Original Run Date - August 2007
Cruise Impressions: Offbeat Odysseys
Did you know you might sail from south Florida on a long voyage to a far-flung locale -- such as exotic Rio de Janeiro or the game parks of South Africa?*
By Anne Kalosh
A short Caribbean get-away is probably the first thing that pops to mind when you think of cruising from Florida. But for anyone seeking a longer, more exotic voyage, there’s a surprising array of choices.
From Port Everglades (Greater Fort Lauderdale) you can sail around the entire African continent with Holland America Line.
A day trip to Giza's famed Pyramids (shown at right) is one exotic shore option for guests booked on Holland America's "Grand Africa" voyage.*
Also from Port Everglades you might circle South America with Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
From Miami you also can board a ship that navigates all the way up the Amazon River and back with Oceania Cruises. And, there are a host of other long, exotic cruise options from south Florida.
More Time Afloat
Long sailings are hot, asserts Andrew Poulton, director of strategic marketing for Regent Seven Seas. More people than ever are booking full world cruises. And, in 2008, Regent will operate four port-rich, multi-week “Grand Voyages,” up from the typical three.
Baby Boomers moving into their retirement years with the time and money to travel are fueling the demand for longer voyages, according to Oceania spokesman Tim Rubacky. “They enjoy traveling for 30 days at a clip,” he says.
For example, one of Oceania’s perennial best sellers is a 26-day roundtrip voyage on Regatta (shown at right*).
Sailing from Miami, the ship calls at a score of Caribbean islands, French Guiana and four ports in Brazil.
This year’s departure is sold out. The November 2008 sailing opens for booking this month. Rubacky says it typically fills within 60 to 90 days.
Exotic Thanksgiving Cruise
For an exotic Thanksgiving holiday cruise, you might opt for Crystal Cruises’ 11-day Panama Canal journey on Crystal Serenity from Miami to Caldera, Costa Rica; it departs Nov. 19.
This voyage is packed with special programs and presents a value for families; during this holiday sailing, kids ages 11 years and under sail free in a cabin with two adults.
The sailing also boasts a “Mind, Body and Spirit” theme. Two Tai Chi experts will be on board. A Cleveland Clinic physician will lecture about “Prevention and Family Medicine.”
At right, a guest sailing on Crystal practices yoga.*
Other guest speakers will expound on maritime topics and world affairs, and a wine expert will lead tastings.
Departing from Miami, the ship visits Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands, chic St. Bart’s in the French West Indies, St. Maarten and Aruba. After a full day transit of the Panama Canal, the voyage ends in Costa Rica.
Among the excursion offerings are diving, kayaking, catamaran sailing, horseback riding, a visit to an orchid farm and a hike or a zipline rainforest adventure.
Fares start at $3,380 per person, double occupancy. Low-cost single traveler supplements are available. Visit www.crystalcruises.com
Circle South America
For the ultimate South America exploration, Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers a 60-night Circle South America voyage, departing Jan. 4, 2008. The Seven Seas Mariner (see photo below*) operates the robust voyage and sails roundtrip from Port Everglades.
This comprehensive circumnavigation visits 30 ports in 15 countries.
The voyage is packed with highlights: the Panama Canal, the Chilean Fjords, Cape Horn and the Amazon River.
There are overnights in dazzling cities like Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Passengers also may take land tours to such marvels as Peru's Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls; the falls (shown at right) straddle the border between Argentina and Brazil.*
The voyage is also available in four segments. The first, from Fort Lauderdale to Callao, Peru (12 nights), features a chocolate theme.
Spicing up the program on select segments will be oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who was aboard last year when the ship spotted a large iceberg off the coast of Argentina.
In the photo below, the captain of the ship is seen with Cousteau (right) as the ship passed the iceberg.*
A Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef will lead a cooking series ($450) on the Callao to Buenos Aires stretch.
Fares for the entire 60-day cruise start at $27,995 per person double, while segments start at $5,995 per person, double occupancy.
Included are shipboard gratuities and most wines and spirits.
Customers who book the entire voyage receive special savings and gifts. Even those on the individual segments will receive some perks. For more information, visit www.theregentexperience.com
How’s this for exotic? Casablanca to Cape Town. Actually, Holland America does that one better -- sailing a 73-day "Grand Africa" voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon, Portugal with 28 port calls in 18 countries.
Departing March 11, 2008, the Prinsendam (shown in the foreground at right*) will sail a 20,500-nautical-mile odyssey that circles the African continent.
The voyage begins with three Caribbean stops before a six-day crossing to Funchal, Madeira. Landfall in Africa is at Casablanca in Morocco.
Then Prinsendam heads back toward the South Atlantic, stopping in the West African nations of Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and Togo.
