Written by 5:48 pm Ports

Cruise Guide: Luxury cruise lines to ring in New Year with a bang

The top luxury cruise lines in the world will not be resting on their collective laurels in 2006 and that’s good news for savvy cruise passengers.

Look for a slew of new itineraries to the far reaches of the globe and improvements to a host of top-shelf, onboard amenities.

The 19 members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), for instance, will take passengers to 1,800 ports of call on more than 150 ships of varying styles, from mega vessels carrying more than 3,000 guests to yacht-like luxury ships carrying 150 passengers.

Nine such member lines Celebrity, Crystal, Cunard, Holland America, Oceania, Radisson Seven Seas, Silversea, Seabourn and Windstar fall into the luxury or premium brand category and will be offering exquisite cuisine, exceptional service and innovative itineraries as the norm in 2006 as opposed to the exception.

Look for Celebrity’s Millennium to embark on a 14-night South America itinerary Feb. 19, which is timed for Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. The roundtrip Buenos Aires itinerary includes an overnight onboard ship in Rio and will call at Brazil’s Porto Belo and Buzios and Montevideo, Uruguay.

At Crystal, a 14-day Arctic Circle voyage aboard Crystal Serenity (departing Copenhagen, June 26) features a maiden call at Norway’s Spitsbergen, the northernmost port the line has ever visited and among the best ports to view the midnight sun.

Cunard will feature the Path of Magellan South America voyages aboard the Queen Mary 2. Guests can embark in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 17 on the westbound itinerary and disembark in Fort Lauderdale on April 13 for the eastbound voyage.

Bookings are picking up steam for Holland America Line’s 10- and 11-day Caribbean cruises out of New York aboard Noordam. Thirteen sailings will visit the Southern and Eastern Caribbean aboard the line’s newest vessel. It enters service in February.

A new 14-day itinerary aboard Oceania Cruises’ Insignia mixes the best of Norway and the British Isles, sailing roundtrip from Dover, England. A highlight of the June cruise is an overnight stay in Reykjavik, Iceland. The sailing is also the second-annual reunion cruise for Oceania’s past passengers.

In just a few days guests aboard the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager will embark on a 108-night, six-segment world cruise departing Los Angeles Jan. 10. Adventures on the far side of the globe are coupled with an impressive roster of shipboard programming from celebrity, Smithsonian Institute and Ocean Futures Society guest lecturers to Le Cordon Bleu cooking workshops. In addition, guests might want to choose a selection of one- to five-day overland tours, from an Indian Pacific train journey from Adelaide to Perth in Australia to a private jet from Cochin to Jaipur for an overnight at the Raj Villas tented hotel, or a visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal.

The luxurious Yachts of Seabourn, meanwhile, will offer five, seven-day “Mediterranean Tapestry” voyages between May and October. The cruises aboard Seabourn Legend offer a colorful array of the region’s varied cultures, calling at ports in Italy, France and Tunisia.

Silversea Cruises’ Silver Shadow will sail on a 14-day voyage across the Bering Sea from Tokyo to Anchorage on May 29. Guests can expect visits to the imperial palaces of Japan to the remote Russian outpost of Petropavlovsk.

Windstar Cruises’ Wind Surf will sail a number of new itineraries that explore the far reaches of the Caribbean. Roundtrip from Bridgetown, Barbados, the cruises will sail deep into the heart of the lower Caribbean, including the Grenadines, St. Barthelemy, Tobago, Bequia, St. Martin and Grenada.

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