Silver Shadow: A whole new adventure!

After a two-week respite in drydock, Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow is now ready for passengers, boasting an exciting new look after an extensive renovation in Singapore. Silversea’s fleet of all-suite ships now welcomes the Silver Shadow, along with its recently refurbished sister ship Silver Whisper last year, to complement an array of vessels like no other.  The Silver Shadow’s design enhancements reflect the splendor and contemporary design of Silversea's newest ship, Silver Spirit.

The Silver Shadow's recent makeover includes many enhancements inside and out, from beautifully renovated interiors to freshly appointed common areas.  Suites aboard Silver Shadow now feature new carpets, headboards, curtains, and veranda furniture. interior furniture now features new upholstery, and each suite has a new mattress designed exclusively for Silversea. These new mattresses feature individual spring systems with opposing soft and firm sides that, depending on guests’ preferences, can be reversed.  Each mattress, when configured as a queen-sized bed, also has a memory pillow top..  The ship’s larger suites also offer a new state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen home audio system.

Passengers aboard the Silver Shadow will marvel at the lavishly appointed areas including La Terrazza, the Bar, Panorama Lounge, Reception area, Card Room and Conference Room – all featuring such improvements as new upholstery, carpeting, curtains and wall treatments.  La Terrazza also features a new awning and outdoor furniture.  The Observation Lounge has all new carpet, The Spa’s treatment rooms feature new wall decor as well as tiling and wood flooring, and The Restaurant's hardwood floor has been completely reconditioned and polished.  The Show Lounge, Panorama Lounge and La Terrazza all have a newly upgraded sound system, and all corridors, landings, and staircase all feature fresh new carpet.

Guests who enjoy staying fit while they travel will find all-new synthetic turf on the jogging track, and those who want to bask in the sun by the pool area can do so on new deck furniture, as well as enjoying a new sound and light system for shipboard entertainment.  The pool itself has been upgraded with new tiles, and the Pool Grill will become a new hub of ship life, The Grill – featuring evening dining with the popular new Black Rock cooking concept debuted aboard Silver Spirit.  Guests at this new outdoor restaurant will enjoy an interactive dining experience that allows them to cook meat and seafood on heated volcanic rocks at their table.

A perennial favorite of our seasoned travelers, Silversea Cruises offers one of the finest cruising experiences in the industry, with large-ship amenities balanced by intimate, all-suite accommodations and white-glove service.  Every ship in Silversea’s fleet offers a discerning combination of conviviality and casual elegance.  Silversea now sails on all seven continents with a myriad of exotic ports of call from all around the globe, including the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, both polar regions, and over 400 other stunning destinations.  Silversea has been voted "World's Best" by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler (nine times) and Travel + Leisure (seven times), as well as being rated the Number-One luxury cruise line in the 2008 Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI).  The cruise line has also garnered an impressive number of international awards, from "Best Innovation in Products and Services" from the Italian Innovazione Marketing Oggi Awards (2009) to the lofty "Five Star Diamond Award" from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences in 2010.  Isn’t it time you made your next cruise aboard a Silversea vessel?

Shoulder Season “Bang-for-Your-Buck” Luxury Cruises

[caption id="attachment_100" align="alignright" width="198"]Seabourn in Santorini, Greece Seabourn in Santorini, Greece[/caption]

We’re in the middle of one of the cruise industry’s “shoulder seasons,” that time of year when ships traditionally get ready to leave one region and reposition to a different part of the world (the transition between fall and winter is the other major shoulder season).

Each spring dozens of cruise ships depart their Florida and Caribbean home ports to head for Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, where they’ll spend the summer and part of the fall. Other ships leave the Baja Coast and head toward Seattle and Alaska.

Of course, not all cruise ships share the same rotation schedule so there’s often a month or more of migration and that serves up plenty of opportunities for amazing deals on luxury cruise vacations.

I love shoulder season because you benefit from terrific weather at the beginning or end of a “season” and fares are lower as cruise lines try to entice travelers to take a slightly off-season vacation.

Springtime Shoulder Season Deals on Luxury Cruise Ships


Here’s your chance to kiss springtime goodbye with one last Caribbean cruise of the season. Top-shelf options in April and May are with Silversea, Celebrity Cruises, and SeaDream Yacht Club.


The Alaskan cruise season begins in early May and while the air is still a bit nippy at night, it’s the perfect time of year for whale watching. Excellent values from Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Celebrity may be had all the way up to Memorial Day.

Greece & All of the Mediterranean

I love visiting the Mediterranean and the Greek Isles this time of the year. It’s so much cooler—and less crowded—than going to this region smack-dab in mid-July during high season! April and May options abound from Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent, Celebrity, and Windstar Cruises. If you’ve ever dreamed of yachting with Compagnie du Ponant, consider its late April itineraries out of Nice, France.

Northern Europe and the Baltic

A handful of high-end lines—Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal, Oceania, Cunard, Seabourn, and Silversea—will have ships in position throughout Northern Europe and the Baltic in April and May.

French Polynesia

While the weather in the South Pacific is always balmy, the best time of year to visit Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora is June through August. Visitors in April and May benefit from good weather and less competition for flights to and from Papeete. Look to Paul Gauguin Cruises this time of year for extra value sailings.

River Cruises

Early and late season cruises on the rivers of Europe offer excellent values. Look to AMAWaterways, Avalon Waterways, and Viking River Cruises for luxury European river cruises.

Repositioning Cruises

And, don’t forget that ships must reposition several times each year and these itineraries are often excellent values. Diehard SeaDream fans wait all year for the line’s two 112-passenger yachts to make their transatlantic voyages. If you like to feel the ship rocking and rolling at sea, this one’s for you!

What Do You Think?

What shoulder season cruise itineraries do you enjoy each spring? Let us know! Comment below.

For more information about luxury cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

New Luxury Cruise Ships on the Horizon for 2012

A friend of mine is as loyal as they come and he will not “cheat” on his favorite cruise ship. No matter what itinerary he’s interested in, he looks to old faithful before taking a chance on something new. I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum and look forward to sailing aboard as many different ships as possible.

I’m definitely a sucker for a new cruise ship and have been known to book inaugural voyages. I love the rush of embarking on a new luxury ship and, this year, there are many new ships on the horizon.

Oceania Riviera

[caption id="attachment_56" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Oceania Riviera"]Oceania Riviera Luxury Cruise Ship[/caption]

Want to plan a late springtime getaway? Consider Oceania Riviera. The 1,250-passenger ship from Oceania Cruises is slated to begin her maiden voyage in Venice on May 16.

She’ll overnight there before embarking on a 10-night “Pearls of the Aegean” itinerary that also calls upon Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenagro; Kusadasi, Turkey; Corfu, Monemvasia, Santorini, Crete, Delos, and Mykonos, Greece, before arriving in Athens.

Oceania ships are favored for their inventive itineraries, well-designed suites featuring furnishings from Ralph Lauren, multiple dining rooms and bars, Canyon Ranch spa, and the Bon Appétit-sponsored Culinary Center.

Technically a “premium” cruise line, Oceania doesn’t offer all-inclusive fares but does sell two attractive beverage packages: house wine and beer priced at $29.95 per guest per day and the Open Bar option for $49.95 per guest per day.

Most of Riviera’s summer sailings are wait list only, but call us to see what’s available.

Note: Due to a strike at Fincantieri, the shipyard building Riviera, Oceania delayed the ship’s maiden voyage from April 24 to May 16.

Six New Sleek Ships from Viking River Cruises

Launching one new vessel in a year is quite a feat—launching six is basically unheard of, but that’s exactly what Viking River Cruises plans to do in 2012 with the addition of Viking Longships, part of the company’s $250-million fleet development program.

