Cruise Guide: Small ship cruises offer something for everyone

By Mike Coleman

Some of the world’s best cruises, even for kids, are not necessarily found on amenity-laden mega-ships. Small ship cruises offer something for everyone, and the 2006 summer season is no exception. ¨¨Passengers can return to a bygone era of steamship travel or enjoy nature’s canvas on a whale-watching expedition. Perhaps serious adventure is running through your veins.

Despite the world becoming a smaller place thanks to travel, I still haven’t met too many kids – or adults for that matter – who can say they’ve been to the Arctic Circle.

Guests onboard Galapagos Explorer II, an all-suite passenger vessel, can visit the Galapagos Islands National Park in Ecuador, off the South American coast. The cruise line provides comfort, adventure, and interpretation programs while passengers enjoy the park’s flora and fauna. Cruise fares include guided visits to the islands and accommodations in a double or triple suite. Dive programs are available.

Passengers who book a Norwegian Coastal Voyage vacation this summer can enjoy a southbound sailing from Kirkenes, where the midnight sun can be seen through late July, to Bergen, Norway. The Lofoten Islands, the narrow Raftsund Strait and the Trollfjord are experiences not to be missed on this trip.

Cruise West takes travelers into the heart of Alaska’s inside passage with a whale of a deal. Passengers can choose from five, six or nine-day voyages, each with a guarantee that a whale sighting will occur. The sailings explore waterways untouched by big ships, and if a whale is not sighted on the cruise, the line will refund $250.

The 170-passenger Star Clipper sails to an array of harbors in the Western Mediterranean from May to October, 2006. Two different seven-night round-trip Cannes, France, voyages include calls in Corsica, Italy, Monaco and France. For guests seeking a longer journey, the ship sails 10 and 11-night itineraries between Cannes and Dubrovnik, Croatia. The cruises call at ports in France, Italy, Greece, Albania and Montenegro, including an evening sail past still-active Stromboli volcano.

Look for Discovery World Cruises to offer free round trip economy class air travel from select East Coast cities in conjunction with two cruise tours this summer that showcase the Norwegian fjord lands, Ireland and lesser-visited ports near the Arctic Circle aboard the 650-passenger Discovery. “Fjords, Faroes, Fire & Ice,” a 16-day cruise tour departing July 6, calls at FlÃ¥m, Gudvangen and Bergen, Norway; Lerwick, Shetland Islands; Akureyri, Isafjordhur and Reykjavik, Iceland; and Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. “Iceland, Greenland & Ireland,” a 22-day cruise tour departing August 6, calls at Tórshavn, Reykjavik, and Cobh (Ireland), and the Greenland ports of Nuuk, Ilulissat, Narsarsuaq and Sisimiut.

Thinking about a river cruise? River Barge Excursions will be offering two special voyages this summer: “Confluence” where the Ohio, Missouri and Illinois rivers come together with the mighty Mississippi and “Rivers and Canals” where guests barge on the waters of the Ohio River along the restored Ohio and Erie Canal. On the seven-day Memphis to St. Louis “Confluence” voyage, May 31 to June 6, highlights include visits to Caruthersville, Mo., the historic Cape Girardeau, Mo. and Grafton, Ill. The “Rivers and Canals” roundtrip Cincinnati voyage, meanwhile, sails June 13-20 and Aug. 15-22, 2006.

Cruise Guide: Da Vinci code, Cannes Film Fest, Monaco Grand Prix entice passengers

By Mike Coleman

Taking a Da Vinci Code-based tour in Rome, hob-nobbing with the stars in Cannes or hearing the roar of Monaco’s famed Grand Prix are just a few of the heady perks awaiting cruise passengers in the Mediterranean this summer.


Capitalizing on the fame of bestselling author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons), look for luxury operator Crystal Cruises to offer a new shore excursion in Rome that will feature enough religious and scientific intrigue to fill one’s own novel.

Tours will showcase the four “Path of Illumination” symbols: Earth – at the Chigi Chapel where “Habakkuk and the Angel” point the way down the Path of Illumination; Air – the “West Wind Medallion” in St. Peter’s Square; Fire – the “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria; and Water – the “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi,” or Fountain of the Four Rivers, in Rome’s famed Piazza Navona. 

 

The key symbols and landmarks in Angels & Demons will also be featured as the tour visits the Spanish Steps and the Church of St. Ignatius; the Pantheon, Rome’s best-preserved ancient temple devoted to the goddess of the earth; St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest shrine on earth; and, the many Egyptian obelisks prominently displayed throughout the city and featured in the book. 

 

Crystal will also welcome author Bülent Atalay aboard two Mediterranean cruises (July 19 and 26) to discuss his book Math and the Mona Lisa. A mathematician and scientist, Atalay’s lectures examine the unity of art and science in Da Vinci’s works, including two of his most famous paintings: “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa.” 

 

Crystal operates the 1,080-guest, 68,000-ton Crystal Serenity and the 940-guest, 50,000-ton Crystal Symphony. 


Windstar glamour 

 

Meanwhile, glamorous Cannes, France and the Monaco Grand Prix can be enjoyed over the course of a 14-day Windstar Cruises voyage aboard Wind Surf, an elegant, 308-guest motor sailing yacht. 

 

If that’s not enticing enough, look for guests to enjoy an overnight in Cannes during its famed film festival and two nights in Monaco during the Formula One Grand Prix race. Other port calls include St. Tropez, France; St. Florent, Corsica; Ponza, Amalfi, Sorrento, Portovenere and Portofino, Italy. 

Coinciding with the festival, a gala dinner is planned at The Hotel Majestic while in Monte Carlo, another private dinner will be held on the eve of the Grand Prix at the Monaco Private Car Collection Museum of the late H.S.H. Prince Rainier III. 

Guests will enjoy both the Grand Prix time trials and the race itself in reserved seating, located track-side.

Could it get any better? 

In St. Tropez, look for a cocktail party at the Bylos Hotel, featuring a one-hour open bar with champagne and hot and cold canapes on the Terrace de l’Olivier. Guests will also be treated to an exclusive onboard wine tasting event hosted by Woodhouse Family Cellars, a boutique Washington State winery. The roundtrip voyage departs Nice, France, May 21.