Cruise Co Europe
How to see Europe and only unpack your bag once
Taking a Grand Tour of Europe used to be a rite of passage for aristocrats – accompanied by heavy trunks of clothes and possessions, a chaperone, manservant, you name it: the whole entourage.   Of course, we’ve pared down travel over the years so it’s not just for aristocrats, but the logistics of a multi-country itinerary in Europe can still be a challenge (especially without the manservant). How to make it easier [caption id="attachment_47989" align="alignnone" width="600"] Luxury at sea.[/caption] That’s where cruising comes in to make it simple. Unpack once in your cruise cabin and you’re suddenly free to step off the ship into country after country, port after port, with just a camera and the clothes on your back. For example, MSC Cruises is the largest cruise line in Europe (as well as the Arabian Peninsula, South America and South Africa) and cruises the Mediterranean all year round. A fleet of 10 ships permanently based in the Mediterranean means you’re looking at weekly departures here, and you can even combine their East and West Mediterranean itineraries to make a 14-night Grand Mediterranean adventure; free coach transfers between Genoa and Venice make it easy. Cruising destinations The quintessential Greek island tour – including the white and blue wonderland of Santorini of course, plus Crete and Corfu – departs every Friday from Venice on the rather appropriately named MSC Magnifica. [caption id="attachment_47990" align="alignnone" width="600"] Glistening water.[/caption] For those wanting to discover the Eastern Mediterranean, MSC Liricahas is set for a 12-night cruise, again on Fridays from Venice, sailing to Croatia, Greece, Montenegro and Italy (starting from May 8 to June 12, 2020 and from September 18 to October 23, 2020). The highlight of this one is a long stay in Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, Corfu and Cefalonia/Argostoli in Greece, Kotor in Montenegro and, new for 2020, at Trieste in Italy.   There is an amazing 12-night cruise available, too, covering an astounding amount of Mediterranean highlights during one very clever itinerary. Leaving on Mondays from Venice from 22 June to September 7, 2020, this one sails to Croatia, Greece, Malta and Sicily, and counts among its most Instagram-worthy stops: Dubrovnik in Croatia, Corfu and Cefalonia/Argostoli in Greece, Valletta in Malta and now Siracusa/Sicily in Italy too. Yet you’ve still only unpacked that suitcase once – how absolutely glorious. Time at port Just as glorious is MSC Cruises’ extended port times on most of its itineraries so there’s no need to rush through each port’s top 10 sights and rush back to your cabin at the end of the day. Deep-dive into the culture and history of those places over a couple of days; after all, you’re visiting incredibly ancient and story-filled lands once visited via sea by conquerors, explorers, kings, emperors… and now you. What’s more, many of these destinations are hard to reach by land – this is the huge advantage of choosing to cruise. [caption id="attachment_47991" align="alignnone" width="600"] Perfect holiday.[/caption] Flexi-porting is an option Cruising is a much more flexible offering these days too, since the wonder of flexi-porting has become a thing. MSC Cruises brings the ship to you, in a sense, since you can embark your cruise where your holiday has taken you, even if it’s a different port to the one listed on Day 1 of your cruise’s itinerary. You will still complete the same number of cruise nights from your embarkation port, but that can be any city you like, including Athens, Ancona, Bari, Barcelona, Brindisi, Rome, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Kiel, Marseille, Naples, Southampton and Warnemunde.   That amount of flexibility is impressive for such a large cruise line but, when it comes down to it, MSC Cruises is family owned and enjoys welcoming more than 170 nationalities on its ships. And you can book their cruise holidays through local contacts in Australia and New Zealand through Cruiseco, an organisation with more than 250 specialist travel agencies including cruise experts who love to put together bespoke cruise holidays. [caption id="attachment_47992" align="alignnone" width="600"] European treats.[/caption] Ask the experts MSC Cruises is one of more than 50 cruise brands they can liaise with for you to make that next amazing cruise holiday happen just the way you dreamed. There are new destinations and itineraries added all the time, so it makes sense to get your holiday happening with cruising experts to help you. For instance, new for next season, MSC Cruises are adding longer cruises to experience the best of Ireland and the North Cape. This year the Mediterranean, next year Ireland? Pack that one suitcase and enjoy your Grand Tour.   For more information visit cruising.com.au/europe-msc-cruises or call the Cruiseco concierge on 1800 270 747 to find your nearest Cruiseco Cruise specialist travel agent. AND, for those keen to get the CruiseCo and MSC Cruise treatment, you can WIN a $6,500 European cruise for two by clicking here...
