Top Cruise Ports for 2012

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik has lots of history to explore as well as famous beaches.

 

We reached out to several top cruise specialists to find out which ports have grown in popularity recently, and where your clients will want to go in 2012.

Patrick Mack of All-Travel.com has noticed that luxury lines are calling on much smaller ports in the Mediterranean, especially France and Italy. “I recently ran into an itinerary where they visited the city of Sète in France that had canals and looked almost like Venice at the port area,” he recalls. “I was boggled that I’d never heard of it. It’s more common to stop in smaller areas in the southern area of Italy with Sorrento and Amalfi, not just Naples. And they keep finding new places to stop on the Dalmatian Coast!”

 

 

Chewton Glen
Chewton Glen, a hotel near Southampton, is a nice option for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Top Port Stays

When we asked agents what the top cruise ports for 2012 would be, Jonathan Epstein, president and owner of Celebrated Experiences, tweeted us to say that his favorite cruise port is Southampton, “so you can stay @chewtonglen.” That sounded intriguing (Twitter handles, of course, can be very mysterious), so we checked it out.

Chewton Glen, it turns out, is a boutique Relais & Chateaux property about a 35-minute drive from the port in Southampton, England, and a great option for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Epstein says that the hotel “captures an aspirational and idealistic English country experience. It is authentic and has a dramatic sense of place…It is perfect for walks, cycling and horseback riding with its New Forest National Park location; it has one of the best spas in the UK and an incredibly exclusive treatment menu; [and] the dining experience is also one of England’s best.” (The seaside setting lends itself to plenty of fresh seafood.)

All the rooms and suites at Chewton Glen blend contemporary and antique furnishings (with countless knickknacks, just for fun). We’re especially impressed by the Poacher Suite (with a private study), the Masterman Ready Suite (with a sun deck and terrace), and the Marryat Suites and the Jacob Faithful Suites (both with spacious lounges—perfect for entertaining).

Heads Up: The hotel is currently building six Tree House Suites that will available in July 2012.

As the property is small, there is no concierge per se, but Reception Manager Alison Chenet can organize all sorts of activities (think surfing or sailing, private tours of Exbury Gardens and private yoga, Pilates, or tai chi).

Luxury travel advisors can reach out to Sales and Marketing Director Chris Ward.

 

 

Vicki Chalfin, also of All-Travel.com recommends Alaska for summer cruises and likes docking in Juneau or Sitka. “While in Juneau, a flight across the glaciers to Taku Lodge is amazing...not inexpensive, but amazing. After you fly over the Mendenhall Glacier, you land on a beautiful lake where you have a great salmon lunch and watch the bears clean the BBQ grills. It is a great place for photos and a wildlife haven. And the added bonus is taking off and landing in a float plane!” In Sitka, Chalfin recommends going on a wildlife excursion to see the whales. “On the way, you might be lucky enough to see sea lions playing on the rocks and sea otter families having lunch or floating on their backs. Last time, we saw the whales feeding.”

A third All-Travel.com colleague, Bobbie Abood, likes cruises to Hawaii, which, she notes, can still provide plenty of unique experiences if organized right. “There is a wonderful beach area on Oahu—just past Haleiwa—where ‘honus’ [green sea turtles] swim. You can wade into the water and they will swim around you—completely unafraid of humans,” she says. “It is very cool.” On Kauai, she continues, Hanapepe Café is a vegetarian restaurant in Old Hanapepe Town. “It is open for dinner only on Friday nights when the town holds an ‘Art Walk,’” she says.

Hawaii specialist and founder of Hawaii-Aloha.com Bruce Fisher recommends cruising to Maui and then taking a helicopter to Hana from the pier. Ships dock right by Kahului airport, he explains, so catching a flight is easy. He recommends flying Hana Skytrek, which is run by a company called Temptation Tours. “The air-land tour takes about six hours to complete,” he says. “You fly by helicopter to Hana and return in a nice comfortable van to the airport at Kahalui.” Lunch or dinner can be provided if the cruise takes place in the afternoon. Top Tip: Several cruises stay overnight in port—in which case, Fisher says, “stay overnight at Travaasa Hāna and then drive back to the ship.”

Another Hawaii option is a cruise to the smaller islands. In October, American Safari Cruises launched cruises to Molokai, Lanai and Molokini on the 36-passenger Safari Explorer.

Nadia Jastrjembskaia of Aurora Cruises and Travel believes that St. Petersburg, Russia, will be a top port of call for 2012. She advises her clients to visit the city in June, when they can experience the White Nights and the annual music festival along with classical ballet performances, and of course, the Hermitage. “I like to introduce people to the Russian culture and immerse them into palace environments,” she says, adding that she encourages overnight stays in the city. “This gives people time to explore this wonderful city in depth.”

Peter Grubb, founder and president of ROW Adventures, recommends Dubrovnik and Rhodes as favored cruise stops. In Dubrovnik, he says, visitors should explore the Franciscan monastery along with the adjoining pharmacy that opened in 1391. (It is the third-oldest still-functioning pharmacy in Europe.) While Dubrovnik’s beaches are more pebbly than sandy, they still have plenty of appeal. Swimmers will want to take to the Adriatic just outside the old city walls—“Which are also amazing at sunset,” he notes. Just outside Pile Gate is a small cove beneath the towering Bokar Bastion (part of the fortifications of the city wall) that is usually quiet. Guests can also take a quick ferry ride to the island of Lokrum. As for Rhodes, visitors should tour the city walls and remains of the ramparts and castle of the Knights of St. John.

Joan Werner of Valerie Wilson Travel notes that many Mediterranean cruises stop in and around Nice, and guests can easily drive or fly from there to Monaco for a day-trip or an extended stay. For its own part, Monaco’s Port Hercules Harbor has been expanded to accommodate twice as many yachts and larger cruise ships, so that people can arrive right at the gate. The added capacity lets two larger cruise vessels dock along the breakwater with immediate access to the new cruise terminal.

Once in Monaco, Werner suggests that guests go exploring Monte Carlo’s cafes before visiting the major attractions like the Palace or the Opera House, or going boating around the harbor, or taking in a performance of the Philharmonic.“What sets Monaco aside is culture,” she says. “You don’t find that in many resorts.”

 

Monaco
Monaco is developing as a cruise destination along the Riviera.

 

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