Chatter This list of fun cruises has niche options if you're willing to spend some money

Chatter This list of fun cruises has niche options if you're willing to spend some money

March 28th, 2019 by Ed Condran in Chatter

Get up close to Antarctic wildlife on a Quark Expeditions cruise.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The image cruises conjured for years has not been very appealing. There was the Titanic, which went down, literally, as the worst cruise ever. In more recent times, illness, particularly the Norovirus, overtook 475 people this January on a Royal Caribbean line, killing the trip. And then there are the negative age associations, with many folks believing you have to be approaching octogenarian status to board a cruise ship.

However, that's not so, and these days, cruises' "cool" quotient is rising like the tide. There are a number of entertaining and even edifying cruises slated. Here are a few that prove there's way more to life at sea than the elderly clad in Hawaiian shirts running off to catch a ventriloquist after gorging at the buffet table.

 

JOIN HIGH-PROFILE RECORDING ARTISTS ON THE HIGH SEAS.

Photo by Patricia Koo

You would think it wouldn't be a big deal for a Beach Boy to take to the high seas, but Mike Love is more excited than usual about his iconic band's gig on the Flower Power Cruise. "It's a really cool gig," Love says. "It makes sense for us." The Beach Boys, Jefferson Starship and Tommy James and the Shondells are hitting the seas March 30-April 6 courtesy of Celebrity cruise line in search of some good vibrations (flowerpowercruise.com).

There are a variety of music cruises that depart from ports throughout the country; it all depends on what floats your boat. There's a disco cruise (ultimatediscocruise.com), a Soul Train romp (soultraincruise.com) and even a Kiss Kruise (thekisskruise.com) featuring the cartoonish metal act. Fans enjoy music cruises since they are laid-back and there is typically ample time to meet the musicians. Even the occasionally moody Lucinda Williams, who was recently featured on the weeklong Country Outlaw Cruise (outlawcountrycruise.com) with the Drive-By Truckers, might lighten up under the sun.

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Starting April 11, tickets for the 2020 Flower Power Cruise go on sale. The seven-day jaunt features British pop icons The Hollies and psychedelic pop legends The Zombies, who were just inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Arlo Guthrie, an American folk master and storied songwriter, is also among the mix of more than 15 groups set to take the stage.

Music crusies like the Flower Power Cruise focus on fan experiences with their favorite artists. In 2020, The Beach Boys, Jefferson Starship and Tommy James and the Shondells will hitting the seas for the March 30-April 6 cruise.

Music crusies like the Flower Power Cruise focus...

Photo by TOM KONISIEWICZ

One of the more unique performances is sure to come from the Music of Cream, which features drummer Ginger Baker's son Kofi, bassist Jack Bruce's son Malcolm and frontman Eric Clapton's nephew Will Johns in a tribute concert combined with original footage and packaged with personal insights and stories, complete with rare, yet to be seen family footage and photographs.

When: March 28, 2020 - April 4, 2020

Ports of call: Miami; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas

Cost: $1,899-$9,649*, which covers everything except soft drinks and alcohol, port charges, airfare, ground transportation, onboard purchases and excursions

*Price is per person based on double-occupancy room.

Features:

' More than 25 celebrity-hosted interactive events

' Artist Q&A sessions

' Panel discussions

' Theme nights, including a Bell Bottom Ball, Groovy Costume Party, and a Psychedelic '60s Dance Party

' Celebrity-led renewal of vows

' Game shows and trivia

' Karaoke

' Dance contests

' Pool parties

' Wine tasting

Good to know: Three payment options are available, allowing guests to even break down the cost into monthly payments.

 

PARTICIPATE IN BUCKET LIST ADVENTURES

Not every cruise is the typical venture through the Caribbean. "If we're in Cancun it must be Thursday" is not the slogan utilized by Quark Expeditions (quarkexpeditions.com). The company only sails to the Arctic or Antarctica. Quark is interactive and may not be for those who just like to lounge around on deck. Snowshoeing, hiking and in some cases swimming are part of the excursion. Be prepared for a trip into some of the most remote parts of the world.

Lindblad Vacations-National Geographic (expeditions.com)offers similar adventures. Kayaks are often pulled out, and those interested can scuba dive some of the most serene waters on the planet. Lindblad visits arctic Canada, Iceland and the Galapagos. Each destination is filled with unique wildlife and culture.