Named after Norse mythology, the Freya, Idun, Odin, Njord, Aegir, and Embla will sail sought-after European itineraries, including the 7-night Romantic Danube, 7-night Danube Waltz, 7-night Rhine Getaway, 9-night Tulips & Windmills, and 14-night Grand European Tour.

Viking Longships are designed with the environment in mind and include sustainability upgrades, like energy-efficient hybrid engines and solar panels. Each riverboat is 443 feet long and features 95 staterooms.

In 2013, the new Viking Longships will sail the following itineraries: Grand European Tour, Romantic Danube, Danube Waltz, Rhine Getaway, and Tulips & Windmills.

Celebrity Cruises Gives Birth to Reflection

Celebrity Cruises has spent the past five years growing its fleet with the line’s new—and now beloved—Solstice-class ships, which include Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette, and—making her debut in 2012—Reflection.

There’s a lot to love about the 3,052-passenger Reflection: spacious staterooms and the fabulous AquaClass spa rooms and suites that feature Hansgrohe shower panels; restaurants that rival the five-star eateries in my hometown of South Beach, Miami; the Lawn Club, a laid-back outdoor recreation area now featuring private cabanas and a grill restaurant; Michael’s Club offering up to 50 craft beers from around the world; a stunning art collection decorating all areas of the ship; and onboard entertainment ranging from a full-fledged casino to Broadway-quality shows.

If you’d like to take a chance on Reflection, there are still cabins available for her three-night inaugural Caribbean voyage disembarking Miami on December 5, and making stops in Nassau and Coco Cay, Bahamas.

m/v Tere Moana Joins Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises is the option when it comes to sailing the South Pacific. The 332-passenger, all-inclusive Paul Gauguin has been the venerable choice for travelers island-hopping across Tahiti and the Society Islands, the Cook Islands, the Tuamotus, Marquesas, and Fiji.

Now the line has acquired a second ship, which it will rechristen m/v Tere Moana after an extensive renovation in November 2012. The 1998-built ship, currently flagged as Le Levant and operated by Compagnie du Ponant, will sail the Mediterranean each summer and the Caribbean and Latin America in the winter.

With a passenger complement of just 90, Tere Moana is more intimate than its big sister and will call upon lesser-visited ports of call. Definitely keep Moana on your radar.

What Do You Think?

Which of these ships are on your must-sail list? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below.

For more information about these cruise ships, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

A Sexy SeaDream Yacht + Idyllic Caribbean Outposts = The Perfect Winter Getaway

SeaDream Yacht Club

I always chuckle when I hear people talk about a “small” luxury cruise ship that carries 2,000 passengers. That’s not to say that there aren’t some fantastic ships that carry a few thousand passengers. However, if you’re looking for a truly intimate experience at sea, you need to think much smaller… like the 112-passenger SeaDream I and II yachts from SeaDream Yacht Club.

I’ve sailed with SeaDream several times, most recently embarking on SeaDream II from Old San Juan to cruise the outer islands of Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the French West Indies, and the Netherlands Antilles. The ship’s captain charted a course to out-of-the-way beaches and rarely visited islands.

On Culebrita, a gem of an uninhabited island, we hoped off the yacht's Zodiac for a wet landing and then hiked overland to discover a deserted beach with sand so white and fine it could have been powdered sugar.

At Vieques we set out on a night-time "Yachting Land Adventure"—an official SeaDream shore excursion—which took us to Mosquito Bay, one of only a handful of spots around the globe where one can witness the scientific phenomenon of bioluminescence. When motion hits certain microorganisms, they release chemicals that emit light. The effect is otherworldly! As we swam, thousands of these bioluminescent organisms sparkled like diamonds and lit a glowing trail behind us. It’s worth taking this cruise for this experience alone!

St. John and St. Martin brought the opportunity to visit several pristine beaches and snorkel at each of them. At Saba, we once again selected a SeaDream excursion, this time taking a minivan tour of this tiny island that's all steep hills and soaring peaks. Then it was on to Gustavia, St. Barthelemy.

We woke early and met up with the yacht's Activities and Club Director for a walk to Shell Beach and a morning swim before breakfast. That's another thing that makes SeaDream special: various crew members—from the activities director to the concierge to the hotel manager to the chef—regularly invite guests ashore for hikes, beach and shopping trips, and more. It's an excellent way to see the sights with experts and to enjoy some time off the ship with the crew.

The yacht's onboard marina was deployed while in St. Barths and guests were encouraged to swim or snorkel off the stern or pilot personal watercraft like jet skis and kayaks.

Throughout the cruise, we heard from repeat guests about SeaDream's famous Caviar & Champagne Splash and beach BBQ—a study in gastronomic decadence. We were slated for a wet landing at Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, but conditions were unfavorable so we sailed on to Peter Island instead. Despite clouds and some intermittent rain, everyone joined in the festivities and crowded around the surfboard that was piled high with caviar and champagne on ice. After a toast, the sumptuous BBQ spread was unveiled.

The crew is at the top of their game and your wish is acted on almost before you even know you wanted something. Since it is an all-inclusive experience, the alcohol—wine, cocktails, and champagne—flow freely and there are mocktails, lemonade, ice tea, soda, and juice for the teetotalers.

Whether on Deck 3 at the pool and whirlpool or out on Deck 6 enjoying the Balinese beds, a crewmember will stop by to clean your sunglasses or bring you cookies, a fruit smoothie, or ice cream sandwich.

Breakfast and lunch, buffet and a la carte, is served on deck at Topside Restaurant while dinners are sometimes presented here under the stars or in the Dining Salon on Deck 2. Tasty vegetarian dishes are offered at all three meals.

Sandwiches, fruit, and pastry are available self-service style just about all day at Topside and room service offers a "Small Bites" menu.

SeaDream recognizes open seating so you can dine in a group or solo at the time of your choosing.

All cabins aboard SeaDream II are oceanview, with either a large picture window or two portholes. We booked a Yacht Club Stateroom, and it was more than sufficient (even if the bathroom, which lacked a bathtub, was a bit tight; the multi-jet showerhead made up for it). For those wanting more space, go for the Commodore Suites (two Yacht Club Staterooms adjoined with your choice of two beds or one bed and a dining table), the 34.8-square-metre Admiral Suite, or the largest accommodation aboard: the 41.53-square-metre Owner's Suite.

The important thing to know about SeaDream ships is that entertainment options are much more low-key than what's available on larger vessels. Instead of Broadway-style shows, guests gather at the Piano Bar for sing-alongs with the house musician. Movies are another after-dinner option and are shown in either the Main Salon or out on the Pool Deck. And, of course, the Top of the Yacht Bar is a pleasant place to spend a few hours with newfound friends.

This is no behemoth cruise ship plying the world's oceans. No, SeaDream’s two identical yachts were designed so you'll feel at home the moment you walk up the gangway. Cruise fares are all-inclusive so it's pretty simple to forget that you actually booked passage and aren't instead just visiting a friend on his personal yacht.

SeaDream offers itineraries across the Caribbean, Costa Rica, the Amazon, and Mediterranean. The yachts’ trans-Atlantic crossings are also incredibly popular with stalwart sailors.

What Do You Think?

Have you sailed with SeaDream? We’d love to know what you enjoyed most about the experience. Comment below.

Learn more about SeaDream Yacht Club by contacting Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

How Would You Spend $7 Million? Paul Gauguin Cruises Renovated Its Namesake Vessel

Paul Gauguin Cruises, the leader in luxury voyages in French Polynesia and the South Pacific, just completed a $7 million renovation of its 332-passenger ship, m/v Paul Gauguin. This is exciting news because it’s the most comprehensive refurbishment the ship has undergone in its 14-year history.


