A summer on the sea

AS THE summer cruising season Down Under kicks off, many will be thinking about planning their next high-seas holiday. And for those with enough time and money to spare, a longer stint at sea is appealing.

World cruises and grand voyages lasting from 40 days to more than 100 days are a throwback to the age of the great ocean liners, when travel between continents involved many days at sea and unusual ports of call. Today more cruise lines, particularly at the luxury end, are adding them to their annual calendars.

On January 16, 2013, Crystal Cruises' Serenity will depart from Miami on a 74-day exploration of South America. The ship will travel through the Caribbean before calling at ports stretching from Colombia to Brazil, with highlights including a transit of the Panama Canal, cruising the Chilean fiords and Amazon River, and overnight port stays in Valparaiso, Ushuaia, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

If you have less time, and would like to end your cruise in Australia, Seabourn Cruises' Quest has a 40-day World Voyage departing from Fort Lauderdale on January 6. The luxury yacht will also cruise the Caribbean and travel the Panama Canal, before making a 10-day crossing to French Polynesia to explore a variety of South Pacific Islands through to Sydney.

Looking towards 2014, and P&O Cruises' newly launched world cruise program features no less than three ships. Aurora and Arcadia both embark on full-world circumnavigations from Southampton in January, while sister ship Adonia will explore the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia in-depth on a round trip also from the famous British port city.

Finally, Cunard will be sending all three of its perennially popular Queens to Australia as part of world voyages in 2014. Between them, the famous liners will make 17 calls at Australian ports including Sydney and Brisbane; Queen Victoria will also take an extended trip around South America, featuring eight maiden calls to ports on the continent, while Queen Elizabeth will make a maiden visit to Japan.

Package of the week

Cruiseabout is offering a special guided tour of Croatia combined with a European river cruise next year. Departing on August 19, you fly to Vienna for a 13-night tour of the Croatian countryside and Dalmatian coast. Next you travel to Budapest on September 1 to join Avalon Vista for a 14-night river cruise of the Danube and the Rhine Gorge to Amsterdam. Priced from $11,999 a person, twin share, the package includes return flights to Europe, the cruise and 13 nights touring on land. 1300 450 133, cruiseabout.com.au.

In brief

The cultural historian, author and performer Warren Fahey is one of several presenters featured on Seabourn Odyssey's cruise from Bali to Sydney departing on December 21. Among his many popular presentations is a lecture on the myths and traditions of Christmas and the New Year.

APT has added a free concert from the popular violinist Andre Rieu to one of its European Christmas river cruises. The 15-day cruise from Budapest, departing on December 21, includes complimentary tickets to a performance in Cologne on January 2.

If you fancy seeing the rare total solar eclipse next month, try it from a ship. P&O's Pacific Dawn will be cruising off the north-eastern corner of Australia for the event on November 14, with astronomy lecturer Peter Anderson on board and documentaries broadcasting on its newly installed outdoor big screen.

Norwegian Jade

LAUNCHED 2006 PASSENGERS 2402 REGULAR HAUNTS The Mediterranean BEST FOR Families THE DETAILS A 12-night cruise of the Holy Land and Mediterranean, a round trip from Rome departing on February 23, is priced from $3079 a person, twin share. 1300 369 848, ecruising.travel.

Need to know

The second of Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) four Jewel-class ships, Jade began its career as the Pride of Hawaii, the largest and most expensive US-flagged passenger ship built. It was withdrawn from the Hawaiian Islands in 2008.

2 Its design embraces NCL's Freestyle cruising concept, offering flexibility throughout from dining to activities. Since taking on her new identity, Jade is based in the Mediterranean year-round, cruising from Venice and Civitavecchia (Rome).

3 Accommodations range from compact inside staterooms to an over-the-top three-bedroom Garden Villa that sleeps eight, complete with a garden and hot tub. Families are well catered for with multiberth staterooms and villas, and the decor of striking colours varies significantly across the categories.

4 There's an impressive line-up of 12 dining venues including a main dining room, however they mostly all come with a fee. Options include the 24-hour Blue Lagoon Restaurant, the Jasmine Garden Asian and Cagney's Steakhouse.

5 A ship with something for everyone. Facilities range from basketball and tennis courts to four hot tubs, a jogging track, a gym and a Mandara Spa. Kids have clubs to suit various ages, and entertainment varies from Broadway shows to magicians.

Port watch: La Coruna, Spain

Need to know Situated on the rugged north Atlantic coast of Spain, La Coruna is not only a historic city but also an old fishing port and a modern-day commercial port. Ships dock in the heart of the city, just a five-minute walk from the main sights. The cruise terminal, new since 2011, has some shopping and tourist information.

Do not miss The city's sights include Maria Pita Square in the centre of the old town, plenty of shops and restaurants, and some pretty beaches along a three-kilometre stretch of coastline. Top of the list of excursions is the magnificent Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral dedicated to the apostle James, and whose relics are believed to have been discovered in the 9th century. Another nearby place worth visiting is Vigo, which has an impressive historic quarter and some beautiful plazas.

Q&A

We're visiting Picton in New Zealand on a cruise and hear it has some good hiking trails. Do you know anything about them?
- M. O'Dowd, Windsor.

Arguably the most popular trail in the area is the Queen Charlotte Track. It stretches for just over 70 kilometres, from Ship Cove to Anakiwa, but you can opt to walk part of it in a round trip that takes a few hours. If you go it alone, take bottled water and a mobile phone in case you get into any difficulties. To play it safe, you can also opt to go with a local tour operator. They offer guided walks of between one and five hours.

joanna@seahorsemedia.com.au

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