Disembark to explore Antarctica on foot during Quark Expeditions' "Discovering the 7th Continent" cruise.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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Quark offers nearly two dozen cruise options to arctic destinations including Greenland, Russia and the Faroe Islands. One of the signature tours is coming up this December, when the Ocean Endeavor will ship guests off to Antarctica for the unique experience of "Discovering the 7th Continent." The trip is one of the brand's more inclusive in terms of Adventure Options.

When: Dec. 11-21, 2019

Ports of call: Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, Argentina; South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula

Cost: $11,095-$29,790, which includes everything except phone and internet charges, some gear, laundry, bar, beverage and other personal charges, extra "Adventure Options," airfare and mandatory transfer package

Features:

' Daily excursions to explore local bays, channels and landing sites

' On-board lectures on environment and wildlife

' Special visits to penguin rookeries

' Hikes led by experienced staff

' Polar Plunge swim

' Additional "Adventure Options" including sea kayaking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountain climbing.

' A tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park

' A photographic journal documenting the expedition

' Access to a photography expert

' An official Quark Expeditions parka to keep

' Use of waterproof expedition boots and snowshoes for included shore excursions

' Free wine and beer with dinner

Good to know: If you book by April 30, you'll receive a 15 percent discount.

 

TAKE THE OPPOSITE OF A CRUISE

Explore the wildlife and marine life of the Galapagos Islands on an UnCruise expedition.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

UnCruise Adventures (uncruise.com) is an apt moniker for a company that organizes some unconventional tours. "Small ships, big adventures" is the UnCruise slogan. The vessels, which visit remote locales in Costa Rica, Mexico and the Pacific Northwest, among other destinations, are hardly massive. For those who would like to check out wildlife up close, part of the excursion is snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.

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The Uncruise Galapagos Islands expedition include many wildlife encounters.

The Uncruise Galapagos Islands expedition include many wildlife...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

You can follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin with one of UnCruise's expeditions to the Galapagos. Hang out with blue-footed boobies and bright land iguanas, keep an eye out for penguins and sea lions, visit and learn about giant tortoises, explore lava tubes, and search for old signatures from pirates and whalers etched into the rock.

When: Oct. 17-27, 2019

Ports of call: Guayaquil, Ecuador; Isla Santa Cruz, Isla Baltra, Isla Seymour Norte, Isla Isabela, Isla Fernandina, Isla Rabida and Isla Floreana

Cost: $8,345-$14,604*, which covers everything except airfare

*Price is per person based on double-occupancy room.

Features:

' One night pre-cruise hotel stay at the riverfront Wyndham Guayaquil

' A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center

' Chance to view marine life by snorkel, panga (motorized fishing boat and glass-bottom boat

' Guided trips to see nesting birds and wildlife in their natural habitat

' Certified guides

' Small groups of 12

' Park entrance fees included

' Free alcoholic beverages aboard

' Transfers included

Good to know: Following your Galapagos adventures, you can add on a 6-night guided land tour to another bucket list destination: Machu Picchu and the fabled surrounding area.

 

BOARD A CLASSROOM ON THE HIGH SEAS

Explore Turkey and the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus with Peter Sommers Travels.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Peter Sommers Travels' offerings (petersommer.com) are for those who would like to feed their head, and we're not talking buffet tables or experimenting with drugs. These trips actually have a pre-vacation reading list. It's not a requirement, but if you want to receive the full experience, it would be wise to hit the books prior to reaching the docks; though professionals on board will provide unique details and perspective as you pass by sites. It's an interesting approach considering many trips are about tuning out, but it makes sense considering the journeys' visits to sites such as Knidos, Kaunos, Loryma and Lydae. Choose from Greece, Turkey, Croatia, the UK and Ireland, or charter a private tour.

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Adventures with Peter Sommers Travel take place aboard a small gullet ship.

Adventures with Peter Sommers Travel take place aboard...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The "Cruising to Ephesus" itinerary offers an ideal introduction to Turkey's unparalleled archaeological heritage, combining must-see highlights with intimate sites off the beaten path. Transcend time with visits to one of the wonders of the ancient world, the mountaintop sanctuary of Zeus at Labraunda, the skeleton of the Temple of Zeus at Euromos, the sprawling Temple of Apollo at Didyma and, of course, the vast ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. There's also plenty of time for swimming, sunbathing or simply relaxing amidst the gorgeous scenery.