[caption id="attachment_92" align="aligncenter" width="470" caption="Paul Gauguin Cruises"]Paul Gauguin Cruises[/caption]

Crews worked on the upgrade during the ship’s recent 10-night crossing from Tahiti to Brisbane, Australia, and completed the job during another 11 nights in drydock while Down Under.

Renovations were made both inside and outside the ship, including new flooring and carpeting, new and refinished furniture, as well as the installation of decorative wall panels and window treatments.

Here are just a few of the specific enhancements…

• All cabins and suites now feature new teak balcony railings as well as upgrades in the bathroom.

• The restaurants La Veranda and L’Etoile now have redesigned entrances while Le Grill’s got a new buffet area and new lighting.

• Le Casino on Deck 5 has snazzy new built-in banquettes and an expanded gaming area.

• The Library on Deck 6 has a new display case for books and art.

• For those who love to dance the night away, check out the refurbished dance floors at Le Grand Salon and La Palette.

Paul Gauguin offers seven itineraries across the South Pacific, including the line’s popular 7-night Tahiti & Society Islands, an 11-night cruise to the Cook Islands & Society Islands, and a 14-night cruise calling upon the Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands.

Paul Gauguin Cruises also recently announced the acquisition of a second ship, which will begin sailing under the Paul Gauguin Cruises banner in December 2012. With plans to sail to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Latin America, this ship will be christened m/v Tere Moana after completing a multifaceted renovation in December 2012. The Moana features 45 staterooms accommodating 90 guests.

What Do You Think?

Have you sailed with Paul Gauguin Cruises? We’d love to hear about your voyage. Comment below.

For more information about Paul Gauguin Cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

6 Ways to Avoid Seasickness

I’m lucky. I’m not prone to seasickness. I’ve taken dozens of cruises and I’ve never once felt ill. The fact of the matter is, even if you get queasy at home in the bathtub, there are some things you can do to help prevent seasickness when cruising.

No one can guarantee that you’ll never get seasick, but you can learn how to avoid it...


Select Your Cabin Wisely

If you’re worried about getting sick at sea, select an outside midship cabin on a lower deck. You want to be at the ship’s center of gravity where there’s the least amount of movement. Of course, most suites are located on high decks, aft or forward, so picking a cabin with the least amount of movement won’t be possible if you have your heart set on a suite.

Go Easy on the Alcohol and Avoid Greasy Foods

If your stomach is feeling iffy, avoid wine and liquor and order more healthful food selections at dinner. Heavy, greasy foods will weigh you down and will make it that much harder to overcome mal de mer.

Get Some Fresh Air and Watch the Horizon

Go up on deck to get some fresh air the minute you begin to feel under the weather. Be sure to look out to the horizon. This will help your body (especially your inner ear) get its bearings and regulate your system so you won’t feel ill.

Settle the Stomach Naturally

There are some natural remedies that often work if you seek them out when your symptoms are mild. It may seem counterintuitive, but you need to have some food in your stomach in order to avoid feeling seasick. Nibble on some crackers or bread.

Cruisers also swear by ginger. You can purchase ginger in many forms, including tablets, crystalized pieces, chews, and hard candies. You’ll almost always find a bowl of ginger in front of the main dining room aboard most cruise ships.

Over the Counter Prevention

My travel bag always contains a pack of Bonine (meclizine). I take one pill if seas are expected to be rough, or at the first sign of queasiness. Other people prefer Dramamine (dimenhydrinate). Still others use wrist pressure bands (elastic bracelets with a smooth plastic disk that applies pressure to your inner wrist). Sea-Band is one of the leaders in this area.

Prescription Measures

Some individuals are more prone to seasickness. If you’re one of those people, there’s no reason to suffer. Talk with your doctor before heading out on your cruise about one of the several prescription medications that can help prevent the illness. The scopolamine patch helps many people, as does a medication called Phenergan (promethazine). Discuss the options with your doctor.

If you do get sick while at sea and have trouble getting over it, call the ship’s doctor. He or she will know how to ease your discomfort.

What Do You Think?

What are your tips for avoiding seasickness? Comment below.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Spotlight on Celebrity Eclipse, a Solstice Class Ship

Celebrity Eclipse, like its Solstice Class sisters, is one of the most stylish ships at sea and I find myself recommending this ship to friends all the time.

Why Do I Love Celebrity Eclipse?

Beautiful, Spacious Ship with an Intimate Feel

Despite Eclipse’s large size (1,041 feet long with a beam of 121 feet), you can’t get lost. Everything’s laid out in an easy-to-navigate manner and all the public spaces have tons of room so you never feel cramped by the other 2,849 other guests onboard.

Varied Accommodations, From Cabins to Suites

Solstice Class ships are decked out with a wide range of roomy accommodations and 85 percent of all staterooms have a veranda. At this price point, what I like to call affordable luxury, having a balcony is a fantastic perk.

My personal favorites when it comes to room categories are the AquaClass staterooms, which offer Concierge Class services—like early embarkation/debarkation, priority check-in, daily hors d’oeuvres, main and specialty restaurant seating preferences, and more—plus unlimited access to many AquaSpa amenities and priority seating in Blu, a specialty restaurant that can only be booked by AquaClass guests.

The Royal Suite, with a separate bedroom and living room equipped with a queen sleeper sofa, is ideal for families.

Pre-Dinner Drinks

Eclipse is one of the best ships for socializing, in part because there are so many cool bars and lounges to visit and there’s almost always live musicians keeping guests entertained. For a quiet hang, I head to Michael’s Club; for a glass of wine, Masters Cellar is best; when sailing in and out of gorgeous ports of call, the Sky Observation Lounge is the place to be.

Foodies Like Me Love Celebrity Cruises

Hailing from Miami, I’m used to excellent restaurants so my ships-of-choice must also offer delectable dining options. Eclipse employs some of the best chefs at sea and they offer varied and innovative dining experiences, from the buffet and Main Restaurant to specialty restaurants Bistro on Five, Qsine, Murano, and Tuscan Grille.

AquaSpa: A Tranquil Oasis at Sea

Celebrity Eclipse’s spa rivals similar facilities on land. The treatments utilize Elemis products and the range of options—massage therapies, facials, detox wraps, acupuncture, beauty salon services, and more—is impressive.

Green Grass on Deck

Celebrity has always been a trailblazer in the cruise industry and its Solstice Class ships are unique in that they each feature The Lawn Club on an upper deck. Here you can go to walk barefoot on carefully tended grass, enjoy a picnic lunch, or play croquet. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours as your ships sails from port to port.

Compelling Itineraries

Finally, Eclipse itineraries warm up the winter—home porting out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale and cruising the Eastern and Southern Caribbean—and traveling across Europe in the spring and summer. Eclipse departs from Southampton to visit the Norwegian Fjords, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Russia, and Iceland as well as the Azores and Canary Islands.

Of course, if those itineraries aren’t of interest to you, try any of the Solstice Class ships: Equinox, Silhouette, Solstice, and the forthcoming Reflection. All of these ships are excellent choices when you’re looking for Caribbean luxury cruises or Europe luxury cruises.

What Do You Think?

Have you sailed aboard Eclipse or any of Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships? We’d love to hear about your trip. Comment below.

For more information about Celebrity Cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

There’s Still Time to Book a 2013 World Cruise

As April draws to a close, so do the 2012 world cruise itineraries from the leading luxury lines. We’re hearing fantastic stories from our friends and clients who did world cruises this year and so now’s as good a time as any to remind you that there’s still time to book passage on a 2013 world cruise voyage.

