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Cruise&Travel A S I A

FREE ISSUE 03 2017






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Ovation of the Seas








GOLD AWARD FOR CRUISES CATEGORY Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands 2014 – 2016 BEST CRUISE OPERATOR, ASIA TTG Travel Awards 2008 – 2015 BEST CRUISE LINE TRAVEL WEEKLY Reader’s Choice Awards 2003 – 2015






Singapore Departures: Two70˚ 2017 Mar 15, Apr 3^, 10

OR Singapore Departure: 2017 Mar 29

Singapore Departures: 2017 Mar 11, Apr 6

Singapore Departures: 2017 Mar 6, 19, 24

For more information or reservations, please contact Royal Caribbean International and representatives at • Brunei • India

(673) 223 4874 (9111) 4906 1000 (New Delhi)/ (9122) 4311 2000 (Mumbai) • Indonesia (6221) 3199 1312/38/39 • Malaysia (603) 7727 4835 / 6286 6292

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• Philippines • Singapore • Sri Lanka • Thailand • Vietnam

(632) 894 3957 / 892 2701 to 03 (65) 6305 0033 (94) 114 704542 (662) 634 2882 / 634 8080 (848) 39 201 201 / 6291 2277


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Rock-climbing Wall

MEET THE LARGEST AND MOST INNOVATIVE SHIP IN ASIA Forget everything you know about life at sea. The 18-deck high, 4,905-guest Ovation of the Seas SM will offer the newest vision of cruise holidays in Asia! With a wide array of revolutionary first-at-sea onboard experiences and newly-designed staterooms, state-of-the-art technology, groundbreaking venues and the best dining ever, Ovation of the Seas SM will take cruising to new heights. Don't miss the chance to experience her inaugural season in Southeast Asia next March! RipCord by iFly®

ACTION AND ADVENTURE • North StarSM observation capsule • RipCord by iFly® • FlowRider® surf simulator • SeaPlex indoor activity space with first bumper cars, roller-skating, flying trapeze and circus school at sea • Rock-climbing Wall

DAZZLING ENTERTAINMENT • The first true robotic bar at sea, Bionic Bar • Broadway-style productions • Two70° with night-time aerial entertainment and an ice bar • Duty-free shopping along the Royal Esplanade • DreamWorks Experience SeaPlexSM


Bionic Bar Kung Fu Panda and all related characters and properties © 2015 DreamWorks Animation LLC.



DELECTABLE DINING • Dynamic Dining with no set dining times, no required formal nights and no assigned seats • Complimentary, full-service restaurants namely American Icon Grill, Chic, Silk, The Grande and Coastal Kitchen • Casual dining at Windjammer Marketplace and more • Specialty restaurants such as Jamie's Italian and Wonderland, an intimate yet edgy restaurant with an elaborate dreamscape of never-before-seen fare

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Royal Loft Suite

For those who want to experience our most luxurious accommodations, our two-storey Loft Suites are just what you're looking for. Featuring the finest amenities and most breathtaking, expansive views, these suites offer a dining area, a dedicated concierge, with more space and more pampering to make you feel right at home.

7/12/2016 1:09 PM


Cruise&Travel ASIA

Issue 03, 2016

Editor-in-chief and publisher Peter Lynch Executive editor Teresa Ooi Art director/production manager Kerry Alice Sub editor Hannah Warren Advertising director Leisa Chell Singapore Associate Steven Hopkinson Deputy editor Bernadette Chua Digital director James Brouard Contributors and writers Sue Bryant, Jo Castro, Bernadette Chua, Susan Gough Henly, Brian Johnston, Peter Lynch, Sally Macmillan, Teresa Ooi, Jocelyn Pride, Nick Walton Online subscriptions Printed by Times Printers Private Limited 16 Tuas Avenue 5, Singapore 639340


Cruise&Travel Asia is published on behalf of Cruise&Travel Media Pty Ltd by Cruise Media Australasia Suite 3, Level 6, 8-10 Loftus Street Sydney 2000 Phone: +61 2 9231 3518 Managing director Peter Lynch

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. Copyright Cruise Media Australasia Pty Ltd. Opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors and are not necessarily those of the publisher. All reasonable efforts have been made to contact copyright holders. Information provided believed to be correct at time of publication, however details can change at any time and all information, including prices, in this magazine should be considered general in nature only. No travel decisions should be made solely on the information provided. Always consult your travel agent.


Main Pool Deck on Genting Dream

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Welcome to the best cruise season ever A

s you read this, we are in the middle of the longest-ever cruise season in Southeast Asia. It will last until June 2017 – a strong indicator of the strength of the Asian cruise market. Most cruise lines are offering more sailings, longer stays in local ports, such as Singapore, bigger and better ships and more destinations in the region. But attracting international brands is not the only achievement of the past few months. Asia has just successfully launched its first luxury brand. Genting Dream is Dream Cruises’ first ship, and it is already winning rave reviews (including ours – see page 20 for our writer’s assessment). We will also see the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2017, and the cruise industry is taking a big part in the year-long celebration. Asia is the world’s fastest-growing market for cruise passengers, with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reporting that the market mushroomed 24 per cent last year. By the end of the decade, Asian passengers will account for one in every five cruisers, about double the ratio of today, according to Carnival Asia head Pier Luigi Foschi. More than two million Asians took 1,560 sailings last year. They boarded 60 ocean cruise ships and spent 7,918 days at sea. They went to 204 destinations across 17 Asian countries. In fact, Asia was by far the most popular destination, with eight in 10 cruising within the region. So it’s time to party. ASEAN’s 50th birthday promises to give cruise travel a big boost. Ship travel will feature heavily in the 50 special journeys designed to celebrate the regional body’s milestone. But perhaps the best news for cruise passengers, and those thinking of trying a cruise in Asia, is that so much attention has now been given to how to precisely tailor a cruise that satisfies Asian tastes. And that can only mean the cruise experience will just keep on getting better. Smooth sailing!

Teresa Ooi

Executive Editor, Cruise&Travel Asia

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Cruising Asia

2017 16 7-19 Cruise News

To help you choose the best cruise for you, our reviewers have been aboard Genting Dream, Viking Sea, Sea Princess and Hebridean Sky. See Page 20

Ten reasons to book a cruise today; ASEAN celebrates 50 years by encouraging cruising; big arrivals on the Asian cruising scene; the best Asian food on the water; Norwegian Joy’s new food offerings; suite class; Wang Leehom christens Norwegian Joy.


20-25 Genting Dream

Bernadette Chua joins Asia’s first luxury cruise ship Genting Dream’s maiden voyage.

20 Our special guide has all the latest on river cruising for 2017. From the waterways of Europe to China’s mighty Yangtze, there is more choice than ever. See Page 39

26-29 Viking Sea


Cruising the rim of Western Europe on Viking Sea takes Brian Johnston from Barcelona to Bergen.

31-33 Sea Princess

Jo Castro takes to the water for 104 nights to see the whole world aboard Sea Princess.

34-37 Hebridean Sky

An opera-themed cruise around the Mediterranean islands on Hebridean Sky hits the high notes for Sue Bryant.



40-41 Pearls of Europe

Brian Johnston cruises along Europe’s Rhine and Moselle on Scenic Pearl.

42-43 A little of what you fancy

There are plenty of different experiences to be had – from music to history – on next year’s river cruising itineraries.

44-47 Simply gorgeous

Our regular section has reports on La Résidence in Luang Prabang, Cathay Pacific and what to do in Ho Chi Minh City and Kula Lumpur. See page 51

Teresa Ooi discovers history, culture and awe-inspiring scenery on a cruise down the Yangtze through the famous Three Gorges.


48-49 Go with the flow

Sue Bryant boards AmaDolce to enjoy the best wine, food and views that Bordeaux has to offer.


52-55 A slow boat to Venice Cover: courtesy Princess Cruises


A barge and cycling tour gets Susan Gough Henly off the tourist trail in Italy.

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FREE ONLINE 56-61 The Kingdom of Ice


62-63 Shore excursion? Shore thing

76 Hotel review: Belmond La Résidence

In search of adventure, Nick Walton tackles the Northwest Passage. Viator shares their top 10 shore excursions in Southeast Asia.

64-65 Picture perfect

Take some photography tips from Jocelyn Pride and get the best photos of your trip.

66-69 Are you being served?

Cruise ships are taking butlers to the high seas – who does it best?

70-71 Destination: Shanghai

What to do, see and eat in China’s biggest, boldest city.

74 Wellness: The best Asian relaxation and wellness treatments at sea.

Phou Vao, Luang Prabang. 78 Airline review: Cathay Pacific. 80 Port report: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 82 Last word: Naked cruising... Really!


Go online for your quarterly fix and great news, reviews and deals.

+ Check us out on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter

72-73 Best of both worlds

Australian chef Mark Best opens a restaurant on Genting Dream.


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discover the wonders of asia with

Princess Cruises

Travel is about expanding our horizons and immersing ourselves in all the rich colors of the world’s cultures. And Princess brings the joy of discovery on board, putting the spotlight on local, regional cuisine, entertainment, activities and cultural experiences.



BEST CRUISE LINE IN ASIA - Women’s Choice Awards


southeast asia cruises

Diamond Princess Tonnage: 115,875 Capacity: 2,706 guests

3 Nights Malaysia

4 Nights Malaysia

5 Nights Malaysia Peninsula

7 Nights Vietnam & Thailand

Sailing Date: 9 Dec 16 Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur (Port Kelang), Singapore Sailing Dates: 3 Feb & 11 Mar 17 Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Port Kelang), Penang, Phuket, Singapore

Sailing Dates: 12 Dec 16 / 19 & 28 Feb 17 Singapore, Penang, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur (Port Kelang), Singapore Sailing Dates: 27 Jan & 4 Mar 17 Singapore, Ko Samui, Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore

cruise from taiwan to japan

Sapphire Princess Tonnage: 115,875 Capacity: 2,678 guests

3 Nights Ryukyu Islands

4 Nights Ryukyu Islands

6/7 Nights Roundtrip Taiwan to Japan

7 Nights Roundtrip Taiwan to Japan

Sailing Dates: 18 May - 24 Aug 17 Taipei (Keelung), Okinawa, Ishigaki, Taipei (Keelung)

Sailing Dates: 12 May, 25 May 17 Taipei (Keelung), Kagoshima, Hiroshima, Kochi, Beppu, Taipei (Keelung) *6-night cruise with no stop at Kochi

Sailing Dates: 21 May - 27 Aug 17 Taipei (Keelung), Okinawa, Ishigaki, Miyakojima, Taipei (Keelung) Sailing Date: 25 Jun 17 Taipei (Keelung), Okinawa, Hiroshima, Kochi, Kagoshima, Taipei (Keelung)

Visit for the latest promotion. To Book: Call Princess or your preferred travel agent. Carnival PLC (Singapore Branch) Tel: (65) 6922 6788 Email:

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The season’s big arrivals

Best ships for Asian food

Asia’s luxury line

years 50



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There's simply no good reason not to try cruising. If you've never been, now is the time to start. 1. Value Cruising is generally excellent value for money. Onboard meals, entertainment and activities are included, and there are no transport costs. Alcohol is usually extra, and a growing number of ships offer special restaurants for a surcharge. New cruisers find it hard to understand the value. Work out the daily rate, then add transfers, excursions, food, wine, service and entertainment. Look like a bargain? It often is.

2. Food Seared scallops or signature BBQrubbed rib eye? Guided tour of exotic food markets with a celebrity chef? On


3. Kids cruises, foodies will find some of the best-loved chefs serving up stunning food experiences for every taste. Acclaimed chefs Luke Mangan and Mark Best deliver signature dishes on P&O and Dream cruises respectively, while chef Luke Nguyen uncovers authentic flavours of Asia on his APT Vietnam and Mekong River Cruise. Sweet tooths can get hands-on with cupcake guru Daniella Boutros on special P&O Food and Wine cruises while Oceania’s Master Chefs lead classes from modern Nordic to healthy Greek. Further afield, Azamara Club Cruises take you to a farm in Italy where they produce the famed buffalo mozzarella.

For mums and dads cruising with kids, climbing aboard the right ship means ditching the superparent costume and letting another action hero take the reins. Aboard the Avengers Academy Disney ships, Captain America nobly sets aside his battle with the forces of evil to babysit young superheroes while you put your feet up. They also put on Toy Story: The Musical for kids big and small. Carnival ships serve up Dr Seuss-esque breakfasts of green eggs and ham, the Royal Caribbean DreamWorks Experience sees Shrek and Fiona pop out to say hello, and on Norwegian Cruise Line ships, crowd favourite Dora the Explorer hosts dance parties for the little ones.

10 Reasons to Cruise

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4. Enrichment and learning Just because the body’s in full relaxation mode doesn’t mean your mind has to take a holiday. Upskill on National Geographic and Lindblad Expedition’s photography cruises with National Geographic photographers from Alaska to the Galapagos, while Tauck Cruises to Antarctica have naturalists to explain the stunning flora and fauna of the icy continent. Onboard enrichment courses feature guest lecturers that have included Desmond Tutu, Valerie Taylor, Bill Bryson and Baz Luhrmann. Dream Cruises also has photographers from National Geographic, astronauts who have been to space and more. Seabourn will be offering enrichments talks on the new Seabourn Encore by Chef Darren McGrady who has cooked for the British royal family, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Robinson and Tim Rice, the award-winning lyricist who has created hit musicals like The Lion King and Evita.

on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Epic while past performers to dial up the cruiseline entertainment have included Kid Rock, Olivia Newton-John and Jennifer Hudson. Princess Cruises has the new musical, Magic to Do, by Academy Award-winning producer Stephen Schwartz and Dream Cruises has a new production called China’s Got Talent.

9. A city at sea

5. Spa and relaxation Imagine taking a short stroll from your spa-class room to your organic body wrap and massage treatment then reclining in a glass-walled Persian Garden steam room. Welcome to cruising! Princess Cruises has the special Izumi Spa which features a Japanese spa for both men and women. In the AquaSpa class on Celebrity Cruises, relaxation and wellness at sea includes access to the healthy menus of the AquaBlu restaurants. Spa enthusiasts will also enjoy Seabourn’s The Spa, a two-deck offering with a Kinesis wall and thermal suite; Costa’s Samsara Spa with thalassotherapy, Ayurvedic massage and personal training; and Royal Caribbean’s Vitality Spa including Elemis Aroma stone therapy, exfoliating body masks and acupuncture.

6. Entertainment Forget cheesy crooners and lame standup comics – live entertainment on cruise ships these days is the equal to anything you’ll find on land. Royal Caribbean hosts a dance music festival called It’s the Ship on board Mariner of the Seas. The kooky, global sensation Blue Man Group performs

of travel can do. Lindblad Expeditions take you to the protected island of Komodo to see the impressive Komodo Dragons in their own habitat, and escort you to the home of hornbills and proboscis monkeys endemic to Borneo. A host of cruise lines head to Antarctica; Aqua Expeditions run trips up the Amazon to spot sloths, squirrel monkeys and capybara, and go piranha fishing; while ever popular Alaskan tours are famous for whales, sea otters and seals.

7. Inaccessible places There are some places where taking trains, planes and automobiles just won’t cut it. The edge of ice-sheets in Antarctica or the Arctic for example. But inaccessible doesn’t have to mean the polar fringes of the planet – more and more it means cruising to places such as the Norwegian fjords; the Kimberley region of Northern Australia where you can reach uninhabited inlets and secluded waterways; and the Russian Far East including the Kamchatka Peninsula and the volcanic Kuril Islands where the water’s edge seethes with huge colonies of sea birds.

8. Wildlife From polar bears on the Arctic ice to the orphan orangutans of the Indonesian archipelago, cruising can deliver you directly to the natural habitat of rare and exotic beasts in a way that no other kind

A cruise ship is a city at sea, but without any of the stress of city life. On a cruise ship you can go between your favourite Thai restaurant, a 3D movie, the store and the bar for a cheeky martini without the nightmare of parking and traffic gridlock. If only real life was that easy. Cruise ships now have all the services that you get on land, including wi-fi, phone network, cinemas, any number of food and beverage options, hair and beauty services and even boot camps. And while the shopping includes designer brands and luxury goods, there are also places to stock up on essentials like toothpaste.

10. Romance Cruise liners conjure old-fashioned romance like few other modes of travel – think formal dinners, silver service, grand ballrooms and chandeliers. The storied Cunard Line has a ‘black tie’ class ensuring that your fellow diners won’t turn up in garish Hawaiian shirts and safari suits, and many other cruise lines have strict rules for formal evening occasions. For those taking the ultimate romantic leap, a range of lines offer a full wedding service including floral arrangements and a ceremony at sea conducted by the captain while more modern lovebirds can sign up for couple massages or a bed scattered with rose petals.