Antarctica
20 reasons to add Antarctica to your bucket list
For many, an adventure to Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime, but here are 20 reasons why you should add it to your own list. 1. It’s the world’s largest wilderness region Measuring 14 million square kilometres, Antarctica is an untouched, virtually uninhabited expanse of rock and ice that remains protected under a treaty signed by 53 influential countries. [caption id="attachment_47593" align="alignleft" width="600"] Antarctic Landscape with Icebergs and Mountains[/caption] Though it’s bigger than Australia, India and Argentina combined, its infrastructure is limited to that around the 80 research stations sprinkled across the continent, meaning there are no roads, no shopping malls and zero pollution. 2. Because there is nowhere else on Earth like it Have you ever imagined having the Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat all to yourself? Well, here you can. The vast emptiness of the southernmost continent cannot be exaggerated. Antarctica is the only place on Earth never to have had an indigenous population and there’s no evidence anyone ever set foot here until the 19th century.   It’s only when glacier walls or icy mountains dwarf the figures beneath them that you begin to appreciate the immensity of this place. It really is out of this world. [caption id="attachment_47594" align="alignleft" width="600"] Cruising Wilhemina Bay[/caption] 3. So you can add another continent to the list How many people have stepped foot on the world’s seventh continent? About 50,000 people per annum, that’s how many. Which is not much, is it? Especially when compared to the 85 million or so who visit France each year.   You won’t be able to show your friends an immigration stamp as evidence that you’ve been to Antarctica, but you can ask the staff at the world’s most southerly post office at Port Lockroy to stamp your passport. You can even send a postcard. 4. It’s surprisingly convenient Cruise ships are the most practical means of visiting Antarctica, eliminating transport and accommodation hassles in one fell swoop. The Patagonian port of Ushuaia is the departure point for most commercial cruises because of its proximity to the Antarctic Peninsula, two days sailing away. Cape Town, Hobart and Christchurch are other ports. 5. For a historical insight into Antarctic exploration Few of us haven’t heard the tales of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance crew or Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated race to the South Pole. You can retrace Shackleton’s steps from Elephant to South Georgia Islands, and enter Scott’s hut at Cape Evans. But you can also see whaling stations and sealers camps. [caption id="attachment_47595" align="alignleft" width="600"] Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was a British polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic.[/caption] 6. It’s a complete disconnect Forget calling home. Forget the internet. There are no mobile phone towers, no telephone wires and no television antennas, so there’s absolutely no point in trying to keep up with the Kardashians.   Unless you’re prepared to fork out gazillions of dollars for tediously slow satellite connections, an Antarctic cruise is an opportunity to switch off and tune in to your surrounds. 7. Because it never rains Don’t get me wrong – Antarctica is cold. The coldest place on Earth, in fact, with a temperature of minus 89°C recorded at the Soviet station Vostok in 1983. But did you know that Antarctica is the world’s driest continent? Its largest desert? It’s so cold here that rain simply freezes into snow.   And as long as you’re dressed accordingly, there’s no reason why you can’t get outside and embrace it. Trust me – it will wake you up. 8. For close encounters with wildlife It’s a hard-hearted person who isn’t immediately smitten upon sighting a penguin tripping clumsily over its own feet. [caption id="attachment_47983" align="alignleft" width="600"] Gentoo penguins saying hello[/caption] The wildlife in Antarctica is a major factor for visiting Antarctica, with seals, whales and seabirds all exhibiting no fear of humans due to our limited interaction with them. What that means is close-up encounters with birds and mammals on a daily basis. [caption id="attachment_47602" align="alignleft" width="600"] A Gentoo Penguin colony at Neko Harbour[/caption] [caption id="attachment_47598" align="alignleft" width="600"] A humpback whale appears[/caption] 9. To get active Apart from land visits on foot, cruise ships now offer kayaking, snowshoeing, diving and skiing excursions. There’s even the chance to camp overnight on ice. [caption id="attachment_47599" align="alignleft" width="600"] It never rains in Antarctica, making it the driest continent in the world[/caption] 10. To swim in the world’s biggest ice bath It will make you hyperventilate. And it’s potentially deadly if you persist for too long. But it’s also mightily invigorating. A polar plunge, as a quick dip in the zero-degree seawaters is called, is a rite of passage for Antarctic cruisers. Once you’re in the water, you’ll surprise yourself at how fast you’re capable of swimming in order to get out. 11. For the chance to float among icebergs It’s crazy to think that you’re only looking at 10 per cent of an iceberg above the water’s surface. They’re mysterious, and they’re utterly enthralling. Sculpted, shaped, towering and blue – you’ll never appreciate how beautiful a chunk of ice can be until you float among them. 12. So you can savour the silence Only 4000 people live in Antarctica’s 80 research stations at any one time. You won’t hear car horns, jet engines or pesky drones overhead; the latter are prohibited. Instead, cock an ear for the hunger cries of an infant penguin, a barking fur seal or the rumble of a distant avalanche. 