November 15, 2011 | By Collette Peck
These itineraries provide ample time in off-the-beaten-path ports that together present a tasting menu of the best of a region.
CRYSTAL SYMPHONY, Montreal Round-Trip Many cruise ships sail from Montreal, but few stop at the small island villages of the Gulf of St. Lawrence that, thanks to their isolation from the outside world, have developed their own Francophone culture, dialect, food, and music. This cruise actually visits France—since St-Pierre and Miquelon still belong to the French Republic—at the perfect moment for vibrant fall foliage, too. September 30; 7 nights; from $3,055 per person, including airfare.
SEA DREAM II, Iquitos, Peru, to Bridgetown, Barbados Always wanted to explore the Amazon on a small boat without sacrificing creature comforts? On this 112-passenger ship, you can view the action on the river from the air-conditioned Top of the Yacht Bar; sightsee while you eat, since meals can be taken outdoors in the shade; and even sleep under the stars on the Balinese beds on the top deck. Tour the riverside city of Parintins, home to the colorful Boi Bumba festival, and use the Sea Dream II’s mountain bikes to wheel around the small local villages. Then recover from the rain forest with a few days in some of the Caribbean’s most delightful lesser-known ports. March 4; 20 nights; from $16,999 per person.
AZAMARA JOURNEY, Amsterdam to Southampton Imagine attending four of the world’s most in-demand flower extravaganzas—including the once-a-decade Floriade world horticultural expo—without having to orchestrate transportation, lodgings, or tickets. The cruise starts in Amsterdam with a day and night in the famed Keukenhof Gardens; spends two full days in Antwerp for the nearby Floriade; docks in London for three nights so you can have your fill of the Chelsea Flower Show; and allows for two and a half days in Rouen, a short hop from Monet’s gardens at Giverny. May 17; 12 nights; from $3,199 per person.
UNIWORLD’S S.S. ANTOINETTE, Rhine River There’s nothing new about sailing by castles on the Rhine and stopping to explore the holiday markets that dress up Central Europe’s historic town squares each December. What’s new is a ship that lets you fully enjoy the winter wonderland out your window. The all-weather Antoinette has a heated glass-enclosed pool; a heated observation deck; and suites with balconies that transform into glassed-in “conservatories” with the flip of a switch. Wintertime sightseeing hassles—driving in snow, finding a parking spot—are eliminated, since you’re dropped off in the center of town, a few steps from the hot mulled wine, handmade crafts, and homespun festivities. November 25 and December 9; 7 nights; from $2,199 per person.
OCEANIA’S MARINA, Barcelona to Rome Home to Jacques Pépin’s first restaurant at sea, the Marina will have Pépin himself on board for this sailing. He’ll take you to food markets along the French and Italian coasts and show you how to buy the right local ingredients. Then, back aboard in the hands-on culinary center, Pépin will teach you how to whip up Provençale and Tuscan masterpieces. Ports include St-Tropez and Monte Carlo, where the ship stays till 11 p.m. so you can sample the nightlife, and Livorno, where you’ll linger for two days—enough time to get to Florence and Lucca and Pisa. May 12; 10 nights; from $3,799 per person.
|Sat 12 May||BARCELONA, SPAIN||6:00AM||3:00PM||8:00PM|
|Sun 13 May||SANARY-SUR-MER, FRANCE||9:00AM||8:00PM|
|Mon 14 May||PROVENCE (MARSEILLE), FRANCE||8:00AM||8:00PM|
|Tue 15 May||SAINT-TROPEZ, FRANCE||8:00AM||11:00PM|
|Wed 16 May||MONTE CARLO, MONACO||8:00AM||11:00PM|
|Thu 17 May||PORTOFINO, ITALY||8:00AM||6:00PM|
|Fri 18 May||FLORENCE/PISA/TUSCANY||8:00AM|
|Sat 19 May||FLORENCE/PISA/TUSCANY||6:00PM|
|Sun 20 May||AMALFI/POSITANO, ITALY||11:00AM||11:00PM|
|Mon 21 May||SORRENTO/CAPRI, ITALY||8:00AM||6:00PM|
|Tue 22 May||ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY||6:00AM||3:00PM||8:00PM|
SILVERSEA’S SILVER WHISPER, St. Petersburg to Copenhagen Most weeklong Baltic cruises squeeze in three days in St. Petersburg mid-trip. This means a mad dash through the Venice of the North as well as insufficient time in the other Baltic capitals. Silversea solves this problem by starting its Baltic cruise in St. Petersburg. If you book through Russia specialist Exeter International, you can experience the city’s major draws expeditiously, on days of the week when they’re closed to the public (the Hermitage Museum on June 25, Peterhof Palace on June 26), and then explore the rest of the Baltic without feeling you missed some of the best of Russia. June 25; 7 nights; from $4,918 per person.