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A year of cruise celebrations T

he 10 Southeast Asian nations that are members of ASEAN are celebrating their 50th year in 2017 – and cruising will play a central role. A new campaign, to be announced in January, named VISIT ASEAN@50: Golden Celebration will showcase the region’s rich diversity and promote multi-destination travel. It is expected to contribute to raising international tourism arrivals to the region from 109 million in 2015 to 121 million by 2017. Fifty special travel experiences, ranging from two to 26 nights, have been created by leading tour operators and cruise lines in Southeast Asia to entice travellers to visit the region for the first time, as well as encourage repeat visitors. Special cruise packages were created by cruise lines for VISIT ASEAN@50. These packages include exclusive promotions on sailings

THAILAND With a fabulous array of coastal resorts, Thailand is one of the region’s most popular cruise destinations, and currently welcomes 75 ships a year from 26 lines. From 2016, Star Clippers will base a new 170-passenger square-rigged ship on the island of Phuket. Lines such as Costa Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn make regular visits, while others, such as Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean, are increasing their deployment to Thailand. 12

to discover destinations including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Phuket, Bangkok, Yangon and many more. One, for instance, is a 12-night cruise from Singapore to Yangon. Another is an 11-night Wellness and Nature trip to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ipoh, Penang and Langkawi. The cruises lines participating include Royal Caribbean International, Star Cruises and Coral Expeditions. AirAsia is also supporting the campaign with an extensive awareness campaign, and will promote its ASEAN Pass, which allows guests to enjoy flights at fixed rates, to encourage travellers to explore the region. MasterCard will embark on its largest travel campaign to date for the ASEAN region. Chairperson of the VISIT ASEAN@50 campaign, Mr Wardi bin Haji Mohammad Ali, said: “We worked closely with the national tourism

MYANMAR Myanmar is becoming one of the most popular Asian destinations for river cruises, with ships launched by many of the world’s leading lines including APT and Avalon Waterways. In 2014, about 18,000 tourists cruised the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers. APT and Travelmarvel launched new ships in January 2016. Ocean cruise lines including Swan Hellenic, Holland America, Oceania, Celebrity Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas visit regularly.

LAOS As Asian travellers seek unique destinations such as World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang, more river ships are tackling the shallow waters of Laos’ Upper Mekong River. Avalon Waterways, APT and Pandaw Cruises are among the biggest operators. Pandaw has custom-designed its vessels for the shallow waters. APT’s Mekong Sun and Mekong Explorer offer itineraries in Laos as well as single itineraries that also include Vietnam and Cambodia.

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CAMBODIA By the end of 2015, Cambodia had welcomed more than 100,000 cruise visitors and that number continues to grow. Cambodia currently features on the itineraries of major ocean lines such as Star Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Aida Cruises and Seabourn. River cruise operators include Aqua Expeditions, Avalon Waterways, Pandaw Cruises, Scenic, Uniworld and Travelmarvel.

organisations of ASEAN member states. “Together, they selected 50 experiences that were cross-border, accessible to mainstream tourists, were culturally respectful and represented core themes that the NTOs were pleased to be associated with. All 10 ASEAN member states have been included.” The member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The online brochure outlining the 50 VISIT ASEAN@50 packages can be found at

VIETNAM Singapore has signed an agreement with Vietnam to promote its cruise industry and invest in new port facilities. Vietnam has also simplified visa processes to make it easier and cheaper for passengers to disembark while in port. Meanwhile, Mekong River cruising continues to expand with lines adding new ships – Avalon Waterways has launched Avalon Siem Reap, Scenic has the new Scenic Spirit and CroisiEurope also has a new ship for the 2016-17 season.

MALAYSIA Sometimes considered a cruising adjunct to Singapore, Malaysia has set its sights on becoming the new cruising hub of Southeast Asia. With myriad rich cultural and adventure attractions, it has a strong case as the regional destination. The Malaysian transport ministry has announced plans to turn three ports – Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Labuan – into modern cruise terminals, capable of berthing large ocean-going ships.

BRUNEI Brunei is rich in history and wildlife and it is seeing slow and steady cruise growth. In 2014, it welcomed 15 ocean ships, and a record 30,000 cruise visitors. Brunei had another record cruise season in 2015/16 with ships such as Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas making her inaugural call at the country’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, late in 2015, and Oceania Cruises’ Insignia visiting on her 70-day New World Quest from Hong Kong to Miami.

SINGAPORE Singapore is at the fore of Asia’s cruise industry, with two cruise terminals that can welcome the world’s larger vessels. It is the first Asian country to offer Cruise Fly/Fly Cruise services. Since 2012, Singapore been the homeport for several ships including Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess and Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, Star Cruises’ SuperStar Gemini and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium.

THE PHILIPPINES The Filipino government is working to entice more cruise ships to visit by developing the cruise industry and building more port facilities. The plan is to attract more than 65,000 cruisers a year, making the country one of the top cruise destinations in Asia. Though the only major port is in Manila, where lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises call, there are more than 7,000 islands and most can welcome smaller ships.

INDONESIA In 2014, Indonesia had more than 9.4 million international visitors and about one million were cruise-related. In early 2015, Indonesia announced it would extend its visa-free policy to China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. Over the 2015/16 wave season, Indonesia welcomed new ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, calling at Bali during on an 18-night sailing from Hong Kong to Brisbane, and P&O’s new Pacific Eden.

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on the dock


Here’s the essential guide to the new arrivals on the Asian cruising scene.

ext year heralds a new age of cruising for Asians. New ships from Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Dream Cruises, which have been built specifically for the Asian market, will be launching throughout 2017. They will be bigger, better and bolder than ever before with more dining options, amazing rides and entertainment as well as new itineraries which will head to local ports. The major cruise lines have pinpointed Asia as one of the largest source markets which means even more ships will be sailing our way. Star Cruises has also announced it will be building two of the biggest ships in the world, and Viking Ocean Cruises has indicated it will be sending a ship to Asia in the coming years.

Following the launch of Dream Cruises’ first ship Genting Dream, the line will be launching her sister ship, World Dream. While the details of World Dream have not been announced, we can safely assume that she will match or exceed the level of Genting Dream, which has been hailed as the first-ever Asian luxury cruise ship (see page 22). On Genting Dream, guests can indulge at 35 restaurants, bars and cafes, party at Zouk nightclub and, from 2017, passengers can try underwater excursions in



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submersibles. World Dream will be launched in November 2017. “We are proud to be the firstever Asian-based luxury cruise line that will specifically cater to Asia’s luxury sector, with a purpose-built new ship (Genting Dream) for this market launching in late 2016,” said Dream Cruises’ president Thatcher Brown. “Currently, the majority of ships with homeports in China are mainly targeted to the mass-market consumer with the occasional premium ship deployment in this region on


a more seasonal rather than a permanent basis. “However, Asia continues to take a bigger percentage of the global cruise industry each year, with China being a major growth engine for the region. As the cruise market continues to evolve and mature, so will the competition. “At the very core, what will differentiate Dream Cruises from the other cruise lines will be our commitment and ability to offer inspirational luxury, which is Asian at heart and international in spirit for all our guests. We will introduce a new standard of excellence in service and quality at sea.”

MAJESTIC PRINCESS Princess Cruises is building Majestic Princess specifically for the Asian market. She’ll set sail on her maiden voyage in April 2017, will homeport in Shanghai and cruise to Japan and South Korea. Tony Kaufman, the executive vice president of international operations for Princess Cruises, said that both Princess Cruises and its sister line Costa Cruises would be catering for Asian travellers in different ways, by introducing international experiences through the lines’ service, entertainment and food.

“The products on Costa and Princess are very different. Princess is a premium international brand focused on bringing its experience of providing cruise vacations throughout the world to the Chinese passengers, allowing them to enjoy food, service and entertainment from all over the world and making them feel special. Costa is an Italian brand and brings its authentic “Italy at Sea” product to its passengers. “Chinese travellers are seeking differentiated services and unique experiences,” he told TTG Asia.

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racetrack on the top deck, while in the Galaxy Pavilion there will be hovercraft bumper cars and a race-car simulator. Also in the Galaxy Pavilion there will be immersive virtual reality experiences, simulator rides and interactive video games. Norwegian Joy will also have two multi-storey water slides, including the high-speed Double Aqua free-fall slide, and the tandem Aqua Racer slide, which allows guests to race side-by-side on inner tubes for more than 360 feet. For the shopaholics, Norwegian Joy will offer an upscale shopping complex which will include well-known luxury brands. The exclusive Haven Club will feature an all-new


experience to all parts of the world, yet in an environment where they will feel at home, whether it is food, culture, shows, enrichment programs or excursions,” says Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, CEO of Genting Hong Kong. “With the first two ships, we are focused on delivering a world-class vacation experience for Chinese cruise passengers at an affordable price whilst enjoying fun-filled onboard and on-land adventures in many cities in the most seamless way, without the necessity of checking in and checking out of airports and hotels.” More details to come. VIKING OCEAN CRUISES The growing luxury cruise market in Asia is to be joined by awardwinning Viking Ocean Cruises, which will be sending a new ship to Asia and Australia.

‘Passengers will enjoy a cruise experience in an environment where they will feel at home’ NORWEGIAN JOY Norwegian Cruise Line announced last year that it would be returning to Asia this year for the first time in 13 years. Not only will Norwegian Jewel be sailing around Southeast Asia, the line will also be sending the new-build Norwegian Joy to Asia in 2017. The ship will be homeported in Shanghai and then sent to Tianjin for August and September, before doing threeto six-night cruises to Japan and South Korea. David Herrera, president of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in China, said the company would also be gearing Norwegian Joy for the Chinese market. 16

“Clearly the dining options and venues have been made with the Chinese passengers in mind, as well as the multiple new entertainment shows. Other key differences on Norwegian Joy  will include Mandarin-speaking crew in all passenger-facing roles, and signage predominantly in Chinese characters,” he told TTG Asia. “This ship is being made for our highly valued guests to know we did not simply modify an existing vessel, but designed it especially for the Chinese market. We wanted our first entrant into China to be the ship that Chinese VIPs deserve.” For the speed fiends, there will be a state-of-the-art go-kart

Observation Deck that will feature 180-degree views serving gourmet canapés and premium beverages. STAR CRUISES Genting Hong Kong has announced two more ships for Dream Cruises’ sister line Star Cruises that will be designed specifically with Chinese passengers in mind and deployed for the Chinese market. The new Global Class ships, which will be delivered between 2019 and 2020, will have the capacity to carry at least 5,000 passengers. “Passengers on our “Global Class” ships will enjoy an international-class cruise

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Company chairman Torstein Hagen said the line would be deploying its fifth ship, Viking Spirit, which is due to be completed in June 2018, to Asia and Australia for the summer season in 2018. They will then move the ship to Alaska for the Northern Hemisphere summer in 2019. In Asia and Australia, Mr Hagen said Viking Spirit will be cruising between Bangkok and Hong Kong and between Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand. Passengers will then be able to book a 93-day repositioning cruise from Auckland to Vancouver. “In the old days, people used to call this a Circle Pacific cruise. Many of our guests like long cruises, and to get away from bad weather, particularly in the Northeast, is not a bad thing,� Mr Hagen added.


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Cruisers keep it classy


s cruising gets bigger, it’s inevitable that big spenders start demanding special privileges, so cruise lines are now introducing exclusive suite categories with special privileges for guests, from butler service to private restaurants. We’re seeing a return to the old-fashioned class system of the golden age of the transatlantic liners, when the moneyed would enjoy white-tie dinners with the captain in first class while the hoi polloi slummed it in steerage. Cunard has maintained these strict divisions, with posher cabins and exclusive restaurants for its Grills-class customers, since 1914. Modern cruise lines have caught on in the past 10 years or so; both Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC offer private enclaves for their topspending guests.


Now, Celebrity Cruises has upped its offering to high-end cruisers with the introduction of Suite Class across its fleet, incorporating the top six suite categories. The suites aren’t new, but the range of perks they come with has been improved. Book one of these and you’ll enjoy butler service, priority boarding and the use of a private restaurant, Luminae, near the main dining room. Guests in the suites can also use a private lounge, Michael’s Club, offering complimentary cocktails and canapés in the evenings. But it’s in the top three categories, Reflection, Penthouse and Royal suites, where even more perks kick in, from unlimited wi-fi to allinclusive drinks and free access to the specialty restaurants. Needless to say, trying out on Celebrity

Reflection’s Suite Class on a cruise from Rome to Athens via Istanbul was no hardship. The Royal Suite came with its own butler, Elizer; a fleet of stateroom attendants; and Carlos the concierge. I’d never been looked after by so many people. Leaving the suite was tough. Why would you, when you have two Jacuzzis, an absurdly large TV, a living room and a well-stocked bar? Anything we wanted, Elizer would bring. Coffee in bed in the morning. Herbal tea at night. Ice for the gin and tonic. Sandwiches when we got hungry. He was like a genie, appearing with a puff of smoke in moments of need. We began to feel very, very special. I loved Luminae, our Suite Class restaurant. Reflection has 14 places to eat, but with floor-to-ceiling

sea views and wall-to-wall waiters, Luminae was a quiet cocoon, away from the bustle outside. Six of the restaurants on board come with cover charges of up to $50 a head, which can add a lot to the cost of a holiday. But because this was included with our suite, we ate our way round the ship. Drinks were included, too, up to the value of US$13 per glass, which was plenty. In the suite class, you enjoy all the trappings of a luxury cruise, but with the perks of a big ship, such as multiple dining options, a really good gym, decent nightlife and a busy casino. And that butler service… I wanted to take Elizer and Carlos home. They politely declined, but I won’t forget my taste of the high life in a hurry.

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Joy's popstar godfather

■ Norwegian Cruise Line has named the ‘King of Chinese Pop’ Wang Leehom as the godfather of its new ship, Norwegian Joy. He will be christening the 3,850-passenger ship in a special ceremony in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer of 2017. The Chinese-American singer-songwriter, record producer, actor and director will also be the brand ambassador for Norwegian Cruise Line in China. He will be promoting NCL to Chinese consumers through television, print and radio commercial campaigns as well as social media. Leehom is known for his unique blend of pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, classical as well traditional Chinese musical styles. He has also worked with some of the greats in music like Tony Bennett, Avicii and Usher. Norwegian Joy is the second Breakaway Plus class ship. She is built specifically for the Chinese market and will sail from Shanghai and Beijing all year round. Joy features a thrilling two-level go kart track, exciting hovercraft bumper cars, immersive virtual reality games, laser tag and huge, multi storey waterslides. For something more relaxing, a tranquil park on the top deck is the spot for tai chi, yoga or meditation. And the huge luxury shopping venue will have duty free bargains and luxury fashion, jewellery and electronics brands. The onboard technology is the most impressive of any Norwegian ship and many interior cabins feature virtual balconies and the bow to stern wi-fi is the fastest in the fleet.

BRANSON’S “SEXY” CRUISE LINE ■ Construction of the first of three ships for Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages begins early next year. Mr Branson promises his fleet will be a “sexy” cruise line and “the most irresistible vacation at sea”. The line’s first ship will be based year round in Miami and will sail Caribbean itineraries, Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin, told Cruise&Travel Asia. Mr McAlpin said Virgin Voyages was keen to attract first-time cruisers with their contemporary take on the industry. “Innovation, adaptability and the boldness to depart from the expected defines the vision of Virgin Voyages. This means we look through a different lens, and a strong consideration is attracting the traveler who hasn’t sailed before,” he said. “Virgin Voyages positioning is bold, romantic, glamorous and very modern. We won’t be a budget line, but like every Virgin business we aim to deliver extraordinary value.”

Seabourn Conversations


ormer Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, lyricist Tim Rice and former royal chef Darren McGrady are among the lineup of distinguished speakers for Seabourn Conversations 2017, the line’s enrichment programme. Mr Rice is famous for creating hit musicals including Evita and The Lion King, and Mr McGrady was a former personal chef to Queen

Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and Princes William and Harry. Ms Gillard was the first female prime minister of Australia and served from 2010 until 2013. Ms Gillard will be on board Seabourn Encore when the 604-passenger boutique ship sails from Singapore on November 10 en route Down Under for her second summer of Australian cruising.

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Living the dream with Dream Cruises 20

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The new Genting Dream has been branded as the first luxury ship built specifically for the Asian market. And she is living up to the label.


hile you might think this is a scene from a five-star resort in Asia, it is actually on board the new luxury cruise ship Genting Dream. Designed for affluent travellers that embrace a better travelling experience, Asia’s newest ship has everything you could ever want available on board. Boasting plenty of eateries, bars and cafes, Asian and Western-style spas, fabulous entertainment, luxury shopping and more, Genting Dream has become the hottest new destination in Southeast Asia. Adorned with beautiful furnishings, exquisite paintings and marble bathrooms, it’s an amazing feat for Dream Cruises. But what sets Genting Dream apart from other ships designed for the Asian market is that it is the first ever luxury cruise line. Cruise&Travel Asia was invited to experience the 3,400-passenger ship. And with 2,000 crew members, the Genting Dream has the leading crew-to-guest ratio in Asia-based cruising. The Genting Dream will be homeported in Hong Kong and Nansha (Guangzhou) and will be sailing on five-night Vietnam cruises and twonight weekend getaways. And while the ports are exotic, the ship itself is the main attraction. Asians love food and Dream Cruises has designed more than 35 restaurant and bar concepts for the ship. The star restaurant is Bistro by Australian

chef Mark Best, former owner of the threehat Marque in Sydney (see page 72). Chef Best has amalgamated Asian and Western cuisine to provide something truly unique. Guests can indulge in Iberico pork, Rangers Valley beef, potatoes cooked with duck fat, fresh oysters and the beautiful “Three Rivers” dish of Murray cod served with Sichuan potatoes and a butter sauce. Bistro has a private dining area for small groups as well as a large table that can seat up to 30 people. Chef Best and his team have paired the exquisite dishes with some of the best wines from around the world. The ship also has unique partnerships with whisky label Johnnie Walker and winemaker Penfolds. The ship has dedicated bars to the brands. The Penfolds Wine Vault, which is the first at sea, has special blends including the Penfolds Bin 170 which celebrates the winemaker’s 170th anniversary and the famous Penfolds Grange 2010. Also part of the collaboration between Penfolds and Dream Cruises is the ultra rare Penfolds Aevum Imperial Service Ritual which is a distinctive vessel specially handcrafted by legendary European glass and crystal house Saint-Louis. It is the only one at sea. The ship also has the world first Johnnie Walker House at Sea and has special blends which are only available on the Genting Dream.