13. To watch a glacier calve The world’s largest ice sheet is more than four kilometres thick in places, with frozen tongues licking at the ocean for more than 3000 metres. [caption id="attachment_47600" align="alignleft" width="600"] Deville glacier calving in Andvord Bay near Neko Harbour[/caption] You’ll never see more glaciers on Earth than here, with Graham Land’s Neko Harbour a favourite destination for witnessing huge chunks of ice breaking off and tumbling into the sea. 14. For the chance to watch a leopard seal hunting Leopard seals menacingly circled two of our Zodiacs, even taking a nibble of rubber. And another group got to watch one catch a poor chinstrap penguin in its mouth, just like you’d see on a nature documentary. But merely seeing one of these giants up close is impressive enough. [caption id="attachment_47603" align="alignleft" width="600"] Leopard Seal on Floating iceberg in Antarctica[/caption] 15. To visit an active volcano Truly the land of fire and ice, Antarctica is home to two active surface volcanoes, including Mt Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano. [caption id="attachment_47604" align="alignleft" width="600"] Mt Erebus is one of two active surface volcanoes in Antarctica[/caption] More accessible is Deception Island, a sunken caldera with its own micro-climate in the South Shetland Island group off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. 16. You get two for the price of one A trip to Antarctica is the perfect opportunity to tie in a holiday to South America. Flights from Australia usually land in Santiago or Buenos Aires before transferring to Ushuaia, in Argentinian Patagonia, so why not add a side trip to Machu Picchu or Iguazu Falls? [caption id="attachment_47606" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take a side trip to Patagonia while you're at it...[/caption] Maybe you’ll want to hike in Torres del Paine National Park or tango the night away in Buenos Aires. You’d be mad not to. 17. It’s seasonal For obvious reasons, commercial visits to Antarctica are confined to the summer months when the seas are calmer, the temperatures bearable and when daylight lingers. November, the start of the season, is when the landscapes are at their most pristine, with the snow at its whitest. December and January have longer, warmer days. Penguins begin hatching in January and moult from February to early March. Migrating whales are best seen in February and March, when breaking ice improves accessibility to some places. [caption id="attachment_47597" align="alignleft" width="600"] Penguin Habitat Gentoo Penguin in Neko Harbour[/caption] 18. To appreciate the environment It’s doubtful you’ll ever see another place so untouched by man. And there’s a long list of rules in place to protect that natural order. You can’t souvenir anything, like rocks, for example. And you can’t approach closer than five metres to any wildlife. Of course, that’s not to say they won’t approach you. 19. It’s perfectly fine to go solo I was completely surprised by the number of single travellers during a recent cruise to Antarctica. For those who really value their privacy and need their own space, most ships will have a small number of single cabins. A cheaper option is to share a cabin with someone else travelling alone, with cruise operators usually doing admirable jobs of matching single travellers according to age and gender. Meal times are always a good opportunity to meet other passengers too. 20. It’s a photographer’s dream Whatever you do, bring a camera. And then bring plenty of memory cards. And spare batteries as well, for insurance against the cold.   The sheer multitude of photogenic locations and opportunities, from big-sky landscapes to shapely icebergs and brash wildlife – many of which you’ll see nowhere else – ensure that you’ll take plenty of memories back home with you. It might even prompt thoughts of a slide show revival when you get home. [caption id="attachment_47984" align="alignleft" width="600"] The mighty Ocean Atlantic[/caption]   Mark Daffey travelled to Antarctica courtesy of Chimu Adventures.
Couple looking out window of suite on river cruise in Europe
Europe Taster Cruises with Avalon Waterways
Europe: so far away, so much to do, and never enough time... so let Avalon Waterways take care of it for you. When planning a trip to this fascinating continent it’s hard to choose where to go and how to do it. Do you tick off the classic European destinations such as Paris, London and Rome or discover some of the lesser known cities and towns. Do you travel by train or plane? Do you join a bus tour? Do you hire a car? Or do you sit back and discover Europe from its rivers?   River cruising through Europe is one of the most majestic ways to explore this great continent. You experience different countries, cultures, languages and cuisines with complete ease – no need to tackle a map, board a plane, or pack and unpack your suitcase (as clichéd as it is, it’s the true beauty of cruising). As you travel along the mighty waterways considered the lifeblood of Europe, your suite window provides the frame for an ever-changing and fascinating landscape – hillside vineyards, ancient gorges, medieval towns, historic windmills, crumbling castles, half-timbered houses and more. It’s magical, but it’s not always an option for all travellers to Europe… until now. [caption id="attachment_47454" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sit back and relax as you cruise to your next destination.[/caption] Travellers who want to add a cruising component to their European holiday but are time poor – or simply don’t want to spend a week or more on board a ship –will love Avalon Waterways’ new short cruise options for 2020. The luxury river cruise company is the first in Europe to offer ‘taster’ cruises of three, four and six nights, catering to those who want to see Europe from a different perspective in a shorter time, as well as first-time cruisers who want to, ahem, test the waters and learn what river cruising is all about.   Despite being much shorter in length, Avalon Waterway’s new cruises still pack a punch when it comes to experiences. With many smaller towns and villages dotting Europe’s riverbanks and with most sailing done at night, there’s more time for sightseeing and less time spent getting from A to B – which, incidentally, is a delightfully scenic experience on board a river cruise anyway. So it’s a win-win all round. [caption id="attachment_47457" align="alignnone" width="600"] The serenity of cruising through Europe is second to none.[/caption] In just four days, you can experience Europe’s second longest river, the Danube, cruising from Vienna to the brilliant Hungarian city of Budapest on A Taste of the Danube. You will sail through the picturesque Wachau Valley with the choice to bike through its vineyards, take a tour of an 11th-century Benedictine abbey in Melk, stop in the 18th-century town of Bratislava and walk its cobblestoned streets, and enjoy an on board performance by local Slovakian musicians. [caption id="attachment_47455" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll along the Danube in your final stop in Budapest.