10 Cool Cruises for 2014
Think all cruises are the same? Think again. Pól Ó Conghaile has 10 alternative itineraries that will appeal to all kinds of passengers
1 The Weezer Cruise: Bahamas
Cruises have come a long way from floating bingo palaces. The Weezer Cruise sees the legendary US indie band take the helm of Carnival Fascination for a four-night cruise around the Bahamas. Other artists set to perform include Cat Power, Ash and Palma Violets, and there's a private island beach party too. It's a similar idea to the SS Coachella, which saw Pulp and Hot Chip entertain passengers during a festival-at-sea in December 2012. The party sails from Florida on February 13.
What to say: "Encore!"
What not to say: "Is there an advanced napkin-folding class?"
Details: theweezercruise.com; from $649/€475pp (flights extra).
2 M/S Expedition: The Arctic Circle
M/S Expedition is a ship that does what it says on the tin. This specialist expedition ship is tailor-made for intrepid voyages into the Arctic Circle, although the spacious cabins offer 140 lucky passengers a surprisingly comfortable experience for its 105m size (everyone gets ocean views and en-suites and there's a fleet of Zodiacs for exploring along the way). An eight-night expedition to the Svalbard archipelago includes flights and seven nights of walking expeditions, iceberg encounters, expert lectures and a good possibility of polar bear sightings. Departs August 22.
What to say: "I'm so glad I bought the split-image filter."
What not to say: "Where are the penguins?"
Details: trailfinders.ie/cruises; from €2,349pp (flights included).
3 Saga Cruises: Spirit of France
Saga has a Spirit of France cruise departing Dover on July 1, with stops along the Atlantic coast and at the Channel Island of Guernsey. Wine-tasting in Bordeaux, German naval sites (2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy) and medieval towns are all on the cards over the course of the leisurely, child-free cruise. Saga is a good line for over-50s seeking quality food, gently intrepid itineraries and high levels of service and comfort. Potential Saganauts can book this and similar itineraries through John Galligan Travel.
What to say: "See you at 10pm in the card room."
What not to say: "Let's bring the grandkids."
Details: jgt.ie; from £1,274/€1,542pp (flights included).
4 Mind, Body and Soul: New Orleans to Barcelona
Looking for a reboot? What about a 16-day wellness cruise crammed with fitness classes, expert dietary advice, cutting-edge vitamin supplementation and regular lectures on the art of life balance? Thomas Cook Cruise has a Mind Body Connection cruise departing New Orleans on April 26, with stops in St Maarten, Tenerife and Malaga before disgorging the brand new you in Barcelona. Cruise-only prices on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas start at €589pp, with free classes including yoga, tai chi and meditation. Flights are extra at €679pp.
What to say: "Where do I sign up for yoga?"
What not to say: "Where's the soft-serve yoghurt?"
Details: thomascook.ie/cruise; from €589pp (flights extra).
5 Disney Dream: The Bahamas
Royal Caribbean may be the best cruise line for teens, but Disney wins hands down when it comes to younger families. The Mouse is very definitely in the house on Disney Dream, a 2,500-passenger ship launched in 2011, with Disney stage shows, characters, kids' clubs, AquaDuck watercoasters and dining at the Royal Palace only the start of the treats for your little princes and princesses.
American Holidays has seven nights at the three-star Rosen Inn in Orlando followed by a three-night taster cruise on Disney Dream for travel this September.
There are adult-only pools, nightclubs and restaurants too (even if they are called Palo and Remy).
What to say: "Faith, trust and pixie dust!"
What not to say: "They're stealing our souls, one princess pull-up at a time."
Details: americanholidays.com; from €979pp (flights included).
6 Queen Victoria:
Does seven days sound like a short cruise to you? Perhaps you're the type who's just getting started after two weeks on the ocean? Then try Cunard's mammoth 47-day itinerary from New Zealand to the UK. The Queen Victoria sets sail on March 14, crossing the International Date Line and several thousand miles of ocean with stops in Hawaii, San Francisco, Panama, Florida and Portugal before arriving in Southampton. This is a cruise line with a venerable heritage, so expect a Golden Era feel with plenty of formal nights, British traditions and upscale interiors.
What to say: "Champagne, darling?"
What not to say: "Do you have any dubstep?"
Details: cruiseholidays.ie; from €6,611pp (flights included).
7 Christmas Markets: River Danube
Yes, there are 333 days to Christmas. But you wouldn't believe how fast river cruises for November and December sell out, particularly when itineraries take in the holiday markets of Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Uniworld currently has a sale on eight-day river cruises from Budapest to Passau over three departure dates in November and December. The Danube route is enchanting, with 158 passengers visiting Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg, with plenty of classical music and shopping opportunities along the way. All meals, drinks, gratuities and excursions are included, though flights and single cabins will cost you extra.
What to say: "Ocean cruises are so mass- market."
What not to say: "I hate Christmas."
Details: uniworld.ie; from €2,429pp (flights extra).
8 Azamara Club Cruises: Grand Prix Voyage
Cruising was once seen as the preserve of "the newly-wed, over-fed and nearly-dead". How times have changed. Not only do we now have ships carrying ice rinks, central parks and rock-climbing walls, but themes ranging from cougar cruises to Antarctic knitting cruises. Azamara Club has an eight-night voyage taking in Tuscany, Barcelona and the rivieras before arriving in style for Race Sunday at the Monaco Grand Prix on May 25. The cruise departs Civitavecchia (Rome) on May 19, and you can expect smaller vessels with personalised service (suite guests even get their very own English butler) with Azamara. Grand Prix tickets are not included.
What to say: "Are you going to Tosca in Livorno?"
What not to say: "Can I borrow your binoculars?"
Details: azamara clubcruises.com; from $3,099/€2,268pp (flights extra).
9 Fred Olsen: Canaries Meteor Showers
Fred Olsen specialises in intimate, understated and traditionally British cruising experiences, but there are some surprising and sometimes weird itineraries in the mix. Last December, for instance, passengers travelling on the Black Watch liner accompanied a former Cold War intelligence specialist on a 10-day espionage-themed cruise.
This August, a 13-night Canary Islands cruise is timed to coincide with peak viewing time for the spectacular Perseid meteor showers. The voyage sets off from Dover, with stops including Madeira, Lisbon, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria.
What to say: "I'd love a cup of tea."
What not to say: "What does 'smart casual' mean, anyway?"
Details: fredolsencruises.com; £989/€1,187pp (flights extra).
10 Strictly Come Dancing: Canary Islands
Cool means different things to so many different people. For the 1,800 or so passengers joining Craig Revel Horwood and a squadron of professional dancers on P&O's Oriana this April, however, it means only one thing – 'Strictly Come Dancing'. Departing April 20 for a 14-night tour of Portugal, Spain and the Canary Islands, the themed cruise offers fans the chance to test and perhaps improve their dance skills. There are also star interviews, an exhibition of many of the dresses from the show and a chance to take part in a competition to perform live on stage with the Strictly team. Book in January and you'll receive €200 in on-board credit.
What to say: "Three words... Fab-u-lous!"
What not to say: "Isn't this all a bit, erm, cheesy?"
Details: pocruises.com; from £1,149/€1,383pp (flights extra).
NB: All prices correct going to press, but subject to availability.