Nuuk, Greenland, is on Seabourn’s new ports list; it appears on a 24-day ‘Route of the Vikings’ tour that departs August 8.
If you yearn for a less-traveled ocean path, check out the new cruise itineraries with “maiden” port calls or routes not traveled by many ships. Here are Luxury Travel Advisor’s anecdotal picks for top new 2014 port calls, most with a decidedly exotic flair.
Odessa, Ukraine: This is a sizzling hot region for upscale cruise activity and, for the first time in its history, Windstar Cruises will operate several “Black Sea Tapestry” voyages on June 13, June 20 and September 8. Windstar’s new Star Pride, the former Seabourn Pride, will sail to Yalta, Sevastopol and Odessa, Ukraine; Constanta (for Bucharest), Romania; and Nessebar, Bulgaria.
What’s to do in Odessa? Climb the Potemkin Steps or take the small cable car to the top for a fee; the reward is beautiful harbor views. You might also peruse the exterior of the city’s 1880-era opera house, designed by Austrian architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. For a more full-bodied day, reserve Windstar’s optional “Akkerman Fortress and Shabo Winery” shore excursion. The fortress’ fortifications date from the ancient Greek city of Tyras as well as the early medieval town of Belgorod.
Picture: MALACCA in Malaysia will be paid a visit by Crystal Cruises. Be sure to visit Jonker Street for shopping.
Tour goers will head out as a group to watch a Ukrainian folkloric performance and have lunch at Argo, a local restaurant. Next, it’s on to the Shabo Wine Culture Centre. Visit a centuries-old sherry cellar, learn about the winemaking process and taste Chardonnay, Cabernet, semi-dry white, semi-sweet red and sweet dessert wines, as well as Vermouth and Brandy. Check out this YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUlwAoDFq_U.
Malacca, Malaysia: For the first time in 2014, Crystal Cruises will call at Malacca, Malaysia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and melting pot of Malay, Chinese and European cultural influences. Explore Malacca during Crystal Symphony’s “Treasures of Southeast Asia” cruise sailing roundtrip from Singapore on March 12.
Crystal has four new shore excursions, including “Historic Malacca by Foot,” a moderately active adventure. Travel by motorcoach to Dutch Square, also called Red Square given its red-brick buildings. You’ll learn about Malacca’s role in the spice trade and peruse the 1650-era Stadthuys (derived from the Dutch words for “city” and “house”), once the official Dutch governors’ residence and now the city hall.
Cruisers will also view Christ Church, Malaysia’s oldest functioning Protestant church, tour the Governor’s Museum, head up St. Paul’s Hill to the ruins of St. Paul’s Church and trek back down to La Porta de Santiago, the original gate house for a former Portuguese fort. As the tour concludes, you’ll board a trishaw for a bit of a thrilling ride back to the ship.
Exploring independently? Jonker Street is a good place to start shopping. One gift to take home is “kasut manik” or ladies’ beaded shoes, a Peranakan craft found only within this region. One quality shop that carries these shoes is J. Manik Sdn. Bhd, 23 Jalan Hang Lekir, just off Jonker Street.
If you plan to dine ashore, local dishes include “asam pedas,” a spicy and sour fish curry with white rice, and “ayam pongteh,” Nyonya chicken and potato stew. Hainanese chicken rice balls are easy to pop in your mouth and reflect the area’s Chinese heritage. When it’s dessert time, order a freshly baked pineapple tart or “cendol” (pronounced “chen-dul”), a sweet dessert consisting of shaved ice, coconut milk, pandan-flavored green noodles and Malacca sugar.
Mossel Bay, South Africa: On a 15-day “South African Holiday” voyage, Oceania Cruises’ Nautica sails roundtrip from Cape Town, South Africa on December 22, 2014, making two maiden calls for the line at Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth. Also, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Voyager plans a maiden call at Mossel Bay in late 2014.