2013 Luxury World Cruises

Silversea Silver Whisper

Embarking January 4, 2013 (115 days)
Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale

Silversea kicks off its 2013 world cruise with a pull-out-all-the-stops gala at the venerable Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles. Silver Whisper is the only world cruise embarking from the West Coast next year so she’s uniquely positioned to head right for the South Pacific for stops in the Marquesas Islands (Nuku Hiva), Tuamotus (Rangiroa), French Polynesia (Moorea, Tahiti, and Bora Bora), and the Cook Islands (Rarotonga).

From there, guests will discover New Zealand, Tasmania, and Australia before cruising the Indian Ocean for Bali, Indonesia; Sandakan, Malaysia; and Manila, Philippines. The ship then crosses the South China Sea to Hong Kong, China; Vietnam (Chan May and Ho Chi Minh City); Bangkok, Thailand; Singapore; and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Penang).

Stops in Sri Lanka and India lead up to island hoping the Maldives, Mauritius, Reunion, and Madagascar before exploring the coasts of Africa, including Maputo, Mozambique; South Africa (Richard Bay, Durban, East London, and Cape Town); Walvis Bay, Namibia; Limbe, Cameroon; and Takoradi, Ghana before crossing the Atlantic for a few Caribbean stops and, ultimately debarkation, in Fort Lauderdale.

SILVERSEA SILVER WHISPER IS BEST FOR… travelers seeking to explore Africa and some of the earth’s most gorgeous—and luxurious—island nations.

Seabourn Quest

Embarking January 6, 2013 (116 days)
Fort Lauderdale to Venice, Italy

Seabourn Quest has set an intriguing itinerary for its 2013 round-the-world voyage. While this trip does feature more sea days than other world cruise options, Quest also on many off-the-beaten path destinations. For example, after embarking Fort Lauderdale the ship visits the Dominican Republic, Bonaire, and Aruba before transiting the Panama Canal. Then, ten days are spent at sea before arriving in French Polynesia, one of the most beautiful island chains on earth. Here you’ll call upon Nuku Hiva, Rangiroa, Tahiti, and Bora Bora before going farther afield to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, crossing the International Dateline, and then visiting Tonga and Fiji.

From there Quest is perfectly positioned to explore New Caledonia and Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Hamilton Island, Townsville, Cairns, and Queensland).

At the halfway point in the world cruise, you’ll explore the mystical islands of Komodo and Pare Pare, Sulawesi in Indonesia as well as Bali. Then it’s on to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and India.

The last third of the trip is spent in the Middle East for United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Oman, Egypt (including a transit of the Suez Canal), Israel (Haifa), Turkey (Bodrum and Kusadasi), Greece, and Croatia before disembarking in Venice, Italy.

SEABOURN QUEST IS BEST FOR… those who are looking for a mix of off-the-beaten-path ports of call and sea days.

Crystal Cruises: Grand South American Exploration

Embarking January 16, 2013 (74 days)
Roundtrip out of Miami

2013 brings the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity to South America, where she’ll cruise the Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Curacao, and Aruba), transit the Panama Canal, and then explore Patagonia, Amazon rainforests, Chilean Fjords and the Amalia Glacier as well as gorgeous beaches and cities like Cartagena, Columbia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lima, Peru; and San Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Special highlights of this cruise include a sail-around of Cape Horn, Chile; an overnight experience at Ushuaia, Argentina on the island of Tierra del Fuego; and a visit to Devil’s Island in French Guiana, a former penal colony.

CRYSTAL SERENITY IS BEST FOR… those who seek a formal, upscale environment and an itinerary that explores South America.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Circle South America

Embarking January 7, 2013 (72 days)
Roundtrip out of Miami

Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner will sail around South America for her 2013 world cruise. While the itinerary is similar to that of Crystal Serenity’s Grand South American Exploration, Regent ships offer luxury with a more relaxed “Elegant Casual” dress code. This option may be right for you if you’d prefer not to pack tuxedos and gowns.

From Miami, Mariner will sail the Florida Straits and Caribbean Sea as she heads for Curacao, Aruba, and Colombia. A Panama Canal transit comes next and then a few ports in Ecuador (Manta and Guayaquil). The next six days are spent exploring Peru (Lima, Pisco, and Matarani) before arriving in Chile for Antofagasta, Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacabuco, Laguna San Rafael, and Punta Arenas, Chile.

Then Mariner goes around Cape Horn for Ushuaia, Argentina and a special stop at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Travelers will be primed for a few days in Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires before cruising the coast of Brazil for stops in Rio Grande, Porto Belo, Santos, Paraty, Buzios, Ilhan Grande, Salvador de Bahia, Fortaleza, and Rio de Janeiro.

The highlight of the cruise will be seven days sailing the Amazon River before a trip to Devil’s Island, French Guiana before charting a course for Miami via Barbados, St. Barths, and Puerto Rico.

REGENT MARINER IS BEST FOR… those who want to explore South America in style but without having to deal with formal nights.

Cunard: Southampton to Southampton

Embarking January 10, 2013 (105 days)
Roundtrip out of Southampton, England

Cunard’s Queen Victoria has lined up an outstanding itinerary for its 2013 world voyage. It includes a refined, traditional transatlantic voyage from jolly old England to New York City before forging on toward Jamaica, transiting the Panama Canal, and stopping in San Francisco before crossing the Pacific Ocean for ports of call in Hawaii and Samoa. It will then be time to skip over the International Dateline on the way to New Zealand (Auckland and the Bay of Islands) and Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Whitsunday Islands, and Darwin).

From there, Queen Victoria introduces passengers to the wonders of Bali, Indonesia and Manila in the Philippines before moving on to China (Shanghai and Hong Kong), Vietnam (Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City); Bangkok, Thailand; Singapore; Kula Lumpur, Malaysia; and Colombo, Sri Lanka.

As if those experiences weren’t enough, Cunard has programmed an exciting end to the 2013 world cruise with calls on India, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan (for the outstanding UNESCO World Heritage site, Petra), Egypt, and Rome, Italy before disembarking passengers in Lisbon, Portugal.

CUNARD QUEEN VICTORIA IS BEST FOR… those looking for a “starter” world cruise that calls upon traditional ports.

What Do You Think?

Which of these world cruise itineraries sounds the best to you? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below.

For more information about luxury world cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Dining with the Captain

One of the most interesting aspects of cruise vacations are all the people you get to meet. The passenger mix aboard luxury cruise ships is always interesting and you’re almost sure to meet musicians and artists, doctors and lawyers, scientists and politicians. Yet, it’s often the ship’s captain and executive officers who share the best stories about their travels around the world.

Time-Tested Tips for Getting a Seat at the Captain’s Table

Become a Frequent Cruiser

Repeat guests are often invited to dine with the captain as a gesture of appreciation for being loyal to the cruise line.

Book a VIP Suite

Many cruise lines extend an invitation to dine with the captain to those who book a top-line suite.

Participate in Onboard Activities

If you’re new to cruising and don’t know any of the ship’s staff, be sure to participate in onboard activities. Get to know the cruise director and hotel manager—both can be instrumental in introducing you to executive officers and helping you snag a coveted invitation to dine with the captain.

Don’t Be Shy!

If you see the captain out and about on deck, say “hello” and strike up a conversation. Many captains take their lunch in the main dining room or at the pool grill and are often quite happy about sharing a table with guests during the lunch hour.