[/caption] If you have five days, you can explore one of Europe’s most important rivers, the Rhine, on A Taste of the Rhine. Boarding in Amsterdam, you’ll visit the 2000-year-old city of Cologne, sample wine in the hilly town of Rudesheim, cruise through the picturesque Rhine Gorge, and choose to explore the Dutch countryside by bike.   While the six-day Heart of Germany cruises on the lesser discovered Main River and Main-Danube Canal, with optional visits to the historic rally grounds used by the Third Reich at Nuremburg, the old Bavarian town of Rothenburg, and a walk through the medieval town of Bamberg. [caption id="attachment_47456" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience the rich history and culture of quaint Bavarian towns.[/caption] Life on board Avalon Waterways’ ships is all about the balance of luxury and comfort. The cruise company is known for its spacious Panorama Suites, which are 30 per cent larger than most standard river ship staterooms and designed so all beds face the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. These windows open up to create open-air balconies, the only ones of their kind on Europe’s rivers. And life on the river banks is filled with fascinating experiences from walking tours through historic towns, to active excursions such as cycling and hiking, to immersive experiences such as an art class or chocolate making, to indulgent pursuits such as sampling regional delicacies and wine tasting. [caption id="attachment_47449" align="alignnone" width="600"] Discover vineyards on one of many shore excursions.[/caption] Even if you are travelling to Europe on a whirlwind, Avalon’s new taster cruises are the perfect addition to your holiday, allowing you to view this continent from a different perspective. And if you’re a first time cruiser, it’s the perfect way to discover the magic that is river cruising.   Book now Prices start from $1140 per person for A Taste of the Danube; from $2164 per person for A Taste of the Rhine; and from $2182 per person for The Heart of Germany. Book now for 2020 for the best deals on offer, which include savings of up to $6800 per couple on select Avalon Waterways cruises. For more information head to avalonwaterways.com.au P.S. Everything is included in your Avalon Waterways’ fare: all meals, which usually comprise of the regional cuisine you are travelling through and include local wine and beer at lunch and dinner, onboard activities and entertainment (such as wine appreciation, historic lectures and live music), land excursions led by local guides, as well as complimentary wi-fi, coffee and tea, L’Occitane bathroom products and access to the on board fitness centre and whirlpool.   Any questions, head on over to avalonwaterways.com.au
The Royal Clipper
Star Clippers cruises: a truly unique way to visit the world’s best destinations
With its fleet of extraordinary, unique and authentic clipper ships, Star Clippers invites you to visit some the world’s best destinations in the style and comfort that can only be found aboard a private yacht.   About Us Small enough to venture into the more intimate, seldom-visited areas around the globe, yet large enough to offer superb service, inviting public spaces, fabulous cuisine and all the luxurious accommodations of the finest modern yachts, the fleet carries only an intimate 170 to 227 guests – creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendliness on board each vessel. Showcasing the fleet is the Royal Clipper, the largest square rigger in the world, harking back to the grand age of sail, where guests balance grandeur, adventure and tradition seamlessly. Enjoy comfortable and inviting cabins, beautiful lounges and bars, expansive open decks for indulging in warm weather and tropical cruising, plus delightful culinary creations surpassed only by the friendly service of the ships’ warm crew who take care of everything. With itineraries designed for absolute destination immersion, Star Clippers’ Mediterranean cruises span the entire Middle Sea – including the Adriatic, Croatia, Montenegro, Venice, Greece, Italy and France. Closer to home, Star Clippers offers year-round tropical discoveries encompassing Thailand, Malaysia and the fascinating, rarely visited islands of the Indonesia archipelago – plus, new for 2019, journey to wild Borneo or in 2020 uncover Cambodia. [caption id="attachment_46721" align="alignnone" width="600"] Those star qualities.[/caption] The Facts Unique sailing adventures – tradition and romance of a tall ship, with all the comforts of a thoroughly modern ship. Environmentally focused – genuine clipper ships, able to hoist the sails and use wind power, the greenest of all propulsion. New ship in 2019 – the magnificent Flying Clipper joins the fleet in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Focus on destination – many cruises boast no full days at sea, visiting a new port every day. Surprising value – luxury small-ship cruising with attractive early bird fares. Best Cruise Croatia & Montenegro 7 nights from $2,860 per person Proving year after year to be Star Clippers’ most popular Mediterranean cruise destination, in 2020 you will discover no fewer than seven 7-night Croatia & Montenegro cruises departing round-trip from Venice. Not only will Star Clippers get you closer to the must-see medieval treasures of Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar and Kotor, you’ll also visit Zadar, Rovinj and Vis in Croatia. A new destination every day! Early booking (before 31 January 2020) fares start from $2,860 per person, twin share. Ask about the 10- and 11-night Adriatic sailings between Venice, Rome and Athens.     For bookings email starclippers@adventureworld.com.au; visit starclippers.com/au; or call 1300 361 012
Azamara Pursuit Cruise Ship
7 reasons to take a trip aboard the Azamara Pursuit