Don’t expect the usual line-organized touring as this is more a kick-back-and-relax destination. The weather is almost always good as Mossel Bay averages 320 sunny days a year and has the second mildest climate worldwide, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
What’s to see? Check out the replica of a historic Portuguese ship at the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex or tour the Victorian-styled Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse. You might also walk along the beach, go horseback riding, shop for handicrafts and souvenirs at the Hartenbos Beach craft market, or go swimming at the wide, family-friendly beach. Nature enthusiasts might arrange a boat ride to Seal Island to view more than 2,500 Cape fur seals.
With dramatic cliffside holes, the 18-hole, championship course at the Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort stretches along the coastline for two miles; it was designed by golf architect Peter Matkovich and pro golfer Darren Clarke. Active cruisers might head out on the St. Blaize Trail for water views, but be sure you have time to get back to the ship; it’s a multi-hour hike.
STEEP ISLAND off Raft Point, Kimberley Coast, Australia, is on Silversea’s list of fresh destinations for 2014.
Outside town, the Zorgfontein Game Farm offers an unusual, one-hour “walking with lions” encounter. Safety instructions are provided, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. You and eight to 10 other guests will stroll with lions that are neither leashed nor collared. Yet, travelers who’ve participated seemingly adored the experience. Walk at your own risk, though.
Travelers might simply prefer to relax with coffee and cake at Baruch’s Roastery & Restaurant. If you’re seeking a lunchtime seafood house experience, Café Gannet is recommended for its fresh coastal oysters, black mussels and Mossel Bay sole.
The Kimberley, Australia: For 2014, Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) launches its third expedition ship, Silver Discoverer. A series of 10-day voyages, entitled “The Kimberley—Australia’s Hidden Treasure,” takes guests to a totally new port destination for Silversea. The ship spends seven days in the Kimberley for voyages between Darwin and Broome, Western Australia. Departures are April 2, 12 and 22, as well as May 2.
Nature is on display as cruisers will see waterfalls, gorges, Aboriginal rock art and deserted beaches. Cruise by Zodiac to search for eagles and ospreys in the mangroves and look for saltwater crocodiles. At Montgomery Reef, experience a dramatic tidal change as a low tide reveals a reef exposing a river; as the tide ebbs, Zodiacs take cruisers closer to the reef’s edge where they’re surrounded by waterfalls. Look for reef birds, turtles, manta rays and even the elusive “dugong”(an Australian manatee).
Other shore outings take guests to King George’s twin waterfalls and to Mitchell Falls by helicopter. One trip highlight is the Bungle Bungle mountain range in Purnululu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get your camera ready as these ancient geologic formations have unusual orange-and-black striped domes.
For those desiring to combine this trip with Indonesia, Silversea operates a 12-day voyage between Broome and Benoa, Bali, Indonesia on May 12; it also has many days in the Kimberley.
Bodrum, Turkey: A lovely city within Turkey’s southwestern Aegean region, Bodrum is a maiden call on Queen Elizabeth’s 21-day “Greek and Turkish Tapestry” voyage from Venice to Civitavecchia (for Rome), departing June 27. This cruise also calls at Korcula, Croatia; Heraklion, Katakolon, Rhodes, Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Volos, Greece; Kusadasi and Istanbul; and Naples, Italy. Several other Cunard Line (www.cunard.com) summer itineraries also include Bodrum.
Bodrum’s big claim to fame? It was once home to the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” You may still view a bit of the famous mausoleum’s remains during Cunard’s new “Best of Bodrum” tour. In addition, check out the polished stone-and-marble blocks on the walls of the Knights of Malta Castle; the blocks are very noticeable from others used as they were taken from the mausoleum.
If you’ve previously visited Bodrum, one option is the new Cunard tour to the Kiyikislacik village within the ancient city of Iasos. While unknown to modern travelers, Iasos is a major archaeological site that was buried for thousands of years in volcanic ash; it’s just now being excavated.
