Editor’s Note: At press time of the April print issue, we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis. Major cruise lines have put a pause on operations, and travel around the world has almost come to a halt. But, with all crises, we know that this too will pass. We’ve heard from travel advisors who say clients are looking to reschedule for later in the year, rather than outright cancelling, and with that in mind we are creating content for you to make bookings for summer travel and beyond, because we all know cruise demand will resume.
“Some cruise lines can boast menus prepared by celebrity chefs such as Oceania’s Jacques Pepin. However, top-notch cuisine can be found with just about every cruise line, with options for every palate and budget,” notes Julie Vowell, Dream Vacations franchise owner and vacation specialist. “I’ve frankly been amazed by the food choices available in recent years.”
It’s high praise when backed by the experience and expertise of a travel pro. What’s more, not only inviting cuisine but irresistible itineraries are in the sailing picture this year, serving up a perfect pairing for your clients.
Jazz, Lobster & the Constitution
Close to home, American Cruise Lines—which has temporarily suspended cruises until May 17, 2020 and is offering its Cruise with Comfort program through Aug. 31, 2020, as well as the Travel Advisor Assurance Plan, protecting 100 percent of all travel advisor commissions for bookings affected by COVID-19—continues to grab the spotlight with its multiplying modern riverboats—all eye-catchers, perhaps most notably on the legendary Mississippi where Victorian curlicues and red paddlewheels have been the historic norm. A favorite is the Lower Mississippi 8-day New Orleans to Memphis itinerary that calls at Oak Alley, Baton Rouge, Natchez, and Vicksburg. A complimentary pre-cruise overnight at the InterContinental New Orleans allows a day for exploring New Orleans. Which is also celebrated aboard with themed dishes from chicken and andouille gumbo to tasty bread pudding. Lower Mississippi dates kicked off in March and will continue through December on board modern riverboats American Harmony and American Jazz, or the traditionally styled Queen of the Mississippi and America.
Clients can be among the first to board American Cruise Lines’ gleaming new coastal ship American Constitution on 11-day Grand New England cruises, roundtrip from Boston, with ports the likes of Bar Harbor, Martha’s Vineyard, and Provincetown.
A pre-cruise package features Boston’s Four Seasons Hotel. Passengers are treated to a lobsterbake—fresh lobster, steamed clams and mussels—prepared over a fire at the beach. Along with the Mississippi and New England, American Cruise Lines also sails the Southeast, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Wine, Truffles & Paris
In European waters, AmaWaterways—which has cancelled all of its river cruises in Europe, Asia and Africa through April 25, 2020 (including April 26, 2020 aboard AmaCerto)—is unveiling the new 7-night Magna on the Danube itinerary aboard AmaMagna, debuted last year. Along with daytime cruising through the Danube Bend come excursions to opulent Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens in Vienna, and an exclusive wine festival in Spitz, Austria. Among new land extensions: three nights in Istanbul with a tour of Topkapi Palace; three nights in Nice with visits to Aix-en-Provence, Monaco, and Monte Carlo; and three nights in Bangkok, including the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha, museums and markets.
Gourmands will delight in AmaWaterways’ lineup of epicurean excursions—a chance to learn the finer points of Belgian chocolate-making and French truffle hunting. Others: Taste of Matosinhos on a Douro sailing that takes passengers to the coastal town of Matosinhos for a cooking demonstration of pataniscas, a traditional Portuguese cod fish cake; a Provencal cooking lesson at Les Halles in Paris followed by a food tasting; and in Asia and Africa, market tours, culinary workshops, and tradesmen demonstrations.
Mozart, Munich & Sausages
Cruising in the heart of Europe, not to mention Russia, Egypt, the Americas, the Caribbean, Mediterranean and more, Viking—which has temporarily suspended cruise operations until May 1, 2020—beckons culture vultures with its 8-day Romantic Danube itinerary. Picture an evening in timeless Vienna at a concert featuring works by Mozart and Strauss. There’s a Budapest call as well with a look at the historic Castle District; and during the Regensburg port stop, cruisers may opt for a full-day excursion to sample the many highlights of Munich—Germany’s vibrant center of Bavarian culture, notably its 12th century town square, the Marienplatz. Elegant Elbe, meanwhile, is a 10-day Berlin to Prague program that spotlights Germany’s Wittenberg and Meissen as well as risen-from-the-ashes Dresden.
Be sure to turn on foodie clients to Viking’s The Kitchen Table, an onboard opportunity to join the line’s cooking school, learning how the chefs bring destination-focused dishes from market to table while soaking up local culture and cuisine. Viking shines when it comes to alfresco dining, including such locally themed experiences as an Austrian buffet event on deck, complete with beer and sausages.
Cairo, King Tut & Temples
On the roster this year for Avalon Waterways—which, as part of Globus family of brands, has suspended travel through April 30—is a return to Egypt aboard the MS Farah on the line’s new Taste of Egypt itinerary. The 10-day September through October adventure is prime time for visiting the pyramids, the sphinx, the Hanging Church (Cairo’s oldest), and Tutankhamun’s Tomb in the Egyptian Museum. Traveling the Nile, passengers will view the Luxor Temple, Avenue of Sphinxes, Karnak Temple Complex, Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, and Temple of Isis. A grand variety of choices for time spent before and after the cruise comes with the new Avalon Your Way program and its focus on passengers’ preferences and budget.
