Frame it With a Theme

Cooking class aboard the AmaPrima.
Cooking class aboard the AmaPrima.

some merlot, please
Wine lovers, listen up—ok, now that I’ve got the attention of 99.9 percent of you…AmaWaterways is offering 18 wine-themed cruises this year and has 34 planned in 2016. That’s a heck of a lot of wine, but Kristin Karst, executive v.p. and co-owner, AmaWaterways, points out that the reason there are so many is because that’s what clients are demanding. “We launched our themed cruises five years ago with our first-ever wine-themed cruise. The success of this particular sailing resonated greatly with our guests, paving the way for us to offer our guests even more.” And although AmaWaterways has had, obviously, huge success with wine—and who wouldn’t?—it’s looking beyond the popular wine cruises and introducing guests “to other incredible themed cruises for 2015 and 2016. This includes two new beer-themed cruises this year—a first for us—as well as new art cruises and a jazz cruise.

“In working closely with the travel agent community, we have found that many travelers booking these types of cruises are not only former AmaWaterways passengers who are seeking a new twist on some of our more popular itineraries in Europe, but also younger travelers in search of a more active adventure.”

The year’s first beer-themed cruise sailed away last month, but the 11-day 2015 Holiday Beer Cruise on the 164-passenger AmaPrima is set to depart Dec. 11, starting in Prague and sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest. Along the way, passengers will enjoy beer excursions complemented by cities decked out for the Christmas markets. Rates for cruise/land start at $3,419.

That said, one of the line’s most intriguing themed cruises is the 11-day art-themed cruise, Paris & Normandy, on the Seine River (with two days in Paris) on board the AmaLegro. There are five departures in 2016—April, June, July, August, and October—with rates starting at $3,799 (rates depend on departure date and are cruise/land). Art-themed cruises include special art-themed excursions; onboard painting sessions with step-by-step guidance and painting materials provided for guest use (easels, canvases, brushes and paints); and art discussions. There will also be an art expert on board and guests will be able to take their
paintings home.

Tauck, meanwhile, knows that when you pair cuisine and France it’s a winning combination and the company’s A Taste of France itinerary along the Rhone River is a testament to that. The program includes seven nights aboard the ms Swiss Emerald, and there are plenty of vineyards, of course, along the way, which means exceptional wines, but there are also chocolate demonstrations, a pastry class, a visit to Les Halles, Lyon’s famed covered food market with its vertical garden, and cooking demonstrations. The 10-day itinerary starts at $5,890 with the first 2016 sailing set for May 14.

The big ships, too, know how to pair a good theme with stunning scenery. Crystal Cruises, for one, offers Experience of Discovery theme cruises, with topics that range from “Food & Wine Festival” and “Emerging Artists” to “Jazz.” The Crystal Food & Wine Festival is part of several cruises, including the 20-day Incan Immersion that sails on the Symphony from Valparaiso to Miami. It will feature top chefs, wine experts and mixologists, and there’ll be a focus on micro-breweries as well. Dates are Feb. 14 to March 15, 2016, with fares starting at $6,045 pp.

history class comes alive
Anyone who’s taken a river cruise knows that sailing along Europe’s waterways is taking a journey through history. Paying homage to this historic element is Avalon Waterways’ European History & Politics River Cruises, including the 14-day Blue Danube to the Black Sea on board the Passion Suite Ship, which will debut in 2016. As they sail through Eastern Europe and through the dramatic Iron Gates gorge, passengers will learn the stories behind some of Europe’s most historical sites. There is a sailing set for April 27, 2016 with pricing starting at $4,839.

knitting in alaska
Yes, you’ve read right—you can send your knitting fanatics on a Celebrity cruise in Alaska. CruiseOne franchisee Mara Hargarther, of Hargarther, Thaler & Associates, LLC, in Ponte Vedra, Florida, has put together a fiber arts/knitting cruise with a July departure in Alaska. “Alaska is a perfect destination for a knitting cruise. We mostly conduct classes at sea on cruising days. Imagine sitting and knitting and looking out the windows as glaciers pass you by. The majestic scenery of Alaska is a perfect fit.”

Hargarther notes that a travel advisor who wants to create a themed cruise needs to have “strong partners, great instructors, and people with a following and a large database to market to. These are key. With regard to the cruise line, select one that will give you flexibility and let them know very far in advance what your programming needs will be. Pick an itinerary with a good balance of land and sea days. Days at sea are best for programming, but it’s important to balance them out with sightseeing. We also do shore tours as a group.” Hargarther has done several knitting cruises and says the age range has been from 20-85, both men and women. Even the “non-knitter spouses look forward to returning as they have made many friends along the way,” she notes.

Hargarther is happy to work with other travel agents who have clients who are interested in a knitting cruise ( For the full Q&A with Mara Hargarther and to get the inside scoop on how she sets up these cruises, click here.

it’s selfie time!
Search your contacts for any New Kids on the Block fans, because they’ll want to join the “kids” on the Oct. 8-12 sailing from Miami to Grand Turk aboard the Carnival Victory. The cruise will feature an all-new beach party day on Grand Turk Island, as well as concerts, photo-ops, and the chance to meet and greet the band.

“In working closely with the travel agent community, we have found that many travelers booking these types of cruises are not only former AmaWaterways passengers who are seeking a new twist on some of our more popular itineraries in Europe, but also younger travelers in search of a more active adventure.” — Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner, AmaWaterways

Archived related articles (available on
Pick a Theme…Any Theme on the High Seas (July 2014)

contact information
AmaWaterways: (800) 626-0126; or
Avalon Waterways: (877) 797-8791; or
Crystal Cruises: (888) 722-0021;
Tauck: (800) 788-7885; or