The efforts of cruise lines to meet consumer demand has exploded into an expansive array of vacation options, from intimate yachtlike departures to floating family-friendly theme parks. The 63 cruise company members of the Cruise Line Industry Association estimate passenger volume will grow to 23 million this year, up nearly 1 million over 2014. Most of the traffic circulates in the Caribbean, but the following trends signal growing wanderlust among cruisers.
River cruises, such as AmaWaterways’ Jewish Heritage departure (www.amawaterways.com), often weave in historical themes based on their destination focus. But a few ocean-bound vessels also take a long look back, especially in Europe. The Australian-based company Unlock the Past (www.unlockthepastcruises.com) offers a series of history and genealogy itineraries, including a 14-night Baltic sailing in July with Celebrity Cruises. During its five days at sea, Unlock the Past offers 52 sessions with genealogists from the United States, Australia and Britain.
Closer to home, Un-Cruise Adventures (www.un-cruise.com) offers a series of weeklong summer sailings on the Columbia and Snake Rivers via an 88-passenger steamer replica, round trip from Portland, Ore., that highlight pioneer history. Four departures, beginning in May, focus more intensively on the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, accompanied by historian Todd Weber, a specialist in the subjects.
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From port to sports
History is just one ship-launching theme. Sail with fellow foodies on Windstar Cruises’ 10-day “Culinary and Wine Delights of Spain and France” (www.windstarcruises.com), which sails in June and again in September, featuring visits to port wine warehouses in Portugal, Asturian cider orchards in Spain, and wineries in Bordeaux, France.
Other themed departures highlight musical guests, such as the band Crosby, Stills and Nash performing three concerts and appearing at Q&A and autograph sessions aboard a Cunard (www.cunard.com) trans-Atlantic sailing in September. In a similar vein, Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnival.com) will offer live concerts from the likes of Rascal Flatts and Smokey Robinson this year. Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Ferguson Jenkins and Ed Kranepool, a former New York Met, will join MSC Cruises’ (www.msccruisesusa.com) April 11 baseball cruise in the Caribbean. And the Seattle Seahawks are the subject of a June fan cruise to Alaska with Princess Cruises (www.princess.com), promising meet-and-greets with undisclosed players.
Cruises for thought
Distancing themselves from the shallow stereotypes of hedonistic cruises, a new category of departures targets those who want some mental fodder with their sightseeing.
Adventure Canada (www.adventurecanada.com) bills its July 5 Newfoundland and Labrador departure as the first book club at sea, featuring authors Doug Gibson, Kathleen Winter and Terry Fallis leading discussions of their works. Oceania Cruises’ (www.oceaniacruises.com) new Culinary School Immersion Program, taking place on several itineraries, includes two full days of cooking classes that culminate in a “Top Chef”-style team competition.
In a new partnership with the Discovery Channel, Princess Cruises will offer science-focused wildlife-watching excursions and guided shipboard stargazing on select departures. Tauck (www.tauck.com) extends its link with BBC Earth to its Galápagos cruises, allowing guests to try the kinds of underwater cameras, microphones and other field equipment used by the nature documentary filmmakers.