Not your average mode of transportation between Ol’ Blighty and marvellous France, but as I learnt, climbing aboard the Azamara Pursuit is absolutely the best way to do it, and there are a few reasons why… It should be made clear before you read another word, that I, Olivia Mackinnon love cruising.   It’s in my DNA, you see. My parents actually met while working on board what they called, ‘The Love Boat’, but I suspect it was just a regular boat, with no links to TV cruising royalty whatsoever.   So for as long as I can remember, I have been wooed by the incredible grandness of cruise ships, and up until recently, I’d never been lucky enough to board one in the Azamara fleet.   The brand new Azamara Pursuit was setting off for her maiden voyage, and I had been invited on the two-night journey to experience all she had to offer… Grand is an understatement [caption id="attachment_46070" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Azamara Pursuit is grand in scale[/caption] Landing in London and then travelling to Southampton, UK, I was instantly desperate to climb aboard Azamara’s newest ship, Pursuit as soon as I clapped eyes on her. One of my favourite things to do aboard a ship is familiarise myself with the facilities: ‘Where is the restaurant, how far is my cabin from the pool, where is the spa?!’ I’m simply not satisfied until these questions are answered. However, aboard Pursuit I was enamoured with the luxury feel of the ship. The detail in every hand rail and piece of art. As a small-time cruiser, I simply didn’t feel worthy.   The common areas were furnished with incredible plush chairs, decorated with velvet trimmings and chic finishes, while the restaurant took the whole ‘white tablecloth’ dining experience to a new level with a sense of European style I haven’t ever seen on board a ship before. [caption id="attachment_46073" align="alignnone" width="600"] Spending time in the common areas was a joy thanks to this stunning and comfortable arrangement[/caption] The cabin The feeling of luxury was extended down the hall of the starboard side – as I’m sure it was on port side – and all the way inside my cabin. The bathrooms had more sink space than I was accustomed to. There was an established seating area, a roomy balcony and a beyond-comfortable bed. In fact, with the deluxe sheets combined with the gentle sway of Southampton’s River Itchen, I don’t know if I’ve ever slept so soundly.   I was particularly fond of the colour palette used in the cabins, a mix of moody greys, deep woods and a touch of blush. The marble finishes added a chic cherry to an already delectable cake.   Also, the shower pressure was near-normal – maybe even on par with what you’d get at home. Anyone who has ever cruised before will understand what a big deal that is. A Titanic experience, minus the tragedy What excited me about this trip was that I was going to get the chance to arrive in an entirely different country by the time I woke up in the morning. Yep, we were en route to Cherbourg, a port city in France where you could delight in both French naval history and quality croissants for the day. I also learned that this was the place the Titanic made its final stop on its fateful journey to America – but I tried not to focus on that as I disembarked. [caption id="attachment_46074" align="alignnone" width="600"] The furnishings were elegant, comfortable and luxurious[/caption] If that sounds appealing to you, visitors to Cherbourg are encouraged to visit Cité de la Mer, one of the port’s main tourist attractions, where you can find out more about the infamous ship’s final visit. The on (and off) board delicacies The Pursuit frequents many European ports during its varied itineraries, which means the food always complements your destinations. During my day in Cherbourg I was treated to fresh crepes, soft cheese, macarons and sparkling wine. I pretty much had to roll back to the ship. [caption id="attachment_46071" align="alignnone" width="600"] There are many sights to take in and they aren't all experienced from the ship's deck[/caption] Back on board, passengers celebrated the ship’s maiden voyage with a decadent oyster and Champagne buffet dinner. Chefs were ready and waiting at a personalised pasta station, ready to combine fettuccine with pesto, or spaghetti with carbonara sauce if your heart so desired. It’s differences like these that showcase the level of care – and luxury – you can expect to experience on board an Azamara ship – and from what I hear, the Pursuit’s elegance is certainly no exception to its sister ships: Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey. The pool Despite being August, the weather was a little cooler during our short cruise, and I’m almost certain that I was the only guest to brave the ship’s water amenities. I swam not only in the pool’s accompanying spa on the main deck, but also in the larger spa provided to guests before their scheduled treatment, as an indulgent precursor to what is already guaranteed to be a ‘cloud nine’ level of pampering.   Due to the lack of company in the spas, I felt there was more than ample room – my only gripe would be that they could be made a little warmer – however on a standard August day in Europe I imagine the cooler temperature would ordinarily be ideal. Destination Immersion experiences [caption id="attachment_46072" align="alignnone" width="600"] Just because you're on a cruise ship doesn't mean you don't get to experience the culture of the ports you travel to and from[/caption] The thing that makes the Azamara fleet different to regular luxury cruises is its desire to get passengers off the ship at port and truly immerse them in the activities and culture of that destination. This is what they call their ‘Destination Immersion’ programming.   For example, during my time in Cherbourg on the Pursuit’s maiden voyage, in addition to being treated to iconic French delicacies, we were also wowed by a side-splitting performance by a French dance ensemble. The short itinerary meant that while a full-day of exploration wasn’t an option, Azamara brought a taste of Cherbourg’s culture to us at port – and we loved every second of it.   Sailings with longer itineraries can expect even more incredible immersive experiences. From a three-day/two-night stargazing experience in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to exploring the inside of a volcano in Iceland, they somehow manage to make it about guaranteeing you have as great of a time off the ship as you will on board. They get around, a lot As of 2019, Azamara’s very first Melbourne departure will take place – and the list of destinations worked into their itineraries is longer than ever. This year, the ships will visit a record 250 ports across 69 countries with 94 overnight stays and 145 late-night stays – meaning you get the most out of the places you want to visit. Plus, this year marks the first visit to Alaska – yippee!
