|Crystal Symphony calls at Rio de Janeiro twice in February, either beginning or ending on a Rio Carnival night.|
Well-heeled clients often book luxury cruises for pampering onboard services and time ashore in chic destinations like London, Monte Carlo or Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Above all, though, luxury selling agents say “been there, done that,” upscale clients love exotic itineraries. Why? Clients seek bragging rights about remote spots friends haven’t visited, and they savor meeting indigenous people and exploring off-the-beaten-path cultures.
Travel Agent asked four mainstream oceangoing luxury lines and one luxury mega-yacht line, all serving a large number of American cruisers, about their most exotic 2012 voyages.
Java Sea Gems: Luxury clients who want to explore the Indonesian Archipelago in relaxed, elegant style with fine wine, cuisine and top-notch service might book the 10-day "Gems of the Java Sea" itinerary from Seabourn Cruise Line. Seabourn Legend operates this itinerary on January 15 and February 6, 2012.
Clients will visit Semarang, Java, the access port for Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple complex. They will also explore Surabaya, Java, Indonesia’s second-largest city with traditional and colonial heritage sites, as well as Probolinggo, Java. In Celukan Bawang, Bali, clients might visit handicraft villages or sail on high-prowed Bugis inter-island schooners.
The cruise also gives guests a full-day and overnight visit to Benoa, Bali. The ship will also call at Lembar, Lombok—Bali’s “little sister” island, which is less visited but has a similar tropical flair and culture. Fares for the "Gems of the Java Sea” voyages begin at $4,799 per person based on double occupancy for an oceanview suite. If they wish to splurge, clients might book a French balcony stateroom or a suite. Visit the website for details.
Carnival-in-Rio: Crystal Cruises brings Rio de Janeiro’s annual Carnival spectacle to guests via Crystal Symphony’s Miami-to-Rio de Janeiro and Rio de Janeiro-to-Buenos Aires, Argentina, voyages on February 6 and 20, respectively. The cruises either end or begin on the best Carnival parade nights when 30,000 glamorously costumed revelers thrill the crowds with singing, dancing, drumming and colorful floats.
Shore excursions begin at $799 per person. Crystal offers reservations at Rio’s Sambadrome for grandstand seating, front-row box seats, or even a luxury VIP sky box suite; the latter is $12,999 per person. One excursion lets guests fulfill their fantasy of dressing in costume, marching in the parade and performing with a top samba school.
Departing February 6 from Miami, the 14-day "Copacabana & Carnival" voyage on Crystal Symphony calls at Barbados; Devil’s Island, French Guiana; Maceio (a maiden call), and Salvador, Brazil, before ending in Rio de Janeiro. The 12-day "Samba Serenade" cruise begins in Rio de Janeiro on February 20 and sails to Buenos Aires with calls at Buzios, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Santos (for Sao Paulo) and Itajai, Brazil; and Punta del Este and Montevideo, Uruguay.
If booked by December 21, fares for the "Copacabana & Carnival" voyage begin at $3,520 per person based on double occupancy, with $1,000 “Book Now” savings off two-for-one fares, plus a $500 per person shipboard “As You Wish” credit. "Samba Serenade" fares begin at $4,540 per person double with similar perks. Both the voyages also have free air and airport/ship transfers.
|Many Seabourn voyages feature a “Marina Day,” inviting guests to enjoy complimentary watersports in an exotic port.|
Arabian Adventures: A 17-night Regent Seven Seas Cruises "Arabian Adventures" voyage heads from Safaga, Egypt, to Mumbai, India, on November 14, 2012. Operated by Seven Seas Voyager, the cruise includes one night in Cairo, a two-night Luxor pre-cruise package and a three-night Taj Mahal post-cruise package plus a call at Aqaba, Jordan, for guests to take a shore trip to Petra. Other calls include Oman, Dubai and Qatar. Guests receive unlimited free shore trips.
During the pre-cruise package, clients will travel to Luxor for included visits to the Karnak and Luxor temples, the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, and also attend Karnak’s evening sound-and-light show. Guests also take a jeep safari into the desert to a Bedouin settlement.
Fares start at $8,999 per person based on double occupancy, including free air roundtrip from many U.S. cities. An upgrade to business class is available for $1,599 per person each way. This specific cruise includes gratuities, complimentary pre-cruise stay, and an additional bonus savings of $5,000 per suite. Past guests enjoy additional savings of up to $2,000 per suite. Savings vary by suite category.
West Africa Exploration: The thrill of exploring remote spots in Africa is still highly enticing to world travelers who’ve read such books as Out of Africa or King Solomon’s Mines. Few places are more “off the beaten path” for Westerners than Africa’s Atlantic coast. Silversea Cruises’ Silver Explorer sails two West Africa expedition-style voyages.
On September 16, the ship sails a 17-day "Atlantic Islands & African Shores" voyage from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, to Accra, Ghana. Calls include San Sebastian, La Gomera, Spain; Ad Dakhla, Western Sahara; Porto Novo, Cape Verde; Dakar, Senegal; Banjul and Albreda, Gambia; Bijagos Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Banana Island; and Takoradi, Ghana.
During the Gambia day, Silver Explorer will cruise the Gambia River to Albreda. Cruisers will visit Juffureh, ancestral home of Alex Haley, author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family, and Kunta Kinte, the novel’s main character. Guests will meet a Kinte family descendant. Cruise-only fares start at $9,398 per person double.
Silver Explorer also sails a 10-night "West Africa Cultural Adventure" itinerary roundtrip from Accra departing on October 3, 2012. A highlight? Guests will meet Cameroon’s forest-dwelling pygmy people. Calls include Takoradi, Ghana; Santo Antonio, Sao Tome and Principe; Kribi and Limbe, Cameroon; Cotonou, Benin; and Lome, Togo. Cruise-only fares start at $6,253 per person double.
Cunard’s World Voyage: Most exotic voyages from Cunard Line are segments of its Queen Mary 2 2012 World Voyage. The 16-day Hong Kong-to-Dubai segment on March 26 calls at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (via Phu My); Bangkok (via Laem Chabang) and Phuket, Thailand; Singapore; and Cochin, India. Availability was limited at press time; guests could still book Britannia oceanview staterooms with cruise-only fares from $2,913 per person double.
With much more availability, the 16-day Dubai-to-Southampton segment departs April 11 and features exotic port calls in Muscat and Sokha, Egypt. Queen Mary 2 also transits the Suez Canal and calls at Piraeus (Athens) and Lisbon. At press time, inside and balcony cabins started at $2,598 and $3,268 per person double, respectively.
Small Ship Luxury: SeaDream Yacht Club is one of several luxury lines offering small-ship exotic voyages. A 20-day voyage departing February 13 from Barbados to Iquitos, Peru, provides a complete Amazon transit; a second voyage is offered in reverse.
Guests will explore in Zodiacs, view pink dolphins and birds, see the Amazon and Negro Rivers’ confluence, and visit villages. Some shore trips are included in the fare, which begins at $15,499 per person based on double occupancy, plus fees. Commission is $3,100-$4,500 per stateroom.