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Quirky cruises: 10 of the best

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If your client is looking for a sailing that’s a little bit different, glean inspiration from our round-up of novel cruises.

A Saga mystery

On this cruise, there’s no guarantee where Captain Stuart Horne will sail. The intriguing voyage aboard Saga Sapphire will leave Southampton in November, with Captain Horne promising: “I like to keep everyone guessing as long as possible. Perhaps I’ll head down an estuary towards a port, then turn around and go in another direction – that’ll bamboozle them.

“I’ll only tell my navigation team and engineers as much as they need to know for route planning and fuel management. After all, the more people in on it, the greater the risk that someone will let slip the next destination and spoil the fun.”

Ports will only be announced once the ship is berthed – but there will be a shore excursion included in every port.

As this is Saga Sapphire’s last mystery cruise, celebrity guests will also be in attendance. One certainty is the presence of the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, which will entertain on six nights.

BOOK IT: 21 nights from £3,091pp, departs Southampton on 27 November 2018. Based on two people sharing a twin cabin.

River romance

Cabaret and cocktails are the stars of APT’s Romantic Seine river cruise. Situated in the heart of Paris on the Champs-Élysées, guests will spend an evening immersed in a show at the Lido de Paris which opened in 1946, with entertainment courtesy of the Bluebell Girls and Lido Boys.

New and exclusive on this cruise is an after-hours visit to Palais Bénédictine. In 1510, Benedictine monk and alchemist Dom Bernardo Vincelli created a secret elixir. 350 years later, Alexandre Le Grand found the recipe among his collection – thought to be lost during the French Revolution. Intrigued, Le Grand successfully recreated the liqueur which he called Bénédictine.

He later built the Palais Bénédictine in honour of the drink, and it has been produced there ever since. A tale of ancient and modern history unfolds as guests wander the museum and distillery, take in a cocktail show and enjoy dinner in the Abbot’s Hall.

BOOK IT: The eight-day return journey from Paris is priced from £3,095pp, twin share and offers a choice of one departure per month from May to September 2019.

The love boat

Couples in the mood for romance will be interested to hear about AmaWaterways’ Renewal of Vows package on new ship AmaMagna.

Launching in May 2019 and nearly twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, AmaMagna features 98 spacious staterooms, most of which are suites. “Ama originates from ’Amor’ or love, and we are honoured and overjoyed to celebrate the love stories of our guests on board AmaMagna,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways.

“Sharing dream travel experiences can be one of the most romantic things to do together as a couple, and on AmaMagna we look forward to offering some personalised ‘surprise and delight’ moments.”

BOOK IT: The package costs £351 per couple and is available on all sailings. If the couple are travelling as part of a group of 10 or more, the package will be free. AmaMagna will sail along the Danube from Vilshofen to Budapest, with prices from £2,381pp for the departure on 17 November 2019.

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Sing at Sea

Sea songs

Voyages to Antiquity has announced the launch of its fourth popular ‘Sing at Sea’ cruise, in association with London’s Brandenburg Choir.

The 2019 cruise, from London to Lisbon, includes the opportunity to loosen up those vocal chords, thanks to dedicated wine tasting tours in Bordeaux and port tasting in Oporto. Sailings will be led by experienced choirmaster and conductor Bob Porter, the founder of the Brandenburg Choral Festival.

Experienced vocalists and enthusiastic amateurs will be led by Bob through a number of choral workshops, adapted to suit all levels of singers, on board Aegean Odyssey, before performing to fellow passengers alongside the pros in a grand finale.

The 13-day ‘The Three Rivers’ cruise departs London (UK), on 14 August 2019. Calls include Rouen, Honfleur, La Rochelle and Bordeaux (France), San Sebastian and La Coruna (Spain), and Oporto and Lisbon (Portugal), where guests disembark.

BOOK IT: The cruise is priced from £1995pp, including return flights, transfers, all meals and drinks with dinner on board, choral workshops, guest speakers and shore excursions.

Clients in control

Fred. Olsen’s adults-only ‘You Choose Your Cruise’ sailing of Portugal and Spain gives guests the opportunity to chart the ship’s course and choose between two ports of call as the ship sails, keeping each destination a mystery.

Each guest’s ballot is counted and the result is delivered to the Captain, who announces the winning choice. Potential port gems include Lisbon, Oporto, Cadiz, Malaga, Barcelona, Tarragona, Ibiza, Mallorca, Cartagena, Alicante, Vigo and La Coruna.