Holland America Line
Journey Alaska by land and sea with Holland America Line
Holland America Line’s Land+Sea Journeys let you extend your Alaska adventure into the wild interior of Alaska and the Yukon. And who better to show you the Great Land? Holland America Line’s experiences are carefully crafted to reflect the best of Alaska, and even allow you to choose your own path. A Land+Sea Journey may take you to the foot of mighty Denali or venture further to the unspoiled reaches of the Yukon (an experience offered by no other cruise company). The Land+Sea Journeys program allows Holland America Line to focus on this majestic destination and experience while offering guests its renowned combination of elegance and adventure in Alaska and the Yukon. [caption id="attachment_45283" align="alignnone" width="600"] Big brown bear (Ursus arctos) in the mountain[/caption] Need to know Holland America Line is the only cruise company that takes guests to the unspoiled reaches of the Yukon. For the ultimate Great Land getaway, combine an Alaska cruise with Denali National Park and the wild frontier of the Yukon Territory. Ride on the McKinley Explorer glass-domed railcars, pan for gold, or even cruise the Yukon River on a sternwheeler. Located at the very gates of Denali National Park at the magnificent 24-hectare McKinley Chalet Resort, Denali Square serves as both hub and retreat for guests exploring the park, and features cosy fire pits, perfect for gathering around on cool Alaskan evenings as well as outdoor seating to enjoy the scenery in summer. You’ll also find shops offering local goods, and an artist-in-residence cabin where Alaskan native and local artists display and discuss their works. Walking paths in and around Denali Square show off the property’s mountainous landscapes and beautiful setting just across the Nenana River from Denali National Park. [caption id="attachment_45284" align="alignnone" width="600"] Mountains of Denali[/caption] Klondike Spirit Yukon River cruise Step aboard the Klondike Spirit and embark on a cruise to a bygone era on the only operating paddlewheeler in the Yukon Territory (at an additional cost). As you make your way through breathtaking landscapes along the Yukon River, the third-longest river in America, keep an eye out for abundant wildlife, including moose, bears and bald eagles. Tundra landing via helicopter Explore the hills just outside of Denali National Park on this short ride (at an additional cost). Keep your eyes on the horizon to see Denali, North America’s tallest peak, or Mount Deborah, her impressive sister. Just moments after take-off, you will be deeply immersed in Alaskan back country. Your pilot will set down on the soft, alpine tundra, giving you the amazing opportunity to step out into this scenic landscape.   Experience the authentic Alaska you’ve always dreamed of with the cruise line that is the undisputed leader in Alaska Cruises and Land+Sea Journeys. For more information call 1300 987 322, contact your travel professional or visit www.hollandamerica.com/alaska
Ponant
The most delicious way to travel from Lisbon to Dublin
A gastronomic cruise flitting from Portugal’s medieval treasures, then famed French vineyards through to the fascinations and mysteries of Celtic castles and cobblestones. Gastronomy cruising from Lisbon to Dublin with Ponant; where do we sign up? Between perhaps the most famous stretch of culinary coastline in the world, and the French talent for experiencing the very best of everything, Ponant’s back-to-back cruise from Lisbon to Dublin  may be the most luxurious cruise we know.   France’s only luxury cruise line offers The French Touch: a way of living in which excellent gastronomy takes pride of place. Every day brings gloriously fragrant flavours, carefully selected cheeses and wines, specialty breads and sweet pastries imagined by Maison Lenôtre. Maison Taillevent now provides its fine vintage wines by the glass, Maison Veuve Clicquot accompanies gala cocktails, and the infamous Ladurée bakery has a place of honour for afternoon tea. And then there’s the prestigious gala dinners prepped by Alain Ducasse’s teams. You’ll want to tear yourself away from the incessant luxury on board Ponant’s L’Austral, though, as the decadence continues onshore. The first nine nights of the cruise involves several visits (and wine tastings) at the beautiful wine estates of the Saint-Estephe, Margaux and Pauillac appellations. In the evening, the moored ship will have Château Latour as a magnificent backdrop to a gala dinner onboard with expert wine and dish pairings.   Two days in Bordeaux, the wine capital of the world, follow along with its captivating wine-making tradition; don’t miss the chance to visit the Cité du Vin – the medieval village of Saint-Émilion – and other châteaux. Lastly, you will call at Belle-Île-en-Mer and Guernsey before arriving in Portsmouth, in the south-east of England to end the gastronomic portion of the cruise and begin your exploration through the Celtic Sea for seven more nights.   The Isles of Scilly are a strange, wondrous little archipelago whose landscapes seem to have come straight out of Enid Blyton's famous stories. Here, long sandy beaches stand alongside green fields, while ruins of old castles stand proud on hilltops.   