The first ever Penfolds Wine Vault at sea (left); Johnnie Walker statue and artwork by Jackie Tsai 21

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FACT FILE Clockwise from above: pool in the Dream Palace; Humidor cigar lounge; The Voyage of a Lover’s Dream

Umi Uma Restaurant and Umi Uma Teppanyaki serve modern Japanese cuisine. The teppanyaki bar is great for big groups looking for an interactive dinner, while the restaurant, which serves Japanese-style tuna ceviche, sashimi, wagyu fillet and teriyaki chicken, to name a few, is delicious. The seafood is surprisingly fresh and the quality is good. Unfortunately for us, dinner service was poor, with some guests on the table receiving only two or three of the dishes they ordered and one only receiving her dessert. 22

In the Food Federation, you’ll be able to find authentic hawker delicacies like Hainanese chicken rice, Nyonya laksa and abalone congee, but you can also grab an American-style hotdog or hamburger. It’s a popular spot for a late-night feast for the entire family. In the evening, most guests head towards Tributes Bar, which has a Chinese band singing Mandarin and Cantonese love ballads, while in Bar 360, Anna and Emma sing American and British pop songs. The main free dining areas are the

CRUISE LINE: Dream Cruises VESSEL: Genting Dream STAR RATING: N/A PASSENGER CAPACITY: 3,352 TOTAL CREW: 1,999 PASSENGER DECKS: 14 ENTERED SERVICE: 2016 TONNAGE: 151,300 FACILITIES: 35 restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges, Zouk nightclub, swimming pool, four whirlpools, VIP Dream Palace, Crystal Life Asian and Western Spa, bowling alley, rock-climbing wall, six waterslides, boutiques, helipad, jogging track, gym, private karaoke rooms. BOOKINGS: Two-night Weekend Escape cruise from Hong Kong is priced from US$305 per person, twin share; five-night Vietnam Cruise from Nansha is priced from US$961 per person, twin share. See

Genting Dining Room, The Lido and Dream Dining Room. The Genting Dining Room serves a mix of Western and Asian dishes – think hot and sour soup to start, chicken breast with natural jus for main and a cheesecake for dessert. It has amazing Chinese cuisine. In the

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SHIP REVIEW: GENTING DREAM World Grill behind the pool, guests can dine in the open area on salads, hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and much more. Now if you want the very best in food, service and privacy, the Dream Palace is designed for the ship’s VIP guests. The Dream Palace is an exclusive and luxury experience. It has the crème de la crème of suites including the Garden Penthouse which has its own private outdoor sitting area, two bedrooms, a separate living and dining area with a grand piano. Dream Palace guests have priority booking access for theatres, restaurants, spa treatments and many other activities. Guests also have private access to a dedicated swimming pool, loungers and the Genting Dining Room. In the Dream Palace, there is a dedicated outdoor pool for VIP guests as well as the luxurious Genting Club Restaurant which serves western specialties like spaghetti bolognaise, veal marsala and Chinese delicacies like truffle dumplings and medicinal broths. Genting Dream’s cabins have been well designed – from interior cabins to suites in the exclusive Dream Palace. The marble and wood bathrooms are large and well designed. Guests in suite class and above have a tub, shower and two sinks. Etro brand toiletries are offered. Spa suites have a king-sized bed, a 60-inch TV, large threeseater sofa as well as a walk-in wardrobe and dressing table/desk. While the suites look as if they may be from a five-star European hotel, little

Clockwise from above: High end shopping; Zouk Beach Bar and the Crystal Life Spa Vitality Pool

‘Little touches including the floral motif carpet and koi paintings on the wall give it an Asian flair’ touches including the floral motif carpet and koi paintings on the wall give it an Asian flair. Guests in the suites have access to Dream Butlers who will book shore excursions and spa appointments as well as fetch you meals from the Dream Palace dining room. Butlers who hail from China, also speak English. The Genting Dream has over 1,674 staterooms with over 70 per cent of the accommodation Balcony Class Staterooms and it has one of the highest crew to guest ratio. Like the ships in its sister fleet Crystal Cruises, Genting Dream has beautifully

decorated sitting areas filled with Chinese porcelain, European photographs and brass ornaments – a luxurious meeting of East and West. There are two spa areas – the Crystal Life Asian Spa and the Crystal Life Spa for Western treatments. The Crystal Life Asian Spa is over 1,000sqm which makes it the largest Asian spa at sea. It’s biggest selling point is its reflexology centre, which boasts 100 chairs where guests can have their aches and pains rubbed away. It is the largest Asia spa at sea. I was lucky enough to be offered a Deep Tissue Swedish Massage in the Crystal

Life Spa. The staff members are polite and very professional. Guests who book a massage or facial have access to the male or female steam room and thermal bath. There is also a men’s barbershop and ladies’ hairdresser where aunties get their hair shampooed, blow dried and coiffed. For the more adventurous guests, there is a rock-climbing wall, zipline and rope course as well as six waterslides on deck 16 and 17. For family activities, parents and children can play a round of mini-golf or shoot some hoops at the basketball court. There is also a video arcade and families can enjoy a 3D cinema show at the Zodiac Theatre. But if mum and dad want to go off for a shore excursion or do some shopping, the Little Pandas Kids Club on deck 16 is a dedicated area for children. They will be 23

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Clockwise from above: Garden Penthouse suite in the Dream Palace; Mark Best’s Bistro


watched under the careful supervision of Dream Cruises staff. The Little Pandas Club leads out to the pool area, which has four hot tubs surrounding the large pool. There is a shallow tiled area where you can sunbathe while you cool off in the water, and lots of deck chairs and loungers so you can enjoy a cocktail in the sun. Behind the waterslides is the Zouk nightclub, the first ever at sea. It has an indoor and outdoor area where DJs play the latest tunes from around the world. The outdoor area has a stunning tiered seating area and an ankle-deep pool where you can dance in front of the big screen. For the shopping enthusiasts, there is plenty of retail ranging from French perfumes and cosmetics from Dior and Chanel to high-end watches from brands like Cartier, Gucci, Tissot, Tag Heur and Jaeger-LeCoultre. There is also a special Salvatore Ferragamo store onboard which

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RESERVATIONS Itineraries are priced from USD$305 per person for a 2-Night – Hong Kong – Cruising Day – Hong Kong and 5-Night – Hong Kong /Nansha (Gunagzhou) – Ha Long Bay – Da Nang – Hong Kong

To start your Dream vacation, please call +852 – 2317 7711, email reservations@dreamcruiseline. com or contact your nearest travel agents. sells the latest shoes and handbags from Italy. Speaking of entertainment, there are shows every evening in the Zodiac Theatre with specially choreographed performances created for Genting Dream. Voyage of a Lover’s Dream tells the tale of a romance between a mermaid and an astronaut – you’ll see the characters painted on the ship’s hull created by the famous Shanghainese artist, Jacky Tsai. But the undisputed highlight is the Dream Girls who perform an erotic but tasteful burlesque show every evening in the Silk Road restaurant. There is also an exclusive production of China’s Got Talent – The Dream Experience, a 45-minute theatrical representation of the worldwide hit TV series. In the Zodiac Theatre, the ship’s 999-seat, state-of-the-art venue, the energetic, booming show is complete with the same lighting, set design and theme music as the real China’s Got Talent. Onboard, there are enrichment programs

Clockwise from above: Bar 360; mini-golf and ropes course

‘Voyage of a Lover’s Dream tells the tale of a romance between a mermaid and an astronaut – you’ll see the characters painted on the ship’s hull’ featuring a range of speakers specialising in different fields. Be sure to check who is speaking on when you cruise as it changes with each cruise. There is also an Art Gallery onboard where guests can purchase fine pieces through auctions. Currently, Genting Dream has several shore excursions from culture experiences to local food tours.

In Danang, guides take you to the beach, Marble Mountain and to UNESCO-listed Hoi An. This beautiful French colonial town was the highlight. It was buzzing with night markets, cafes, restaurants and tailors who take your measurements in the morning and have your garment ready in the evening. While it is very touristy, it has retained its charm. Many of the streets are

closed to cars and you can either walk, rent a bike or go for a ride in a rickshaw to see the town. If you’re not a fan of coach tours, you can also step off the ship and explore the towns and cities by yourself, but keep in mind that the port in Ho Chi Minh City is about an hour and a half drive from the city. The Genting Dream ship crew are extremely friendly and enthusiastic, which mostly made up for the teething problems that are inevitable on all new ships. While the butlers were impeccable, fast and ready to fulfil your every wish, some of the waiters were slow. Overall, once the kinks have been worked out, it will be a dreamy experience. 25

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Clockwise from above: the atrium on Viking Sea; Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal; Plaza de EspaĂąa, Seville, Spain


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An itinerary from Barcelona to Bergen on the recently launched Viking Sea provides the chance to cruise around the rim of Western Europe. Brian Johnston steps aboard.



Viking Invasion

f you want to impress with a cruise, start with a bang: two days in Barcelona, with your ship docked under the shadow of ocean-gesturing Christopher Columbus on his tall column, and pedestrian drag La Rambla only a five-minute shuffle from port. The famous tree-lined street plunges you straight into the heart of one of Europe’s most agreeable and quirky cities. I wear out a pair of shoes taking it in: Gaudí’s still-unfinished cathedral, designer boutiques, interesting architecture, family-filled parks and art-crammed museums. Viking Sea finally sets sail south-westwards along Spain’s rocky coast, offering a quick day at sea to soothe the sightseeing legs before breaking out two more fabulous destinations: Granada (from the port of Málaga) and, the following day, Seville (from Cadiz). Both towns have Moorish palaces with orange-scented courtyards, whitewashed alleyways where pots of geraniums pop on patios, and architecture of monumental splendour draped in America’s gold. Viking’s “Passage through Western Europe” is essentially a 15-day repositioning cruise that takes the 930-passenger Viking Sea from the Mediterranean to the Norwegian fjords, but it goes far beyond normally indifferent repositioning itineraries, visiting five countries and 10 ports of impressive variety. The ship skirts Europe’s western edge from the hot coast of Spain to the misty meadows of Normandy and into

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Clockwise from left: pool deck on Viking Sea; Chateau de Ravalet, Normandy, France; The World Café Viking Sea; Bryggen, Bergen, Norway

FACT FILE CRUISE LINE: Viking 0cean Cruises VESSEL: Viking Sea STAR RATING: N/A PASSENGER CAPACITY: 930 TOTAL CREW: 545 PASSENGER DECKS: 9 ENTERED SERVICE: 2016 TONNAGE: 47,800 FACILITIES: Several dining options and bars, including Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant and The Chef’s Table, Wintergarden, lounge, spa, fitness centre, cinema, theatre, two pools, hot tub and sports deck. BOOKINGS: 15-day Passage through Western Europe cruise on Viking Sea, departing Barcelona April 16, 2017, is priced from US$9,551 per person twin share. See


the fjords of Norway: bacalao (salted cod) to baguettes, Portuguese navigators to Viking raiders, Gothic cathedrals to art-nouveau apartments. On day six, the early-morning approach to Lisbon is lovely as Viking Sea sails past guardian fortresses into a long bay and up the wide Tagus River, docking under the tumbling houses of the city’s central Alfama district. The day falls into a typical Viking pattern: long port calls allow an inclusive orientation tour in the morning that provides passengers with a general overview, and there’s ample free time afterwards for individual wandering through cobbled squares where cafe conversation bubbles and gold-laden churches loom. Alternatively, passengers can select from optional tours at extra cost. There are eight choices in Lisbon alone, ranging from more in-depth looks at the city to surrounding sights such as medieval hilltop Óbidos, pilgrim destination Fátima or the rococo Palace of Queluz. Often on this journey I think the highlights are now in our wake, only to be reinvigorated by more port pleasures. Porto, adjacent to the northern Portuguese port of Leixões, is a wonderful town that plunges down the side of a gorge to the Douro River in cascades of yellow and orange houses. Blue-tiled scenes from Portuguese history decorate church and train-station facades, and the riverfront buzzes with bars where locals and tourists mingle in the sunshine, sipping wine produced on the Douro’s banks upstream. The next day, Santiago de Compostella is just as wonderful, though quite different:

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SHIP REVIEW: VIKING SEA an austerely beautiful town of honeyed buildings clustering around a whopping cathedral where pilgrims shuffle. A day at sea takes us from Spain to northern France, allowing passengers to further explore the ship, with its chic, Scandinavian minimalism and light-filled spaces. Viking Sea’s spa features a grotto where – improbably – artificial snow falls for a delightful, skin-tingling loiter before plunging into the hot tub. The ship’s stern features a cantilevered infinity pool permitting a float between sea and sky. But my favourite place to linger is the indooroutdoor Wintergarden adjacent to the main pool, where a retractable roof lets in floods of light and waiters serve afternoon scones laden with cream. Somewhere in the night, the Atlantic is left behind and we sail into Cherbourg on the English Channel. It’s the magic of cruising that we’ve moved from robust Spain to green, cow-chewed northern France with so little effort. Normandy is about exploring gardens and castles and the unexpectedly lovely port city of Le Havre, from which many passengers take an excursion to Paris. Our next port of call, Southampton has me in one of those pleasant dithers. Many passengers head on an inclusive transfer for sightseeing in London, but there are also tours to Winchester, Windsor,

Salisbury and Stonehenge. Finally I opt for Portsmouth and its fabulous naval dockyards, which display the Tudor ship Mary Rose and Admiral Nelson’s famous warship HMS Victory. It’s one of the highlights of this cruise so rich in maritime history, though I’m just as entranced by the Viking history centre at Haugesund, our first port of call in Norway, where timbered houses crowd the fjord’s edge. On our final day, Viking Star zigzags through pine-topped islands as I sit in the Explorer Lounge, whose vast windows frame Bergen’s fjord-bound setting. Bergen is the gateway to the fjords and an elegant city in its own right. It’s both Norway’s former medieval capital and its cultural heart, as the birthplace of romantic composer Edvard Grieg, whose house is visited on an optional shore excursion. On the inclusive tour, get a glimpse of Bergen’s trading past along Bryggen Wharf, lined by cheerfully gabled houses and lively bars. Cruise, cargo and fishing ships still keep the harbour busy. We’re a world away from Barcelona. The northern light is long and low, sea breezes nippy and mountains appear like cardboard cut-outs on the horizon. This is another Europe, yet with cultural echoes resonating all the way back to Barcelona thanks to the unifying wonder of the sea, and the goods and ideas traded across it for centuries.

THE VERDICT Highs: A new ship of elegant Scandinavian design, friendly service, excellent food and an ethos that focuses on destinations, with quick disembarkation times and long port stays. Lows: Although unusual in being inclusive, daily shore excursions move at a slow pace and offer only the most general overview. Best suited to: Couples aged 40 and above. There are no amenities specifically for children.

From left: old town of Seville; the spa on board Viking Sea

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7/12/16 10:35 am

104 nights, 25 countries


What makes a world cruise the ultimate journey? Jo Castro takes to the water for more than a quarter of a year to find out what traversing the planet by sea is really like.


re you mad?” some of our friends asked when we told them we were going on a world cruise for 104 nights. At least our adult children were encouraging: “Just do it! You only live once.” The itinerary was captivating, from the grand cities of Europe and ancient civilisations of the Middle East to gorgeous tropical islands. Nonetheless, the nagging questions persisted. How could I possibly pack enough clothes? What if we didn’t like our fellow travellers? How about illness? As we walked up the gangway of Sea Princess – a sister of Sun and Dawn Princess which ply Australian waters – I have to confess to a certain trepidation. My husband and I are good travellers, but we had never been on a cruise. Compared to days gone by, today’s world cruiser is blessed. The internet and a prepaid

international travel SIM ensured we could stay in contact with family and friends. Sea Princess holds close to 2,000 passengers and about 1,300 of us were doing the full world cruise. Some were taking work sabbaticals and there were lots of retirees. We now number several septuagenarians and octogenarians among our friends. Did we get bored with them? Although we dined, watched shows, played table tennis (and didn’t always win), enjoyed learning arts and crafts and attending enrichment lectures, and sometimes just lazed by the pool with them, we found them excellent company. We feel privileged to count several crew members as lifelong friends, too. As for packing, I found the clothes that worked the hardest and looked the

best were comfortable pieces suitable for layering and which didn’t require ironing. I made good use of the ship’s laundry. On board, we had six different dining options, four pools, five spas to lounge in and two show lounges in which to enjoy entertainers and productions. There were regular movies under the stars, duty-free shopping, a health centre and spa, sports deck, disco, library, casino and a never-ending choice of clubs, activities and entertainment options during the day. Come back new? We were more worried about coming back knackered! I still can’t believe we circumnavigated the world, visited 37 destinations in 25 countries on five continents and travelled more than 50,000 kilometres. But we did. So here we are, four months later, home and still married. In fact, closer than ever.

