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Like a good book, the cruise itineraries we’ve rounded up below are definite page-turners, and getting to the final chapter is always bittersweet.

Banquet at Sea
Oceania Cruises, known for its might in the culinary world, will be welcoming culinary enthusiasts on board the Marina during a Jacques Pepin-hosted cruise. The 10-day Regal Routes itinerary, departing from London June 2, will be hosted by Pepin, who has served as Oceania Cruises’ executive culinary director since the line’s inception. There will be specially designed signature menus, lectures, and culinary demonstrations as the ship sails toward Copenhagen, stopping along the way at 10 ports of call in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. It’s a great opportunity, the line says, for cruisers to interact and converse with team members and executives, as well as participate in behind-the-scenes experiences that are not typically offered on other itineraries.

So who do you reach out to for this very niche cruise experience? According to Peggy Rosenthal, franchise owner with Dream Vacations A CruiseOne Company, “clients who enjoy dining out on land are certainly going to look for a culinary fix when cruising.” She adds, too, that Oceania offers some of the best cuisine at sea. Rates start at $2,149 pp.

Princess Cruises offers an array of itineraries in Japan.
Princess Cruises offers an array of itineraries in Japan.

Havana Calling
You’ve heard all the reports—everyone’s headed to Cuba, but for clients who want to see the island’s capital, Havana, in a more intimate space recommend a cruise on Azamara Club Cruises’ 690-guest Azamara Quest. The luxury ship will depart Miami on March 21 for the 12-night Hemingway Hideaways Voyage that includes a stop in Havana. “The new voyage,” says Larry Pimentel, Azamara Club Cruises’ president and CEO, “provides guests an overnight stay in Havana going above and beyond just a stop in port and offers a meaningful and engaging interaction with local Cuban residents.”

As part of the line’s Land Discovery offerings, guests will have a selection of experiences to choose from while in Havana, including exploring the literary connections between Cuba and novelist Ernest Hemingway on a 4-hour tour that offers the chance to see where he lived, fished, dined and sipped his favorite cocktails. There’s also an Old Havana City Sightseeing tour during which cruisers will view fortresses, government buildings, historic squares, cemeteries and an artisan market. The port of call includes overnight time, so guests can have a more in-depth experience. The remaining portion of the itinerary includes stops in Key West, Tampa, New Orleans and Cozumel. Rates start at $3,849.

Cruising Japan
Princess Cruises wants you to think about selling cruising to Japan. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of selling a Japan vacation, but dig a little and you’ll find that a cruise around Japan actually offers an out-of-the-box experience for many travelers. They’ll have a chance to discover Taketomi Island, the site of a traditional Ryukyu village still preserved just off the shore of Ishigaki; they’ll explore Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, where a variety of whales make their home; they’ll have the opportunity to grab a wicker basket and head to the fields for a hands-on tea-picking adventure in the countryside of Shimizu; and even take in the spectacular Awa Odori Dance Festival in Tokushima.

In fact, many of Princess’ itineraries focus on local festivals. Take the 9-day Hokkaido with Nebuta Festival itinerary, roundtrip from Tokyo, that stops in Kushiro, Korsakov (Russia), Otaru, Hakodate, and Aomori, with late nights in the last two ports of call. In Aomori, passengers experience the summertime Nebuta Festival, with impressive colorful floats parading through the streets. Departure is July 26. The 9-day Spring Florida Festivals itinerary pays homage to the cherry blossom festivals in Aomori and Akita, and takes a detour over to South Korea to get a look at the Tonami Tulip Festival in Toyama. Departure date is April 20.

For clients who might not be able to get away on one of the festival-focused itineraries (although we highly recommend these), but do have more time on their hands, recommend the 14-day Ryukyu Islands, Kyushu & Shikoku itinerary. It’s roundtrip from Kobe and cruises to Okinawa, Ishigaki, Taipei (Taiwan), Busan (South Korea), Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Kochi, and Tokushima. Departure is May 13.

