It’s all about the destination for many ocean cruisers. So, keeping the product fresh with new destinations to explore is critical. Here’s a look at some of the upcoming maiden calls or first-time ports.
The 835-passenger Prinsendam, Holland America Line’s most intimate vessel, operates a 14-day Celtic Explorer itinerary starting June 3, with a maiden port call at Bantry Bay and the village of Glengarriff, lying at the gateway to the Ring of Beara, one of Ireland’s dramatic southwestern peninsulas. Glengarriff itself is home to small shops, eateries and live music.
One popular activity is a visit to Molly Gallivan’s 200-year-old cottage and farm, a family-run business on the Beara peninsula. This experience offers a glimpse of rural Ireland’s country lifestyle during the pre-electricity days. Cruisers will see farm animals, fowl and traditional farm machinery; visit the ghostly ruins of a family dwelling from the Great Famine era; and gaze at a Neolithic Stone Row that’s part of an ancient sun calendar.
For nature lovers, Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve boasts scenic viewpoints and many walking and cycling trails through mature woodlands. Lady Bantry’s Lookout, for example, provides panoramic views across the Bay and to the Caha Mountains. If it’s a hot day, the reserve’s freshwater “Pooleen” is a good place for a dip. Prefer the sea for a swim? Options include the coastal Blue Pool, Zetland and Ellen’s Rock.
The Ewe Experience, the highest-rated local attraction on TripAdvisor.com, winds through woods and over waterfalls. This interactive and interpretative sculpture garden has whimsical sculptures. Planning to go? Then download the garden guide: www.theewe.com/full-guide
Set along the Ionian Sea gulf, Saranda (or Sarandë) is nine miles east of the Greek isle of Corfu. It’s the southernmost city in Albania. The highlight of a Saranda visit? Many cruisers venture out of town to the ruins of Butrint, an ancient Greek, Roman and later Byzantine city. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it showcases an impressive Roman amphitheater, a temple with mosaic floor, lion’s gate and the second largest Byzantine basilica in the world, after Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.
In the spring, MSC Cruises will sail for the first time into Saranda port in Albania with MSC Poesia, which departs April 8 roundtrip from Venice. Other ports on this itinerary include Bari, Italy; Katakolon, Mykonos and Piraeus, Greece; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.
While MSC doesn’t yet have full tour descriptions for Saranda, the line told Travel Agent it plans to offer an excursion to Butrint, plus these additional options: a Saranda city tour; visit to Gjirokastra — The Stone City, and the Blue Eye Spring, a natural phenomenon; and a tour of the Albanian Riviera and its villages.
Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth will call at a new port, San Pablo de Manta, Ecuador, in 2018. Manta is on the schedule for the 50-day voyage around South America, departing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on January 18, 2018, or a 35-night cruise from Rio de Janeiro to Fort Lauderdale departing February 2.
A popular local excursion at Sète is a day trip to the medieval, walled city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Manta is almost directly on the Equator, approximately halfway along Ecuador’s Pacific shoreline. Seven different civilizations inhabited this area before the Spanish arrived to conquer it in the mid 1500s. Today, while the city is industrialized, it also has a beach, water sports and some historic buildings.
The region’s true “claim to fame,” however, is a straw hat, which is actually named for another country. On a short drive from Manta into the Ecuadorian interior, cruisers will arrive at Montecristi, where the hand-made Panama hats are lovingly created from a type of palm leaf plant grown in mountainous coastal regions. It’s fun to take a tour and see how these one-of-a-kind masterpieces are made. So how did the hat become associated with Panama, rather than Ecuador? Legend says that when U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt inaugurated the 1913 opening of the Panama Canal, he acquired one of the Ecuadorian hats that the canal workers typically wore, but because it happened in Panama, the name stuck.
California-based Princess Cruises is introducing a new port of call close to home in 2017 with a maiden call at Monterey. Princess’ seven-day sailings from Los Angeles and 10-day cruises from Vancouver (on multiple dates) will feature this California port. For example, Ruby Princess calls at Monterey during its seven-night “Classic California Coast” roundtrip from Los Angeles, departing March 18; the ship also calls at San Francisco, Santa Barbara and San Diego, as well as Ensenada, Mexico.
Cruisers can visit the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, see breathtaking coastal scenery along 17-Mile Drive, or visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the street made famous in author John Steinbeck’s novel, “Cannery Row.” Visitors can also head out to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Fisherman’s Wharf, an old Spanish Mission, the Maritime Museum or a whale-watching tour.
Art lovers often enjoy a day trip to Carmel, a lovely city with dozens of photography and art studios / galleries, as well as cottages, beautiful gardens, specialty shops and the white-sand Carmel Beach.
For 2017, Celebrity Cruises’ “Solsticized” Celebrity Constellation will sail a mix of nine- and 10-night sailings that take guests to Mediterranean destinations, including two new ports of call for the line — Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Sète, France. On the July 22 sailing, Celebrity Constellation departs Civitavecchia (Rome) and calls at Sète, as well as Livorno (Florence / Pisa); Portofino, Italy; Toulon, France; Villefranche (Nice), France; Ibiza, Spain (overnight); and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Sète is a pretty town — France’s version of Venice in some ways. It boasts canals, markets, shops, museums and beaches. The top local excursion for many is a day trip to the medieval, walled city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors here can stroll the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets and walk atop the city wall ramparts. If you have time for lunch, pop into a cafe for the local specialty, cassoulet, a hearty, slow-cooked casse-role of meat and beans.
Two Australia Firsts
Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas will have a maiden call at Wollongong (Port Kembla), Australia, during a seven-night Tasmania sailing departing March 12, 2018, roundtrip from Sydney, Australia; it’s also a maiden call for the line. Fringed by beaches, Wollongong has al fresco dining and a brewery, and is a 10-minute drive away from Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. Things to do in and around Wollongong include skydiving onto the beach, hang gliding or paragliding, Harley and Ferrari joy rides, and playing golf on a beachside course.
Separately, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Star has a first-time call at Airlie Beach, the hub of Australia’s Whitsundays island group, on February 2, during its cruise departing on Jan 16 from Hong Kong to Sydney, Australia. Guests can check out the boutiques, cafes and shops of Airlie Beach’s main street, relax by the lagoon, enjoy water sports or explore the nearby rain forest.
For more new ports, visit www.luxurytraveladvisor.com/cruises and check out our sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor’s story on upper premium and luxury line maiden calls. These include St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands; Maheshkhali Island & the Sundarbans, Bangladesh; Galway, Ireland; Norfolk Island, Australia; Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean; Dundee, Scotland and more.