Cruise Guide: Crystal set to host sophisticated theme cruises

By Mike Coleman

Ultra-luxurious Crystal Cruises has unveiled 12 sophisticated theme sailings in 2008 aboard its two globe-trotting vessels.

A new arts and antiquities program, a classical music voyage with distinguished performers and an expanded series of golf cruises with tee times at some of the world’s most exclusive courses highlight the line’s offerings. Look also for jazz, big band and ballroom dancing and film- and theatre-themed cruises, perennial favorites among Crystal guests.

Long renowned for its onboard enrichment, Crystal’s theme offerings seek to tap the interests of today’s savvy traveler with in-depth experiences and varied programming emphasizing destination, culture, history and contemporary trends.

“Whether the cruise theme is a lifelong passion or a budding interest, guests will enjoy access to industry experts, talented performers and culinary stars who bring an unparalleled depth of knowledge to today’s hot topics and interests,” said Kristin Turner, the line’s manager of entertainment.

The 12-day arts and antiquities cruise, beginning Oct. 6, will explore the Greco-Roman empire aboard a cruise from Athens to Rome featuring artists, architects, and experts from top museums and auction houses. The Mediterranean voyage includes an overnight in Cairo aboard Crystal Serenity.

Guest lectures and live performances will highlight the classical music cruise. The works of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart will fill the air aboard Crystal Symphony during an 11-day voyage to the Baltic’s imperial cities.

Famed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade headlines the entertainment lineup. The trip also includes an option to attend a performance at Russia’s famed Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and a classical concert at the Hermitage.

Meanwhile, Crystal’s wine and food festival, now in its 12th year, will be held on six voyages and again feature world-renowned chefs and wine experts. Look for lectures, demonstrations, special menus and tastings aboard and ashore during five voyages to Asia, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and New England and Canada.

Also returning is the line’s golf cruise, expanded from one voyage in 2007 to three sailings in 2008. Itineraries in April, September and October feature instruction by top PGA pros. Shore excursions offer optional play at prestigious courses, including the Monte Carlo Golf Club, and other links throughout New England, Europe and the Canary Islands.

In January, guests will enjoy historical and cultural insights from lecturers of the Smithsonian Institute as they transit the Panama Canal. Later in the year, look for experts in Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates to focus on rejuvenation and wellness aboard voyages to South America and the Caribbean.

Cruise Guide: Regent adds Antarctica voyages

By Mike Coleman

Culinary improvements aboard three tall sailing ships and new, luxurious voyages to the White Continent highlight news this week from the global cruise industry. 

Star Clippers has unveiled new menus aboard the Star Clipper (170 guests), Star Flyer (170 guests) and flagship Royal Clipper (227 guests), thanks to the assistance of culinary advisor and three-star Michelin chef Jean-Marie Meulien.

The menu transformation features a selection of starters, entrees and desserts, featuring more local dishes and ingredients based on the ships’ itineraries.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises, meanwhile, has added four new Antarctica cruises in late 2007 and early 2008, due to what company officials are calling overwhelming demand. Guests will enjoy all the White Continent has to offer amid the comfort of the world’s top-rated expedition cruise ship, Explorer II. Previous Regent itineraries to Antarctica have already sold out.

Star Dining

In an effort to cater to an international clientele, the Star Clippers transformation now features a two-week menu cycle. Summer itineraries in the Mediterranean are reflected in a large selection of French and Italian dishes, while menus for winter sailings in Asia, French Polynesia and the Caribbean switch to highlight local fare.

“We’ve worked for the past two years to evolve our cuisine while remembering that we serve guests from around the world, with different tastes,” said Bernd Schroter, director of hotel operations for Star Clippers.
“Chef Meulien has taken our menus to a higher level, and we know that both returning and first-time guests are going to enjoy the selections as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them,” said Schroter.

Meulien, whose recent cookbook, Flavors of the Mediterranean, can be found in kitchens across the globe, is onboard twice a year to conduct week-long training programs with each ship’s culinary staff.

Regent Explorations

Guests yearning to explore the largely unknown continent of Antarctica, can now choose from four new Regent departure dates – Nov. 8 and 24, and Dec. 20, 2007, and Feb. 25, 2008. Each of the 16-night cruises will depart from the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, Argentina.

Explorer II will then cross the Atlantic to the wildlife-rich shores of the Falkland Islands, where guests can explore the photogenic British outpost of Port Stanley, followed by the dramatic glacial coastline of the South Shetland Islands and the mountainous peaks of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Guests will also be among the few to ever set foot on Antarctica and explore, weather permitting. The cruises are scheduled to take place during Antarctica’s spring and summer seasons, which bring milder temperatures, longer days and unrivaled wildlife viewing, including the famous shoreline gatherings of thousands of penguins.

The presence of Explorer II’s team of naturalists, historians, marine biologists, geologists and ornithologists will add immeasurably to the voyage. An onboard enrichment program, hosted by a professional photographer, will include group discussions and tips on how best to capture wildlife sightings with a camera.

Explorer II features polished brass and wood interiors, with all ocean-view suites and staterooms, two open-seating restaurants, a full-service health club and a salon.