Setting Sail Together
Whether you want to vacation as newlyweds in The Bahamas or the Greek Isles, a luxury cruise ship can get you there.
The Paul Gauguin carries only 332 guests on its island-hopping voyages through the crystalline seas of the South Pacific
Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises
After the whirlwind of relatives arriving from out of town, the ceremony and the reception, you’re going to need a relaxing way to unplug from the world (and the family) and just roll into the next phase of life together. One of the best ways to do that is on a cruise. Once aboard you can visit a variety of interesting places without the packing and unpacking that comes with terrestrial travel. If you’re not fond of crowds, don’t worry; there are plenty of smaller ships that carry only a few dozen passengers. But if you’re looking forward to meeting interesting people and indulging in large-scale partying, there are several mega-liners that can deliver. Intrigued? Here are a few choice cruises to get your inner sailor salivating.
Paul Gauguin: South Pacific
Everybody has a South Pacific fantasy, and it’s never too late to live it. Post-Impressionist master Paul Gauguin was a stockbroker until he was 35 years old. After trying Martinique and the Panama Canal Zone, he found his paradise in French Polynesia, and his paintings helped form our concept of the South Pacific. Paul Gauguin Cruises explores some the lesser-known islands, sailing from Papeete, Tahiti, to her sister islands of Rangiroa, Moorea, Huahine and Bora Bora during seven - and 10-day outings. You’ll snorkel for black pearls, hike to jungle waterfalls and experience some of the best scuba diving in the world. Fares vary by date and length of cruise, starting at $4,500 per person. pgcruises.com
Tauck River Cruising: Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam
Many of Europe’s major cities—Paris,
Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest—are located on rivers, so a river cruise is a convenient way to see a variety of landmarks and cultures without packing, driving and flying. Tauck World Discovery, headquartered in Connecticut, operates four modern European river cruisers that carry 118 passengers each. They have some of the amenities of an ocean-going cruise ship, such as multiple dining venues, but you’re not going to find a rock wall or mini-golf aboard. Since the boats cruise from city to city, there are walking tours (included) and dinners ashore to sample the local culture and cuisine. The cruise that originates in Basel and ends in Amsterdam takes a loop along the Moselle and Rhine, where the rivers squeeze between near-vertical vineyards that produce some of the world’s best white wines. Strasbourg, Heidelberg and a side-trip to Luxembourg are a few of the high points of the cruise, with cabins starting at $4,199 per person. tauck.com
Lindblad/National Geographic: Alaska
Lars-Eric Lindblad practically invented adventure travel; he led the first tourist expedition to Antarctica in 1966. The company that bears his name still specializes in unusual destinations. Two of its ships—the Sea Bird and the Sea Lion—are operated in conjunction with the National Geographic Society. There are only 31 cabins on each ship, all with outward-facing windows, and there’s a naturalist on board each cruise to help you learn about what you’re seeing. If your goal is to party hardy, this may not be your best bet—the brochure lists a video microscope among the featured amenities. Because the ships are small, they can get in closer than large cruise ships. They also have inflatable Zodiacs and kayaks that can be launched quickly when the crew spots whales. This cruise starts in Juneau, Alaska, and works its way up the inside passage to Glacier Bay before turning south again to Sitka. Fares range upward from $5,990 per person, and Lindblad is offering free airfare for some 2011 departures. expeditions.com
Disney Dream: Not Such A Goofy Choice
For newlyweds with children, Disney Cruise Lines is a logical choice for a family honeymoon, if there is such a thing. But a Disney cruise isn’t a bad idea for empty-nesters celebrating their nuptials, either. Disney never does anything halfway, and its newest ship, the Disney Dream, is a floating theme park with upscale areas reserved for adults. Aside from the obvious use of the Disney characters (the titular captain is Admiral Donald Duck and there’s a Nemo-centric kid’s pool area), there are some pretty cool touches, like an acrylic tube water slide that loops from the top deck out over the ocean and back. If you do bring kids along, they’ll be well taken care of in the Oceaneer Club or Vibe teen hangout while you relax at the adult pool. There are two adults-only restaurants and five adults-only lounges. The Dream is Disney’s largest ship, designed for about 4,000 passengers and 1,458 crew. It’s due to make its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral in January, and will operate three-, four- and five-night cruises to The Bahamas. Pricing varies by length of cruise, cabin type, number in your party and departure date, but figure on $800-$1,000 per adult and $450 per child for a four-night excursion. disneycruise.disney.go.com (Disney has a real complex pricing formula embedded in its site, so depending on when you travel, ages of kids [if any], number of passengers in a cabin and number of nights, rates can vary by hundreds of dollars for the same cruise.)