Just Ask

If you’re dying to break bread with the captain, just ask if there is any availability at his table during the cruise. Visit the reception desk or talk with the cruise director or hotel manager.

When you do receive that crisp white invitation on your stateroom door, be prepared for a wonderful evening. Enjoy the meal and conversation and get to know all of your tablemates. The evening is sure to be one that you’ll remember!

What Do You Think?

Have you ever dined with a ship’s captain? Let us know. Who are your favorite cruise ship captains? Comment below.

For more information about luxury cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Three Top Luxury River Cruises in Asia

The continent of Asia is vast and the myriad countries in the region are each utterly unique and ripe for exploration. I’ll contend that a cruise tour is just about the perfect way to see several countries in Asia, including Vietnam and Cambodia, along the Mekong River, or the various regions in China that are accessible via the Yangtze.

Luxury river cruises make traveling within distant lands incredibly easy. You’ll be guided by knowledgeable historians, stay in the best hotels pre- and post-cruise, sail aboard the most luxurious riverboats, enjoy an all-inclusive package with food and drinks, and have the benefit of someone else managing all of your in-country travel and transfers.

Three Favorite Asia Cruises

Here’s a look at what we consider to be three of the top luxury cruises in Asia:


Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong
Countries visited: Cambodia and Vietnam
Duration: 15 nights

• 3 nights in Hanoi, Vietnam, including an overnight aboard a traditional wooden junk in Ha Long Bay

• 3 nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for the Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm Temple, and Angkor Wat

• 7-night cruise aboard the 124-passenger m/s AmaLotus or the 92-passenger La Marguerite luxury river boats from Tonle Sap Lake (Siem Reap) and stopping at Kampong-Chhnang, Kampong-Tralach, Oudong, Chong Koh, and Phnom Penh in Cambodia and then crossing the border to Vietnam to call upon Tan Chau, Sa Dec, Xeo Quyt, and Cai Be before disembarking in Ho Chi Minh City

• 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh City


Viking River Cruises

China Explorer
Countries Visited: China
Duration: 17 nights

• 3 nights in Beijing

• 2 nights in Xian to see Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terra cotta soldiers and the impressive, seven-story Big Wild Goose Pagoda

• 2 nights in Chendgu to visit the Panda Research Base and Sanxingdui Museum

• 2 nights in Lijiang to see the UNESCO World heritage site, the 800-year-old Dayan Town

• 2 nights in Chongqing, gateway to the Yangtze River

• 4-night Yangtze River cruise aboard the Viking Emerald with visits to Shibaozhai Temple; Three Gorges, Lesser Three Gorges, and Three Gorges Dam in Qutang; and Jingzhou

• 2 nights in Shanghai


Avalon Waterways

Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River
Countries Visited: Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
Duration: 13 nights

• 1 night in Bangkok, Thailand—this is an incredibly vibrant city so consider arriving a few days early to explore on your own

• 3 nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia

• 7-night Mekong River cruise aboard Avalon Angkor, a ship built expressly for this river so it can go where other ships can’t

• 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

What Do You Think?

Have you done a river cruise in Asia? Let us know what you loved about it. Comment below.

For more information about river cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Exploring Borneo with Orion Expedition Cruises

“A path less travelled.” That sums up every single voyage presented by Australia-based Orion Expedition Cruises. With its small, agile expedition ship, the 106-passenger Orion, the company offers trips to exotic places like Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, and the Spice Islands.

In 2011 they began cruise tours in Borneo so I snapped up the chance to visit what is one of the earth’s largest—and most biodiverse—islands. There are four distinct Orion itineraries to this area but I selected “Camp Leaky—Faces in the Forest” because I wanted to spend as much time in the rainforest with orangutans as possible and because I wanted to meet Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, a foremost authority on the orangutan and a guest lecturer on this particular tour.

Here’s a look at just a few highlights of this vacation:

Bali—Orion embarked from this gorgeous Indonesian island so we arrived a few days early to enjoy the beaches, temple sightseeing, fine dining, and the artsy village of Ubud. Most of Bali’s population is Hindu so this island has a different feel from other nearby Indonesian islands where the communities mainly adhere to Islam.

Tanjung Puting National Park—Tanjung Puting in Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo is one of those magical places that I’ll never forget. Our two-day visit started early here with a pre-dawn ride down the river to the national park in a traditional riverboat called a “klotok”. As day broke, we stopped at a feeding station and were astounded to actually find a male and female having a “romantic moment” right on the feeding platform! We were told it’s very rare to view orangutans performing such an intimate act.

Next we moved on to Dr. Galdikas’s research station, Camp Leakey, to watch orangutans eat a morning meal of mangos. Many of the orangutans here are very used to people and spend much of their time with the doctor and her team. We had a very up-close encounter with one of these individuals who was overjoyed to see Dr. Galdikas, who had been away from camp for a few days. It was so sweet to see this amazing orangutan gently hold the doctor’s hand as they walked down a path through camp!

On our second day in Kalimantan we visited the Orangutan Foundation International’s wildlife rehabilitation center. It was here that I got to hold and bottle feed a baby orangutan that had been orphaned and we also played with several juvenile orangs. It’s hard to describe the intense communication we shared with these animals. While we don’t speak the same language, we share so many other similarities

Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre—After a few days in the rainforest, our arrival in the Malaysian city of Kuching in Sarawak on Borneo felt like we were back to civilization. We all enjoyed a few hours exploring the city of nearly 618,000 people and then we headed for the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre. This nature reserve had a decidedly different feel than the parks we visited in Indonesia. The orangutans here seemed more “wild” and looked bigger to me. We watched a huge male orangutan swing from the trees while several females and their offspring ate bananas at a nearby feeding platform.

Bako National Park, Sarawak—This stunning national park was created in 1957 so the wildlife here is quite nonchalant when it comes to humans visiting and snapping pictures. I was excited to get here because I’d finally get to see proboscis monkeys up close. We’d seen them playing in the trees in Tanjung Puting National Park but the focus there was on the orangutan. Here we’d spend time hiking (some of the trails are really difficult but I went on a lovely mangrove walk, which suited me just fine) and taking photos of monkeys, including proboscis, lutungs, and macaques.

Natuna Archipelago—Have you ever heard of Natuna Besar? It’s a little-known island in the Natuna Islands chain in Indonesia. Our day on the island was one of those perfect days filled with nothing but sunshine and warm weather. The local community welcomed us to the island with song and dance and we got to release baby sea turtles into the sea. Wear sunscreen and reapply it often! After all, this is the equator! I got one heck of a sunburn while at Natuna Besar and I was wearing 70spf!

Anambas Archipelago—I had never sailed the South China Sea before so this was a treat. We headed for this archipelago that consists of 283 nearly uninhabited islands. The captain told us we wouldn’t know what island we’d visit until the day of because it would be determined by sea conditions. When the day dawned, we found that we’d take the skiff over to Pulua Bawah, where we snorkeled, lazed on the beach, and enjoyed a beach BBQ.

This fantastic trip came to a close in bustling Singapore, where we spent a few post-cruise days shopping and eating. I recommend this tour to anyone who has an interested in conservation, wildlife (especially orangutans and proboscis monkeys), and off-the-beaten path exploration of Southeast Asia.

What Do You Think?

Does a luxury cruise to Borneo interest you? Comment below.

For more information about Orion Expedition Cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

ABCs of Travel Insurance

How many of you purchase travel insurance for every trip you take? I often talk with travelers who aren’t sure what trip insurance covers and if a policy would make sense for his or her vacation. Let’s do a quick review of what some travel insurance policies cover…

Trip Cancellation—This benefit is pretty self-explanatory. If you must cancel your trip before its start date, trip cancellation means that the insurer will absorb any cancellation penalties. The reason for cancellation must be one that’s covered in your policy so read the fine print. Some policies cover cancellations for illness but may limit it to personal illness. Other policies cover the illnesses of travel companions while some even cover illnesses of non-traveling family members.