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SHIP REVIEW: SEA PRINCESS Nova Scotia We arrived in Sydney and explored Cape Breton Island including the pretty town of Baddeck (famous for the inventor Alexander Bell) and the beautiful Bras d’Or Lake. Gaelic is still spoken here, a legacy of the Scottish Highlanders who settled here in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Belgium From Zeebrugge we travelled to the spectacular medieval city of Bruges for beer, chocolate, moules frites and a canal tour.





French Polynesia The weather was gorgeous and the ports of call in the Society Islands were hard to beat. We enjoyed three idyllic days exploring Moorea, Tahiti and Raiatea.

FACT FILE CRUISE LINE: Princess Cruises VESSEL: Sea Princess STAR RATING: 4 PASSENGER CAPACITY: 2,016 TOTAL CREW: 850 PASSENGER DECKS: 10 ENTERED SERVICE: 1998 (refurbished 2005) TONNAGE: 77,690 FACILITIES: Two main dining rooms, plus four other dining options, three pools, five hot tubs, theatre, cinema, casino, library, spa and gym. BOOKINGS: 104-day world cruise departing Sydney in May 2017 is priced from US$14,890 per person, twin share (interior cabin). See



Cartagena, Colombia Ringed by thick stone walls that took almost 100 years to complete, the UNESCO-listed old walled city is full of fascinating Spanish colonial heritage.

Bermuda I’ll never forget the pastel coloured houses of Hamilton, the gorgeous Horseshoe Bay and the interesting immersion we had into Bermuda’s darker past at the museum.



Ecuador In Manta, we discovered how Panama hats are made, and found out they actually originate here, not Panama.


Chile In funky Valparaiso, we had the most wonderful guide who sang to us as we coached around the city.


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SHIP REVIEW: SEA PRINCESS Russia In St Petersburg, we were knocked sideways by the opulence of the Tsarist rule, including the Winter Palace.

THE VERDICT Highs: Being on a luxury floating resort with my every need taken care of while visiting exciting destinations all around the globe.

Italy I fell in love with the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri. We docked at Civitavecchia and visited Rome and its Colosseum, having cruised from Salerno where we took a trip to Pompeii.




Lows: Using the laundry. Sometimes you have to wait for a machine, which means popping backwards and forwards to your stateroom, or waiting around in the laundry until one becomes available. Is a World Cruise for you? Ask yourself these questions: Do you enjoy days at sea? Most itineraries have at least one long stretch (up to 10 days in Jo’s case) when you will be confined to the ship.


Do you like short stopovers? You need to be aware of what one well-known travel writer calls writer calls “yet another port” syndrome.


Do you get on with all sorts of people? This is crucial. A cruise of this length can test your diplomacy. Having a positive outlook and a sunny disposition certainly helps.


Jordan From Aqaba in Jordan we jumped onto a modern coach and within a couple of hours we’d been whisked back 2000 years to Petra, the “Rose City”.

Dubai After 10 days at sea, the City of Gold didn’t disappoint; bustling souks, mountains of gold and modern skyscrapers.





Australia I’ll never forget the sailaway, standing on the deck of Sea Princess for the first time and cruising out of Sydney under the Harbour Bridge as the sun set.

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History, opera, Mediterranean sunshine… Sue Bryant soaks it all up as she cruises around Sicily on one of Noble Caledonia’s intimate ships.


arias ISLAND


small-ship cruise around Sicily, a chance of late summer sunshine and three operatic performances in one week. As a fan of all of the above, I couldn’t have asked for more. The voyage in question was with Noble Caledonia, which has a long-standing association with the London Festival Opera (LFO). LFO singers have performed on river cruises, land tours and on several ocean-going ships and the company has a loyal following of fans who book for the music first and the itinerary second. The idea this time was that we would explore Sicily and Sardinia by day and, at night, attend recitals in beautiful palaces ashore given by four singers and a pianist, led by tenor Philip Blake-Jones, founder of the LFO. All the performers had impressive singing pedigrees, having performed in top venues worldwide and with leading opera companies. I knew this would be good. Hebridean Sky was waiting for us in Valletta, Malta, tiny against the towering ramparts of the city and dwarfed by a vast MSC ship. “That’s us,” joked Chantal, one of our tour leaders, pointing at the larger vessel as we approached the harbour. Everybody laughed nervously.

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Duomo di Siracusa, Syracuse; members of the London Festival Opera at the Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi 35

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SHIP REVIEW: HEBRIDEAN SKY Noble Caledonia’s passengers are adventurous, small-ship types and the sense of relief when our smart little ship came into view from the bus was palpable. October in the Med is still warm enough to eat on deck and the wine flowed that night as friendships were struck up and Hebridean Sky cast her lines and set a course for Sicily. Our group was mostly Brits, most the far side of 60 and without exception, well-travelled and cultured. These culture-focused cruises are not for slackers. Our schedule was packed, with the included tours departing most mornings at 8.15am, but it brought rich rewards. The Villa Romana del Casale, a fourth century hunting lodge, displays the most dazzling Roman mosaics I’ve ever seen, room after room in intricate detail of 2,000-year-old hunting scenes, including tigers and elephants, and the famous depiction of Roman girls in bikinis playing ball. In Syracuse, we strolled around the vast Neapolis Archaeological Park, while in Taormina, we clambered over the stone benches of the mighty Greco-Roman amphitheatre, Mount Etna smouldering in the distance. The first operatic performance was a recital in the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco in Syracuse, a ravishingly beautiful private home tucked into the cobbled back streets of the old city. Due to a last minute hitch – the grand piano that had been hired was too heavy to hoist up the stone steps into the appointed salon – the concert ended up taking place in the courtyard.


A perfect night under a starry sky, but as the singers launched into a glorious aria, a busker started up outside the gate, belting out That’s Amore on his accordion. The rather grumpy baron, our host, rolled his eyes in a leave-this-to-me gesture and stepped outside. The din stopped, mid-chord, which made me wonder what fate had befallen the accordionist. Some days I broke free from the sightseeing. On a lovely, sunny day in Palermo, pink-and-white stalls were being set up along Via Maqueda for an icecream festival, selling organic lime granita and gelato with flavours like liquorice and pistachio, studded with nuts. I spent a happy afternoon wandering round this gorgeous and most underrated city,

FACT FILE CRUISE LINE: Noble Caledonia VESSEL: Hebridean Sky STAR RATING: 3.5 PASSENGER CAPACITY: 118 TOTAL CREW: 70 PASSENGER DECKS: 5 ENTERED SERVICE: 1991, refurbished 2016 TONNAGE: 4,200 FACILITIES: Library, massage room, bar, dining room, outdoor dining, sunbathing deck. BOOKINGS: Eight-night Islands of Italy cruise on Hebridean Sky in September 2017 is priced from US$4,830 per person twin share. The next LFO cruise is the 12-night Glories of Russia in September 2018, from US$5,433.

Clockwise from above: Mosaics, Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily; Palermo, Sicily; library and Lido deck on Hebridean Sky; amphitheatre, Taormina

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all wide boulevards and grand palazzi with crumbling, bombed-out facades sandwiched between them, still waiting to be repaired, seven decades after the war. In keeping with the operatic theme, I joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s incongruously large opera house, the third-biggest in Europe after those in Vienna and Paris. And then I gave in to the gelato; great dollops of pistachio and tiramisu. Palermo’s concert was an evening of Bellini, Rossini and Verdi, with the singers donning full 19th century costume, Charlotte, the mezzo and Abigail, the soprano, in swaying crinolines and swagged silks. The Palazzo ValguarneraGangi, where the event took place, is an absolute stunner of a baroque pile, with one gilded, mirrored, chandeliered salon leading to the next, candles flickering on a romantic terrace with prosecco chilling in buckets for after the performance. The whole evening was magical; the setting, the glorious singing, the rather glamorous after-party, where we sampled arancini (a Sicilian speciality, fried rice balls with cheese inside), sipped prosecco and

chatted to the principessa whose family owned the palace. Our own home, Hebridean Sky, was less ornate but extremely comfortable. The ship has just had a big facelift and features polished wood panelling and shining brass. There’s a sunny library, sunbathing space on deck, a lounge for lectures and a bar with a piano. You sit where you want for meals, try to remember everybody’s name, have a chat about the day’s events then repeat the conversation at the next meal. Afternoons at sea weren’t for lying around. Philip gave a fascinating talk on the life of Giuseppe Verdi and most entertainingly, as the ship sailed from Messina, laid on a music quiz. Not exactly your everyday cruise ship trivia; instead, there were questions such as “How many women did Don Giovanni seduce in Spain?” and “What is the note of the bottom string on a cello?”. We were treated to one final performance, on board this time, featuring lighter numbers and bits of operetta, not least a spot of Gilbert and Sullivan. Like the other concerts, it received a standing ovation.

I understand why opera lovers book this cruise for their holiday. It is such a lovely experience, enjoying truly intimate performances and mixing with the performers all week, while the magnificent settings were the perfect backdrop for each event. Other locations for opera cruises have included the Danube and Italy’s gorgeous Amalfi Coast. I’ll certainly be back.

THE VERDICT Highs: The in-depth tours. Beautiful, spacious and luxurious cabins, good food, free-flowing wine with meals. Excellent library and friendly crew. Lows: No pool or hot tub. Best suited to: Over-50s, culture-lovers, couples and singles. 37

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River Our favourite new trend in cruising



Cruising the rivers of Europe PAGE 42

Themed river cruises PAGE 44

The majestic Yangtze PAGE 48

Wine on the water in France

/% $&4

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Six countries, a rich history and dramatic landscapes unfold on a cruise between Basel and Amsterdam. Brian Johnston discovers why the Rhine and Moselle rivers are ideal for novice cruisers.


s Scenic Pearl pulls away from dock in Basel, Switzerland, passengers mingle on the deck. In no time, green countryside appears as the Rhine points northwards over 700 kilometres towards Amsterdam. Vineyards and gorges, medieval villages and crumbling castles will pass along the way, and you’ll soon realise why this is such a popular river-cruise route. The ship is hardly across the Swiss border into Germany when it stops at Breisach, a lively, bar-filled town topped by a splendid church. From here, a shore excursion takes guests into the Black Forest, lovely enough to keep noses stuck to coach windows as dark forest, plunging gorges and cow-chewed farmland unfold. A short hike is all the excuse we need to indulge in Black Forest cake bursting with cherries and cream. Next day, Scenic Pearl is docked at Kehl, across the Rhine from Strasbourg. The landscape changes to vineyards and geranium-draped houses. Strasbourg is a gorgeous city of canals and a whopping cathedral, surrounded by half-timbered buildings from a book of fairy tales. This change is an indication of the cruise’s variety, and makes it a great choice for rivercruise novices. You board in Switzerland, visit France, Luxembourg and Belgium, and disembark in the Netherlands. From Alps to lowlands, Middle Ages to modernity, there’s always something new and changing. Germany, however, is the core of the journey. You’ll spend a day on excursion in Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university city, famous for its romantic ruined castle, which tops the old town like a crumbling crown. Later, the ship embarks on perhaps the highlight of this cruise, the Rhine Gorge. The centre of wine production and

river trade for centuries, this section of the Rhine is dotted with battlemented towns, rolling vineyards and castles on crags. As the ship cruises through the gorge, passengers use their own Scenic “Tailormade” audio system to learn about the history and legends of this dramatic region. As Scenic Pearl sails northwards, passengers fall into a pleasant routine of indulgent buffet breakfasts, followed by shore excursions into the surrounding landscape or nearby towns. Some use their Tailormade on self-guided tours at their own pace. Navigating through frequent locks on this most regulated of rivers fascinates many passengers. In the evenings, the ship’s 167 guests are treated to meals such as lobster tail on saffron risotto with snow peas, or herb-encrusted rack of lamb with grilled zucchini. Somehow, there always seems to be room for peach melba or baked Alaska for dessert. The Rhine Gorge ends where the Rhine meets the Moselle at Koblenz, a town flanked by agreeable promenades with views across to Festung Ehrenbreitstein, one of Europe’s largest fortresses. As a special treat, passengers are taken across to the ramparts of the fortress by cable car to enjoy a cocktail with a view. The following days are spent on the Moselle, a smaller, more intimate river with closer views, and villages rather than towns. Vineyards tumble into the water. At Cochem we visit Reichsburg Castle, high above the town on a bend in the river that is one of Europe’s most romantic spots. The sailing is glorious all the way along the Moselle to flower-filled Bernkastel, where an optional excursion takes passengers to curious little Luxembourg, or alternatively

FACT FILE CRUISE LINE: Scenic VESSEL: Scenic Pearl RATING: 4 LENGTH: 135 metres PASSENGER DECKS: 2 PASSENGER CAPACITY: 167 CREW: 53 ENTERED SERVICE: 2011 FACILITIES: Crystal Dining, River Café, Table la Rive, Panorama Lounge, wellness area, sun deck, walking track. BOOKINGS: 15-day Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise from Basel to Amsterdam is priced from US$6,003 per person twin share. See


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RHINE & MOSELLE Clockwise: Reichsburg Castle at Cochem; Junior Suite on Scenic Pearl; canal in the old town of Bruges; Bicycles by a canal in Amsterdam


to Trier, an ancient German city with ruins dating back to Roman times. By journey’s end, Scenic Pearl is gliding through the Netherlands, where the landscape has flattened out and big skies form ever-changing Dutch paintings. It’s a marvel to observe how water management has created this entire landscape, with its locks, dykes and network of canals. A foray into Belgium sees Scenic Pearl anchor in Antwerp, where the day is best spent on an excursion to Bruges. This wonderful town sits on canals with watery vistas towards church spires and medieval clock towers. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop across the main square, where visitors slurp ice-creams and admire grand buildings. A gala farewell dinner and a hilarious and off-beat evening show from the ship’s crew make for a happy final hurrah. It seems appropriate that Amsterdam, a city defined by water, is the final destination and a fitting end to a great river journey.

THE VERDICT Highs: Roomy cabins and butler service on the ship; and the big variety of sights and landscapes along the way. Lows: There isn’t enough time to see everything in depth, as river cruising leads you ever onwards. You’ll want to sail this route again. Best suited to: Couples aged 40 and above. There are no amenities specifically for children. 41

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A little of what you


Jazz in Burgundy, kayaking on Venice’s lagoon and onboard concerts are just a few of the diverse activities on offer next year on river cruises. Sally Macmillan reports. MUSIC AND MOVEMENT Orchestra While Europe is steeped in musical history and offers a variety of music-themed river cruises, it’s unusual to find the Irrawaddy River hosting classical French musicians. In February 2017, the new, 42-passenger The Strand Cruise, is offering a four-night musical cruise from Bagan to Mandalay. An eight-piece orchestra will perform a series of intimate concerts in exotic riverside settings, presented by bilingual


French music expert Elsa Boublil. Classical Tauck’s 12-day Magical Music Along the Blue Danube cruise from Budapest to Prague follows the footsteps of musical luminaries such as Mozart,

Beethoven, Bartók, Schubert, Liszt, Strauss and Haydn. Tauck’s “maestros” – performers and scholars – will host excursions in cities where the musical greats lived, worked and played, and hold musical seminars on the ship, either MS Savor or MS Joy. Highlights include sitting in on an orchestra rehearsal at Vienna’s Auersperg Palace and an evening of ballet, Mozart and dinner at the beautifully baroque Palais Pallavicini. Jazz Music is at the heart of Avalon Waterways’ 11-day Burgundy and Provence cruise next June. There will be onboard performances and the chance to visit the Vienne Jazz Festival – an annual event that started in 1981 and attracts international and regional jazz performers.

CONNOISSEUR’S CHOICE Wine There’s an abundance of river cruises that include food and wine experiences but some are specifically tailored for connoisseurs. APT launched its popular Wine

Series last year and is offering four more in 2017. Australian wine experts from McWilliam’s Family Winemakers, Jim Barry Wines, Taylors Wines and Tyrell’s Wines will accompany different cruises in Europe between July and November. They will lead vineyard tours, host onboard tastings and dinners, and present seminars on traditional

European wine-making. Cooking Catering to the enormous appetite for culinary schools on cruise ships, Scenic is introducing Scenic Culinaire on its Bordeaux and Rhône itineraries in 2017. Passengers can learn the finer points of French gastronomy in hands-on classes led by expert instructors, using local ingredients to

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THEMED CRUISES produce regional dishes. Scenic Culinaire will run classes for 10 several times on each cruise. Beer Avalon Waterways has two beer-themed cruises, in April and July. Highlights of the 13-day Budapest to Prague itinerary include a beer and snack in one of Germany’s oldest restaurants, the 17th-century Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen). German beers will be tasted and discussed on board.

ON YOUR BIKE (OR CANOE) Active Most river cruises now include cycling tours, but if you’re looking for more challenging ways to explore ashore, there’s a lot more choice in 2017. Avalon Waterways’ new “Active Discovery”

excursions for luxury lovers. As well as helicopter flights there will be an off-road driving course at the Volkswagen plant in Bratislava and lessons in the sport of Bavarian curling.

