AT THE beginning of a new year, it's popular for many to make well-intentioned resolutions while looking forward to the next 12 months. In the world of cruising, 2013 is set to be a big year, for many reasons. So what are the new trends?
One is more kids' facilities on the high seas. With under-18s travelling free of charge, MSC Cruises offers more than just family affordability. Its new flagship, Preziosa, which will launch in late March, will have two attractions especially for junior cruisers. Doremi Castle Aqua Park is a pathway of water features on raised platforms, including sprays, fountains, a drenching bucket and more; while Vertigo is the line's longest waterslide to date.
Flip the coin, however, and there's also a trend towards more adult-only offerings. Although well known for family cruising, Princess Cruises' new Royal Princess, making its debut in June, will have two havens exclusively for grown-ups. In a first for the line, two of its signature features, the Sanctuary and the adults-only Retreat Pool, will also sport private cabanas, which guests will be able to rent for relaxing in peace.
Itineraries are changing, with more short sampler cruises being offered by lines such as P&O, Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
Later, a traditional voyage may be set for a renaissance. Based in Britain, a firm called Project Orient plans to offer regular passenger services from Southampton to Sydney, starting in 2016.
Finally, bigger ships are on the cards. Ahead of Costa Cruises' Diadema, to launch in 2014 with more than 4900 guests, and Royal Caribbean's plan to welcome a third 5200-guest Oasis-class ship into its fleet in 2015, Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway, launching in May in New York, will be 144,017 tonnes, have 18 decks, and carry 4000 guests at double occupancy.
Package of the week
If you missed out on Ecruising's 2013 Monaco Grand Prix package, you can book for next year instead. This special 10-night tour departs from Australia on May 16, 2014, beginning with a flight to Dubai and a three-night stay at Raffles Hotel. After continuing to Nice, you will transfer by private helicopter to Monaco for three nights at the Fairmont Hotel over the Grand Prix weekend, then join Azamara Quest for a four-night round-trip cruise from Nice visiting St Tropez and Portofino. Priced from $6799 a person, twin share if booked by April 2. 1300 369 848, ecruising.travel.
Inner Sea Discoveries/American Safari Cruises has officially changed its name to Un-Cruise Adventures. With seven vessels in its fleet, it's also venturing to Hawaii for a new season in November; the 76-guest Wilderness Explorer will operate weeklong cruises between Oahu and the Big Island.
Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas has emerged from three weeks in dry dock in Spain. The multimillion-dollar refurbishment has added new dining options, including the Izumi Asian Cuisine and Italian Giovanni's Table, a revitalised Centrum, and a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery.
Cunard has announced an esteemed list of speakers for its 2013 Insights program. They include the former formula one driver Sir Jackie Stewart, the producer of the Human Planet BBC documentary series, Dale Templar, and the "Queen of Cakes" and author, Jane Asher.
Shipshape: Celebrity Millenium
LAUNCHED 2000 PASSENGERS 2138 REGULAR HAUNTS Alaska, Asia, Australasia, Hawaii BEST FOR Couples, families THE DETAILS A seven-night northbound cruise from Vancouver to Seward, departing on August 30, is priced from $899 a person, twin share. 1800 754 500, celebritycruises.com.au.
Need to know
1. When the Millennium was launched, it was the first of a new class for Celebrity and the line's new flagship. Among its design innovations were glass elevators, more outdoor space and a decor of soft hues.
2. It was "Solsticised" in May 2012, however, with new features added to its line-up from the popular Solstice-class ships, including additional specialty dining venues, a Celebrity iLounge and AquaClass staterooms.
3. Seventy-nine per cent of the cabins have ocean views, 57 per cent have private balconies, more than 900 accommodate three or four guests, and 165 are connecting. All were upgraded in the refurbishment with new decor.
4. Of Millennium's nine dining venues, new to the line-up is the whimsical, one-of-a-kind specialty restaurant Qsine, which draws inspiration from cuisines of the world, and Blu, a Mediterranean spa-themed restaurant offered exclusively to AquaClass guests.
5. The ship's other alluring facilities include a lavish AquaSpa, a Cellar Masters wine bar, the Martini & Crush bar, a basketball court, kids' clubs, a Michael's Club and two pools, including the indoor Solarium for adults only.
Port watch — Porbandar, India
Need to know By the Arabian Sea and in the north-western state of Gujarat, Porbandar is the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. Blessed with a long history, it has impressive architecture and a rich landscape featuring beaches, lakes, valleys and grasslands. Ships dock near the centre of town, making exploring on foot easy.
Do not miss Top of your list of places to visit should be Gandhi's home, Kirti Mandir, which is now a memorial museum. Other sites include the Darbargadh and Huzoor palaces, the public library and Sudama Temple, a key Hindu site. Save time to stroll along the beach and watch the flamingoes and seabirds, and to shop for souvenirs, including gold, silver, silk and cotton. The pick of the excursions further afield include a visit to Bileshwar, about 15 kilometres east of Porbandar and with Siva temples dating to the early 7th century, and the ancient city of Gop.
Does it matter if you book a cabin on the port or starboard side of a ship?
- O. Gobi, Allambie Heights.
When you face forward on a ship, the port side is on the left and starboard is on the right. Many people think this determines how a ship berths, assuming the port side always faces the dock, but this isn't always true. If your itinerary has ports where the ship anchors off shore, being port side or starboard doesn't really matter. The only time it might be significant is when you're cruising close to shore. If you're heading north and are on the port side with land to your right, for example, your view will be all ocean.
Offer of the week
Royal Caribbean Save up to $1000 a person on more than 40 cruises from Australia and receive a shipboard credit of up to $US400 ($380) on cruises in Europe and the Caribbean in an early-bird sale. 1800 754 500, www.royalcaribbean.com.au.
APT Fly business-class return for $3995 when you book a category C or higher suite on a Russian river cruise in May and June. Priced from $8690 a person, twin share, for a July 4 departure, it includes an 11-night cruise on MS AmaKatarina from St Petersburg to Moscow, and a one-night stay in Moscow. Book by February 28. 1300 278 278, aptouring.com.au.
Captain Cook Book a seven-night Yasawa or Discovery cruise in Fiji on MV Reef Endeavour by February 28 and get three nights free. There are various departures between February and December, priced from $1922 a person, twin share. 1300 863 454, captaincook.com.fj.
Cruiseco Special fares are available for an 18-night cruise from Dubai to Rome on Seabourn Odyssey. It departs on April 10 and is priced from $8490 a person, twin share, including flights and two-night stays in Dubai and Rome. Upgrade to business class for an additional $5880 a person. (02) 9492 8520, (02) 9492 8506, cruising.com.au.