Trip Delay or Missed Connection—This benefit covers all those unexpected “bad luck” events that may stop you from getting to your destination on time (like a car wreck on the highway on your way to the airport) or missing a connection (mechanical problem with your plane, which stops you from making it to the cruise terminal in time for embarkation).

Baggage Delay or Loss—Travel insurance often covers misdirected bags (making sure an airline or other transportation partner gets your delayed bag to you ASAP) and reimburses you for lost bags (up to a certain dollar value; check the fine print in the policy).

Trip Interruption—Sometimes bad things happen to good vacations and they must end prematurely. Maybe the cruise ship you’re sailing develops engine trouble and you must disembark at the next port of call or your hotel suffers fire damage and is no longer fit to house guests. Trip interruption coverage will pick up out of pocket expenses for alternate lodgings and help arrange to get you home.

Medical Expenses—No one wants to think about it, but none of us are invincible. If you happen to fall ill while traveling, you may need to seek medical treatment locally. A policy covering medical expenses will make sure you’re made whole upon your return home.

Emergency Evacuation or Repatriation—Sometimes while traveling you get so sick that you can’t, or don’t want to, be treated locally. Emergency evacuation will arrange to get you to your hospital of choice as soon as possible. Read the policy carefully to determine the requirements for emergency evacuation.

There are many other types of coverage and policies vary so be sure to shop around for one that meets your specific travel needs. Be sure to ask your travel agency for advice. He or she can point you in the right direction.

What Do You Think?

Do you always or rarely buy travel insurance? Why or why not? Comment below.

For more information about luxury cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

The Most Romantic Luxury Cruises on Earth

MS Paul GauguinI love helping people plan the ultimate romantic cruise vacation! There are so many gorgeous ships sailing to exotic destinations that it can be tough to recommend just one perfect itinerary. Here a few options that I consider to be the most romantic luxury cruises on earth.

Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia

Two things make a Paul Gauguin Cruises voyage special: the heart-stopping beauty of the islands of French Polynesia and the destination expertise aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin cruise ship. I’ve sailed aboard the PG, as she’s affectionately known, and the crew is outstanding. They have intimate knowledge of all the islands and make sure you experience these islands in a meaningful way.

Book a balcony cabin and sit with the love of your life as the ship sails from one island paradise to another. If you’re celebrating your honeymoon, you can look forward to a complimentary Polynesian blessing ceremony, an in-room bottle of celebratory champagne, one 8x10 photo portrait, and an exclusive pillow gift.

Special add-on (fee-based) “romance” packages are also available, including a vow renewal option and one for honeymooners and those celebrating their anniversaries.

It’s also possible to get married on one of the Society Islands and enjoy your reception aboard Paul Gauguin. The cruise line can assist with your plans.

Compagnie Du Ponant Yacht Cruises in the French Riviera

If you love intimate sailing ships, fine French cuisine, topnotch service, and moonlit nights on the Riviera, look no further than Compagnie Du Ponant Yacht Cruises and its three-masted ship, Le Ponant.

The 64-passenger Le Ponant offer a lovely seven-night roundtrip voyage out of Nice, France, with stops in St. Tropez as well as Scandola, Bonifacio, Palombaggia, Propriano, and Ile Rousse in Corsica.

This is one of the most romantic ships sailing the seas right now and you’ll love the sophisticated, elegant yet comfortable vibe.

Explore the Amazon with SeaDream Yacht Club

Continuing in the small ship vein, SeaDream Yacht Club’s 112-passenger SeaDream II yacht is currently offering incredibly romantic getaways in Brazil, Columbia, and Peru, with a voyage along the Amazon River.

Consider the 10-night Manaus, Brazil to Iquitos, Peru itinerary, which also visits Anavilhanas, Badajos, Cuxiu Muni, Uara, and Jutai in Brazil along with Leticia, Columbia and Pebas, Peru.

This is an incredible way to visit one of the most vibrant rainforests in the world. You’ll enjoy visiting local villages, bird watching, fishing, and exploring the river.

What Do You Think?

Which of these luxury cruises sound the most romantic? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below.

For more information about the above-mentioned luxury cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Holy Land Cruises Highlight History and Religion

With so many people researching their family trees and focusing on their ethnic and religious heritage, its no wonder “Holy Land” cruise tours have become so popular. Several luxury lines are offering these itineraries that call upon several Mediterranean destinations that paint the vivid history of the Christian, Judaic, and Muslim religions.

Consider for cruises that visit…

• Rome, Italy for tours of the Vatican

• Alexandria, Egypt for excursions to Cairo

• Ashdod, Israel as a jumping-off place to visit Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall and Old City, the Dead Sea, and Tel Aviv

• Haifa, Israel for visits to Nazareth, Galilee, and Golan Heights

Here’s a look at some of the best Mediterranean luxury cruises focusing on the Holy Lands…

Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara Journey offers an in-depth exploration of the holy land with its “Vatican to the Holy Land, Malta & Egypt” itinerary. This cruise tour includes, among other ports of call, time in Rome for the Vatican; Ashdod for tours to the holy sites of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa; and Haifa for exploration of Nazareth, Galilee, and the UNESCO World Heritage Old City of Acre.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises offers a compelling 12-night Holy Land itinerary aboard Silhouette. You’ll begin in Rome before heading to Egypt for an overnight in Alexandria. Next is an overnight in Ashdod, Israel for visits to Jerusalem. Visits to Haifa, Israel; Santorini, Greece; and Naples, Italy follow before disembarking in Rome.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Serenity offers a 12-night voyage that calls upon many holy lands. You’ll begin in Athens and enjoy a day in Santorini and a day at sea before for an overnight in Ashdod, Israel, for trips to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Next you visit Haifa for Nazareth and Galilee. Then it’s on to Bodrum, Turkey; Corfu, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice, Italy (an overnight stay).


Seabourn’s newest ship, the 450-passenger Quest, offers a 14-night Holy Land and Ancient Empires itinerary. It embarks from Athens and calls upon Rhodes, Agios Nikolaos, and Mykonos in Greece; Larnaca, Cyprus; Haifa and Ashdod (Jerusalem) in Israel; Alexandria (for Cairo), Egypt; and Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Antalya, and Canakkale, Turkey before disembarking in Istanbul.

What Do You Think?

Have you done a Holy Land cruise tour? What destinations did you find most compelling? We’d love your input. Comment below.

For more information about the above-mentioned luxury cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Windstar Fleet Undergoes $18 Million Refurbishment

Windstar Cruises likes to say it offers a “boutique yacht vacation” and I have to agree. While it’s not a true luxury cruise line, the experience is absolutely perfect for travelers looking for an intimate sailing ship that visits a mix of ultra-popular ports of call as well as those that only small vessels can reach.

The experience is even better now that Windstar is investing $18 million to refurbish all three of its ships: the 312-passenger Wind Surf and the 148-passenger Wind Spirit and Wind Star. We’re talking a top-to-bottom refit and nearly everything will be updated and improved, from new sails to updated guest rooms to an improved pool area. Public rooms like the Veranda, Lounge, Reception Lobby, Restaurant, WindSpa, and Library will also be a focus of the refurbishment.

Wind Star’s upgrades were completed this month and each motor-sail-yacht will under the same treatment by the end of December 2012.