“The atmosphere is electric each voting day, and this two-week cruise puts guests firmly in command,” said Justin Stanton, sales and marketing director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

“‘You Choose Your Cruise’ creates a holiday made especially for those who love mystery, adventure and the smaller-ship atmosphere.”

BOOK IT: Black Watch’s 15-night M1926 ‘You Choose Your Cruise’ sailing departs Liverpool on 11 November 2019. Prices from £1,699pp, based on two adults sharing a twin-bedded Interior Room, and include accommodation, all meals and entertainment on board, plus port taxes.

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Black Watch

The culture beat

On a number of Uniworld’s European cruise departures, guests can explore Jewish history and culture – this is the only Jewish Heritage Programme of its kind on the rivers, on board the only Jewish family-owned river cruise line.

The in-depth itineraries dive into Central Europe’s enduring Jewish legacy with visits to museums, memorials, synagogues and more. While visits to Holocaust memorials, Jewish museums and WWII sites are an important part of this journey, Uniworld’s aim is to tell the whole story – the story of how the Jewish people thrived for centuries in Germany and are flourishing there once again.

BOOK IT: The new eight-day Authentic Danube Jewish Heritage cruise from Vienna to Nuremberg is priced from £2,499pp (twin share) and includes accommodation in a riverview stateroom on the River Princess, all meals and unlimited beverages on board, onshore excursions, all transfers and return flights from the UK. Departures begin 12 May 2019.

History ahoy

Sailing on Cunard’s elegant and luxurious Queen Mary 2, guests can follow their family’s journey across the world and through the centuries. With Ancestry’s experts on board, they will learn how easy it is to start tracing family history.

Join guest genealogists to discover how history provides important insights into ourselves and where we come from. Ancestry’s genealogy experts will also uncover the fascinating and sometimes surprising past of the ancestors of guests, senior officers and crew, and demonstrate how data drawn from the largest online collection of family history records can help trace a family’s past and introduce them to living relatives they never knew existed.

BOOK IT: The seven-night westbound transatlantic crossing M842 departs Southampton on 4 November 2018 and arrives in New York on 11 November, where passengers disembark. Inside staterooms start at £959pp including flights.

Ocean exploration

On Crystal Cruises’ 24-night ‘Amazon Discovery’ cruise round trip from Fort Lauderdale, oceanographic expert Jean-Michel Cousteau will share tales from his lifetime of underwater exploration aboard Crystal Symphony.

While on board this Exploration & Adventure-themed cruise, Cousteau will share tales and experiences from his lifetime of exploring and documenting the world’s oceans, as well as his ongoing work to continue the legacy of his famous father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

In addition to lectures tailored to the region of each sailing, Cousteau will offer interactive presentations discussing his father’s legend and his own legacy, as well as insights into ocean life that most captivates him, including the delicate balance of the roles of orcas and sharks. Cousteau, who is the founder of the Ocean Futures Society, will also share with travellers his conservation efforts.

BOOK IT: The cruise departs on 8 November and calls at Bimini, Gustavia, Guadeloupe, St Vincent & Grenadines, French Guiana, Macapa, Santarem, Parintins, Manaus, Boca de Valeria, Macapa, Trinidad & Tobago and San Juan. Cruise-only prices from £5,610pp.

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Jean-Michel Cousteau

Cruise cuisine

Clients looking to sharpen up their cooking prowess? Oceania has launched 16 new, enriching cooking classes for the 2018 European season aboard Marina and Riviera.

Recognised for its culinary offerings, including the introduction of the first-ever Culinary Centre at sea, equipped with individual induction cook top workstations, the programmes were developed by director of culinary enrichment, chef Kathryn Kelly. Class highlights include Mastering Chef Knife Skills, Rethink the Crepe and The Nordic Kitchen, featuring the cuisine of Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

“Guests cook under the instruction of faculty members who are experienced chefs and restaurateurs and have apprenticed under a who’s who of renowned chefs,” said Kelly.

“We continue to add new classes to keep things fresh for repeat guests and this year we’re thrilled to present our most diverse array of classes, including the first-ever knife-skills-only class to be offered at sea.”

BOOK IT: The 14-day Peaks & Palaces Cruise on Oceania Marina visits Spain, France and Italy. Departing 3 May 2019, a veranda stateroom costs from £4639pp, including free WiFi, eight shore excursions, a free beverage package and free $800 shipboard credit.

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