This Saturday I board the Seabourn Encore for a fourteen day cruise from Barcelona to Athens as part of the Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise. It would seem, just from the ports of embarkation and disembarkation it is a “Been There. Done That.” itinerary, but oh would you be wrong.
Ten years ago I wrote an article – well worth reading again – about not being lulled into such thoughts by starting or ending your cruise in such ports as Barcelona, Civitavecchia, or Piraeus:
The reality is that where a cruise starts and ends is determined by such things as sufficient flights from all over the world, the ability for containers with supplies to be delivered to the ship, enough hotels and a decent cruise terminal. Because of this starting in an exotic locale is generally not an option; especially for luxury cruise ships.
[Expedition ships, on the other hand, may be able to utilize smaller ports because they are only handling 100 or so guests, so they can charter connecting flights (for example, from Buenos Aires – with lots of flights and hotels) to Ushuaia – with very limited supplies of both) and there is a lower demand for many of the specialty items that cannot be sourced locally.]
This past July I met with Seabourn’s Senior Director, Deployment and Itinerary Planning, to discuss Seabourn’s itineraries for 2018, 2019 and beyond. Even for an experienced travel agent and world traveler it was a fascinating discussion. While there is a fluctuation in countries and ports visited as Seabourn’s ship inventory rose with the Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest being delivered and then declined a bit with the triplets being sold, and rose again with the delivery of the Seabourn Encore and Ovation, focusing on diversity has been more the rule than the exception.
|The Backwaters of Cochin, India
For example, in 2017 Seabourn, with four ship, visited 86 countries and 347 different ports, in 2018 (with the delivery of the Seabourn Ovation) visited 104 countries and 473 different ports. In 2019 itinerary planning shows 95 countries and 447 ports. Making things even more interesting in 2018 104 of the 473 ports were new and notable; over 20%! In 2019 43 new and notable ports will be visited.
When one digs deeper into the figures, I mean ports, you find immersive “new and notable” experiences far exceed one new port. For example, in 2018-19 there are, without limitation,
- 12 Australian ports
- 6 Iceland ports
- 10 Canadian ports
- 5 Ireland ports
- 4 Chile ports
- 15 United Kingdom ports
- 10 Norway ports
- 7 Peru ports
- 4 Spain ports
- 3 Papua New Guinea
This trend is not just something seen at Seabourn. There is a significant effort by some cruise lines; especially as they expand their fleets and their clientele become better traveled and sophisticated. Silversea, Azamara Club Cruises and Windstar, for example, are also making a serious effort in their luxury (non-expedition) immersive and more exotic itineraries. (Crystal, with only two ships and its “yacht” is more focused on the “tried and true” and Regent is more focused on the same plus Cuba.)
In March I will be hosting a small group on the Windstar Star Legend (formerly the Seabourn Legend) sailing from Hong Kong to Beijing, China
. While many see Asia as exotic – created, I believe, in large part due to a hesitance to fly that far – there are the expected ports in between of Taipei and Shanghai, but also Japan’s Ishigaki Island (home to beautiful beaches and jungles) and Qingdao, China (famous for beer…which goes perfectly with sandwiches!) Add to that a post-cruise Windstar land experience in Beijing and Xian and it is a pretty meaty experience…especially for those who have little to no experience traveling in Asia.
This past April I traveled on the Azamara Journey through southern Asia
starting in Singapore and ending in Dubai, but visiting Myannar, two ports in Sri Lanka and three in India along the way. Now that was tasty!
- Mahon, Menorca, Spain
- Crotone, Italy
- Syracuse, Sicily
- Ajaccio, Corsica
- St. Tropez, France
Not the sort of itinerary one normally thinks of with this two seven day cruise combination.
And, of course, one must also remember that just because you have been somewhere once does not mean you have done everything that is of interest. As I have said so often, “If you put a pin in a map, that covers more area than you have actually visited. So, a pin in my hometown of Truckee, California covers more of Truckee than even I have seen. And that certainly does not mean I have seen all of the county, the State of California or the United States.”
How about a “taste” of this: I will, again, be visiting Marseille, France. But rather than having another visit to the fish market and a bowl of delicious bouillabaisse, it is off to Chateaunuf-du-pape for wine tastings and a gourmet lunch while visiting two different vineyards. In Corfu rather than buying a few souvenirs in Old Corfu Town it will be a walking historical culinary tour followed by a Greek wine tasting at an ancient villa overlooking the sea. And in Rome it will not be visiting the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, but a local market and then a cooking school to make ravioli and tiramisu.
So when you are considering at itineraries be sure to look beyond the bread! There are lots of delicious destinations and things to do that you might otherwise miss.
Interested in a cruising or traveling to new destinations? Give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
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