By Victor Block
Several people watch a master baker demonstrate making pastries; participate in a chocolate, cheese and wine tasting; and enjoy a food-and-wine pairing gourmet dinner. Golfers play at some of the most famous courses around the world before attending a tournament that brings together the top professionals. Music fans of tunes that were popular during the 1970s swing and sway to the rhythms, then have an opportunity to mingle with singers and members of the bands that made them hits.
These people are enjoying some of their favorite pastimes while taking an ocean or river cruise. In addition to traditional vacations at sea and along major rivers around the world, some sailings focus upon a variety of interests.
Whatever hobby, pursuit or pastime you enjoy, it’s possible there’s a voyage that will let you combine it with the pleasures of cruising. From food to the latest fashions, music to mystery, the offerings are as varied as the destinations included on ship itineraries.
An internet search for cruises that interest you may turn up several possibilities. While cruise lines are gradually beginning to return to normal services, it’s necessary to check what sailings are being offered and what coronavirus protocols they have in place.
Food aficionados long have looked to Avalon Waterways to meet their longing for haute cuisine. And what could be more “haute” than combining a voyage through the lush French landscapes of Burgundy and Provence with gourmet meals? These food-and-wine trips merge cuisine and culture to offer a memorable experience.
For golfers, from duffers to low-handicap players, Azamara Club Cruises is a good place to start. It has a well-deserved reputation for tours to some of the best-known and most beautiful courses around the world. Their packages include everything from experienced caddies to convenient transportation to the links. Another plus is onboard opportunities to compare experiences and tips with other golf aficionados.
Golf swings are supplanted by swing and sway at a ’70s Rock and Romance Cruise scheduled to connect Miami with the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten and St. Thomas in February. A long list of performers includes the popular band The Guess Who and singer-song writer-actress Melissa Manchester, plus a long list of others. Onboard activities will range from a disco party and costume ball to question-and-answer sessions with the musicians.
Where there’s music there often is dancing, and that’s true on Holland America’s “Dancing With the Stars” voyages. Champions from the popular TV series join passengers in competing for the colorfully named Mirrorball Trophy. Those who feel they’re not quite ready to don dancing shoes with experts may join a complimentary onboard class to learn the same routines that have been performed on the hit show.
Hands-on workshops also are part of Transatlantic Fashion Week, which since 2016 has been a feature of Cunard Line’s voyage calendar. Designers, milliners, models and others present a series of talks, question-and-answer sessions, catwalk shows and events aboard the Queen Mary 2 that celebrate style against the backdrop of an iconic ocean liner.
Those to whom high fashion is inscrutable may prefer a cruise where the focus is on not knowing where you’ll be going. Passengers who book a Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise have no idea where the itinerary will take them, although of course the ship’s captain knows. Sometimes passengers have the option of voting on which of two possible destinations they prefer to visit.
The likes of Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet join passengers on Avalon Waterways Art and Impressionist river sailings, at least in terms of places they depicted in their works. The artists come alive as you sail through the French countryside and visit their homes and the scenes they made famous in their paintings. Fans of Monet will recognize his house at Giverny and the lush gardens that surround it.
History and heritage are among themes explored during other Avalon sailings. World War II in Europe is the focus of cruises led by a knowledgeable expert on the subject of the amphibious landing on the beaches of Normandy and stories of the Allied forces that drove the Germans out of France and other occupied countries.
Some of Avalon’s Danube River cruises explore Jewish heritage stories and sites. Among highlights are a visit to the world’s second largest synagogue in Budapest and Prague’s Jewish Museum and cemetery.
The themes of other special-interest cruises range from bird-watching (www.oceanwideexpeditions.com) to beer (www.crystalcruises.com) and from literature (www.cunard.com) to crafts such as knitting and needlepoint (www.craftcruises.com).
Along with the subjects they emphasize, theme cruises differ in other ways, as well. Some take over an entire ship while others have a group join a regular itinerary. In addition to the opportunity to enjoy a favorite activity, benefits include meeting with people who share an interest and input from experts in the topic or activity.
At this time of restrictions on the cruise industry, it’s necessary to check if and when a theme cruise in which you may be interested will sail. Check out websites of individual cruise lines or www.sixthman.net, which is a clearinghouse for special-interest shipboard experiences.
WHEN YOU GO
Fans of Impressionism visit the home of Claude Monet in Giverny, France. Photo courtesy of Mickem/Dreamstime.com.
(SETIMAGE2) tad112021bdAP.jpg”thumbnail”> Music is the focus of some themed cruises. Photo courtesy of Tony Bosse/Dreamstime.com.
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Passengers on fashion-themed cruises get to meet designers and attend a showing of new designs. Photo courtesy of Martinkay78/Dreamstime.com.