CRUIS­ING THROUGH 2020

Whether it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of sport­ing ex­cel­lence at the Tokyo Sum­mer Olympics or the sur­vival of a classic Caribbean lo­cale, there’s a lot to look for­ward to on the wa­ter this year

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

The Caribbean still reigns supreme when it comes to cruis­ing, but there’s a whole new world to ex­plore. Classic ports such as the Ba­hamas are recovering, new itin­er­ar­ies are open­ing up in Ja­pan for the 2020 Sum­mer Olympics, and lux­ury op­tions abound in the Sey­chelles. Here are eight places to pri­ori­tise in 2020.

JA­PAN

Re­mem­ber when Olympic or­gan­is­ers in Rio de Janeiro slept on cruise ships and called them “float­ing ho­tels”? Tokyo will do the same for its turn in the spot­light. From July 24 to Au­gust 9, the city is char­ter­ing at least one large ship to serve as a float­ing ho­tel in re­sponse to a short­age of rooms on dry land. But you’d be bet­ter off go­ing a more tra­di­tional route: Two of Royal Caribbean Cruises’s Shang­hai-based ships, Spec­trum of

the Seas and Voy­ager of the Seas, will of­fer itin­er­ar­ies that overnight at Tokyo’s new ter­mi­nal. Pas­sen­gers with tick­ets can eas­ily get to events and then sail on to other, less fre­netic parts of the coun­try.

Wind­star Cruises is bet­ting that the sum­mer’s tele­vi­sion cov­er­age will drum up tourism in­ter­est for Ja­pan in gen­eral, so it’s skip­ping the mar­quee games and send­ing its 312-pas­sen­ger, all-suite Star Breeze to the coun­try for a se­ries of tem­ple- and gar­den­cen­tric sail­ings this fall. But the most peace­ful way to sail might be a three-night trip on

Guntû, a 38-pas­sen­ger de­sign ship that’s like a float­ing ryokan on the Seto In­land Sea, com­plete with tra­di­tional open-air on­sen baths in some of its suites.

Most rec­om­mended trip: Star Breeze ten­night sail­ing, from US$3,599 per per­son.

THE BA­HAMAS

Typ­i­cally cruise lines have re­lied heav­ily on the Ba­hamas. Not only is Nassau, the cap­i­tal, a fre­quent port of call, but sev­eral com­pa­nies have or­gan­ised sail­ings through­out the com­mon­wealth around is­lands that they own. In the last year, how­ever, the roles have changed. Af­ter Hur­ri­cane Do­rian dev­as­tated Grand Ba­hama (also a cruise port) and the less-vis­ited Abaco is­lands, cruise com­pa­nies helped de­liver re­cov­ery sup­plies and made ma­jor do­na­tions. In the storm’s af­ter­math, they’re help­ing re­vi­talise the en­tire Ba­hamian tourism econ­omy.

Royal Caribbean is open­ing the sec­ond phase of its US$250mn Per­fect Day at Co­coCay is­land in Jan­uary. The Coco Beach Club in­cludes the first over­wa­ter float­ing ca­banas in the re­gion. Nor­we­gian Cruise Line Hold­ings has boosted the of­fer­ings at its Great Stir­rup Cay, a chic, South Beach­style beach oa­sis where you can shell out as much as US$1,100 a day for a pri­vate, air­con­di­tioned villa con­ve­niently lo­cated near a Moet & Chan­don bar. MSC Cruises’ re­cently opened, 95-acre Ocean Cay of­fers a more tran­quil ex­pe­ri­ence that fo­cuses on spa treat­ments and un­der­wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties in its pro­tected ma­rine re­serve.

Most rec­om­mended trip: A four-night itin

er­ary on Vir­gin’s Scar­let Lady, from US$2,750.

KIN­SALE, IRE­LAND

Cruise lines are jump­ing on the DNA tourism trend, and har­bour towns in West Cork, in­clud­ing the his­toric fish­ing town of Kin­sale, are try­ing to get a piece of the pie. Pro­mo­tional ef­forts have fo­cused on at­tract­ing small ex­pe­di­tion and bou­tique ships, and they’re pay­ing off. Last year, French line Po­nant sent one ship; this year it’s send­ing four. Ul­tralux­ury line Se­abourn has been sniff­ing around, too. Nearby at­trac­tions in­clude a 5.9km trail around the ocean cliffs of the Old Head of Kin­sale, where the Lusi­ta­nia was sunk just off­shore by a Ger­man U-boat in 1915. There’s also a star-shaped fort built by Charles II. And if you find through an an­ces­try search that you’re re­lated to the no­to­ri­ous 18th-cen­tury pi­rate Cap­tain Anne Bonny, Kin­sale is said to be where she’s from.

Most rec­om­mended trip: A seven-night sail­ing from Lon­don to Portsmouth, from US$3,830.