AZAMARA QUEST, Istanbul to Athens If the Black Sea is your goal, this is a nice way to see it. You get a taste of Bulgaria and Romania (Dracula’s castle, anyone?), sail down the Bosphorus (past Istanbul in the late afternoon, when the light is perfect for photos), and recover from the Black Sea’s Stalinist architecture and bus tours with long, relaxed days on two of Greece’s dreamiest isles. The ship stays late in port on six of the ten nights, which means you can go to the opera in Odessa, Ukraine, or linger in Oia—home to Greece’s best sunsets—before waving good-bye to Santorini from your deck chair. July 22; 10 nights; from $2,599 per person.
REGENT’S SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER, istanbul to Safaga There’s nothing like an eastern Mediterranean sampler to bring the history of the Roman Empire and many biblical events to life. This cruise takes you to the sites of numerous ancient wonders and is rare in that it gives you four days in Israel and four days in Egypt, and stops at historical ports in Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and Turkey—all in one 14-night cruise. October 31; 14 nights; from $9,599 per person.
AZAMARA JOURNEY, Mumbai to Chennai It’s impossible to see northern India by ship, but the right cruise can give you a taste of South India—its temples, beaches, jungles, and plantations—while saving you from cumbersome logistics and flight delays. This ship spends considerable time in port—it overnights in Goa, Cochin, and Chennai (formerly Madras)—while throwing in two days on Sri Lanka and one on a 1.4-mile private island in the Maldives, with a day of sailing past atolls before and after. November 29; 13 nights; from $2,749 per person.
|Thu 29 Nov||MUMBAI (BOMBAY), INDIA||7:00PM||Docked|
|Fri 30 Nov||GOA (MORMUGAO), INDIA||1:00PM||0:00AM||Docked|
|Sat 01 Dec||GOA (MORMUGAO), INDIA||0:00AM||10:00PM||Docked|
|Sun 02 Dec||AT SEA||0:00AM||0:00AM|
|Mon 03 Dec||COCHIN, INDIA||8:00AM||0:00AM||Docked|
|Tue 04 Dec||COCHIN, INDIA||0:00AM||11:59PM||Docked|
|Wed 05 Dec||AT SEA||0:00AM||0:00AM|
|Thu 06 Dec||MALE, MALDIVES||7:00AM||7:00PM||Tendered|
|Fri 07 Dec||AT SEA||0:00AM||0:00AM|
|Sat 08 Dec||COLOMBO, SRI LANKA||6:00AM||11:59PM||Docked|
|Sun 09 Dec||GALLE, SRI LANKA||7:00AM||10:00PM||Tendered|
|Mon 10 Dec||AT SEA||0:00AM||0:00AM|
|Tue 11 Dec||MADRAS (CHENNAI), INDIA||12:00PM||0:00AM||Docked|
|Wed 12 Dec||MADRAS (CHENNAI), INDIA||0:00AM||Docked|
SEABOURN LEGEND, Bali to Singapore This 208-passenger ship sails to remotest Indonesia, hitting islands and villages that are hard to reach any other way. Stops include Komodo (for the famed dragons), Flores (for the spectacular diving and snorkeling), Sumba (for the ancient stone tombs), and West Timor (for ikat-cloth making—and to see where Captain William Bligh, of Mutiny on The Bounty fame, landed after his crew set him adrift in an open boat). There are stops in between for water sports off the ship’s stern—all gratis—although be warned that it’s the wet season in most of the ports of call, so there’s a chance of rough seas. January 25 and February 16; 12 nights; from $6,299 per person.