The Holy Land
Crystal Cruises’ 2017 President’s Cruise is set for a Nov. 4 departure from Rome to Dubai and will mark the return of the cruise line’s ocean ships to the Holy Land, the last voyage being in 2012. The Holy Land & Suez Canal itinerary will sail on board the Crystal Symphony throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and will include calls to Limassol, Cyprus; Haifa and Ashdod, Israel; a transit of the Suez Canal; Aqaba, Jordan; and Salalah and Muscat, Oman. The 18-day sailing will be hosted by the cruise line’s chairman, president and CEO Edie Rodriguez, who will join guests for festive receptions and parties, as well as specially planned shore experiences, including a visit to the Rose City of Petra. As part of the fun, there will be rock climbing excursions and Indian Ocean scuba dives in Salalah, as well as sky tea at the Burj Al Arab and sunset at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Rates start at $4,750 pp.

I’ve been to Israel many times and always love returning. For several years, Jordan has been one of my top destinations to visit, and I’m thrilled that we are able to visit as part of the President’s Cruise.
—Edie Rodriguez, Chairman, President, and CEO of Crystal Cruises

I wish November was already here, as I am incredibly excited to experience the Holy Land and a new adventure in Jordan with our Crystal guests.

Ancient Treasures
This year is a big one for Viking, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary and is set to double its ocean fleet to four 930-passenger sister ships by the end of the year.

Additionally, it has announced 13 new ocean cruise itineraries in Alaska, Australia, Asia and the Caribbean that will roll out in 2017, 2018 and 2019. For clients who are looking to journey to exotic destinations next year, Viking is sailing on a Passage to India itinerary on the Viking Spirit on Aug. 18, 2018. The Spirit will start its 21-day journey in Athens and as it makes its way to Mumbai it will stop at ports of call in six countries, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Oman. There’ll be the opportunity to hang with local guides as they take passengers to see ancient treasures, visit Petra and view the Great Pyramids and Sphinx in Cairo. According to a company spokesperson, the focus of a Viking ocean cruise is to showcase the “local history and culture.” Rates start at $5,999 pp.

Round the World
MSC Cruises is going on its first-ever World Cruise. Slated for a Jan. 5, 2019 departure and returning May 3, 2019, the 119-day World Cruise aboard the MSC Magnifica will go roundtrip from/to Genoa and cross six continents and 49 unique destinations in 32 countries. Shore excursions are dripping with indulgence, whether that means riding elephants in Pinnawala, snorkeling in the lagoons of Moorea, or touring the Nga Bay National Park in Thailand—and passengers will have the opportunity to book 15 complimentary shore excursions of their choice. Additionally, there will be four full days in Polynesia; three full days in both Hawaii and San Francisco; and two full days in Los Angeles, and there will be an average stay of 13 hours on shore per port of call. There are also stops in Tonga, Bora Bora, Cartagena, Fiji, the Maldives and New Zealand, as well as nine ports of call in the Caribbean islands. Rates start at $16,999 pp.

Additionally, MSC has just broken ground on the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a private island exclusive to MSC passengers located south of Bimini in The Bahamas and set for a November 2018 debut. The Reserve will have 11,400 ft. of coastline and is said to have some of the finest aragonite sands in the world. The surrounding waters will be home to corals and rich aquatic life, and the landscaping plan calls for 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs. “Private islands and ports are becoming increasingly popular,” says Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises North America, “and vacationers are now searching for itineraries with these exclusive stops. MSC Cruises made this a priority with the development of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the beach and a number of family-friendly activities and entertainment during the day—conveniently get back on the ship to freshen up—and then go back to the island for dinner and evening entertainment.”

Contact Information
Azamara Club Cruises: azamaraclubcruises.com
Crystal Cruises: crystalcruises.com
MSC Cruises: msccruisesusa.com
Oceania Cruises: oceaniacruises.com
Princess Cruises: princess.com
Viking Ocean Cruises: vikingcruises.com/oceans

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