Royal Caribbean Oasis: It’s as Big as a Small City
You can celebrate the biggest event of your life on the biggest passenger ship of all time, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Launched in late 2009, Oasis can carry more than 5,400 passengers and has myriad recreational and entertainment options: mini-golf, multiple night-clubs, four swimming pools, zip-line, a casino and—an industry first—an actual park filled with more than 12,000 plants, including 56 trees. The ship is so large it’s organized into seven “neighborhoods” including Central Park and Boardwalk, complete with arcades, carousels and other Coney Island-style diversions. The Oasis sails from Fort Lauderdale, alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries. One goes through the Bahamas to St. Thomas and on to St. Maarten while the other visits Haiti, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya. Interior cabins start at $865/$1,395 (May and June departures, respectively) per person while balcony suites start at $1,165/$1,695 per person. royalcaribbean.com
Carnival Cruise Lines: The Bahamas
If you’d rather not spend two weeks—and the bride’s entire dowry—on your honeymoon, there are plenty of cruises that start and end in Florida. The Carnival Sensation does three- and four-day round-trips to The Bahamas from Port Canaveral. The Sensation, which was extensively remodeled at the end of 2009, carries about 2,000 passengers and 900 crew members. It’s an oceangoing resort with all the features you’d expect: multiple lounges, multiple pools, a casino, a theater/showroom and even a mini-golf course. The four-day itinerary includes stops at both Nassau and Freeport, and the fares are some of the best available. At press time, May and June sailings started at $239 per person for an inside cabin and $404 for an outside cabin with balcony. There’s even a wedding program, so you can tie the knot while on your honeymoon cruise. carnival.com
Seabourn Cruise Line: Greek Isles & Turkish Delights
Seabourn is the older, wealthier and more sophisticated member of the Carnival Cruise Lines family. The ships are smaller—three carry just 208 guests each—and the service is spectacular. All of the accommodations are suites, so you’ll have plenty of private space for your private time. Depending on the month you travel, the Seabourn ships may be in Asia, the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. One of the company’s most requested cruises, which takes in the Greek Isles and the coast of Turkey, will be available this spring and summer. After visiting Athens, Mykonos and the archetypal Greek island, Santorini, the cruise ports at Ephesus in Turkey. Much of the city has been excavated and restored, including the library, gymnasium and the amphitheater where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. This cruise begins in Venice, giving you a chance to spend a day or two taking in the canals and St. Mark’s Square before setting off, and it ends in Istanbul. If your keywords are “luxury” and “exotic,” this trip will do it. Pricing starts from $2,399 - $3,499 per person for spring and summer 2011, depending on departure date. seabourn.com
Blount Small Ships: East Coast Odyssey
The Greek Isles are gorgeous and Papeete paradisiacal, but some of the most scenic coastline in the world is along America’s Eastern seaboard. Formerly known as American Canadian Caribbean Cruise Line, Blount Small Ships operates 96-passenger shallow draft cruise ships that easily navigate places where the big boys can’t go. During the winter, the ships operate in the Caribbean, cruising the shallow reefs off Honduras and Belize. In summer they return to the U.S. This cruise starts in the historic harbor of Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island and works its way up through Savannah, Charleston and the Chesapeake before heading for Newport, R.I. Blount Small Ships also operates one of the only remaining long-distance Mississippi River cruises, from Chicago to New Orleans. Cabins start at $4,469 per person. blountsmallshipadventures.com
Sea Cloud: How the Other Half Really Lived
New and innovative is great, but how about swank and historic? Sea Cloud was the private sailing yacht built by stockbroker E.F. Hutton and his wife, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Originally named the Hussar, it did patrols for the U.S. Navy during World War II and was later owned by Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic. Sea Cloud is still sailing as a commercial cruise vessel. At 360 feet long, the Sea Cloud isn’t dainty, but carries just 60 passengers, some in the 10 original staterooms that have been restored to Post’s extravagant standards. If you didn’t think you could get an authentic Louis XIV-style suite at sea, well, you can. Cruising the south coast of France from Nice to Corsica and back could be the perfect way to recreate the lifestyle of the rich and indolent. Sea Cloud was to undergo a refit this winter and was scheduled to return to sea in May, just in time for her 80th birthday. Final pricing for the 2011 cruises wasn’t confirmed as of press time, but cabins for the southern Mediterranean cruise typically start at about $4,500 per person. seacloud.com
The World: It’s Yours to Own
You’ve heard of condo hotels, but how about a condo ship? The World is not a “cruise ship;” it has no cabins. Instead, it has 165 apartments ranging from studios to the palatial World Suite. While the primary purpose of The World is oceangoing residences—a studio costs about $600,000—it does offer guest stays to prospective buyers. About the size of two football fields, the ship has all the comforts of a small town: grocery store, gym, putting greens, casino, five restaurants and a full-sized tennis court. It also has the only oceangoing Banyan Tree Spa. The staff-to-passenger ratio is pretty close to 1:1, so there’s not much you have to do for yourself. The World visits exotic locales not on the itineraries of most cruise lines, such as Kochi, India; Ushuaia, Argentina; Antarctic; Aqaba, Jordan; and Safaga, Egypt, on the Red Sea. In April, The World will be en route from the Caribbean to Europe, traveling from Barbardos to St. Bart’s, the Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos before heading up the East Coast and across the Atlantic. As with any condo, rental rates vary by unit, but figure $1,600- $3,900 a day for two persons in a studio, pretty consistent with traditional luxury cruises. And who knows? You might love it so much you take the plunge and buy in. aboardtheworld.com
About Cruise Prices
The prices we’ve listed were current as of press time, but the cruise lines often offer specials and there are travel agencies specializing in cruises that sometimes offer even lower prices (cruisesonly.com, cruiseexperts.com). Prices are sensitive to sailing date and tend to climb dramatically during peak-demand periods, including holidays and traditional school opening and closing weeks. The cruise lines also adjust rates according to how fast or slow a particular sailing date is filling up. Prices typically include all meals and on-board entertainment, but alcohol and excursions often are extra. Some top-end luxury cruises, however, are all-inclusive. Shop around and you may find your dream cruise at a really great price.
NOTE: All but four Florida-based cruises may require air travel and ground transfers to ports of departure. Check with individual cruise operators or travel agents about making travel arrangements to and from home ports.