Special focus is on staterooms and suites. The décor will be much more chic than the previous nautical motif. Cabins will feature new leather headboards, armchairs, linen wall coverings, sleek lighting features, new window coverings, wool carpeting, unique artwork, and more. The owner’s suite will also be tweaked to accommodate a third occupant.

Where Will Windstar Take You?

If the new Windstar intrigues you, give them a try this year or in 2013, for which the cruise line has programmed some exciting new itineraries. Of particular interest are…

Scandinavian Tapestry—Explore the fjords of Norway aboard Wind Surf on this 11-night voyage that includes Edinburgh, Scotland as well as Kristiansand and Oslo, Norway; Marstrand, Visby, and Sandhamn in Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Warnemunde, Germany.

Casablanca & the Canary Islands—This seven-night cruise begins in Lisbon, Portugal with stops in Morocco for Casablanca and Agadir as well as Lanzarote and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.

Provence & Cote d’Azure—Travel between Nice and Barcelona to visit some of the most gorgeous seaside cities in France, including Cannes, Sanery Sur Mer, Marseille, Sete, and Port-Vendres.

What Do You Think?

Are you a fan of sailing under the wind’s power? If so, you’ve got to try Windstar Cruises. If you already have, we’d love to hear what you thought of the experience. Comment below.

For more information about Windstar Cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

The New Tere Moana from Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises, one of my favorite cruise lines, is adding a second ship to its fleet in December: the 90-passenger m/v Tere Moana. If you’ve sailed aboard Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia, you’re probably dying to book a trip aboard The Moana—and with good reason.

The ship will retain all the things you love about Paul Gauguin Cruises, from the well-trained executive officers and crew to the French-inspired food and wine to the destination expertise offered via onboard lectures and shore excursions.

What’s new is the ship and her itineraries in Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The vessel, which Paul Gauguin Cruises acquired from Compagnie du Ponant, was built in 1998 and will get undergo a multifaceted renovation in December 2012 before being reflagged as The Moana.

The intimate ship will offer 45 ocean-view staterooms in three cabin categories (both balcony and window options), an onboard retractable watersports marina, two open-seating restaurants, a gorgeous spa, and more.

The cruise fare is all-inclusive and includes all onboard gratuities; complimentary beverages, including wines and premium spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, coffee, and tea; in-suite minibar replenished daily with soft drinks, beer, and bottled water; all meals; 24-hour room service; and in-room movies. Additionally, there are wifi hotspots throughout the ship (fees apply) and laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing services are also offered.

The Moana’s Itineraries

The ship will visit ports in Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Here’s my take on her not-to-be-missed itineraries:

Roundtrip St. Martin—This seven-night adventure begins and ends in St. Martin and calls upon Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands as well as St. Kitts & Nevis and Les Saintes and St. Barts in the French West Indies.

St. Martin to Puerto Caldera—Have you transited the Panama Canal yet? If not, this is your chance. The 14-night itinerary visits St. Barts and Les Saints; English Harbour, Antigua; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; Cartagena, Colombia; Isla de Coiba, Panama; and the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.

Barcelona to Rome—If you always cruise the Med on a larger ships, you owe it to yourself to give the intimate Moana a shot. This seven-night Barcelona to Rome option includes Sete and St. Tropez in France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Portofino, Elba, and Florence in Italy.

Talk with Luxury Cruise Connections about all of The Moana’s 2013 itineraries in Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

What Do You Think?

Are you considering a cruise aboard The Moana? Let us know. Comment below.

For more information about Paul Gauguin Cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgat for Luxury Cruise Connections

Beverage Package or Not? That is the Question

Most luxury cruise lines offer all-inclusive fares that include alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage. The premium and near-luxury lines like Oceania Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Viking River Cruises, and Windstar Cruises are not all-inclusive but do offer standalone beverage packages for purchase.

I’ve been asked so many times if the beverage package is “worth it.” Here’s my advice: if you generally drink three or more beverages a day for which you’d need to sign a chit, go ahead and purchase a package. For me, I want a carefree vacation experience and I don’t want to spend any more time than necessary when ordering drinks by the pool or in the lounge. If you don’t drink alcohol, I’d still suggest purchasing a soda or premium water package.

Here’s a sampling of beverage package prices for some of my go-to cruise companies:

Beverage Packages from Oceania Cruises

House Wine and Beer—includes house wine by the glass and beer with lunch and dinner in any dining venue or via room service ($29.95/night/person)

Open Bar—includes premium house wine by the glass, beer, and most beverages on the bar menu ($49.95/night/person)

Beverage Packages from Celebrity Cruises

Soda Package—includes Coca Cola-brand can and fountain sodas ($7/night)

Classic Non-Alcoholic Package—includes Coca Cola-brand can and fountain sodas, fresh squeezed and bottled juices, premium coffees and teas, and non-premium bottled water ($14/night/person)

Premium Non-Alcoholic Package—includes everything in the Classic Non-Alcoholic Package plus premium bottled water from Evian, Perrier, and San Pellegrino, specialty coffees and teas, non-alcoholic frozen drinks and smoothies, Red Bull Energy Drink, and specialty waters from Vitamin Water ($18/night/person)

Classic Package—includes everything in the Classic Non-Alcoholic Package plus all beers up to $5 per serving and spirits, cocktails, and wines by the glass up to $8 per serving ($44/night/person)

Premium Package—includes everything in the Premium Non-Alcoholic Package plus Celebrity’s entire selection of beers, spirits, cocktails, and wines by the glass up to $12 per serving ($54/night/person)

Beverage Package from Viking River Cruises

Silver Spirits Premium Beverage Package—includes wine; beer (bottled or on tap); soft drinks and juices; alcoholic cocktails featuring premium brands; espresso drinks; bottled mineral, still, or sparkling water; and one bottle of Viking sparking wine (per stateroom) ($210 per person for a seven-night cruise)

Beverage Packages from Windstar Cruises

Option 1—Unlimited premium cocktails, wines, and champagnes; imported and domestic beers; soft drinks; and bottled water ($54/night/person)

Option 2—Unlimited non-alcoholic wines and beers; “virgin” cocktails; soft drinks; and bottled water ($18/night/person)

*Note: If one person in a Windstar cabin purchases a beverage package, everyone in that cabin must purchase one of the packages.

Above prices were correct as of publication. 

What Do You Think?

Do you always purchase the beverage package on cruises or do you prefer true all-inclusive cruise lines? We’d love to know. Comment below.

For more information about the above-mentioned cruise lines, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

What Makes Windstar Cruises So Special?

No cruise line emphasizes the fine art of the sail-away quite the way Windstar Cruises does. Aboard its trio of motor-sail-yachts, just about every guest stakes out deck space to bid adieu to the port of the hour while simultaneously heralding great expectations for tomorrow’s destination—all to the strains of “Conquest of Paradise” from the 1492 movie soundtrack by Vangelis, which is played from the sound system in Compass Rose. This much-anticipated tradition is replayed each time any Windstar vessel—Wind Surf, Wind Spirit, and Wind Star—leaves port.

The stirring music slices through the wind as sails unfurl and every Windstar guest is suddenly a Viking… a pirate… an explorer on the path to continued adventure. It’s heady stuff for sure.

During a seven-night Civitavecchia, Italy to Nice, France itinerary, the 312-passenger Wind Surf anchored at Portoferraio, Italy, alongside Wind Spirit. As sunset approached, the sister ships weighed anchor and raced figure eights around each other to the giddy delight of both guests and crew. Everyone was on their feet, waving and cheering, adrenaline pumping while camera shutters clicked and whirled madly! These unique sail-aways set the tone for the cocktail and dinner hours, where like-minded guests become friends and share tales of their travels. It’s just one of the things that makes Windstar so beloved to its loyalists.