You can step ashore at Cobh, a maritime port in County Cork in southwest Ireland, and discover the picturesque village of Blarney, famous for its castle, and Kinsale, a charming little port sheltered within the picturesque Bandon Estuary.   L’Austral will take you to the celebrated City of Pop, Liverpool, then to the Isle of Man, in the waters between the United Kingdom and Ireland; its capital, Douglas is a postcard from the United Kingdom of the Victorian era. During your stopover in Belfast, you can visit the Giant's Causeway, a massive geological formation and UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring more than 40,000 basalt columns, then it’s off to Dublin, a beautiful end to your voyage, its cobbled streets brimming with fabulous shops, pubs and arts centres deserving a few more nights at your leisure. The French Touch Whether you choose a Mediterranean cruise or a voyage into the heart of the Antarctic ice floes, Ponant’s exceptional levels of customised and attentive service are renowned, giving you the privileged feeling of sailing aboard your own private yacht.   A French crew welcomes you and sets about ensuring your comfort and wellbeing throughout your cruise on L’Austral, an impressive ship featuring innovative and environmentally friendly equipment, and just 132 elegantly designed staterooms and spacious suites with large windows, as well as lounge areas that open onto the outside. The cruise line’s hallmark is a subtle blend of refinement, intimacy and comfort. Experience a different kind of cruising on a back-to-back cruise from Lisbon to Dublin, departing on 13 April 2019 for 16 nights aboard L’Austral. Fares start from $11,053 per person twin share in a Prestige Stateroom on Deck 4. For more information visit cruising.com.au/book-today or call the Cruiseco concierge on 1800 270 747 to find your nearest Cruiseco Cruise specialist travel agent.
V2V Vacations
The luxurious Canadian cruise you’ve always dreamed of
Passengers can frequently spot wildlife such as orcas, bald eagles or sea lions along the coastline of British Columbia. The waters of south-western British Columbia in Canada, are some of the most spectacular in the world, and the uniquely beautiful, comfortable and convenient journey aboard the V2V Empress between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria aims to showcase this stunning corner of the world with unparalleled commitment to service, comfort and luxury.   Whether you are looking for an exciting add-on to your Alaska cruise or your Rocky Mountaineer train journey, or you simply wish to discover Victoria for a day, cruising to Vancouver Island on this stylish 242-passenger high-speed catamaran is an opportunity to spend the voyage learning about the rich culture in the region.   Sailing directly from downtown Vancouver past Stanley Park, across the Salish Sea and meandering through the stunning British Columbia Gulf Islands into Victoria’s Inner Harbour on Vancouver Island, passengers can frequently spot wildlife such as orcas, bald eagles or sea lions. Throughout the 3.5-hour journey, guests also have the opportunity to taste local flavours through the on-board menu, which features foods and non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages exclusively sourced from the region.   All seating is reserved, so when you go up to the sundeck to enjoy the incredible 360-degree views, you can be rest assured that your seat won’t be occupied by someone else once you come back inside. [caption id="attachment_44989" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cruising - but with all the comforts of a luxury hotel[/caption] Need to know In Vancouver, the V2V terminal is located downtown by the convention centre, within short walking distance of the Vancouver Cruise Terminal, a variety of luxury accommodation options as well as boutique properties. In Victoria, the ship arrives and departs directly from the Inner Harbour across from the British Columbia Provincial Legislature, within an easy four-minute walk from all pick-up points for the best Victoria and Butchart Gardens sightseeing tours and activities. See Victoria If you cruise to Victoria for the day, you will have enough time to wander the quaint, historic downtown with its British colonial architecture, visit the stunning Butchart Gardens, or linger over afternoon high tea. [caption id="attachment_44990" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll be amazed at all the wildlife spotting you can do![/caption] Go Royal Class The V2V Empress cruises past some spectacular British Columbian wilderness; the views from Royal Class seats are unbeatable. V2V’s two classes, Premium and Royal, both feature comfy ergonomic leather seats equipped with international power outlets (and free wi-fi throughout the ship), but Royal class is tailored to those who appreciate more personalised service. Up on the upper deck, Royal guests enjoy the best views, with food and drinks served directly to their seat. A welcome drink and a three-course light meal in both directions is included, as well as unlimited non-alcoholic drinks.   For more information visit V2Vvacations.com
The Viking Orion feels so unlike a cruise ship – and that’s precisely the point
Iconic art and understated style: Imogen Eveson on why the Viking Orion has made her a cruise convert.
