic year for Holland America Line, celebrating its 150th anniversary, and it’s the perfect time to gift one of their special “heritage cruises.” Holland America Line will take its guests to ports that share its region-specific story through historical moments, fun facts, photos and more. While at sea, guests will experience the cruise line’s Dutch seafaring heritage with classic games like Sjoelen, a Dutch tabletop shuffleboard game, and throwbacks like a Historic Happy Hour with prices and items from the line’s earliest menus. Itineraries span the globe giving you choices from Australia to the Caribbean and Europe.
Music lovers will be entranced by AmaWaterways new Celebration of Classical Music themed cruise on the aptly named AmaSonata. Exploring the rich history of classical music along the Danube River where famous composers including Mozart, Bruckner and Strauss lived, drew inspiration and performed, the cruise also features live performances at memorable locales like Austria’s Melk Abbey. The seven-night cruise sails between Budapest and Vienna and is available for seven dates in 2023 and six dates 2024.