THE DOURO RIVER, POR­TU­GAL

Lis­bon is a pop­u­lar port, but at­ten­tion has also shifted north to the qui­eter Por­tuguese city of Porto. It’s also be­com­ing a pop­u­lar start­ing point for cruises on the Douro River. Lux­ury tour op­er­a­tor Tauck and lux­ury brand Uni­world River Cruises are each de­but­ing ships in the spring: Uni­world’s 100pas­sen­ger S S São Gabriel has but­lerser­viced suites, Douro-in­flu­enced decor, and lo­cally sourced cui­sine; Tauck’s 84pas­sen­ger MS An­dor­inha fea­tures an in­fin­ity-style pool, out­door din­ing, and Ba­li­nese daybeds on the sun deck. Din­ner at a fam­ily-owned wine es­tate near the sleepy vil­lage of Pin­hão is in­cluded. Most rec­om­mended trip: One-week Tauck Vil­lages and Vin­tages itin­er­ary, from US$4,190.

RAJA AM­PAT IS­LANDS

Far from the fancy re­sorts in Bali - in miles, scenery and style - this In­done­sian ar­chi­pel­ago oc­cu­pies an en­vi­able po­si­tion in the cen­tre of the Co­ral Triangle. Cruises here lead to fas­ci­nat­ing cul­tural en­coun­ters, but the big at­trac­tion is the warm sea, home to about 75 per cent of known co­ral species and about half of all the world’s ma­rine trop­i­cal fish. Typ­i­cally, the best way to see it all has been on small dive boats, but up­scale ex­pe­di­tion cruise ships from Po­nant and Aus­tralian line Co­ral Ex­pe­di­tions have re­cently moved in. Join­ing them is Aqua Ex­pe­di­tions, best known for its top-notch Ama­zon River sail­ings. It trans­formed a naval ves­sel into its first ocean ship, the 15suite yacht Aqua Blu, on which it of­fers a culi­nary pro­gramme de­signed by Aussie su­per­star chef Ben­jamin Cross and sail­ings that stretch through the win­ter.

Most rec­om­mended trip: One week on

Aqua Blu, from US$7,525.

SUB­ANTARC­TIC IS­LANDS

These is­lands in the South­ern Ocean, which are on the way to Antarc­tica from Aus­tralia and New Zealand, are pro­tected na­ture pre­serves, where only re­searchers live among birds and ma­rine mam­mals. On Mac­quarie Is­land, beaches may be cov­ered with royal pen­guins and fur seals. The is­land also has a weird ge­o­logic fea­ture: Some of its shores are piled up with ex­posed green rocks from the Earth’s man­tle that look eerily like they’re cov­ered in snake­skin. And the Snares, one of sev­eral chains of New Zealand is­lands, fea­ture crested pen­guins en­demic to the is­lands. Cruise pas­sen­gers visit on zo­di­acs that hug the shore­line or make a land­ing for guided walks, all in places where the num­ber of vis­i­tors is tightly con­trolled. Get here on ex­pe­di­tion ships from Silversea Cruise Hold­ing or Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions-Na­tional Ge­o­graphic, which have new itin­er­ar­ies travers­ing the re­gion.

Most rec­om­mended trip: A two-week cruise round trip from Dunedin (on New Zealand’s South Is­land) on Sil­ver Ex­plorer, from US$13,950.

THE SEY­CHELLES

Lux­u­ri­ous op­tions abound in this In­dian Ocean par­adise off of East Africa. Crys­tal Cruises’ 62-pas­sen­ger su­pery­acht, Crys­tal

Esprit, has suites with butler ser­vice and a pri­vate sub­ma­rine. Po­nant’s 184-pas­sen­ger

Le Bougainvil­le has a snazzy, un­der­wa­ter Blue Eye Lounge, some­what like a sub­ma­rine with a panoramic view. But the real beauty of sail­ing here is tak­ing tiny zo­di­acs to is­lands with un­in­hab­ited beaches, where you may snorkel among co­ral reefs or wan­der past tor­toises in lush forests.

Most rec­om­mended trip: A seven-night trip on Crys­tal Esprit, from US$5,599.

NILE RIVER

In Jan­uary, Uni­world Bou­tique River Cruises launches the new 84-pas­sen­ger, all-suite S

S Sphinx, and be­cause it will only sail in Egypt, its look will have an au­then­tic sense of place. Sim­i­larly, Vik­ing River Cruises in Septem­ber adds the 82-pas­sen­ger Vik­ing

Osiris, done up in Scan­di­na­vian de­sign de­spite her Nu­bian name. Stan­dard 12-day sail­ings on both ships start and end in Aswan, usu­ally af­ter a ho­tel stay in Cairo and a flight to Luxor. For DIY types, there are also four-night sail­ings to Aswan on Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats’ el­e­gant, re­cently up­graded, 64-pas­sen­ger Sanc­tu­ary Nile Ad­ven

turer. Its shorter sail­ings aren’t pack­aged with pre- and post-cruise land ex­pe­ri­ences and are a lit­tle more flex­i­ble. This year, es­pe­cially, a must-do is drinks on the ter­race of Aswan’s Old Cataract Ho­tel, where Agatha Christie wrote parts of her 1937 novel Death on the Nile. Ken­neth Branagh’s film based on the book will de­but in the­aters in the fall.

Most rec­om­mended trip: Four nights on the Sanc­tu­ary Nile Ad­ven­turer, from US$1,410.

The Wind­starBreeze in Osaka, Ja­pan

The Crys­talEsprit in the Sey­chelles

The Douro River, Por­tu­gal

Po­nant’s LeLap­er­ouse will sail in Raja Am­pat

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