EXPLORING THE PAST cruises are upping the pace with activities such as hiking, jogging, cycling and canoeing on its nine-day Danube itineraries. Off-beat Uniworld’s Go Active itineraries have been designed to appeal to the increasing number of younger cruisers the line is attracting. But whatever your age, you can go gondolarowing and kayaking on the Venetian Lagoon, take Segway rides in Vienna’s Prater Park or go white-water rafting on the River Ilz in Germany’s Bavarian Forest. Luxury Crystal River Cruises’ lavishly refurbished Crystal Mozart and upcoming new builds Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler will sail the Danube, Rhine and Main, offering adventurous

History For a more in-depth perspective of specific historical eras, there are cruises that explore World War II history in France and Jewish history in Germany. Next year Uniworld is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa, the namesake of its stately ship S.S. Maria Theresa. There will be special events on board and ashore on the eightday Danube cruises between Budapest and Passau. WWII Avalon Waterways has two WWII-themed cruises next July, an eight-day round trip from Paris and a 16-day Paris to Cote d’Azure itinerary. Both feature full-day excursions to Normandy’s landing beaches and onboard lectures

by the line’s WWII historian. Jewish Heritage Uniworld’s Jewish Heritage 10-day cruises sail between Munich and Cologne, visiting important sites of medieval, WWII and modern Jewish history. Tours of magnificent synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and museums are led by local experts and are complemented by

onboard lectures. There will be heartbreaking moments in places such as the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial and fascinating insights into Jewish history at the former Rothschild palace in Frankfurt; this itinerary promises to be memorable for history buffs of all persuasions, not just Jewish. 43

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spring morning with an overcast sky greets me in Chongqing, in China’s Sichuan province when I disembark my flight from Hong Kong. I am here to board Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer for a three-night cruise down the mighty Yangtze River to Yichang in Hubei province. The Chinese call it Chang Jiang, which means long river, and the Yangtze is the world’s third-longest and Asia’s longest river. We are anticipating lots of heart-stopping moments. The awe-inspiring landscape surrounding the Three Gorges is on our itinerary and this journey ranks in many travellers’ top-10 “must-do” lists. The Yangtze is considered by the Chinese as the greatest source of life. The river originates from the Tibetan Plateau and surges from the west to the east, cutting through Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei and Hunan provinces before emptying out at Shanghai. It is hot and humid by the time I arrive at a nondescript wharf with steep steps leading down to the river ship. An elderly farmer-turned-porter hoists my case over his shoulders and deftly descends the steps. No high-tech luggage loaders here. The ship is expecting 95 guests, mostly American, Korean, Australian and British, plus two local families with young children. I am six hours early, but the young crew is most welcoming, showing me to suite 310 on deck 3. It is a generous-sized room with a balcony, bathroom with separate shower, queen-sized bed and wardrobe. When I’m settled, a lunch of steamed dumplings and vegetable noodle soup is served. Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer is a comfortable ship. Cabin sizes start from 31 square metres. The four biggest suites, ranging from 81 square metres to the top Celestial and Imperial suites at 110 square metres, are decorated in modern Chinese style. The ship has an onboard spa specialising in foot reflexology, and tai-chi classes are conducted each morning. There’s a gym, conference room, theatre and the Explorer Bar,on the top deck, where most guests congregate and listen to the Filipino singer’s repertoire of ’70s and ’80s music. The ship has its own chequered history. In 1995, Bill Gates chartered it for his family and close friends, including American billionaire Warren Buffet, for a four-night private cruise on the Yangtze to experience the Three Gorges. Orders of


Simply gorgeous Cruising down the Yangtze through China’s famous Three Gorges, Teresa Ooi is mesmerised by the mountainous scenery.

specially imported marshmallow chocolate drinks for breakfast and cans of cherryflavoured Coke were loaded up for Gate’s intimate cruise holiday, looked after by more than 100 crew. The ship has also hosted former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Mark Cendrowski, a director best known for the US TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Cruises on the Yangtze often begin or end in Chongqing. It is China’s gateway

to the south-west. It is also a city of lights. When dusk falls, colourful neon lights are illuminated on cruise ships, pleasure craft, buildings, overhead funiculars and bridges. The harbourside resembles a scene from Blade Runner. There is only one main dining room on Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, the recently refurbished Dynasty Restaurant. The menu is what hotel manager Teddy Garcia describes as “East meets West’’.

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This is the only ship plying the Yangtze that offers an à-la-carte menu. Over the three-night cruise, we are served a mix of Western and Chinese dishes. Starters include a choice of beef consommé, cream of mushroom soup and winter melon soup, while main courses range from duck with plum sauce, dory fish fillet in Thai sauce and fried chicken. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style with a choice of Chinese noodles with dumplings, fried beef with

capsicum, sweet and sour fish, fried rice and traditional Western scrambled or fried eggs, muesli with yoghurt, cut bananas and watermelon. It is a trifle disappointing that despite the cruise starting in the Sichuan province which is known for its spicy and chili-hot cuisine, there are barely any spicy dishes served on board, with the exception of kung pao chicken – a popular dish cooked with garlic and spicy sauce.

COMPANY: Sanctuary Retreats VESSEL: Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer PASSENGER CAPACITY: 124 TOTAL CREW: 118 PASSENGER DECKS: 5 ENTERED SERVICE: 1995 TONNAGE: 6,733 FACILITIES: Explorer Bar, small reading room, conference room, Huang Ding spa, tai chi classes, gym, Tang theatre. BOOKINGS: Three-night (downstream) and four-night (upstream) cruise on Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer are priced from US$1,530 per person, twin share. See

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RIVER CRUISE GUIDE The next day, we arrive at the ancient ghost city of Fengdu, which has a collection of shrines, temples and monasteries celebrating the afterlife. We take a walk through Fengdu marketplace where stall holders sell anything from pigs’ ear lobes to chicken feet. Barefoot dentists, with no proper qualifications, carry out their trade in the open streets alongside several women tailors, altering clothes on the spot for waiting customers. We are close to the climax of our journey; one of the new wonders of our modern world, an engineering marvel shrouded in wonder and controversy – the Three Gorges dam. At a relocation village, we visit Mr Mao, one of 1.3 million Chinese, mostly farmers, moved from the river banks to relocation villages when the dam was being constructed. That figure gives you an idea of the scale of the project. Just after the sun rises the next day, the ship enters the first gorge. Qutang Gorge is about eight kilometres long and takes 20 minutes to navigate. Guests on board are awestruck, mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the mountainous landscape around us. It is exactly what you see in pictures of the Three Gorges. Next, we enter Wu Gorge. It stretches 45 kilometres and is considered the most beautiful with 12 peaks, including the famous Goddess Peak. When the ship docks at Badong, we disembark directly to a ferry, which takes us on a guided tour of the Shennong Stream. We board a sampan rowed by three elderly boatmen, former farmers from the river banks, helped by two boat trackers who jump off and pull the sampan in very shallow waters. As we move upstream, the water is densely green, but the surrounding mountainside is magnificent. It is home to the Tujia people from the Ba tribe, who have their own language and customs. “Can you see the coffin hanging from the mountainside? Look, quick – there’s a dragon head and a swallow’s nest at the side of the mountain – use your imagination,’’ our local guide urges us, pointing out rocky features. At about 4pm, we enter the treacherous Xiling Gorge, which has caused many navigational mishaps due to its frightening whirlpool currents and strong rapids. The Three Gorges Dam was constructed in the middle of the Xiling Gorge, increasing the 46

Clockwise from right: serving tea on Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer; bridge over the Yangtze River; onboard suite; Three Gorges dam; statue at Fengdu; one of the top suites; sampan boatmen

river depth from three metres to well over 100 metres in the reservoir. That evening, our last on the ship, we dine in style with a Chinese banquet, which includes hot and sour soup, kungbao shrimp, deep-fried minced-pork ball with chestnuts, steamed dory with vermicelli, garlic vegetables, pork dumplings and Yangzhou fried rice. Guests are also treated to a parade of waiters and waitresses all spruced up in traditional Chinese costumes, followed by an after-dinner concert at the Tang theatre on deck four. In keeping with the spirit, the concert has several contributions from guests including a guitar performance by a passenger from Queensland. After dinner, we dash up to the top deck to watch as the ship begins to manoeuver through the Three Gorges’ locks, a process that takes more than four hours as we sleep.

The next morning, we arrive at Yichang and take a guided tour of the Three Gorges dam project – one of the largest hydro-electric power structures in the world. Construction of the dam started in 1994 and was completed in 2008. In the process, the dam flooded 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,600 villages. It also flooded many archaeological and cultural sites. Besides producing electricity, the dam has increased Yangtze River’s shipping capacity and reduced the potential of flooding further downstream. It generates 11 times more power than the Hoover Dam in the US. It is certainly impressive, but there is no escaping the fact that this huge engineering feat has been achieved at a great cost to the Chinese people. Today, it remains a highly controversial issue.

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THE VERDICT Highs: Going through the dramatic Wu Gorge with its 12 peaks and arresting mountainous terrain. Low: Lack of spicy Sichuan food. Could do with a wider choice of fresh fruit. Best suited to: Experienced 60-something cruisers wishing to tick off their must-do list.

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Go with the flow Sue Bryant sips her way along three waters ways through France’s beautiful, wine-filled Bordeaux region.



here’s a vineyard in the arrivals area at Bordeaux airport. I’m not sure how pure its produce is, given that it’s at an airport, but its spindly vines are certainly a clue that you’re entering one of France’s most prestigious wine-growing regions. I’m on the first voyage of APT’s new program out of Bordeaux, in south-west France, to sail three waterways (the Garonne, the Dordogne and the Gironde estuary) and drink wine. River cruising here is a relatively new phenomenon. Although this region is spectacularly beautiful and packed with historic and gastronomic interest, the estuary and rivers are heavily tidal and tricky to navigate, and there aren’t many docking spots. Four years ago, there was one cruise line here and now there are six, most recently APT, which has chartered AmaWaterways’


AmaDolce to offer week-long cruises packed with experiences – and wine. This is a different kind of river cruising to itineraries on the Rhine or the Danube. Distances are short, so there’s little time spent actually sailing. Nor is there much dramatic scenery away from those endless vineyards, just salty marshes, fishing huts on spindly stilts and wooded banks punctuated by the occasional hamlet. The waterways are broad and the skies enormous, the scent of the Atlantic on the breeze. European spring, it turns out, is a magical time to travel. The countryside is soft and green, the vines are bursting into leaf and meadows are covered in a fuzz of mauve and white wildflowers. In between wine estates are magnificent oak forests, which provide wood for the barrel-making industry and where, in season, dogs forage for truffles and locals hunt wild boar.

CRUISE LINE: APT VESSEL: AmaDolce LAUNCHED: 2009 RATING: 4.5 LENGTH: 110 metres PASSENGER DECKS: 4 PASSENGER CAPACITY: 148 CREW: 45 FACILITIES: Small gym, massage, library, bicycles, sun deck, Jacuzzi. BOOKINGS: 11-day APT Bordeaux River cruise (including three nights in Paris) is priced from US$6,144 per person twin share. See

One of APT’s distinguishing features is the choice of excursions it includes and every day brings a choice of trips to magnificent châteaux and legendary wineproducing towns such as Pauillac and Saint-Emilion. We wander round medieval Bergerac, the setting for Edmond Rostand’s play about the lovelorn Cyrano, who is immortalised in two different statues

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Clockwise from left: Saint-Emilion; wine in the vineyards; Chef’s Table; La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux; Blaye

and a themed pizza in various tourist restaurants. A fantastic food market sprawls through the town centre, tables groaning with early-season asparagus and strawberries, creamy goats cheeses and golden Monbazillac wines. We tour the 11th century Château de Cognac, birthplace in 1494 of King Francois I (who built the chateaux of Fontainebleu and Chambord) and home today of Baron Otard Cognac, which sells its finest blend at a whopping US$4,079 a bottle. More unusually, some passengers opt for an afternoon at a sturgeon farm where part of the tour is actually catching and holding an enormous, smelly fish. The reward is a caviar tasting. In Blaye, we wander round the hulking, 17th century citadel that dominates the town. There’s a tiny village nestled inside, all hobbit houses set in gardens of fruit

trees and orange poppies. One night, we’re all whisked off to the gorgeous Château Pape Clément outside Bordeaux, for dinner in a pavilion designed by Gustave Eiffel, overlooking a sea of vineyards. Masterminding all this is Emma Leslie, APT’s superb cruise director, who is escorting a group of passengers on this cruise and then for a second week on the Rhône. Along with the choice of tours (not to mention the all-inclusive bar), Emma’s attention to detail is what gives APT the edge. For example, we’ve all been coveting the embossed wooden boxes in which top producers present their wine. One day, a big pile of boxes appears in the ship’s lobby. “You’ve drunk all the wine on board so we thought you might like a souvenir,” jokes David, the ship’s hotel manager. We spend the rest of the week figuring out how to fit the boxes in our luggage.

The 148-passenger AmaDolce is a comfortable home, all the more so as we’re just a small group of about 50, mainly Australian with a smattering of Brits. The food is excellent, from rich soups to French classics and an irresistible cheese board, although there aren’t many takers for the frogs’ legs that appear on the lunch buffet one day. A cruise in this region has two faces: the countryside with all its wine, and Bordeaux itself, sprawling elegantly along a half-moon curve of the Garonne, all magnificent 18th century architecture and hidden squares with street cafes. June saw the opening of La Cité du Vin, a cavernous wine-themed museum that’s changed the city’s skyline. Next year, an extension to the super-fast train line Ligne à Grande Vitesse means that Paris will be just two hours away, which will make things even easier for visitors doing the popular combination of Paris, Bordeaux and the Rhône cruise. Bordeaux cruising has got off to a flying start – and it’s only going to get better from here.

THE VERDICT Highs: The Chef’s Table tasting menu, included in the price – don’t miss it. Lows: Relatively little time actually sailing. Best suited to: Wine lovers, Francophiles, groups of friends, couples, over 60s.

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Following waterways from Mantua into the heart of Venice by bicycle and barge gives Susan Gough Henly plenty of opportunity to explore beyond the tourist trail.


ate afternoon sunshine streams across Ave Maria’s spacious top deck as we cruise slowly along Venice’s Grand Canal admiring the ducal palace at Saint Mark’s Square and the elaborate gardens of the Venice Biennale. Jam-packed commuter vaporettos (waterbuses and taxis) dash across the water below us and in the distance a flotilla of cruise ships is moored on the city outskirts. I’m feeling lucky to be among just 34 guests aboard this sleek custom-built boat. There can’t be better way to enter La Serenissima. We even raise a toast to Amal and George Clooney as we glide past the Belmond Hotel Cipriani where they wed, to moor nearby on the island of Giudecca. We’ve just spent a week biking with Girolibero, Italy’s only bike and barge company, from the Renaissance city of Mantua along the Po River Valley and across the barrier islands of the Veneto Lagoon to arrive here. The biking has been blissfully easy and


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Venice A slow boat to

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CRUISE PLUS: VENICE perfect for building appetites for superb each with en suites, a large dining and local dishes served up by Ave Maria’s lounge area with picture windows, and excellent chefs. a shaded roof deck. The idea of Girolibero was hatched On our first day, we are fitted with our 19 years ago by five teenage friends during excellent orange touring bikes and cycle a university break. Today, it is the largest around three picturesque lakes created bike-touring company in Italy, offering 26 by the Mincio River. A highlight is the different trips with 2,000 bikes and 150 exquisite lotus flower beds near Mantua guides. that were created by the princely Gonzaga Its intrepid leader, Pierpaolo Romio, family who ruled Mantua much like the always had a passion for the Dutch-style of Medicis ran Florence. biking and barging holidays, too. Mantua is the Italian Capital “It was as crazy an idea as of Culture this year and there Clockwise from selling ice-cream on Mars,” are many treasures to discover. right: Off loading bikes from Ave one of the founding partners, On a walking tour, we visit the Maria; Grana Padano Basilica of Sant’Andrea with its Giovanni Bottazzi, tells me. cheese; gondolier “But he went ahead and bought spectacular barrel vault, which race; pasta making; a barge and sailed it all the way some say inspired Saint Peter’s Chioggia; Venice; from Amsterdam, down the Bagni Alberoni, Lido Basilica in Rome. Rhine and Danube to Istanbul We ride the barge along the and eventually to Italy.” picturesque heron-dotted Mincio River There was even a book written about the to Governolo, stronghold of the Mincio voyage, which became a bestseller in Japan, pirates, and then take off on our bikes of all places. to discover hidden gems such as the Today, that original boat, Vita Pugna, fascinating National Museum of Carousel still does the trip alongside the larger, and the Popular Tradition in the tiny purpose-built Ave Maria. town of Bergantino. Some of the world’s “The two boats run 31 weeks a year and biggest suppliers of amusement park rides are fully booked. We have eight captains are based here and the museum showcases and eight chefs that rotate through the everything from elaborate music machines schedule. All the chefs are Italian because to miniature rollercoasters. the food is very important,” Bottazzi laughs. There are many other adventures, too, Ave Maria is a supremely comfortable such as visiting a Grana Padano cheese home for the week, with spacious cabins factory and tasting aged cheese with local honey and wine, wandering medieval laneways in the castle town of Ferrara and cycling beside a maze of bird-filled waterways in the Po River delta. At the entrance to Venice Lagoon, we love the fishing port of Chioggia, nicknamed Little Venice, where we explore its huge fish market. We then spend a day cycling along the lagoon’s narrow barrier islands passing fishing boats, brightly THE VERDICT coloured villages and grand waterside Highs: Sitting on Ave Maria’s top deck as mansions. We feast on fresh seafood, swim we cruised down the Venice Grand Canal. at beaches decked out with striped cabanas, Fabulous meals and a convivial crew. and devour delicious gelato in the heart of Extremely affordable. Lido’s glamorous resort community. Lows: All the museums and shops were And as Ave Maria starts its journey closed in the middle of the day when we across the lagoon to Venice we cheer visited the historic city of Ferrara. A guided rowers in a gondolier race, each team walking tour would have helped get a better bending their oars in full flight, not appreciation of the city. chasing the tourist dollar but the finish Best suited to: This is a terrific adventure line and the glory that comes with it. for active travellers who want to explore Venice is much more than a tourist trap Venice and its surrounding region beyond and on this bike and barge adventure we the tourist brochures. You can even hire an have been privileged to experience some electric bike to make the cycling easier. of its genuine attractions. 54

