Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Top 10 Cruise Itineraries in 2012

Here they are:  the best places to cruise this year.  Which one is right for you?

The forecast for 2012 is that over 20 million Americans will take to the high seas on a cruise.  Many of those will skip the "cookie-cutter" itineraries and will set their sights on some new horizons.  Check these fun ideas out:

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Adventure Seekers:  Sea Voyager Expeditions

     This is a brand-new cruise line for 2012.  They will be offering expedition sailings to some of Latin America's hottest ecotourism destinations.  Their first sailings are scheduled to begin in April with destinations in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador.  Cruisers will love the flexible itineraries, off-the-beaten path villages and indigenous people.  Each sailing is escorted by experienced naturalists and guides as well as excursions like rain forest hiking, kayaking in hidden bays, bird-watching and snorkeling.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Culture Vultures:  Star Clippers

     Star Clippers has been sailing between the European cultural capitals along the Baltic Sea for some time, but starting in May, cruisers may climb onboard the new Star Flyer - a tall sailing ship, with 3 different itineraries featuring Sweden, Russia and Finland.  Cruisers will enjoy visiting smaller, less-visited ports and will be immersed in the best of the Baltic lands of the Vikings and the Eastern Empire of the Tsars.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Families:  Disney Cruise Line

     March 2012 will be the maiden voyage of Disney's newest ship, the 4,000 passenger Disney Fantasy.  This fun ship will feature the AquaDuck (water coaster at sea), new pool deck features, elaborate stage shows, and ship-wide interactive, state of the art technology.  The ship will sail the Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, visiting the ports of St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel as well as a stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.  Families will love the Muppets-inspired adventure game and an animation-themed dinner show.  Kids will go crazy for the 1,800-square-foot Aqua Lab water play area, while parents can seek out serenity at the adults-only Satellite Falls splash pool on the deck above.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Foodies:  Oceania Cruises

     The new 1,250 passenger Riviera - launching in April 2012 - is poised to raise the bar on the epicurean experience at sea.  She is scheduled for a series of Mediterranean sailings through the fall, followed by a repositioning to the Caribbean for winter.  Watch for the 10-night October themed sailing, "Bon Appetit Wine & Food Festival", from Athens to Rome, with port calls in Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Monaco.  Cruisers will love the 10 dining venues (eight of which are inclusive) as well as the opportunity to practice their kitchen skills in the hands-on Bon Appetit Culinary Center.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for History Buffs:  Deep Ocean Expeditions

     2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and what better way to remember this event in history than by boarding the R/V Keldysh (a vessel chartered from an oceanographic institute).  A maximum of 30 cruisers will set out on these 2-week expeditions, which includes an 8-10 hour dive to the shipwreck site in a 7-foot wide Russian Mir submersible, designed for three passengers.

     For a less extreme cruise option, choose from Fred Olsen Cruise Lines 1,309 passenger Balmoral, which will trace the Titanic's original intended route from England to NYC, or the 694-passenger Azamara Journey, slated to travel round-trip from NYC, with a stop in Halifax (the resting place of many of the Titanic's passengers who did not make the trip).  These cruises will feature onboard lecturers and historians, wreck experts, authors and relatives of Titanic survivors.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Nature Enthusiasts:  Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

     Head to the furthest reaches of the wilds of Russia.  Cruisers can set sail to circumnavigate the Sea of Okhotsk) in style, aboard the world's only 5-star expedition ship, the 184-passenger MS hanseatic.  Excursion highlights include zodiac runs to the tiny unpopulated islands of Iony and Tyuleny, and the wildlife-rich Shantar and Malminskie Islands; hiking across the grassland tundra of Talan Island; and brown bear viewing on a zodiac ride from Cape Utholoskiy.  Cruisers will be presented with a dizzying array of pristine landscapes, defined by volcanoes; coniferous forest-blanketed mountains; tundra, glaciers and geysers, and numerous types of wildlife.

*Best Cruise Intinerary for Nostalgia Lovers:  Great American Steamboat Company

     2012 marks the return of the Mississippi River Cruise, beginning in April.  The Great American Steamboat Company's 436-guest American Queen is billed as the largest and most lavish paddlewheel steamboat ever built, with a savory Southern-inspired menu led by top Mississippi chef Regina Charboneau.  Choose from the many different themed sailings, such as the Jazz Lovers, Civil War and Holiday cruises. 

     American Cruise Lines 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi will debut in August, featuring Dixieland bands, Mark Twain impersonators and other fun activities.  Both cruise lines will visit ports such as Cincinatti, Louisville, Memphis, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Off-The-Path Explorers:  Avalon Waterways

     Top-of-the-line river cruise operator Avalon Waterways is not only launching an intimate new luxury vessel in 2012, but is also debuting on the first-ever Mekong River cruise itinerary between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Siem Reap, Cambodia.  The 32-passenger Avalon Angkor features 16 spacious staterooms, complete with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and balconies.  This will be the first time that cruisers will be able to transit this particular route almost year-round.  Cruisers will explore virtually untouched villages of Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as the more popular cultural and historic cities along the way.

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Partiers:  Crystal Cruises

     If attending Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is on your bucket list, Crystal Cruises' brand-new "Samba Serenade" itinerary is the way to go.  The itinerary will feature five ports of call in Brazil (Buzios, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Sao Paulo, and Itajai), departing from Rio during the height of the Carnival festivities.  This cruise line can custom tailor your experience at Rio's Sambadrome, from grandstand seating to luxury VIP sky box suites to even marching in the parade (fully costumed).

*Best Cruise Itinerary for Romantics:  Windstar Cruises

     These dreamy yachts are outfitted with billowing white sails and hold a maximum of 312 passengers.  Windstar is offering a brand-new 2012 "Islands of Italy" itinerary that couples classic Italian sites (Rome and Pompeii) with exclusive and often overlooked Italian islands, such as the lush volcanic island of Ischia; the active volcanic island of Stromboli; and glamorous Porto Cervo on Sardinia.

Time to get started on your 2012 Bucket List!  Where would you like to start?

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