Pick a Theme…Any Theme on the High Seas

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You can recommend families spend Halloween on board a Disney cruise.
You can recommend families spend Halloween on board a Disney cruise.

There’s a cruise for beer lovers. A cruise for fans of the hit TV show, “Dancing With The Stars.” A cruise for foodies, music lovers, and wine enthusiasts. In a nutshell: Experiential travel has taken off on the high seas.

flora and…spirits?
It’s a river cruise for beer aficionados and tulip lovers, too. AmaWaterways’ newest themed cruise, Tulips & Beer, is a 7-night cruise in the Netherlands and Belgium during the spring (perfect time to see the tulips in bloom)—sail date is March 31, 2015. The cruise takes passengers through Dutch and Belgian waterways aboard the AmaLyra and showcases regional beers via tours of world-famous breweries and beer tastings—there is even a tour of a Dutch windmill brewery. The onboard host is “Joe Sixpack,” a pseudonym for Philadelphia Daily News beer columnist, Don Russell. Russell, the executive director of Philly Beer Week, a 10-day festival held in the city every June, will lead the onboard lectures, discussions and tastings. The 7-night cruise, starting at $2,599 pp, also offers unlimited beer and wine with every lunch and dinner, and a canal cruise in Amsterdam.

meeting demand
Avalon Waterways is introducing new themed cruises to its already long list of popular returns for 2015. The cruise lines’ new Author Cruise welcomes well-known author Patricia Schultz, “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” for an 8-day cruise along the Danube from Budapest to Vienna, Durnstein-Melk, Linz-Passau, and Regensburg before reaching Nuremburg. Departing Aug. 15, 2015, on the Avalon Expression, Schultz will sign books for passengers and provide lectures on the must-see destinations around the world. Schultz is the godmother of the Expression, which was christened in May 2013. Adding to its list of music-themed cruises, Avalon is also introducing a new 13-day Opera Cruise in 2015 where passengers will enjoy live opera performances as they sail from Budapest to Prague—departure date set for July 15. Returning after popular demand are a 9-day Golf Cruise from Vienna to Munich; and a 13-day Jewish Heritage Cruise and Wellness Cruise—both sailing from Budapest to Prague.

step back in time
Battlement reenactments, museums, monuments, and historic sites—this is what passengers aboard American Cruise Lines’ Independence will experience on the Civil War-themed, Historic South & Golden Isles itinerary. History aficionados will travel up the waterway from Charleston, SC, to Jacksonville, FL, reliving historic moments from the Civil War with stops in Beaufort, Savannah, and St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. Civil War novelist and guest lecturer Dr. Michael J. Deeb will be on board to offer presentations on the Civil War based on events and ports of call where the Independence will be docked. Rates begin at $3,860 pp for the 8-day cruise departing March 21, 2015. On the Queen of the West, meanwhile, passengers can follow the path of explorers Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark along the Columbia and Snake rivers with onboard expert and American historian Todd Weber. The Lewis & Clark-themed cruise is $3,860 pp and departs on May 23 and Oct. 10 next year.

bon appetit
Fans of the hit Bravo TV series, “Top Chef,” will be pleased to know that Celebrity Cruises is hosting 13 of the show’s chef contestants on four cruises sailing to Bermuda, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean. The Top Chef At Sea experience, which kicked off this month aboard the Celebrity Summit with three chefs from the show, gives passengers the chance to vacation with their favorite “Top Chef” competitors, savor their dishes, take part in culinary cooking demonstrations and courses, enjoy a private cooking class, and other onboard activities. The second Top Chef At Sea itinerary sails Aug. 15 on the Celebrity Solstice for a 7-night trip to Alaska with chefs who were runners-up as well as TV show winner of “Top Chef Texas,” Paul Qui. For clients who are fans of the show, but looking for warmer climes, the Celebrity Reflection is sailing to the Caribbean with four chefs on Nov. 15.

microbrews on board
Change is good, and Crystal Cruises, taking advantage of the growing trend of microbrews across America, is adding a twist to its popular Wine & Food: Experiences of Discovery cruise by switching wine with lagers, stouts and craft brews to create a new microbrew-themed cruise. On the 14-day trip aboard the Crystal Serenity, passengers will visit micro- and nano-breweries; sample seasonal and limited edition beers; take part in cooking and cocktail courses on board; and hear from beer and microbrew experts on topics that range from the production of beers to ways on how beer can be used as an ingredient for cooking. Passengers will also take part in beer-themed dinners. The itinerary begins in New York City before sailing to Baltimore, Norfolk and Charleston to then head to the Turks & Caicos, Curaçao and Aruba and docking in Miami. The all-inclusive rate starts at $4,710 pp; a shorter 11-day trip is available at $3,700 pp.