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FACT FILE COMPANY: Girolibero VESSEL: Ave Maria PASSENGER CAPACITY: 40 TOTAL CREW: 6 PASSENGER DECKS: 3 ENTERED SERVICE: 2011 TONNAGE: 295 FACILITIES: Dining room and lounge, shaded deck, four superior above-deck cabins, 13 comfortable cabins below deck, air-conditioning, bicycles and panniers provided. BOOKINGS: Seven-night Venice to Mantua (or reverse) bike and barge trip on Ave Maria, April to October 2017, is priced from US$1,049 per person, twinshare. See

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A true expedition to the


KINGDOM OF ICE The Northwest Passage has intrigued and fascinated Arctic explorers for centuries. Now this challenging route across the top of the world is entering a new era of exploration, discovers Nick Walton.


ith a plodding movement that’s lumbering and elegant all at once, a polar bear traces its way down a finger of partially submerged land, its nose in the air, the late afternoon light shimmering off the wet stones beneath its massive paws. Save for the gentle lapping of water against the Zodiac’s hull and the cicada-like symphony of camera shutters, there is silence – none of us are even breathing as we soak in this blissfully close encounter. The adolescent male has done the opposite of what polar bears usually do when they encounter camera-toting travellers in Canada’s high Arctic and has stuck around to have a sniff of the frigid late summer air, giving our group, just feet away, the odd curious glace between nibbling the countless beluga whale skeletons that litter beautiful Cunningham Inlet. Northern Canada has been on my bucket list since I was a child, when I would gaze up at a school room map on which the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, a sprawl of more than 36,000 islands, was so dominant, so distant, so exotic. It seems I wasn’t the only one; the Northwest Passage, a 1,500-kilometre shortcut between Europe and Asia across the roof of North America has fascinated explorers for centuries, with many losing their lives in its pursuit. Only in the past decade has melting ice opened a seasonal window during which ships might pass through unscathed, but despite an increasing number of cruise ships bound for the high

Passengers make the most of calm conditions as Akademik Ioffe cruises Sunshine Fjord, Baffin Island 57

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arctic heralded in a tentative new era for the Passage, its dangers remain poignant. I’m attempting the journey with Canadian polar junky One Ocean Expeditions, which offers a pair of Northwest Passage sailings annually on its stout Russian research vessel Akademik Ioffe. It’s a route that draws intrepid travellers for many reasons; there are avid birders hoping to spy red-throated loons, cackling geese and gyrfalcons. There are expedition cruisers who have ventured to the likes of Antarctica and Spitsbergen and are ticking the emerging route off their own lists. And there are history fans inspired by recent discoveries that have brought the passage’s rich history to life once again. Explorers have been searching for the Northwest Passage since Italian navigator John Cabot first attempted the journey 58

in 1497, with Norwegian polar pioneer Roald Amundsen finally succeeding four centuries later. Since that first successful passage in 1906 there have been fewer than 250 transits (of which only 50 were operated by cruise vessels), with the majority taking place in the nine years since an “ice-free” summer window was created by global warming. Despite the reduction of sea ice, the Northwest Passage remains a treacherous undertaking; in 2010 it took 40 hours to evacuate 120 passengers from the grounded Clipper Adventurer and passengers on the luxurious Crystal Serenity, which transited the passage in August, were reportedly required to take out US$50,000 evacuation insurance policies. Less a defined route than a myriad of possible waterways, of which less than 10 per cent are charted, a cruise through the

Northwest Passage today is as much an adventure as it was under sail. However, there’s a big difference between watching the desolatelybeautiful landscapes of Nunavut, the newest, largest, northernmost, and least populous territory of Canada, drift by while you wait for your sommelier to decide on a chardonnay, and actually tackling the destination like so many explorers past. My fellow travellers and I had joined the 98-passenger Akademik Ioffe in Cambridge Bay, a tiny hamlet on Victoria Island that’s a common departure point for research vessels delving into the Arctic Ocean. In many ways Cambridge Bay, with a population of just 2,000, spans eras of Arctic exploration. In the inlet, the timber and iron remains of The Maud, Amundsen’s ship from his second Arctic expedition, have been returned to the surface as part of a multi-million dollar

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Clockwise from far left: a Zodiac carries passengers close to a glacier; on-deck Jacuzzi; hiking at Low Point; getting to grips with the ice


salvage effort. Her blackened hull is a stark contrast to the low-slung buildings of the state-of-the-art Canadian High Arctic Research Station, which is set to open next year, bringing jobs and opportunities to this tiny, remote weigh station. After a welcome from village elders we set sail southeast into Queen Maud Sound and our attempt at the Northwest Passage began. Akademik Ioffe may not have a signature spa or room service, but she is perfectly suited for exploring the high Arctic. Leased by One Ocean from Russian’s Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Ioffe boasts an ice-rated hull, comfortable ensuite cabins, a central dining room and bar, a sauna and presentation theatre and, for the more intrepid, a rooftop Jacuzzi. My cabin has everything you need and nothing you don’t, with plenty of storage, a comfortable single cot, and a shy cabin attendant who giggles at my stumbling Russian.

At the core of any One Ocean expedition is education. The ship is run by a Russian crew, but a full complement of guides and naturalists bring the destination to life with regular lectures and daily excursions, Zodiac cruises and kayaking itineraries. Our guides include the ever-smiling Atuat Shouldice, an Inuit guide and environmental inspector from Rankin, David Begg, a New Zealand mountain guide, and Katie Murray, a Scottish historian with a serious crush on Sir John Franklin. Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 expedition, in which his two ships and 129 crew disappeared, inadvertently opened the Canadian Arctic Archipelago to exploration, with more than 50 unsuccessful rescue expeditions helping to define this vast and hostile territory. The Franklin Expedition’s demise has remained one of the most fascinating Arctic mysteries, baffling historians and researchers until September 2014, when

CRUISE LINE: One Ocean Expeditions VESSEL: Akademik Ioffe STAR RATING: N/A PASSENGER CAPACITY: 96 TOTAL CREW: 65 PASSENGER DECKS: 4 ENTERED SERVICE: 1989 TONNAGE: 6,230 FACILITIES: Dining room, lounge and bar, library, presentation room, gift shop, fitness room, massage room, hot water spa, sauna, plunge pool, mud room, 10 Zodiacs, use of wet-weather gear. BOOKINGS: One Ocean Expeditions’ Classic Northwest itinerary on Akademik Ioffe, departing August 24, 2017, is priced from US$9,195 per person, triple share. The voyage starts from Edmonton on a charter flight and ends with a charter flight to Ottawa. Charter flights cost an additional US$1,995. Air Canada flies to Edmonton. See

the Victoria Strait Expedition, a modern day search party that included Akademik Ioffe, discovered Franklin’s HMS Erebus submerged west of O’Reilly Island in Queen Maud Gulf. It was a major historic discovery and one bolstered by the discovery this September of Erebus’ sister ship, HMS Terror. Now all eyes are on the Northwest Passage and the secrets these ships may reveal. After our close encounter with the polar bears of Cunningham Bay we trail shy beluga whale pods back to the ship as the low-slung sun casts the clouds in 59

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a warm amber hue, rays of golden light occasionally penetrating the canopy with captivating effect. Cruising Bellot Strait the next morning passengers brave wicked winds on the bridge wings in search of musk oxen, ivory and herring gulls, and arctic foxes. Akademik Ioffe has an openbridge policy, allowing guests the chance to watch the Russian crew in action as we navigate this 25-kilometre, wafer-thin waterway between Somerset Island and the Boothia Peninsula, passing Zenith Point, the northernmost tip of mainland North America. After cruising Prince Regent Inlet we cross Parry Sound and reach Beechey Island, a comparatively tiny islet at the southern tip of Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island in the world. Beechey is an important destination on the itinerary; first visited by European explorers in 1819, this is where Franklin

and his crew wintered in 1845-46 before disappearing. Remnants of his camp, which was not discovered until 1851, still remain, including the three gravestones of crew who didn’t survive the harsh winter. The monuments stand alone and stark on a vast stony beachhead, a solemn reminder of the cost of Arctic exploration. Researchers believe many of Franklin’s men died from lead poisoning, either from the leadsoldered tins of provisions or from the ship’s water distillation system, although there are more macabre tails of cannibalism and treachery at the end of the earth. As the wind whips across a natural breakwater between Lancaster Sound and Wellington Channel, arctic terns gliding on the stiffening breeze, expedition leader Boris Wise cracks open a bottle of whisky and we toast to the explorers who sought to tame this lonely land so far from home. We encounter our first real ice in

Croker Bay as we follow the southern coast of Devon Island, a scene so devoid of life it’s used as a simulation of Mars by NASA. The northernmost point of our cruise, Croker Bay is home to two towering glaciers, their jagged faces pockmarked with caves that reveal a shimmering aqua blue interior. We give way to a massive herd of harp seals before cruising the Zodiacs close enough to the glaciers to hear the ice creak and groan. Katie picks up on our competitive streak and motors to our northernmost point of the journey, to a whoop from her charges. We’re rewarded when the ship’s bartenders arrive dressed as “arctic penguins” with mugs of spiked hot chocolate. The Arctic weather starts to flex its muscles that afternoon and we’re forced to view the abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police barracks at Dundas Harbour, where unlucky recruits would be

Disembarking at Low Point for a hike; harp seals (far right); Pangnirtung tapestry weaver (right)


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marooned for two years at a time, from afar. As ocean swells heave the ship to and fro, a pair of arctic wolves watch us from shore, two white dots on an expansive coffee-coloured landscape of rocky peaks. The One Ocean team takes the change in itinerary in its stride and the captain sails us into Navy Board Inlet, which is protected by the towering peaks of Baffin Island to the west, and Bylot Island to the east. On the cusp of Eclipse Sound, we land at Low Point, hiking to the top of a lichen-encrusted hill that offers brilliant views down to a grounded iceberg the size of an office block, which glistens and shimmers in the late afternoon sun. As we emerge from Pond Inlet our transit through the Northwest Passage is

at an end and we sail south down the east coast of Baffin Island, one of the most sought-after destinations in the Canadian Arctic thanks to its spectacular coastal scenery, which includes the aptly named Sunshine Fjord, where towering rock faces plummet to mirror-calm waters kissed by a surprisingly intense late summer sun. We spot rare bowhead whales as we as we cross Isabella Bay, a protected whale sanctuary, arriving in the calm waters of Cumberland Sound, where a Hudson’s Bay Company whaling station has blossomed into the picturesque Inuit settlement of Pangnirtung. It’s a fitting finish to our expedition as we share tea smoked with arctic heather with guides from the tiny hamlet. For the Inuit, who have learned to endure the

Arctic’s temperaments, the Northwest Passage is a bountiful landscape, and one they are now prepared to share with the curious world beyond.

THE VERDICT Highs: Our close encounter with polar bears in Cunningham Inlet was unforgettable Lows: Internet access is still a tricky business and the ship runs a very dated service that was a little frustrating. Best suited to: Those adventurous souls that have already cruised the Antarctic and want the ultimate Arctic encounter. 61

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CRUISE PLUS: SHORE EXCURSIONS Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai


Sure thing Viator, a TripAdvisor company, shares their top 10 shore excursion tours for cruisers bound for Southeast Asia.


ast cruising season, more than 95,000 people sailed to Southeast Asia, and many more are expected to visit the region in the 2016/17 season. Here’s what to do in these popular destinations.


A favourite stop is Indonesia, a nation known for beaches, volcanoes, Komodo Dragons and jungles. Viator offers a range of thrilling activities to keep you entertained from dawn to dusk, such as the Bali Canyon Tubing Adventure. You will be driven through tropical rainforest to the canyon, where you will jump in your inflatable raft and drift away, stopping in the middle of the canyon for an inclusive optional Flying Fox Zipline that captures 50 metres of scenic views. Round trip transport, welcome snack and drink and buffet lunch are included. From US$88 per person.


For those journeying to Singapore, Viator offers a leisurely excursion to broaden your horizons and experience the very best of the city. The Private Half Day Singapore City Tour Including Botanical Orchid Garden tour allows you to stroll the lively streets and uncover Singapore’s diverse culture alongside an experienced guide. This tour dips into Chinatown, Little India, The National Orchid Garden and the Colonial District. From US$64 per person.


Sailing north to Malaysia, if you’re lucky enough to dock overnight, you can’t look past this magical Kuala Selangor Tour from Kuala Lumpur with Fireflies Boat 62

Ride and Seafood Dinner. As the evening falls, you will step aboard a private boat and be entranced by the sunset and dazzling fireflies. After gliding through the mangroves of Kuala Selangor, your tour guide will take you through a royal burial ground to a local fishing village where you will dine on a fresh seafood dinner. From US$64.75 per person.


Experience Koh Samui from a different perspective with this exhilarating ATV Quad Safari on Koh Samui tour. Jump onto your own all-terrain quad bike and begin your off-road adventure at your

own pace. The one-hour route will lead you through enchanting grounds, across a scenic river and past coconut groves. Take the two-hour tour further into the jungle and find a hidden waterfall, fruit farms and water buffalo. From US$61.42 per person.


After cruising through the Gulf of Thailand to Bangkok, escape the busy street life and soar through the exotic rainforest on one of the longest and highest ziplines in the world. The Rainforest Canopy Zipline Adventures from Bangkok tour includes equipment for all ages, experienced guides, a

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CRUISE PLUS: SHORE EXCURSIONS delicious Thai lunch, a visit to Khao Kheow Open Zoo and transfers to/from central Bangkok in an air-conditioned coach. One of TripAdvisor’s most recommended things to do in Thailand, this adrenaline-pumping zipline course covers nearly 3 kilometres of breathtaking sights, two hanging sky bridges and two rock faces to rappel down. From US$108.39 per person.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia


In Cambodia, a fantastic shore excursion for the whole family is the Private Angkor Day Tour from Siem Reap, featuring the country’s most unique temples and the mysterious stories hidden within them. A few highlights include Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm – the original Tomb Raider temple. Your friendly guide will take care of all your entry fees and lead you into the village for lunch at an authentic restaurant. From US$81 per person.


Immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture by boat, bike and foot with this Mekong Delta Day Trip with Cooking Class and Cai Be Floating Market Tour. This full day tour takes you on a whirlwind through the rural countryside of Ho Chi Minh City. Accompanied by a friendly guide, you will take part in a traditional cooking class, satisfy your sweet tooth at the candy factory, browse the stalls at the floating markets and finish with a bike tour. From US$74.99 per person.


When cruising to Beijing, you can’t miss two of China’s most famous

attractions, the Great Wall and the sacred Ming Tombs. The Great Wall of China at Badaling and Ming Tombs Day Tour from Beijing includes transfers though the countryside in an air-conditioned minivan. Stop to absorb the sights of China’s historical landmarks before being guided thorough the iconic Longdi jade factory. Browse the local products then relax with a delicious Chinese lunch. From US$72.99 per person.


Most cruise liners will take the swift overnight trip from Beijing to Shanghai, where the Eat Like A Local: Shanghai Street Food Night Tour allows you to feast your senses on explosive flavours and wafting aromas as you stroll through

Shouning Lu – a vibrant market offering a variety of traditional specialities and dessert stalls. After being lead through the neighbourhood by your friendly guide, you will taste a selection of delicacies including stewed crawfish, grilled lamb and eggplant and wontons. From US$69 per person.


In Tokyo, one of the most popular cruise ports in the world, embark on a journey to uncover everything from city landmarks to local neighbourhoods on the Private Custom Tour: Tokyo in a Day. Your tour guide will assist you in planning your perfect itinerary before handing you entrance fees, snacks, transport and lunch. When you’re all packed, you will be on your way to explore the best of this incredible city – from fish markets and temples to local food and shopping. From US$116.76 per person.

Clockwise from left: Little India, Singapore; Ming Tomb, Beijing; Ho Chi Minh City. 63

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Picture perfect A picture really does tell a thousand words and a cruise is great opportunity to hone your photography skills. Jocelyn Pride shares some tips that will have you bringing home a swag of beautiful shots to share with family and friends.

iPhone) ken with ta , d n la (Green cruising Zodiac

Try to get a high view (Alesund, N orway)


great ice-breaker and sharing knowledge is gold, especially if you hit a snag.