Celebrity Edge
Celebrity Edge is the ship that will change cruising forever
For Celebrity Cruises®, the name for its newest ship was obvious. Set to launch in December of this year, Celebrity Edge® is the ship that will change cruising forever.   This revolutionary ship is like no other before – every design element was pushed to the edge of possibility, and carefully considered to exceed all expectations. And that it does, with some of the most attainable luxury, innovation and transformational concepts at sea. Everyone gets a view – and a King sized bed ‘Some resorts have a beautiful view, ours has thousands’, Celebrity says of its suites on board Celebrity Edge®, which feel more like modern urban apartments than ship accommodation. The largest suites in the entire Celebrity fleet, Celebrity Edge’s Iconic Suites are located high above the bridge, making guests feel on top of the world – or perhaps at the edge of the Earth – with panoramic views, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and an outdoor area with hot tub and day bed. The breathtaking two-storey Edge Villas are the first of their kind in the Celebrity fleet – boasting one bedroom, two bathrooms, private terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, plunge pools and personal butler service. While those in the Edge Staterooms can, with the simple touch of a button, transform the entire stateroom into an ‘Infinite Verandah℠’. The floor-to-ceiling window retracts, allowing even larger living space and access to sea breeze whenever one likes. So long, pokey cabins and portholes!   The beauty of Celebrity Edge® is that all staterooms and suites offer a luxurious experience, due to its thoughtful design which allows for a king-size bed in 99 per cent of the rooms. There are also a number of interconnecting options, making it easier for larger families to comfortably travel together in a variety of accommodation options. Add to that twice-daily housekeeping, custom-blended bath products, and Celebrity’s eXhale™ bedding with exclusive Cashmere mattresses. Take a trip through the Garden of Eden Outside of guest sleeping quarters, the public areas also have an edge to them. No expense was spared, from a seven-tonne chandelier in The Grand Plaza that is the central gathering space, to 7000 square feet of glass in Eden, a space resplendent in lush greenery that transforms from day to night. It has a café and bar, indoor and al fresco dining, activities such as yoga, cooking classes, wine tasting and pairing, and artistic performances that are integrated into an unforgettable dining experience.   [caption id="attachment_44018" align="alignnone" width="1500"] First to ever be designed in 3D by world renowned architects and designers[/caption] Entertainment like you’ve never seen before ‘We’re not pulling back the curtain, we’re taking it away’, Celebrity says, with all aspects of the ship possessing a wow-factor, be it with performance, immersive or aesthetic. Though if you prefer to sit back and enjoy the spectacle, the entertainment at The Theatre has four shows that will keep guests on the edge of their seat, with transformative stages, projectors, spiralling staircases and aerial rigging. There’s an actual Magic Carpet hovering above the water But if that’s not extraordinary enough, make like Aladdin and take a Magic Carpet ride on board Celebrity Edge®. This unique feature is the world’s first cantilevered platform on the edge of the ship, 13 storeys above sea level. Transforming into different spaces, depending on which level it is on, the Magic Carpet can be a dining room, pool deck, or space for enrichment talks and workshops, with the added thrill of feeling like you’re soaring over the ocean. Private cabanas, martini hot tubs and film-inspired food Up on the pool deck, a 22-metre lap pool is flanked by sun lounges, private cabanas that overlook the ocean, and a couple of two-storey martini hot tubs (as in, they are shaped like a martini glass) offering a sky-high soak. The jogging track winds its way around a living Rooftop Garden, where you can feast on a barbecue grill, enjoy a cocktail, listen to live music and experience A Taste of Film, where the food is inspired by the film. [caption id="attachment_44019" align="alignnone" width="600"] Every design element was pushed to the edge of possibility, and carefully considered to exceed all expectations[/caption] Cuisine from around the globe Indeed, food, glorious food is a key part of the cruising experience, and onboard Celebrity Edge®, world class dining is at your fingertips. Gone are the days that it is all just about gluttonous buffets. On board Celebrity Edge® guests have the exciting choice of four complimentary dining options! Choose between new American with global influences, refined French cuisine, Mediterranean fare and rustic Italian, with ample spots to relax with a drink, whether it be at the dazzling Martini Bar, country club-style Sunset Bar or the glitz and glamour of the Casino Bar.   Rivalling some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, the Celebrity Edge® is cutting-edge design, a refreshing new-look cruising experience that brings luxury to everyone. Details To find out where Celebrity Edge® is sailing, visit http://www.cruising.com.au/ Or call 1800 270 747 for more information.    
Today Show cruise deals: Best domestic and International offers
With 1.4 million Aussies choosing to cruise last year, it’s no wonder there’s a bounty of phenomenal deals on incredible vessels to choose from. Whether you’re keen for a European adventure, or have exploring the Kimberleys on your bucket list – there’s a cruise, and a suitable discount – to suit.

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