How to cruise in serious style
Take your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about holidays. Hey, I saw you roll your eyes and do that whole ‘Pah! I don’t do cruises thing’. But have you heard about the new kind of cruise – boutique river cruises? I did one last year up the Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam and it was everything you wouldn’t expect – a boat full of adventurous-spirited people really interested in the culture of our ports of call not just ticking off places and buying souvenirs. I’m off on another this Easter calling in at Portuguese and Spanish vineyards (a great way to drink and not drive!). Ali over at Muddy Kent has meanwhile found a superflashy version of the same sort of thing in France. Feast your eyes on this cruise ship (pictured) from L.A-based Uniworld. This is their Bordeaux, Vineyards and Châteaux cruise option, that takes you round South of France, where you’re onboard a small, luxe river boat (no big ocean faring vessels here) for a week of wine tasting and five-star food. Bit more appealing, eh? Take a look onboard…
I mean it’s definitely not for you if you’re the master of understatement or prefer a kind of laid-back rustic style. It’s luxe French Baroque chic all the way babycakes. Each ship has a different style and the trip is very much tailored to being a luxury experience, starting from the door-to-door airport pick up service to the 5-star onboard cheffing.
And after all that indulgence you’ll need to take advantage of the onboard sauna, spa and fitness centre. Everything is included in the price – from the optional excursions, meals and drinks, even the tipping is already covered.
We all know cruising is the Marmite of the travel world, loved by most who have tried it, dismissed by many who haven’t. It’s picked on, sneered at, stereotyped… Yet one in every eight foreign package holidays is now a cruise, making it the fastest-growing sector of the holiday trade and the average age of cruisers has dropped significantly. And I can definitely see how a wine tasting tour of the vineyards of Bordeaux might attract a hipper, younger crowd, especially if the scenery looks this good.
Ali’s cousin tried a cruise recently with her photographer husband and they convinced her to open my mind to the suggestion that not all cruises are equal. Her cousin’s holiday was with a company called Hurtigruten, which offers a special service around the Norwegian coast – with spectacular fjords and Northern Lights itineraries – she assured her there were even *students* onboard (how hip). I took Hurtigruten myself for a Northern Lights trip and it was brilliant. The ship was bling-free and though the majority of passengers were up the pensioner end they were adventurous sorts and the youngest light-chaser I spoke to was a backpacker in her 20s.
Back with Uniworld – as well as Western Europe the company offers river cruises further afield like Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Uniworld cruises are offered by Titan Travel – and luckily enough for us your local Baldwins Travel agent (you’ll find them on many a highstreet in Kent & Sussex) specialises in booking Titan breaks among other things and they’ve a cruise fair coming up in Lewes on May 7. But how much, I hear you cry? Well the French vineyards holiday is £2,229 pp for eight days (not as much as I thought when you consider this is for absolutely everything and even includes your own personal porter). Ahhh, yes I could get used to that.
So, yes, I might yet be persuaded that, when it comes to cruises, there’s no rule that says your hair has to be tinted the same hue as the sea.