When: Sept. 7-14, 2019

Ports of call: Gümüslük, Iasos, Altinkum, Labraunda, Kusadasi, Selçuk, Priene and Bodrum

Cost: £2,395 ($3,128.91)*, which covers everything except airfare

*There is a "Single Supplement" of £645 ($842.65) for solo travelers.

Features:

' Archaeological excursions

' Access to a windsurfer, canoe and flippers, masks and snorkels

' Entrance fees and tips on land included

' Free Wi-Fi (when coverage permits)

' Transfers included

Good to know: The company offers custom tours farther afield for those who would like to prolong their expedition.

 

FILL UP ON DECADENT DINING WITH THE CHEFS.

Cruise ship buffets are often written off as uninspired. However, there is a cruise for foodies. There is a "Food Heroes" excursion (pocruises.com/foodheroes) with acclaimed chefs Marco Pierre White of "Hell's Kitchen" and "MasterChef Australia" and Eric Lanlard of UK television series "Glamour Puds" and "Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard," and wine expert Olly Smith, who appeared on "Iron Chef UK." The gourmands will hold court during cooking lessons and offer details during lavish dinners, which guests can wash down with a wine tasting with Smith. There are also Q&As and autograph sessions. It's always a great opportunity for celebrities to engage at sea since it's so relaxed.

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With P&O cruises, you can explore the culture of everywhere from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia to the Arabian Gulf via 674 tour options, 14 of which hold the "Food Heroes" designation. Get a true taste of gourmet life with the upcoming "Spain, Monaco and Italy" option featuring Marco Pierre White.

When: Aug. 17-31, 2019

Ports of call: Southampton, England; Cadiz and Barcelona, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Florence and Pisa, Italy; Cartagena and Gibraltar, Spain

Cost: £1,399-£3,760 ($1,244.24-$3,344.07)*

*Price is per person based on double-occupancy room. The "Select Price" tier offers additional on-board spending money and either transfers or car parking.

Features:

' "Black Tie" evenings with five-course gala menus by White

' Talks, demonstrations and classes by experts

' Theme nights

' Deck parties

' Afternoon tea

' Entertainment including shows, live bands, comedians, movies and quizzes

' Reef Children's club age-specific activities

' Use of saunas and steam rooms

' Dance classes

' Use of specialized sports deck

Good to know: Book by April 29 and receive £240 ($313.78) in on-board spending money to use for shore excursions, spa services, fitness classes, alcoholic beverages, select dining and room service. (Offer is not applicable to those who book Inside Cabins.)

 

SINGLES AND SOLOS

Board the Norwegian Star for its South American tour for singles, and enjoy a ship designed with mingling in mind.

Photo by Norwegian Cruise Lines

There's a reason Porthole Magazine has named Norwegian the best cruise line for solo travelers (ncl.com/freestyle-cruise/solo-cruising). The fleet's studio staterooms are cozy and luxurious, and just outside the staterooms is a communal lounge designed to meet and mingle. There are more than 20 restaurants and more than 10 bars and clubs. There's an onboard water park with five water slides, and a sports complex.

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The Norwegian Star offers luxury rooms.

The Norwegian Star offers luxury rooms.

Photo by Norwegian Cruise Lines

Among the brand's most recommended trips for singles is a South American tour. Come on, you've heard of the tango. Flip winter on its head and search for a Valentine along the high seas while exploring charming towns and natural wonders like Tierra del Fuego and an active volcano, cruising glaciers, and watching for wildlife.

When: Feb. 1-15, 2020

Ports of call: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; Puerto Madryn, Argentina; Stanley, Falkand Islands; Ushuaia, Argentina; Punta Arenas, Puerto Chacabuco, Puerto Montt and Santiago, Chile

Cost: $1,399-$4,999*, which includes everything except government taxes, fees and port expenses, excursions, airfare and potential fuel supplement charge

*Price is per person based on double-occupancy room.

Features:

' Option for free unlimited open bar

' Option for free specialty dining

' Option for fee shore excursions

' Option for free Wi-Fi

' Option for free extra guests

' Option for free and reduced airfare (Oceanview rooms and above)

Good to know: A "Free at Sea" trip, this itinerary offers the choice of up to five of the add-on features based on stateroom category.