Ports the Other Guys Miss

The size of Windstar’s motor-sail-yachts (Wind Surf is 535 feet long at the waterline with a draft of 16.5 feet and a beam of 66 feet; Wind Spirit and Wind Star are even smaller), allow them to access bays that are off limits to large, clunky vessels. The smaller passenger complement also ensures that travelers won’t swamp the communities that they visit. This leads to easier access to the best each destination has to offer as well as improved opportunities to interact with locals and get a true sense of place.

This is especially true in ports like Sardinia, Corsica, France; Hvar, Croatia; and Les Saintes in the French West Indies.

The Only Time Jumping Off a Ship Isn’t a Bad Idea

Another thing that sets Windstar ships apart is the aft-marina, which offers swimming, kayaking, and windsurfers. Marina days are especially popular with active travelers, young couples, and families with teens in tow (young children are a rarity aboard Windstar ships).

The fact is, very few ships offer onboard marinas. Other vessels with similar setups include the m/s Paul Gauguin sailing French Polynesia, Orion I and II from Australia-based Orion Expedition Cruises, and all six of Seabourn’s ships (the 450-passenger Odyssey, Quest, and Soujourn and the smaller 208-passenger Legend, Pride, and Spirit).

BBQ Feasts

Windstar Cruises puts great importance on purveying quality, fresh food and gives its competitors a run for their money when it comes to fine dining. Windstar’s beach BBQs and on-deck cookouts are legendary among cruisers. Indeed, these once-per-itinerary all-you-can eat feasts feature roast suckling pig, lobster tails with drawn butter, succulent BBQ ribs, grilled lamb chops, crab legs and claws, shrimp cocktail, sausages and beef skewers, chicken and rice, and fresh fruit and salads alongside a table groaning under the weight of cheese platters, cakes, pies, brownies, éclairs, and ice cream.

During a recent on-deck event off the coast of Portofino, Italy, a pod of dolphins decided to entertain guests with aerobatic jumps and twirls as water droplets glistened in the sunlight. It’s this sort of synchronicity that creates memories that are etched in a vacationer’s memory for a long, long time. Windstar Cruises is an excellent value and is a line I’ll sail with again.

What Do You Think?

Have you sailed with Windstar Cruises? Let us know what you loved about it. Comment below.

For more information about Windstar Cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

Luxurious Nile River Cruises Explore Egypt’s Past and Present

Egypt Nile River CruisesIn the world of luxury travel, it’s true that value often comes from exploring either new destinations or those recovering from a political or economic setback. The latter is the case with Egypt. While the country has made very positive strides since the Arab Spring uprising in early 2011, tourism has yet to rebound and that’s why there’s actually no better time to explore the rich history of Egypt than today. Prices are incredibly reasonable and availability is excellent, ensuring that you’ll receive the best hotel rooms and river cruise suites.

For decades, savvy travelers have looked to Nile River cruises as an ideal way to visit many of Egypt’s most important historical and archaeological sites in comfort. Today’s luxury river cruise ships offer gorgeous staterooms and suites, excellent onboard services, gourmet food and wine, swimming pools, and knowledgeable English-speaking Egyptologists to steer you to the best sites on land.

Tours like this generally spend a few nights at a sumptuous Cairo hotel before flying to Luxor or Aswan to board a riverboat from which you’ll visit temples, tombs, villages, and Nubian monuments.

Suggested Nile River Itinerary

Here’s a general idea of the type of sites you’ll see when you book a Nile River cruise tour…

In Cairo

  • Great Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza (often returning in the evening for the famous Sound & Light Show)
  • Camel ride with the pyramids in the background
  • Ramses II and Alabaster Sphinx in nearby Memphis
  • Necropolis at Sakkara to see the oldest “step” pyramid, the Stairway to the Sky
  • Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (for Tutankhamun’s Tomb)
  • Old Cairo (for the Citadel of Saladin and the Alabaster Mosque)
  • Coptic Cairo (for the Hanging Church and Cairo’s oldest synagogue)
  • Khan el-Khalili souk

In Luxor

  • Luxor Temple
  • The Avenue of the Sphinxes
  • Monuments of Karnak
  • Temple of Amun-Ra
  • Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens
  • Deir el-Bahri and the Colossi of Memnon

In Edfu

  • Temple of Horus

In Kom Ombo

  • Twin Temples

In Aswan

  • Sail via traditional felucca to Kitchener Island
  • High Dam
  • Philae, a small island
  • Nubian Temple of Isis
  • Ancient granite quarries

Which River Cruise Company Should You Select?

I personally recommend both Avalon Waterways, which offers 9-, 12-, and 16-day itineraries in Egypt, and Viking River Cruises that offers a 9-day adventure.

Avalon uses two different riverboats on the Nile: the MS Mayfair, launched in 2010 and the MS Kasr Ibrim, built in 1997. Both ships offer staterooms and suites, a swimming pool, and exercise equipment.

Travelers booking with Viking will sail aboard the Royal Lotus, a riverboat built in 2005 to accommodate 120 guests in both suites and staterooms. The ship features a pool, whirlpool, a small gym, and some spa services.

What Do You Think?

Would you add a Nile River cruise to your travel agenda for late 2012 or 2013? We’d like to know what you think. Comment below.

For more information about Nile River cruise, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections

A Trio of Unique Ports in the Mediterranean: Portofino, Corfu, and Corsica

The summer cruise season is upon us and that means many travelers will be heading to the Mediterranean. With that in mind, I wanted to talk about three of my favorite ports: Portofino in Italy, Corfu in Greece, and France’s Corsica.

Each of these ports has its own unique flavor and is best visited via one of the small or mid-size luxury cruise ships listed below.

Portofino on the Italian Riviera

Portofino is a small but picturesque village on the Italian Riviera where you’re sure to see well-dressed Europeans shopping the boutiques or coming and going from their private yachts. This is the place to people watch! Located on the Ligurian coast, Portofino is a jumping-off point to visit Santa Margherita Ligure, another lovely resort town; the beach at Paraggi; and the Abbey of San Fruttuoso.

Who calls upon Portofino, Italy? Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea, Windstar Cruises

Greece’s Corfu Island

I love visiting Old Town on Corfu in Greece. It’s just large enough to offer a plethora of cafes and tavernas and plenty of shopping to keep the ladies in your party busy. I’m especially fond of the candied kumquats that are sold on every street corner here.

I urge you to go beyond Old Town to see the rest of this lovely island. Don’t miss the gorgeous beaches, 100-year-old Achilleion Palace, and Mon Repos Palace, which was built in 1828. Many tourists also make the 40-minute drive out to Paleokastritsa Monastery and you should definitely consider a photo stop at the Kanoni Peninsula offering vistas overlooking the Church of Panagia ton Vlachernon and Mouse Island

Who calls upon Corfu, Greece? Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea

Corsica, A French Island Just North of Italy’s Sardinia

When you visit the island of Corsica, you may call upon several different parts of the island, including Ajaccio, Bonifacio, Calvi, or Portovecchio. Each landing site provides an entryway to beautiful scenery—mountains, forests, and white limestone—and excellent restaurants featuring plenty of local seafood, artisanal cheeses, and preserved meats.

Who calls upon Corsica, France? Azamara Club Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea 

What Do You Think?

Which are your favorite Mediterranean ports? Let us know. Comment below.

For more information about Mediterranean cruises, contact Luxury Cruise Connections toll-free at 1-866-997-0377 or send us an email.

—Logan Delgato for Luxury Cruise Connections