On board, there’s a similarly wide range of excursion options—sightseeing, active, or immersive—in the Avalon Choice menu. Ship dining features both regional recipes and familiar faves, with offerings from restaurants to afternoon tea to lunchboxes for independent shore excursions. The staff aims to please, according to Vowell. Cruising from Paris to Normandy with her husband and a gluten allergy, she says, “The dining room staff aboard Avalon’s Tapestry ll treated me like a queen with my own daily gluten-free bread, desserts, and special dinners.”
UNESCO, Vienna & Romance
Among destinations in the Seabourn lineup this year (the cruise line paused operations for 30 days starting on March 14, 2020) are Alaska glaciers, fjords and the Canadian Inside Passage, Panama and South America, Antarctica and Patagonia, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe. Port stops show off 250 shore experiences at more than 170 UNESCO-designated sites. In the mix: the 15-day British Isles and Iceland voyage, with calls at both Dublin and Greencastle, Ireland, before sailing on to the UK and Iceland. Another winner is the 21-day Scandinavian Gems and St. Petersburg journey that includes Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Finland. This one offers the pre-cruise UNESCO Imperial Heritage of Europe, focusing on Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin.
Recently unveiled on Seabourn Ovation and launched fleetwide last spring is a romantic dining scenario known as Earth & Ocean at The Patio. Think poolside, candlelight, music. Created by consulting chef Anton Egger, dishes are rooted in authentic local flavors from around the world. More romance? Head for The Grill by Thomas Keller. Namesake of the famed Michelin-starred chef, it’s styled after a classic American restaurant of times past.
Canals, Amsterdam & Art
In Crystal’s 2020 deployment (Crystal River Cruises’ voyages scheduled to embark through April 11 as well as Crystal Esprit’s April 10 sailing have been cancelled; Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony are set to recommence sailing on April 21 and May 8, respectively), a river journey on the Rhine aboard Crystal Bach—10 nights in September, roundtrip Amsterdam—will treat clients to the distinctive architecture of Dusseldorf and the noted vintages of the Mosel wine region. Pre- and post-cruise, they can kick back in a five-star Amsterdam hotel while exploring the city’s famed canals and museums. The elegant Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity roam the globe, while Crystal Endeavor, the line’s newsy expedition vessel, will embark this year on her maiden voyage from Tokyo.
Crystal cruisers can shop among five restaurant choices. The current reigning champ in popularity is Umi Uma and the Sushi Bar, renowned as the showcase of celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Early reservations are advisable. Clients will receive the first Umi Uma dining experience complimentary. After that, there’s a $30pp charge.
Sydney, Corals & Seafood
On Oceania—which, as part of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, has suspended cruise voyages through April 11, 2020—there are such entries as the 12-day Aegean Awakening voyage aboard Sirena that will call on Jerusalem, Cyprus, Turkey, Crete, and more; while Regatta cruises the eastern coast of Australia and the Coral Sea on the 16-day Coral Sights & Seas cruise to Sydney, Brisbane, Papua New Guinea, and on to Indonesia and Bali. Nautica’s Northern Legends sails Dublin to Copenhagen July-August, visiting historic Dublin and the Wicklow countryside’s “Garden of Ireland.” Included are such major attractions as the Book of Kells and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Steve Faber, franchise owner and vacation specialist with CruiseOne, sends kudos to “relatively small, upscale ships such as those of Oceania, Azamara, Silversea, and Regent for their personalized and hands-on cooking demonstrations.” He also applauds river cruises and expedition cruises that provision in port. “My first exposure to barramundi (an Australian fish) and Tasmanian oysters came on an expedition cruise aboard Orion, now part of the Lindblad fleet.” Foodies similarly praise Oceania’s Culinary Discovery Tours, designed to check out the culture of a destination through an epicurean lens.
Hikes, Parks & Iceland
Scenic—which has suspended all European river cruise operations until April 30, 2020, and suspended SE Asia river cruises for the remainder of their season, which ends mid-May—offers river-and-ocean itineraries such as Best of the Balkans, a 15-day Bucharest to Budapest cruise. Among port stops: Sofia, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, and Zagreb. At Zagreb, a guided tour will lead passengers to Plitvice National Park, with its dramatic landscape of emerald lakes and crystal waterfalls. Ocean itineraries range from Antarctica to the Falkland Islands, Argentina to the Netherlands, Iceland to Costa Rica. Tastes of Imperial Europe, a 5-day Vienna to Budapest itinerary, offers tours such as a visit to the home of a local family in Bratislava. In Budapest, active clients can join a hike up World Heritage-listed Buda Hill.
The line’s river ships sport French and Italian restaurants, plus a festive weekly barbecue on the top deck. Dining on the new Scenic Eclipse, unveiled in 2019 as the World’s First Discovery Yacht, features Koko’s for Asian fusion and sushi, Lumiere for fine French fare, and Chef’s Table, an exclusive degustation experience. For cooking classes and demonstrations, look to the chef-led culinary school christened, aptly enough, Epicure.
American Cruise Lines: americancruiselines.com
Avalon Waterways: avalonwaterways.com
Azamara Club Cruises: azamaraclubcruises.com
Crystal Cruises: crystalcruises.com
Lindblad Expeditions: expeditions.com
Oceania Cruises: oceaniacruises.com
Regent Seven Seas: rssc.com
Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours: scenicusa.com
Seabourn Cruise Line: seabourn.com
Silversea Cruises: silversea.com
Viking Cruises: vikingcruises.com