Cruises That Give A Taste Of Their Destination

Lynn Houghton, The Daily Telegraph, March 13, 2014

Miami getaway
It’s hard to miss the livery on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Miami-themed ship, launched in January. The design of the 3,969-passenger Norwegian Getaway is based entirely on its home port, with a bright hull (think beach scenes and mermaids) painted by Miami artist and muralist David “LEBO” Le Batard. The ship’s godmothers are the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders. The Sunset Bar takes its cue from Ernest Hemingway’s beloved Key West, in the Florida Keys (there’s even has a full trophy-sized Marlin mounted behind the bar) while the Sugarcane Mojito Bar serves rum-based cocktails. The ship will sail on Caribbean itineraries, visiting destinations such as Philipsburg in St Maarten; St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Book: Norwegian Cruise Line (0845 201 8900; ) offers a nine-night Eastern Caribbean round trip from Miami on board Norwegian Getaway, departing on May 23, 2014. From £1,283pp including flights.

A taste of Burma

Designed by Burmese brothers U Soe Naing and Myo Aung and built in a Myanmar shipyard, where its interiors were constructed by Burmese carpenters, the 48-guest Sanctuary Ananda underwent a Buddhist blessing ceremony when it first entered the water. Owned by luxury tour operator Sanctuary Retreats, the new river vessel will offer sailings on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers. Several of the itineraries will explore less-visited areas of Burma, known for its golden stupas and temples, including the Mahar Minkyaung Monastery in Mingin, where the Shwe Sagar Buddha, one of 10 carved from a single trunk of wood almost 1,000 years ago, can be seen. Ananda itself is named after the 12th-century temple in Bagan.

Book: Sanctuary Retreats (020 7190 7728; ) offers a 10-night Mandalay, Homalin, Bagan cruise along the Chindwin River through western Burma, departing on July 26, 2014. From £2,840pp including all meals, soft drinks, local beer and sightseeing where stated. It also offers three-night Bagan to Mandalay itineraries on the Irrawaddy River, with departures during December 2014. From £1,368pp. Both excluding flights.

Catch of the day
Based in Connecticut, new operator Pearl Seas Cruises will initially specialise in maritime New England and Canada cruises, with Bahamas and Caribbean sailings being added in 2015. The 210-passenger Pearl Mist, the company’s first ship, will launch later this year. On board, passengers can dine on just-caught seafood including lobster, North Atlantic salmon and tuck into local specialities such as crab cakes. On board, passengers can expect an informal and casual ambiance. Pearl Mist’s maiden Maritime New England cruise, departing on June 25, 2014 will call at Nantucket, considered the finest surviving example of a New England whaling seaport, as well as Boston, well known for its heritage trails and university buildings.

Book: Pearl Seas Cruises (00 1 800 981 9146; ) offers a 10-night Canadian Maritime Cruise from Portland, Maine, to Quebec City, departing on October 8, 2014. From £3,372 per person excluding flights .

Frontiers and pioneers
Explore the interior of America’s Deep South on a restored paddle steamer. Themed sailings along the Mississippi River aboard the 436-passenger American Queen recall the bygone era of the antebellum South through a series of themed itineraries. Southern Culture takes in the literature, music and culture of the South, as well as its traditions, history and cooking; Gardens of the River offers an insight into the influences that inspired the owners of southern American plantations, with villa and plantation tours led by horticulturists and gardeners.
A newly purchased paddle boat, the 223-passenger American Empress, will start sailing next month in America’s Pacific Northwest, on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Scenically, little has changed in this region since the Lewis and Clark Expedition, when these two explorers, the first to cross the western part of the US, spent the winter here in 1805-6. Seven-day voyages will sail past forests, canyons and mountain ranges and take in the Bonneville Dam. There is also a visit to a millionaire’s Victorian home in Astoria, Oregon. On board both ships, mahogany panelling and period decor recall the American Victorian era. Guests enjoy old-fashioned showboat-style entertainment nightly in the Grand Saloon or, for those so inclined, a late-night game of poker.

The American Queen Steamboat Company (01223 568904; ) offers an eight-night Westbound Clarkston to Portland cruise on American Empress along the Columbia and Snake rivers, including one hotel night in Spokane, departing on May 10, 2014. From £3,495 per person including flights.

Slow boat through Asia
Aqua Expeditions made its name operating cruises on the Amazon River, and this year will launch the 40-passenger Aqua Mekong, sailing from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. Designed by British architect David Hodkinson, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City, the vessel draws on the design ethos of local artisan craftsmen. More than 60 million people and 100 different ethnic groups live in the Lower Mekong River Basin and rely on the river daily for food, transportation and livelihood. Among the many highlights of a Mekong cruise are Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex and the Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Guests also visit a bird reserve on Tonle Sap Lake, south-east Asia’s last refuge of spot-billed pelicans, black-headed ibis and other large waterbirds. The on-board chefs shop at riverside markets, often accompanied by guests, for organic produce and fresh ingredients such as catfish and river prawns.

Aqua Expeditions (0808 189 0361; ) offers a seven-night Expedition Cruise up or downriver between Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia on Aqua Mekong, with departures in October and November 2014. From £4,205 per person, excluding flights.

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