In the past decade, cruise lines have significantly upped the ante to compete for new guests in all manner of ways, from improving their ships’ dining options, to adding innovative facilities and attractions such as Regal Princess’s SeaWalk, and Quantum of the Seas’ North Star Capsule. Many cruise lines have also come to recognise that not everyone just wants to kick back on holiday; for some, it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, or have a more enriching cruising experience. So, what are your options?
River cruises offer intense cultural experiences which are quite different from the cruising norm. Take the Danube River cruise for instance, as Europe’s second longest river, it rises in Germany, and travels through, or skirts around, 10 other countries including Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia, before becoming a delta in Romania, and emptying into the Black Sea. A cruise of this mighty river is a glimpse into Europe’s turbulent history, as well as an opportunity to visit great cities which were virtually closed off to the West for many years. Key ports of call include the Bavarian city of Regensburg, with its medieval centre that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as Passau, also called the ‘City of Three Rivers’. Not to forget stops in Vienna, Austria’s capital, and Budapest, the capital of Hungary famous for Buda Castle and Andrássy Avenue.
High seas cruising
You will also discover plenty of cultural cruising on the high seas, and in many varied regions. Europe is again a good example, with a typical Baltic cruise visiting historic ports of call including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Stockholm. There’s also the Mediterranean, with cruises in the Eastern sector enjoying the history of countries such as Turkey and Greece with its many and varied islands. While in the West, popular and historic ports of call include Barcelona, Venice, Monte Carlo and Dubrovnik. Further afield there are plenty of cultural pursuits to be enjoyed, such as in the Middle East which includes Oman and the United Arab Emirates. And in Asia a cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong offers you the chance to explore the art, history, religion and cuisine from countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China.
Themes and enrichment
A themed cruise is a great way to be very specific about your reasons for cruising, including cultural pursuits. These days there are plenty of options to choose from, whether your key interest is history, sport, music or cuisine. You can also pick a cruise line with a focus on enrichment. Some have particularly engaging programs on offer, with a lineup of presentations, lectures and guest speakers to help steer you through topics such as politics, history and religion. Good examples of intensive programs include Cunard Insights, CelebrityLife, Crystal Cruises’ Creative Learning Institute and Holland America Line’s Explorations.
You can also cruise a popular region in a more cultural way. Instead of opting to cruise Alaska on a big ship with big ship facilities, and itineraries including the popular ports of call such as Juneau and Ketchikan, why not consider an expedition cruise line such as Aurora Expeditions or Lindblad? Your ship will venture into more remote and difficult to access areas that bigger ships can’t reach, and you may have alternative activities on offer, such as hiking with a wildlife photographer, or kayaking with a marine biologist. You can also choose to cruise with a line which focuses entirely on cultural cruising, such as Voyages to Antiquity. The Aegean Odyssey only cruises ancient civilisations, exploring the cultures of the Mediterranean, Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and includes shore excursions, lecture programs and more.
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