Great Cruise Land Excursions


Singita Ebony lodge


Want to live large on land while taking a luxury cruise? Take a look at what the luxe lines have on tap.

Seeking a lavish, over-the-top land adventure? If so, take to the sea. Increasingly, upper premium and luxury cruise lines are making elaborate arrangements for adventures ashore. Head out this year to photograph wildlife on the African plains, enjoy racing action at the Grand Prix of Monaco, spot bears in Alaska, explore Peru’s Incan ruins or stroll along Italy’s Lake Como.

Silversea Cruises delivers Africa with a two-day Maasai Mara Safari land trip. Offered in the middle of a two-week Silver Wind departure from Mahé, Seychelles, on December 21, this two-day adventure starts in Mombasa, Kenya, before guests are flown by chartered aircraft to the country’s interior, where hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra migrate between the Mara to the north and the Serengeti to the south.

If the weather is clear en route, peer out the window and catch a glimpse of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. Upon landing, a safari vehicle awaits. On the tour’s first game drive, watch for lions, buffalo, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes and elephants. Then it’s on to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club for lunch, followed by a second game drive, dinner and an overnight stay in a luxurious private tent. From your own private game-viewing deck, look for hippos and crocodiles.

There’s no roughing it here. The lavish, newly refurbished private tents have four-poster beds with pillow-top mattresses and fine linens. En-suite facilities even include solar-heated water. Wake up in the Mara, enjoy breakfast and set out for another game drive. Then fly to Mombasa to rejoin the ship.

If hippos don’t appeal, how about bears? Sailing its first season of Alaska cruises with Regatta, Oceania Cruises fields a three-day Bear Viewing Tour as a post-cruise option. The adventure begins at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, followed by a tram trip to Mt. Alyeska’s summit and a night at the Alyeska Resort.

Azamara Journey
Four Seasons Resort Provence hosts guests pre-cruise on Azamara Journey’s golf cruise in May.

The following day, take an exhilarating flight over pristine forests and rugged mountains to a remote lake. Then continue by small boat to an area where, hopefully, brown bears will be closely viewable as they fish for salmon. After lunch at the lake’s remote lodge, return by plane to Lake Hood and tour Turnagain Arm by boat, before overnighting in Anchorage.

Golf anyone? In a new partnership with Perry Golf, Azamara Club Cruises fields a golf tour and cruise program. For Azamara Journey’s May 26 departure from Nice, France, the golf program comes with a one-night pre-cruise stay at the Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche.

A big plus? Learn to improve your swing or putting accuracy at the one-of-a-kind Albatross Golf Performance Center. Practice those new techniques during play on two 18-hole, par-72 championship courses, which deliver views of Provençal villages and the southern Alps.

A non-golfing spouse may opt for a spa treatment or a dip in the outdoor vitality pool. While the hotel has a bevy of fine-dining experiences, including Faventia, a Michelin two-star restaurant, those with a wellness bent should lunch at the spa’s Infusion Café. Its outdoor terrace delivers a soothing, sun-filled experience. Order the steamed young turbot with olive-tree leaves, tender vegetables and citrino oil, or the iced strawberry soup accented with vanilla-flavored pink grapefruit.

Cosmonaut Training Center
Crystal cruises organizes excursions to Russia’s former Cosmonaut Training Center.

After boarding Azamara Journey in Nice, golfers may play additional rounds at Italian and French courses. An added bonus of this voyage is the extensive time on land in Monaco during the Grand Prix of Monaco. Azamara has purchased prime seating race tickets to offer as an option to guests.

For a longer land adventure, Seabourn Cruises has put together a five-day pre- or post-cruise extension to Seabourn Quest’s 2012 World Cruise from Cape Town, South Africa. Before journeying to Singita Private Game Reserve and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, spend a night at the Westcliff Hotel, an Orient-Express hotel, in Johannesburg; it resembles a lovely Mediterranean village cascading down a hillside. Individually decorated, the accommodations reflect the style of South Africa’s master designer Graham Viney. Hint: One of the best spots in Johannesburg for city and zoological views is the hotel’s pool deck.