celebrate with mickey
This fall and winter seasons, Disney Cruise Line is offering its Halloween on the High Seas and Very Merrytime Cruises— Halloween- and Christmas-themed cruises ideal for multigenerational clients. For the first time this year, all four Disney ships will be decked out in spooky decor as passengers experience Halloween-themed parties and activities like Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party and Halloween Isn’t Just For Kids, nighttime entertainment exclusively for adults. Sailings for Halloween on the High Seas begin in September until late-October. In late-November, sailings commence to celebrate the holiday season. On Thanksgiving Day, passengers will break bread over a plentiful Thanksgiving Day feast while the NFL football games will play on the outdoor LED screen. And during the Christmas season, the ships will glitter and glow with decorations, a King Triton’s Tree Lighting Ceremony, holiday storytelling and Deck the Deck Holiday Party—and Christmas isn’t Christmas without Santa Claus and his elves, as well as caroling from the ship’s crew.

dancing with the stars
This is more than just learning dance routines seen on the hit TV show, “Dancing With The Stars”; this is a competition at sea where only one winner will walk away with a trophy and be crowned as Holland America Line’s Dancing with the Stars: At Sea grand champion—and this popular experience is available on board all Holland ships throughout the year. Passengers sailing throughout Holland’s fleet have a chance to compete to be the Cruise Champion, and at the end of year, 15 Cruise Champions will sail on a complimentary 7-day Caribbean cruise vying for the trophy…who will win? We’ll have to wait until December to find out. As an added bonus, Holland is offering six “Dancing With The Stars”-themed cruises featuring celebrities and dancers from the show allowing guests to participate in dance lessons; meet the dancers and take photos; and enjoy an elaborate production starring the celebrities and dance professionals. Starting rates for the cruises begin at $599 pp.

Holland America also knows how to whip up a fascinating cooking class at sea with The Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine Magazine. It’s a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen with gourmet presentations, tasting events and intimate cooking classes, and what better itinerary to cook up a delightful meal than on the 14-day Mediterranean & Aegean Explorer, which takes in Croatia, one of the region’s most beautiful countries. On the port stop in Split, guests have the opportunity to opt for the A Country Home Visit shore excursion, where they’ll learn about the way of life in a traditional Dalmatian village as they drive east from Split to the village of Gata for a visit with the Tvrde family in their country home. Joining passengers on board will be guest chef Nancy Silverton, co-owner of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, Newport Beach and Singapore, as well as Mozza2Go and Chi Spacca in Los Angeles.

play it loud
Norwegian Cruise Line has a lineup of music-themed cruises for clients who want to rock hard with the classic band Kiss, or celebrate the music of GRAMMY-award winning female artists like the Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin. The Norwegian Pearl is the host ship for the line’s 5-day Kiss Cruise setting sail on Oct. 30 to the Bahamas from Miami; the GRAMMY Festival at Sea (Nov. 4-8), where passengers can take part in Q&A sessions with the artists; the 4-day This is How We Cruise featuring country band Florida Georgia Line (Feb. 13); Sail Across the Sun featuring musical band, Train (March 1); the Keeping the Blues Alive 4-day trip to the Bahamas on Feb. 17; and the 5-day Kid Rock’s 5th Annual Chillin the Most Cruise (March 3) sailing from Miami to Key West, and then it’s on to Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. ●


contact information: 

AmaWaterways: (800) 626-0126; amawaterways.com or amawaterways.com/agent/Login.aspx

American Cruise Lines: (800) 460-4518; americancruiselines.com or americancruiselines.com/travel-agents

Avalon Waterways: (877) 797-8791; avalonwaterways.com or agents.globusfamily.com

Celebrity Cruises: (800) 647-2251; celebritycruises.com or cruisingpower.com

Crystal Cruises: (888) 722-0021; crystalcruises.com or crystalcruises.com/agent

Disney Cruise Line: (800) 951-3532; disneycruise.disney.go.com or disneytravelagents.com

Holland America Line: (877) 932-4259; hollandamerica.com

Norwegian Cruise Line: (866) 234-7350; ncl.com or norwegiancentral.ncl.com/login