Crossing the equator for a second time, the ship reaches Namibia, then South Africa, where three ports are visited, including Cape Town.
On various port calls on this voyage, guests have the option to book exotic shore excursions including game park visits.
At left, zebras scamper from a South African water hole.*
Prinsendam next charts the Indian Ocean nations of Reunion, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Three days are spent in Mombasa, Kenya. Then it’s on to Oman, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
Cruise guests heading to North Africa often enjoy touring such ancient ruins as these (shown at right) in Tunisia.*
Stops in Spain cap this epic journey before arrival in Lisbon. The voyage ends on May 23.
Throughout the voyage, guests can sip their favorite beverage while enjoying views of exotic lands from the Prinsendam's Crow's Nest lounge (shown at left*)
Fares for this Grand Africa voyage start at $14,749 per person, double occupancy.
For more information, visit www.hollandamerica.com.
Canal Transit to the West Coast
The chance to visit Nicaragua is a particular point of interest on Silversea Cruises' luxury Panama Canal cruise, departing Port Everglades on May 16, 2008.
This 15-day cruise on the Silver Shadow also includes port calls at San Andres Island in Colombia; Puntarenas in Costa Rica; and the Mexican ports of Huatulco, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.
Gorgeous scenery around Puntarenas, Costa Rica is shown at right.*
Silver Shadow's journey ends in Los Angeles on May 31.
Savings of 25 percent are available for bookings made by Nov. 18.
That brings the starting price to $6,146 per person, double occupancy. Visit www.silversea.com.
An Amazon Adventure
Oceania Cruises' Regatta sails a 26-day "Amazon Adventure" roundtrip from Miami, departing Nov. 25, 2008. The voyage allows guests to explore 10 Caribbean islands, plus Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana, and four ports in Brazil on this unusual itinerary.
Stops include lesser visited gems like St. Bart’s, Virgin Gorda, Dominica and Tobago (its pristine natural beauty is shown at right*) plus the Dominican Republic’s emerging port of Samana.
In Brazil, Regatta calls at Santarem, Boca de Valeria and Parintins, with an overnight in Manaus. The ship returns to Miami on Dec. 21.
Again, this cruise is sold out this year, but bookings for a similar 2008 voyage open this month. Per person pricing (based on double occupancy) starts at $4,499 for an inside cabin, $4,999 for an oceanview stateroom, $6,399 for a stateroom with veranda, $6,699 for a Concierge Level stateroom and $8,199 for a suite.
Those fares include free airfare from select North American gateways. Visit www.oceaniacruises.com for more information.
South American Journey
Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce its biggest ship, Carnival Splendor, in Europe next summer. In early 2009, the vessel heads to the U.S. West Coast for year-round cruises from Long Beach.
Because Carnival Splendor (a computer rendering is shown at right*) is too large to fit through the Panama Canal, it will loop around South America en route from Florida to California.
Carnival’s first South America voyage is a 17-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires, departing Jan. 31, 2008.
The ship will visit six ports: the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Barbados and the Brazilian cities of Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza; the latter's Jose Alencar Theater with its impressive Portuguese colonial architecture is shown at left.*
This cruise may be one of the most affordable ways to explore South America, especially for families. Prices start at $1,199 per person, double occupancy.
Special rates are available for third and fourth passengers in the same stateroom. For more information, visit www.carnival.com.
More Voyages, More Fun
The above voyages are just a sampling of the many exotic cruises that depart from south Florida.
For example, Princess Cruises, which operates more Panama Canal sailings than any other line, features one extended 2008 "Grand Canal" cruise that goes from Port Everglades all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit www.princess.com.
Coral Princess is shown transiting the Panama Canal at right.*
And Norwegian Coastal Voyage takes intrepid explorers from Port Canaveral, FL, to remote Antarctica this fall. This odyssey on the new expedition ship Fram transits the Panama Canal and hopscotches down the west coast of South America via the Chilean Fjords.
From there, the voyage heads for several days in the White Continent, wrapping up in Ushuaia, Argentina. Visit www.norwegiancoastalvoyage.us.
Increasingly, cruise lines recognize that cruisers may enjoy exotic itineraries that sail from close-to-home U.S. ports. So look carefully and you'll find some unusual globally-focused voyages that depart from Florida ports.
Anne Kalosh is a Miami-based journalist who has been covering the cruise industry for national and international publications for 25 years. She is the U.S. editor for Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Insider. Kalosh got hooked on cruising when, fresh out of college, she signed on with Royal Viking Line as a shipboard newspaper editor sailing the world.
*Photos above are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of Carnival Cruise Lines; Holland America Line; Oceania Cruises; Princess Cruises; Regent Seven Seas Cruises; Silversea Cruises; Brazilian Tourism; South African Tourism; and Susan J. Young. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.