Stop dreaming and book a cruise……..

So the long, hot summer is truly over and winter is almost here.

While some people will be planning their winter ski holidays and relishing the thought of crisp cold mornings and roaring log fires, those who hate the cold will be dreaming of their next summer holiday – which seems impossibly far away…..

But its not so far away if you book a cruise holiday where you can holiday in the heartland of the USA, the South Pacific, the Mediterranean, even on one of the many European river cruises in the northern hemisphere summer.

Just to whet the appetite, here’s a reminder of some of the cruise lines and holidays on offer.

Celebrity Cruises sail all over the world on a fleet of ships, ranging from the intrepid 98-passenger Celebrity Xpedition, cruising to the Galapagos Islands, to the 2,800-passenger mega Solstice-class ships. The latest Celebrity cruise liner, Celebrity Reflection, has a real life lawn on its top deck, an Aqua Spa, The Alcoves, a cabana-style retreat and an Art Studio where you can get instruction in painting, drawing, beading and mixology.

If you fancy going back in time, go cruising down the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers with the American Queen Steamboat Company. The 432-passenger paddle steamer is a replica of the old paddle steamers you’d picture in Mark Twain’s era and is the largest paddle steamer sailing on the rivers.

Themed cruises are on offer, such as the Baseball Legends cruise, the Fall Foliage cruises, Civil War cruises and the Good Old Summertime cruises.

But if you like to feel the wind in your hair and experience the sort of exhilaration you only get on a yacht, then you might want to try Windstar Cruises. The five plus star tall-masted sailing ships include the 310-passenger Wind Surf and the 148-passenger Wind Spirit and Wind Star.

They specialize in off-the-beaten-track itineraries and recently completed a US$18 million renovation of all their ships.

On each ship, if you’re feeling active you can try out windsurfing, sailing and other water sports, or if you prefer to relax, you can unwind with a spa treatment.

If you want something a little larger, with a more family-friendly vibe, then you can’t go wrong with Royal Caribbean International whose latest ship, Quantum of the Seas, leads the way in the cruise ship world with all the latest (and some one-and-only) innovations and facilities.

Rock climbing walls and ice rinks are on many of the line’s ships, while on the 5,400 passenger Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas there are FlowRider wave simulators for surfing, inward facing balcony cabins and the outdoor Oceanside Aqua Theatre.

These two ships are so large they boast ‘neighbourhoods’, such as Central Park, (with live trees and plants), the Royal Promenade, and the Youth Zone, the largest children’s play area at sea.

As well as its worldwide cruise itineraries, Royal Caribbean prides itself on its land tour packages which are fully escorted, with planned activities, great hotel locations and comfortable transport.

The cruise line offers these packages in Alaska, and Western Canada, Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

Riverboat cruising is one of the fastest rowing areas in the cruising world, particularly along many of the northern European rivers during the European summer months.

Viking River Cruises is one of the main river cruise companies around with 14 long-ships, 10 of them brand-new and only christened last month.

Here is just a taster of some of their varied itineraries:

Danube Waltz – an eight-day cruise between Budapest and Munich with stops in Bratislavia, Vienna and Salzburg.

Tulips and Windmills – a ten-day round-trip cruise from Amsterdam with visits to Antwerp, Brugge and the Keukenhof Gardens.

Treasures of Southern France – a 14-day cruise along the scenic Saône and Rhône Rivers through the famed region of Burgundy and the lavender fields of Provence.

Waterways of the Czars – a 13-day round-trip Moscow to St Petersburg cruise includes multiple days in both cities, touring such landmarks as Moscow’s Kremlin and Red Square, and Catherine’s Palace and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Magnificent Mekong – a 15-day round-trip Hanoi to Hi Chi Minh City cruise along the Mekong River.  Visit ancient Khmer monuments at Angkor Wat and the elegant French colonial capital of Phnom Penh in Cambodia; and in Vietnam, visit the floating markets of the Mekong delta, experience the intimate charm of Hanoi’s old city and tour dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

Jewels of China – a 12-day round-trip Beijing to Shanghai cruising down  the Yangtze between Wuhan and Chongqing, through the scenic Three Gorges and Lesser Gorges. You will also tour the Three Gorges Dam, visit Xian and the Terra Cotta Warriors. In Beijing, you can explore The Forbidden City, Great Wall and Summer Palace, and walk through Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public venue.

Each 190-passenger ship is designed to offer guests maximum views, either in cabins or public areas, of the cities and countryside they are passing through.

The six-star Regent Seven Seas Cruises is definitely worth looking at too.

Regent’s cruises are all-inclusive, meaning you pay for everything, shore excursions, alcohol, room service, upfront. Their ships range from the 700-guest Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner to the smaller and more intimate 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator.


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