To dine in Bodrum City, try Restaurant La Pasion, a Spanish restaurant with savory fish stew, paella, and shrimp in garlic and almonds. Its wine list includes eclectic vintages from Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the U.S. To sample an Aegean region red wine, order the EGEO Cabernet Sauvignon, Kavaklidere Winery ’09.
Odessa’s opera house is a highlight in Ukraine, where Windstar’s ‘Black Sea Tapestry’ voyages visit.
Vila do Abraao, Ilha Grande, Brazil: This protected island off Brazil’s southwestern coast is a new addition to Azamara Club Cruises’ line-up. Visit on Azamara Journey’s 12-night “Christmas & New Year’s Voyage” starting December 22, 2014, with a stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then sailing to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Cruisers will feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe here as Vila do Abraao has no cars, paved roads or even banks. It does have a slew of beaches including the lovely Praia de Lopes Mendes, as well as lagoons, waterfalls and mountain peaks. Keep your eyes peeled for the red-browed Amazon parrot and the maned sloth, both endangered species.
You might visit the ruins of the Candido Mendes prison or visit a small town center, where you’ll find Brazilian restaurants and bars. At Dom Mario, veteran local chef Mario creates a savory fish fillet with passion fruit sauce. Definitely order the caramelized bananas for dessert.
Other Brazilian port calls on the Azamara Journey’s itinerary include llhabela, Parati, Copacabana Beach, and Buzios. The ship also calls at Montevideo and Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Greenland: The extensive list of 2014 maiden port calls by Seabourn Cruise Line ranges from Amasra, Turkey, to Stralsund, Germany, from Isafjordur, Iceland, to four ports in Greenland at Ilulissat, Nuuk, Paamiut and Sisimiut. Seabourn Quest’s 24-day “Route of the Vikings” itinerary calls at these Greenland ports during a Dover, UK, to Montreal, Canada, sailing that departs August 8.
On the Labrador Sea’s eastern shore lies Nuuk, Greenland’s capital and largest city, although it’s one of the globe’s smallest capitals population-wise, with just 16,500 residents. The Sermitsiaq mountain provides a scenic backdrop. In western Greenland, above the Arctic Circle, is Ilulissat, formerly called Jakobshavn. Not surprisingly, the town’s name means “icebergs” in Kalaallisut. The Ilulissat Icefjord is the draw here.
Also north of the Arctic Circle is Sisimiut, a small town with dark, colorful homes and buildings. At the small Sisimiut Museum, you can learn about traditional Inuit culture, maritime history and Greenland’s Colonial era. While touring old Sisimiut, pop into NORD Cafe & Art, operated by the mountainside Hotel Sisimiut. It’s a good place to buy Greenlandic handicrafts, enjoy a cup of coffee, and secure tourism information about fishing and hiking.
At Paamiut, look skyward around the harbor area to see sea eagles diving to snatch a fisherman’s catch. This is a tiny, idyllic town with historic shops, a colonial administration building, goat barn and church.
Alotau, Papua New Guinea: Located in Milne Bay province, relaxed Alotau is a maiden call on SeaDream Yacht Club’s new exotic 2014 itineraries. Thanks to a lack of road access to bustling Port Moresby, the nation’s capital, Alotau retains its laid-back, South Seas charm.
On February 1, SeaDream II sails from Cairns, Australia, to Bali, Indonesia, calling at Alotau on February 3.
Local residents will greet the ship’s guests as they come ashore. Guides will lead beach hikes and bird watching tours. History buffs might take SeaDream’s optional tour into the jungle and along the coast to visit sites associated with a World War II battle between Japanese and Australian troops.
Given remote Alotau’s exotic locale, it’s probably best to dine on the ship, although it’s fun to peruse the locals shopping for fresh bananas, yams and crabs. Look closely and you might also see the locals chomping on a favorite snack—betel nut mixed with lime as a “chew”. Souvenirs that make nifty gifts for family and friends are Trobriand lime pots, bowls and walking sticks.
BODRUM, Turkey, in the Aegean can be visited on the Queen Elizabeth’s ‘Greek and Turkish Tapestry’ itinerary.