■ Like a pair of good slippers – the best camera is one you’re comfortable with. A DSLR and a good zoom lens is perfect if you’re heading somewhere wildlife orientated, but it’s also heavy to lug around. Smaller compact cameras can cover most situations. And don’t underestimate the capability of the camera in your phone – they can produce drool worthy photos. Although it may sound a bit suck egg-ish, whatever camera you do choose, learn which button does what and how to change the settings before you leave home. How many people can honestly say they’ve read the manual cover to cover? Once on board look around for other guests who have the same or similar camera. Photography is a

Check out vantage points and look for things that catch your eye such as quirky signs or sumptuous furnishings. Where possible, always go on deck for scenic shots – a pretty sunset might look gorgeous through the window of the lounge, but flare and glass reflection can ruin your photo. Even if you’re on a megaship such as Harmony of the Seas, ships move and vibrations make for blurry shots. Tripods don’t cut it on board so compensate by bumping up your ISO and use your body as a tripod – widen your legs and hold the camera close to your eye with your elbows firmly against your body. Don’t rest



your camera on the rail of the ship – it moves, too. If you have a grid on your view finder, turn it on to help eliminate the number-one fault in cruise photography – a crooked horizon. Water and cameras don’t mix. Bring a dry bag and always loop your camera strap around your wrist or neck.

COVER ALL BASES Think like a pro and keep three different types of shots in mind – wide, mid and detail. The wide shot establishes a sense of place. When on shore, try to look for high shots that include the ship in situ. A mid shot brings in a sense of immediacy, such as photos of travelling companions in front of a famous landmark or playing a game on deck. Detail shots will add texture and ■

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otos make great ph Small details

Sometimes the best shots are behind you (Angkor Wat sunrise)

ge – Alaska) (Inside Passa y ad re e th at your camera Always have atmosphere to your cruise album. Look for patterns and contrasting colours. On board, things such as ropes, brass knobs, signs, lights, food, cocktails at happy hour, even the way the towels are folded in your cabin can make great photos. During excursions, think of a window box filled with flowers, the steam from a pot bubbling in a marketplace, shells on a beach, the eye of an animal. Be patient and look around. Do you really want the same picture that’s on every postcard in the gift shop? Sometimes the best shot is the opposite of what everyone else is photographing.

SNAPS AND APPS Technology is progressing faster than a camera’s shutter. If you use your phone ■

Cultural experienc es (Camb odia,take n with iP hone)

Take photos to remind you of the season (Normandy, France, tak en with iPhone)

camera, even as a back- up, apps can turn your smartphone into a DSLR (well almost). But it’s an app jungle out there, so you need to adopt the KISS strategy (Keep it Simple Sailor) and choose carefully. The pick of the bunch for cross platforms (IOS and Android) is Snapseed, which may take a while to learn but is worth the effort. Camera + is a must for iPhone users and Hydra is great for low-light situations. And if you’re into social media, VSCO can help you edit your photos so they look like they were shot on film. With millions of images uploaded every day, Facebook and Instagram are still the go-to sites for sharing photos online and Lightroom is the most accessible editing tool. And if you’re into making slide shows and video clips, check out Quik – super easy and yes, quick.

ENJOYING YOUR IMAGES There’s no better way to cope with postholiday blues than designing a printed album of your photos online. 35 mm ( is one of the most well-known and reputable photo printers in Singapore. They have more than 20 years of experience and can produce photo books or videos of footage of your holiday. Photo Books (photobooksingpore. com) is another beautiful site with a large range of designs. They ship to a number of Southeast Asian countries as well as Hong Kong and China. Fancy a pair of leggings, t-shirt, bedspread or coffee mug inspired by your cruise? Red Bubble ( is constantly thinking of new ways to turn photos into art. Open Prints ( specialises in canvases as well as banners. ■

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Are you being served?

Suddenly, it seems that every cruise line has taken white-gloved butlers from high-end hotels to the high seas. Bernadette Chua compares the services on offer.


butler used to be known as “a gentleman’s gentleman”. But despite our egalitarian world, the butler has made an amazing comeback – particularly on the high seas and rivers of Europe. Some lines have even brought the famously discreet individual in tails up to date, calling them “Genies” and dressing them in elegant but casual clothes instead of black suits and white gloves. Butlers on board lines such as Silversea, Crystal Cruises and Cunard fulfil the more traditional duties such as unpacking your luggage and shining your shoes. Other lines such as Royal Caribbean and Regent Seven Seas have taken a more modern approach, with services tailored to individual guests. Cruise Passenger takes a look at how the lines stack up.


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AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES On both Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, your butler will not only unpack and pack your luggage, but will also fetch your freshly cleaned and pressed laundry â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a complimentary service for those booked in suites. They will also arrange your spa and dining reservations as well as serve you afternoon tea on a cart that goes from suite to suite.

CRYSTAL CRUISES Passengers who book the Penthouse, Penthouse Suite or Crystal Penthouse on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony will be assigned a butler. Crystal butlers are well-trained and very much like a traditional European manservant. They will stock your suite mini-bar with your favourite refreshments and, if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t feel like venturing out of your cabin for a meal, they will serve you breakfast, lunch or dinner from the dining room or from the specialty restaurants Prego or Silk Road. Crystal River Cruises guests also have their own butlers, who offer a turndown service, will unpack and pack your bags and deliver room service 24 hours a day.

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NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE Available to guests staying in suites, Norwegian Cruise Line butlers will fetch DVDs and CDs for your viewing and listening pleasure, deliver fresh flowers, fruit, water, sodas, and stationery for you to write letters which they’ll deliver for you on embarkation and port days, and serve in-suite breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner from any menu on board, including the alternative dining venues.

■ According to the Australian Butler School: “The traditional concept of a gentleman’s gentleman has been replaced by the image of a dynamic service professional, male or female, whose remuneration reflects the breadth of service and level of responsibility entrusted to them. A butler must always be adaptable and flexible, ready to take on new responsibilities as and when his employer sees fit. He is the byword for common sense, patience and expertise.”

Here’s what the school says a butler does: Presentation of the premises to the highest standard, internally and externally Valeting all clothes including washing, ironing, minor repairs, shoe cleaning Care and maintenance of antiques, fine furniture, artwork, silver and collectables Maintenance of inventories for wine cellars, artworks and items of value

DREAM CRUISES The newly launched Asian luxury cruise line has special butlers for the Dream Palace, the VIP area on board Genting Dream. In these special suites, European-trained butlers will cater to your every whim. Like Crystal Cruises butlers, they will unpack and pack your luggage and serve you dinner, course by course, in your suite. Genting Dream offers a mixture of English- and Mandarin-speaking butlers.

Shopping and stocking of food pantry, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages Food and beverage setting and service

CUNARD Butlers have been a fixture on Cunard ships since the original Queen Mary. The famous luxury line has traditional, Englishtrained butlers who will perform duties for guests in the Queens Grill Suites, including unpacking and packing your luggage, organising spa, theatre and dinner reservations and stocking your mini-bar with your favourite beverages. Your Cunard butler will also prepare pre-dinner canapes in your cabin. 68

Balanced meal preparation for family members and small functions Organisation and supervision of formal entertaining Attendance to house guests and visitors Management, co-ordination and supervision of all trades people and casual staff Vehicle presentation, registration and maintenance Chauffeuring family members Social diary management and travel arrangements.

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SILVERSEA CRUISES Silversea offers the crème de la crème of service. All passengers on board all seven Silversea ships have a butler at their service. When guests arrive at their suite, they are welcomed by their butler who will offer a number of bathroom amenities and a choice of pillows. Your butler will then unpack your luggage and ask about your food preferences. Aside from shining your shoes and making restaurant and shore excursion reservations, your Silversea butler will also organise insuite cocktail parties as well as draw scented whirlpool baths.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN Royal Caribbean employs “Royal Genies” to look after guests in its top tier class, the Royal Class Suite on board its Oasis-class ships. Passengers in the top suites on Ovation of the Seas will have access to the Genie service. There is roughly one Genie for every three suites, along with two full-time concierges. Royal Class Suite guests receive a questionnaire about six weeks before the cruise along with a letter in which their Genie promises to be “in my lamp and at your service every afternoon”.

The questionnaire includes queries such as: What would constitute a perfect day for you? What are the three things that you and your travel companions have in common? Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you like to have dinner with? When one guest nominated the late Freddie Mercury, the Genie supplied a DVD of Queen: Live at Wembley ‘86 and a bottle of Moet et Chandon, which was mentioned in the lyrics of Queen’s first hit Killer Queen.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES The luxury cruise line offers butlers to passengers booked into a Penthouse Suite or higher. Butlers on Regent’s ships are taught to customise the cruise experience for each passenger so whether you are after a tailored shore excursion or day unwinding in the onboard spa, your Regent Seven Seas butler will be on hand to arrange it.

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The only way to tackle the city that never sleeps is to live life in the fast lane, writes Teresa Ooi.

Jin Mao Tower

Jing’an Temple

The tower in Pudong, fronting the Huangpu River, featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall. At 88 storeys, it is the third tallest building in mainland China. There is an indoor observatory and an outdoor glass walkway at the top with a panoramic view. Tickets cost $77 each.

Smack in the middle of the CBD, the Golden Peace Temple, or Jing’an, has a history stretching back more than 780 years. It was burnt down in 1972 and re-opened in 1990. Occupied by 200 Buddhist monks, it is popular with city workers looking for a bit of help from Buddha. To enter the temple, I am told to put my right foot forward first. For men, it’s left foot first. It’s Buddhism etiquette. Part of the temple is being refurbished and donations from the public have been widely sought. They are not cheap: $120 for a tile and $560 for a roof tile.

Nanjing Road

At 9pm, the shops on Shanghai’s busiest shopping street are still open. With hundreds of people walking, chatting and milling around, you can’t help but feel energised. A cool dude dressed as a 1930s Al Capone mobster poses for photographs in front of a yellow vintage Cadillac. Further down the street, people queue outside a noodle fast-food eatery. Next door, a cheap and cheerful clothing store offers lastminute bargains. This is Shanghai at its best – noisy and rowdy with loads of energy and bright neon lights. 70

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We have lunch at Din Tai Fung, the international Taiwanese noodle and dumpling chain, in the affluent shopping and dining precinct of Xintiandi. The next night, we dine at a Shanghainese restaurant called Lao Zheng Xing, a delightful place with great wooden pillars, patronised by locals. We enjoy a popular sweet braised pork dish, a favourite of Chairman Mao, an eel dish and crab meat with vegetables, washed down with Suntory beer and huang jiu, a sticky rice wine.

Silk factory

My tour includes a visit to a silk factory to see how threads are deftly extracted from silk worm cocoons, put on looms to be woven into silk pyjamas, blouses and scarfs, or teased out to make bedding including duvets for summer and winter. After a tour, the heavy sell begins and few visitors leave without buying something. I leave $130 poorer with a summer duvet compressed into a manageable size.


We venture into one of Shanghai’s famous wholesale markets where the locals shop. The place reeks of fake watches, fake Gucci, Burberry trench coats and Dolce Gabbana jackets. It’s a place that really tests your bargaining skills. I leave with a t-shirt haggled down to $12 and my guide buys a jacket and shirt at bargain-basement price. He is extremely pleased.

River cruise

An after-dark cruise shows the Bund at its best, with every building lit in neon and boats decked in coloured lights. It’s magical.

The writer was the guest of Wendy Wu Tours.

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Best of both worlds Quail eggs with broccolini mole, roast avocado and tamari; Mark Best (left)

The latest Australian chef to take to the water, Mark Best has teamed with Dream Cruises to launch the EastWest fusion Bistro aboard Genting Dream. Bernadette Chua spoke with him.


e’s one of Australia’s biggest names in food and ran a three-hat Sydney restaurant, Marque, in a cool innercity suburb in Sydney for 17 years before closing its doors in June. Now Mark Best is focusing on his Pei Modern restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as expanding his horizons at sea. Known for his innovative cuisine, which blends cultural influences from the diverse backgrounds of modern Australia, Best has partnered with the new Dream Cruises to create a specialty restaurant on board Genting Dream. The first ship for the new luxury cruise line, launched in November, will be homeported in Nansha, China and will also sail from nearby Hong Kong. It has 35 restaurants and bars on board, including Best’s Bistro, featuring Western dishes married with Asian cooking styles. Bistro will seat 219 diners and will include a 54-seat Grill as well as a Chef ’s


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Table, where guests will be able to have an intimate dinner party. Best says he will be using the highestquality ingredients from Australia, as he does at his restaurants on shore. Think Aussie beef, lamb, river fish and seafood. “Finding the produce will be interesting and obviously you don’t have providores coming through your doors on a whim as you do with a restaurant on land. But I am really looking forward to the challenge,” he says. “One thing we are going to be doing is using Australian produce. There are flights daily to Hong Kong, so we can source it from Australia and choose the best from the rest of the world. “A lot of the other fresh product will come from ports, which we will get when we pull in. Produce like seafood we will also source from these ports because it won’t keep as well if we have to fly it in from Australia.” Best says the menu will reflect an amalgamation of Western and Asian flavours. One of his biggest influences is the diverse cultural backgrounds of Sydneysiders. “For the menu, I am drawing on different multicultural aspects. Especially living in Sydney, it’s very hard to define what Australian cuisine is since we have such a diverse range of ethnicity and cultural backgrounds at home. Australians are really spoiled in terms of cultural influences that we take for granted,” he says. Traditional medicinal Chinese ingredients will also make an appearance, such as black chicken, often used to help improve vision and motor-skill development and to treat various ailments. “I love Chinese food and I travel quite a fair bit. I’m doing things that are perhaps more traditional in terms of maybe medicinal Chinese foods like the black chicken. But I’ll be using in more contemporary way of cooking. And I’ve even used these sort of influences at Marque over the years,” Best says. “It surprises people when you introduce an ingredient and change the context of it. I’ve created a dish called The Three Rivers which consists of Murray cod, with a white butter sauce from the Loire Valley, served with stir-fried potatoes, which is something I had when I travelled to the Yangtze outside of Beijing. I went to this restaurant which just stir-fried raw potato strips with chilies and Sichuan pepper.”

Credit: Petrina Tinslay, Best Kitchen Basics, Hardie Grant Books


Stir fried potatoes 4 large waxy potatoes 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 tablespoons sesame oil 4 whole dried chillies 1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into very thin slices. 2. Lay these slices flat and cut them into very fine matchstick slivers. 3. Soak for a few minutes in cold, lightlysalted water to remove excess starch. Chef Best hopes to bring the idea of fusion fine dining to the Asian market using his inspiration from Australian, French and Chinese cooking. “From a traditional standpoint of cooking, it’s quite hard to create something like that. But from a non-traditional background, there are no rules. And coming from Sydney, you can bring all of that together. It’s just about the integrity of the idea and bringing it all together. “What I enjoy about Chinese cuisine is the appreciation of texture. Flavour is almost secondary, especially with Cantonese food. I really enjoy that textural thing, which is something that I incorporated a long time ago at Marque and it really opened up my world.”


4. Season the wok, then add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl it around over a medium hot flame until hot but not smoking. 5. Add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir fry briefly until the oil is fragrant and spicy. 6. Add the potatoes, turn the heat up and stir-fry vigorously for 4-5 minutes, 7. When the potatoes are hot and cooked but still al dente, remove from the heat, stir in the remaining sesame oil and serve.

For its inaugural season, Genting Dream will sail from Nansha and Hong Kong on two-night weekend cruises and fivenight itineraries to Vietnam, visiting Danang and Hanoi (Halong Bay).

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TREATS from the EAST

From the largest Japanese bath at sea to ancient Ayurveda therapies, cruise lines are borrowing from ancient Asian practices to promote relaxation on board. Bernadette Chua reports.


ruise lines now have a plethora of spa treatments on board so you can take a cruise and disembark a brand new person – quite literally. They now offer Botox, cellulite reduction and collagen injections. But for those who prefer to relax with traditional therapies, there are herbal spa remedies, such as Thai massages, Japanese baths and shiatsu. These ancient rituals have been practiced across Asia for hundreds of years to rejuvenate and relieve ailments. Cruise Passenger set out to discover who is doing what to soothe the mind, body and soul.


Princess Cruises One of our favourite lines, Princess Cruises, revamped Diamond Princess two years ago, and part of the rejuvenation was the inclusion of the world’s largest Japanese bath at sea. Diamond Princess’ Izumi bath house emulates traditional Japanese thermal baths, or onsen. Izumi has an openair hydrotherapy pool with a pagoda-style roof. Inside, there are separate areas for men and women with cascading showers of hot water, or utaseyu, to relieve muscular aches, and the Lotus Spa, which has a

thermal suite and a number of therapies to choose from – you can be wrapped in seaweed infused with rosemary and pine.

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CRUISE PLUS: WELLNESS renewal to banish those little bags under your eyes.

Oceania Cruises Like Celebrity Cruises, Oceania has partnered with the Canyon Ranch Spa, offering Asian spa treatments such as hot-stone or Thai massage. Your therapist will use smooth, rounded basalt stones that are gently heated and used as an extension of his or her hands. The weight and heat of the stones, combined with oils, penetrates muscle tissue which induces deep relaxation without overheating your body.

MSC Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Dream Cruises On the new Genting Dream, launched in November, there are two spas – the Crystal Life Western Spa and Crystal Life Asian Spa. One of the biggest attractions in the Crystal Life Asian Spa is a reflexology centre, which is open to families. There are 100 chairs spread around a tranquil area where guests can have expert treatments from reflexologists. The spa also offers traditional Asian massages such as Balinese and Japanese shiatsu.