A charter flight takes guests to the Singita Ebony Lodge, along the banks of the Sand River, where they spend two nights. Elephants, buffalos and antelopes can be seen from the resort’s wooden deck. Game drives, both night and day, offer opportunities to spot “the big five”—elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. After a day of game tracking, take time to relax. Browse Ebony’s large, air-conditioned library, select a book about South Africa or its wildlife and enjoy some quiet time in your private, air-conditioned suite or on its private deck. Or ask friends over for a drink, as the lodge’s wine cellar boasts 12,000 different vintages.

Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises organizes excursions to Russia’s former Cosmonaut Training Center.

Lavish styling and rugged scenery meld in the lodge’s private suite accommodations, containing a double-sided fireplace, private plunge pool and en-suite bathroom with shower and bath. Truly brave? Go “bush bathing” in the suite’s private outdoor shower.

Then it’s on to Cape Town for a one-night stay at the waterfront Cape Grace Hotel; a tour of Cape Peninsula National Park to view flightless African penguins, baboons and eland; and a stop at the Groot Constantia Wine Estate. One artistic highlight not to miss is the wine museum’s pediment sculpted by Anton Anreith.

Machu Picchu and Beyond

Across the Atlantic, SeaDream Yacht Club will sail two 20-night Amazon voyages between Iquitos, Peru and Barbados in early 2012, and offer an optional six-night land adventure pre- or post-cruise. What’s unique? Most ocean-going cruise companies that operate on the Amazon end their voyages in Manaus rather than continuing to Iquitos.

Visit the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, en route to the Incan cultural center of Sacsayhuamán. Learn about llamas, alpacas and vicuñas and ancient weaving techniques, and view smooth-gaited Peruvian Paso horses in a Wayra Ranch equestrian demonstration. The ranch’s gastronomic Novo Andino feast blends Andean, coastal and international flavors. Try the curry de alpaca with a tacu tacu of rice and green beans.

Additional nights on this tour are spent at the Rio Sagrado Hotel, Monasterio Park Hotel, Miraflores Park Hotel and Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, all pampering Orient-Express properties. Tour Highlight: Wind around soaring Andean scenery on the Hiram Bingham, a luxe Orient-Express train named after the man who rediscovered Machu Picchu. One plus about SeaDream’s schedule is that the train arrives after 1 p.m., a good time to explore the ruins without the morning crowds.

Want to escape to Italy’s idyllic lake region? Crystal Cruises’ offers a three-night Lake Como & Villa d’Este getaway on September 4, prior to Crystal Serenity’s September 7 Venice departure. Guests stay at the opulent Villa d’Este at Cernobbio, built in the 1600s. Today, the villa still enchants luxury travelers, who feel aristocratic while strolling its gardens of camellias, ferns and palms.

One popular activity is to visit the village of Bellagio. If you’ve worked up an appetite for lunch, head for Babayaga’s outdoor terrace, a casual choice for cold cuts, hand-tossed pizza and, of course, fresh pasta. Start with the carpaccio bresaola and porcini mushrooms.

When the Lake Como land trip concludes, Crystal provides a transfer to Venice by private car, including lunch at the Villa del Quar Hotel in Verona.

For cruise departures from April onward, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which already has a robust program of complimentary shore trips, offers a one-night, pre-cruise complimentary luxury hotel stay. But sometimes, the line reports, high-end guests like to fashion their own land adventures. For example, some of Regent’s World Cruise guests fly their private jets to upcoming ports of call. They then fly home for a quick visit or to an interior destination before meeting the ship at the next port.

For an out-of-this-world adventure, consider the June 2 departure of Crystal Serenity from Stockholm. Crystal offers an optional, one-night land excursion to Russia’s former top secret Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City. Guests train as a modern cosmonaut, experience extreme G forces and become weightless at the world’s largest hydrospace laboratory.

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