P&O Cruises Australia On P&O Australia’s five ships, the Elan spas offer a range of massages, facials and other therapies. One of the specialties is the Thai herbal poultice massage, which uses special herbs to promote relaxation and rejuvenation. The technique involves the herbs being wrapped in cotton and steamheated to allow the oils and aromas to be released. The poultices are then applied to pressure points on the body to ease tension.

Canyon Ranch on Celebrity Cruises has specialty Asian treatments designed to promote healing, reduce chronic pain and restore your flow of energy (chi). The treatments include reiki, a therapy designed to restore your energy flow, and acupuncture, which uses needles on your pressure points to help motion sickness, arthritis, tension headaches, tendonitis and fatigue. Canyon Ranch also offers shirodhara, a form of ayurveda therapy in which herb-infused oils are poured over your forehead and “third eye” to de-stress the mind and emotions, while forearms, hands, lower legs and feet are massaged in traditional ayurvedic style. Also on the spa menu is an ayurvedic oil massage called abhyanga, which combines touch therapy with aromatherapy.

All MSC ships offer the Aurea Spa, based on a traditional Balinese spa, and the line’s newest ship, MSC Magnifica, offers the exclusive Aurea Papaveris, a slimming and cellulite treatment using a full Clockwise from left: Aurea Spa on MSC Musica; Celebrity Cruises Canyon Ranch massage; Crystal Life Asia Spa Vitality Pool; MSC Thai massage; Oceania Cruises hot-stone massage; Diamond Princess Izumi bathhouse

body mask of poppy flowers, grape seeds and sea salt, followed by a massage. MSC Magnifica also offers an exotic Himalayan massage, which includes being rubbed with essential oils and Himalayan fossil salts. It is believed that when the salts are heated, they release ions which create a sense of peace and deep relaxation. Meanwhile, the Tian di Bamboo massage uses many aspects of Chinese medicine with healing techniques from Tibet.

Aqua Expeditions If you want to truly immerse yourself in an Asian experience, Aqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong, which sails along the Mekong River, offers a range of traditional treatments. Try the Khmer massage, which involves gentle stretching and deep kneading. The Aqua Mekong spa also offers Vietnamese aromatherapy, which incorporates local ingredients such as highland coffee or organic lemongrass. The river cruise line offers a full spa menu using local therapists who will perform holistic, restorative and energising treatments.

Norwegian Cruise Line At the Mandara Spa on board Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ships, guests can indulge in a rejuvenating Elemis Japanese Silk Booster Facial, which uses natural Asian silk protein to enhance your skin. NCL also offers the Elemis Japanese Silk Eye Zone Therapy, which uses the same proteins to oxygenate and increase cellular

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Room with a


Overlooking the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao is designed in traditional style and filled with modern comforts. Teresa Ooi checks in. What: Belmond La Residence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos. Why you’d choose it: Set on a hill above Luang Prabang, this is a quietly luxurious, all-suite hotel with balconies overlooking an expansive garden and an infinity pool. The dark teak wood floors are refreshingly cool to walk on, but they do creak – a lot! So no slipping into the bedroom after a late night out. Everyone knows what time you got back. Designed in traditional style, the 34-suite hotel has a calm, tranquil 76

ambience in keeping with the sleepy World Heritage town, the former royal capital of Laos. It is conveniently located only two kilometres from the town centre and about four kilometres from the airport. Where we stayed: Our 55-square-metre junior suite has a king-sized bed with a mosquito net, which always adds a romantic touch in the evenings when the bed is turned down. The dressing table is big enough to accommodate laptops. The bathroom has a terrazzo bath and shower,

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Clockwise from left: the 13-metre pool has mountain views; breakfast on the balcony; Mountain View Junior Suite; extensive gardens

rosewood furnishings, an espresso machine and a sitting area with a complimentary local fruit basket, which is refreshed daily. There’s a spacious balcony with table and chairs where you can have your breakfast while admiring the mountain views. Where we ate: We sat outside under the star-lit sky, candles on the table and lanterns hung from the trees and shrubs. The views of Mount Phousi in the distance were an added attraction. Phou Savanh is one of Luang Prabang’s best restaurants with an interesting choice of fusion Laotian flavours with a touch of French. We tried the banana flower salad with minced duck and Mekong perch in coconut soup with galangal and quail eggs, which were

delicious with just the right mix of Laotian spices and herbs. Breakfast at the same restaurant was always a joy. A pop-up stall offering Laotian noodle soup and a selection of fresh local fruits including the tropical chikoo, a deliciously sweet sapota fruit thought to have originated in the central American rain forests. Bread and croissants are baked fresh daily. What else can you do? We opted for a champagne sunset cruise to get a sense of Laotian tranquility on a private boat. We ended the day watching the last sun rays set from the top of Chompet hill, overlooking Luang Prabang and the Mekong River. We were served crisp, black mushroom canapes washed down with chilled champagne. It was magical. It costs US$300 for two people including champagne and return transport from hotel to the riverbank. What we did: No visit to Luang Prabang is complete without taking part in the traditional alms giving or “tak bat’’. We had to wake up at 4.30am to get ready for the 5.30am pick up. I carried a straw basket

of freshly steamed sticky rice to give to Buddhist monks in the town centre. I had to wear a white scarf over one shoulder, kneel on a bamboo mat and use my fingers to dish out the hot rice into the alms bowls of passing monks. The neat lineup of monks clad in brilliant orange robes seemed unending. I wished the rice was not so hot, but it was an uplifting experience.

THE VERDICT There’s something quietly magical about Luang Prabang which celebrated its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage site last year. The people are charmingly friendly and helpful. Service at the hotel is faultless. Laotian coffee is deliciously strong. The colourful night markets are so cheap that you feel like a heel when you bargain and beat down the price. Bookings: Our suite cost US$450 a night with breakfast. See 77

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The Pier Business Lounge


Cathay Pacific The highs and the lows Flying with Hong Kong’s carrier is a hit and miss experience for Teresa Ooi.


athay Pacific’s CX 138, the night flight leaving Sydney for Hong Kong, is one of the airline’s busiest routes, popular with Asians and Australian expatriates working in the Fragrant Harbour city. There usually isn’t a single seat to be had in any of the three classes, business, premium economy or economy on the Boeing 777-300ER. Thankfully, I had been upgraded to premium economy and sat by the emergency exit in seat 30C. My neighbor was a pleasant Australian landscape horticulturalist who was on her way to Europe.


There are 32 premium economy seats – four rows deep and eight seats across in the format 2-4-2. At 19.5 centimetres across, the seats are one centimetre wider than in economy and 1.5 centimetre narrower than in business. But it’s difficult to push the seat into recline or to raise the footrest without the help of the steward. But that’s a small gripe considering I was greeted with a proper glass of chilled French champagne. When my neighbor asked for a second glass, she was dutifully served after we took off. The choices for dinner were grilled chicken breast with cous cous salad, soy braised pork with vegetables, or garlic herb chicken with potatoes, zucchini in tomato basil sauce.

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CRUISE PLUS: AIRLINES I decided to sleep instead of eating, a wise move according to my neighbour, who described her chicken dinner as “ordinary”. Her choice of cheese omelette for breakfast also missed the mark slightly, though the stir fried beef noodles in black bean sauce were far more appetising – another reminder that when flying an Asian airline, eating local is usually a good move. The service could have been more attentive. On this particular flight, the air stewardess seem to be harried, and disappeared when dinner was over, only reappearing when you pressed the service button. A toiletry bag of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and eye-mask was standard fare. We landed in Hong Kong on schedule at 5.15 am and I was looking forward to stretching my legs and having a decent cup of coffee and some dumpling noodles at Cathay’s business class lounge The Pier. It did not disappoint. The extensive area, shaped like an aerodrome, has big windows overlooking the tarmac. Cathay’s bespoke Solo chairs with reading lamp and a side table offer a modicum of privacy and allow you to recharge your computer or phone. There was a decent coffee bar, a tea specialist, lots of magazines and newspapers on the reading rack and when the noodle bar opened at 7 am, a queue of hungry passengers quickly built up. The delicious, hot broth set me up for my next leg of my journey to Chongqing with Cathay’s subsidiary airline Cathay Dragon. My return journey was more eventful. My flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong on Cathay Dragon KA 875 was delayed for two hours because the Chinese Air Force was undergoing a training exercise nearby. Every commercial flight out of Shanghai was grounded. By the time we arrived in Hong Kong to connect with Cathay Pacific CX 161 for Sydney, we had to run from Gate 29 to 69. No official could explain why we couldn’t just take a buggy instead. Panting, we all arrived just in time as the other passengers were boarding the flight. We made it, but our bags did not – that’s another story. The Airbus A330-300 was a more comfortable plane. I was upgraded to Premium Economy again and sat in seat 31C, but this time my neighbour had a mask on and was suffering from a cough and running nose. I asked to change my seat but it was a full flight. All the cabin

Premium Economy

Clockwise from top: premium economy seats are wider than economy seats; entertainment console; dinner

‘The night flight leaving Sydney for Hong Kong is one of the airline’s busiest routes’ crew could offer me was a staff seat in economy at the back of the plane – or a mask. I had no choice but to hope that whatever my neighbour was suffering from wasn’t too contagious. Service on this flight was much more affable and my dinner of pan fried salmon with spinach, carrots and potatoes was fine. Other choices included crispy Angus shortribs or a vegetarian mushroom agnolotti (pasta) with black truffle. The breakfast dim sum of siu mai har gow and chicken glutinous rice was a winner. When we landed in Sydney, we discovered that, thanks to the Chinese Air Force, our bags hadn’t made the flight. However, we were promised that they would be delivered to our home the next day, and indeed they were. Would I travel by Cathay Pacific again? Yes, I would, but preferably on an Airbus A330-300.

THE VERDICT Seats: Comfortable. Some difficulty in putting the seat in recline and raising the foot rest. Meals: Salmon dinner and dim sum breakfast were yummy on the journey back from Hong Kong. Amenities: Standard fare with toothbrush, toothpaste and eye-mask. Cabin Crew: Attentive service on return flight home. Overall: Access to the business class Pier lounge in Hong Kong is a great incentive to travel by Cathay’s Premium Economy.

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Port Report Cruise&Travel Asia takes a look at some of Asia’s ports with tips on what to see and do, and the cruise lines that will take you there. HO CHI MINH CITY ■ Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a huge city with chaotic traffic, yet it retains a definite kind of elegance. Local food features fresh herbs, lots of spice and a finesse that shows off the combination of Asian and French cultures. The locally grown coffee, drunk with condensed milk, is a must have. Pair it with the famous banh mi – a Vietnamese sandwich of pork or chicken with coriander, spring onion, pickled carrot and onion and chilli in a French baguette. It’s delicious and light and one of the specialties of the city. Take a cooking class, be fitted for a stylish silk dress or shirt, and spend time in the


massive Ben Thanh market where you can haggle for bargains. Also visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda temple, the history-making Reunification Palace with its basement war rooms and tunnels, the French 19th century Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica and the sobering War Remnants Museum. Within reach of the city, the Cu Chi Tunnels, constructed and used by the Viet Cong in the war, are open to tourists to squeeze through. Alternatively, a tour of the Mekong Delta lets visitors see where the city’s food comes from – the fishing nets, small boats, fish farms and market gardens. The city is best for families, food lovers, bargain hunters, shoppers.

Getting around Saigon from your cruise ship is easy. Small and mid-size ships can cruise up the Saigon River to Saigon Port, three piers in the centre of town. Ships are not assigned a pier until 24 hours prior to arrival. Trishaws and taxis are readily available. Larger ships dock at Phu My, a commercial port on the South China Sea, a 90-minute drive from the city. There are shuttle buses and taxis available. Who goes there: Ama Waterways, Avalon Waterways, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Ponant, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Uniworld, Viking River Cruises, Windstar Cruises.

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PORT KELANG ■ Port Kelang, where your cruise ship will be

docking, is some distance from Malaysia’s sleek and cosmopolitan capital city Kuala Lumpur, also known as KL. There, you can take the lift to the observation deck of the iconic twin 88-storey Petronas Towers, although best city views are from Menara KL, the telecommunications tower in Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. In the stunning collection of commercial buildings (KLCC) around the twin towers is a plethora of high end shopping, dining and entertainment options. Thirty minutes out of town you’ll find the Batu Caves, with steep steps to the caverns and Hindu shrines, and plenty of cheeky monkeys. If you like food, visit the Pudu wet market, Little India or Chinatown, the latter of which offers plenty to do and see. The highlights of Chinatown include the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple and the Petaling Street flea market. Also in Chinatown is the Madras Lane Hawkers, where you can get different types of yong tau fu (vegetables

stuffed with tofu and a fish and pork paste). Don’t miss the bak kut the, which is a pork and medicinal herbs stew, and the delicious curry laksa. Nature-lovers should go to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, fans of Indian cuisine and art can head to Brickfields, or for a religious experience visit Masjid Mosque. Also visit the Islamic Arts Museum for an amazing collection of textiles, carpets, jewellery and calligraphy-inscribed pottery. The building itself is stunning and the dome is beautifully decorated with glazed tile work, and there’s a great Middle Eastern restaurant inside. Kuala Lumpur is best for families, food lovers and shoppers. Port Kelang is located about 50 kilometres from the city centre and 65 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Taxis are available from the terminal, but there are a limited number. There is no public transport from the port. Who goes there: Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Windstar Cruises.

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For back-to-nature types, the fun starts when the captain gives the orders to strip off. Words Peter Lynch


or Cunard, its all about black-tie formal nights. For Windstar, it’s “casual elegance”. For Silversea, the truly casual options are limited to in-room dining. And everyone rules out faded jeans, tank tops and baseball caps. In an industry famed for its proscriptive dress codes, it’s surprising that the newest fad in themed cruising doesn’t seem to have one – hop aboard a naturist cruise, and the dress code is, well, no clothes at all. There are “clothing optional” cruises, but who wants to stand around in a tux when everyone else is having so much fun? “Our mission is to provide relaxing, entertaining and health-conscious vacation opportunities that offer non-threatening, natural environments where the appreciation, wonder and compatibility of nature and the unadorned human form can occur,” says cruise and travel company Bare Necessities, which offers a number of naturist cruise options. And travel company Islands reassures in its review of nude cruising: “You’d think showing it all, or even some of it, would expose what your inner critic calls your ‘problem areas’ – and that this might make you feel unattractive. “Give yourself about two hours and you’ll find the opposite. Clothes are evil. You wouldn’t have a muffin top if it weren’t for jeans. Lose the bra and say goodbye to back bulges. Why do you think artists prefer painting their subjects au naturel?” At the beginning of 2013, Carnival Freedom hosted the largest nude cruise with 3,000 unclad passengers. The Big Nude Boat cruise departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and, once the vessel crossed into international

‘Passengers ask questions like, “Where do you keep your keys?”’ waters, the captain announced that all 3,000 passengers were allowed to strip. What happened next has gone unrecorded. Suffice to say that Bare Necessities is not the only major line to cater to a growing demand for the ultimate in shipboard freedom. Celebrity and Star Clippers also offer nude cruising, and Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa has a clothing-optional deck. Here’s some advice from the Islands website in a blog titled “Dare to go bare”: 82

The Undress

“Most new passengers are titillated by the idea of a nude resort or a nude cruise, but I tell them quite plainly that it’s not what they think. It’s not a sexual experience, it’s a sensual experience. “It’s the caress of an ocean breeze on bare skin, cool water cascading over your body, and no wet bathing suits to mess with. It’s also about freedom - the freedom from binding clothes and the freedom to meet people without any barriers. Meeting people in a nude setting is a great social leveller, and everyone instantly has something in common – the desire to enjoy nature and new experiences in their natural state. “Passengers also ask questions like, ‘What do you pack in a suitcase for a nude cruise?’ and ‘Where do you keep your keys?’ and the answers are simple: costumes for theme nights, and on a lanyard around your neck.” If sharing a ship with 2,999 nudists is too much exposure for your liking, there are boutique cruise options. The crew at Saltyboys offer a choice of clothing optional and au naturel cruises.


They sail around Turkey, Greece, Croatia, France, Brazil, the Seychelles, the Caribbean and Thailand, and plan to start sailing in Australia’s Whitsundays next year. Saltyboys skipper, managing director and head nudist Jan-Willem van der Klooster told Cruise&Travel Asia his company organises 24 cruises a year and demand is growing. If Jan-Willem wore trousers, you could say he had nine years of nude cruising experience under his belt. “Apart from some practical rules for onboard life, there are no black-and-white rules. The main thing is to behave in a way that everyone is relaxed with,” he says. But Jan-Willem said all cruisers, clothed or not, are expected to help out with the sailing of the ship as it is one of the best bonding activities for the crew and passengers. He also has some advice for first-timers: “Make sure you have a towel handy.”

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Cruise&Travel Asia - Issue 3  

Cruise&Travel Asia is the only magazine devoted to sea vacations and river holidays in Asia. It contains reviews, news and features on cruis...

Cruise&Travel Asia - Issue 3  

Cruise&Travel Asia is the only magazine devoted to sea vacations and river holidays in Asia. It contains reviews, news and features on cruis...