Travel

SEVEN HOT WINTER CRUISES

Seabourn Odyssey will be calling in St. Lucia

After being stuck in pandemic dry dock for 18 months, wannabe travellers are scanning the high seas again in search of the perfect winter cruise. Here are seven top picks for “revenge cruising” in the sun this winter, assuming that new COVID-19 variants don’t put us back in travel lockdowns.

1 – Norwegian Encore, 7-night Eastern Caribbean from Miami

Selected Best New Ship of 2020 by Porthole Cruise Magazine, the Norwegian Encore will be cruising the warm waters of the Eastern Caribbean this winter on round-trip voyages from Miami, with calls at the Dominican Republic, US and British Virgin Islands, and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. The Encore offers lots of family fun, including the largest go-kart track at sea. Fares for the January 16 departure start at CDN$1,031 per person for a balcony cabin, and include an open bar, free Wi-Fi, free specialty restaurants on several nights, and discounted shore excursions. Hot Tip: Book a regular cabin, and then put in a bid to upgrade to The Haven, an exclusive area of the ship with a private pool, restaurant, bar and more.

2 – Seabourn Odyssey, 7-night Caribbean Spice Islands from Barbados

Wind Surf will be sailing the Southern Caribbean

The 458-passenger Seabourn Odyssey is an all-suite (separate living area and bedroom) vessel that caters to the luxury market. Passengers enjoy an open bar, complimentary champagne with caviar, 24-hour room service, a swanky spa, four dining options, and refined entertainment at night. In selected ports, passengers can also enjoy the ship’s water sports equipment such as kayaks, paddle boats and Hobie Cat sailboats. The Odyssey will be sailing to the southern Windward Islands this winter, with calls at destinations favoured by the yachting elite such as St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Nevis, Martinique and Grenada. Fares for the February 12 departure from Barbados start at CA$4,449 per person for a balcony cabin. Hot Tip: As soon as advance booking of onboard amenities is allowed online, book a table in the ship’s popular specialty restaurant, The Grill by Thomas Keller.

3 – Wind Surf, 7-night Southern Caribbean from St. Maarten

The flagship of Windstar Cruises, the five-masted motor-sail yacht Wind Surf will be ferrying 310 passengers around the Southern Caribbean this winter. This ship is perfect for cruisers who like a casual ambience in a comfy setting, enjoy open-air water sports, and don’t want flashy production shows for their evening entertainment. When the wind and schedule cooperate, the captain can turn off the engines and let passengers feel the wind powering their ship through the sea. The Wind Surf will be sailing to St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St. Lucia with cruise fares for the March 5 departure from St. Maarten starting at US$1,200 per person for an ocean-view cabin. Hot Tip: If you plan to rent a car at a port of call, do so in advance to ensure one is available and you don’t waste time registering when you arrive.

4 – Silver Origin, 7-night Galápagos Islands from Ecuador

Magnificent Frigate Bird in Galapagos

Isolated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are a living museum of evolution and home to some of the most unusual species in the world including the marine iguana and the rare giant tortoise. And there is no better way to experience these islands than aboard the Silver Origin, a ship built by Silversea Cruises specifically for destination travel in the Galápagos, and which features all-suite accommodation, a team of Ecuadorian national expert guides, the highest crew-to-guest ratio in the Galapagos, and Ecuadorian inspired cuisine. The February 5 departure of the Silver Origin will call at the islands of San Cristóbal, Genovesa, Santiago, North Seymour, Isabela, Fernandina, Santa Fé, Santa Cruz, and Española, with fares for a Classic Veranda Suite starting at CA$16,800 per person including economy class air. Hot Tip: If you can afford it, book a balcony cabin as its an ideal place to watch the sun set, and leave swimsuits, water shoes and snorkeling equipment to dry.

5 – Marina, 17-night South America discovery around Cape Horn

On the way to Cape Horn with the Darwin Range in the background

Cape Horn is a tiny island located at the most southerly point in South America, just 650 km north of Antarctica. It’s also the northern boundary for Drake Passage, which is the main waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for ships too large or unable to navigate the narrower Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel. The Marina of Oceania Cruises will be departing Santiago de Chile on January 28 bound for Buenos Aires with a transit around Cape Horn and calls in the Chilean lake and fjord district, Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina, the Falkland Islands, and Montevideo and Punte del Este in Uruguay. The mid-sized Marina carries 1,250 passengers and boasts some of the best food afloat and a variety of themed restaurants including French and Asian, and a Culinary Center where expert chefs provide hands-on cooking instruction. Fares for a balcony cabin on this voyage start at US$4,799 per person. Hot Tip: Bring a windbreaker and sweater as the most southerly part of this voyage can be windy and cool, particularly during the crossing of Cape Horn.

6 – Viking Orion, 14-night Caribbean & Partial Panama Canal transit

Passing through the Gatun Locks.

Some 110 years after it was completed, “The Big Ditch” remains an engineering marvel that is best viewed from the deck of a cruise ship. There are two options for Panama Canal cruises: either a full transit between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, or a partial transit to the first set of locks at Lake Gatun and back out again to Limon Bay in the Caribbean Sea. A partial transit provides a sample of how the mighty locks work in the Panama Canal, but in less time than a full canal transit. The 930-passenger Viking Orion will depart Ft. Lauderdale on March 9 for a 14-day partial transit of the Canal, with calls at Key West, Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, Puerto Limon, Colan and Jamaica. Fares for this cruise, which is restricted to adults 18 years of age and older, start at US$4,499 per person. Hot Tip: The best outdoor viewing spots to watch the canal transit disappear quickly, so grab yours well before the ship reaches the Gatun Lock.

7 – SeaDream II, 7-night Bahamas from Florida

Outdoor bar on SeaDream

This cruise from SeaDream Yacht Club is perfect for people who want to spend as much time as possible in port rather than sailing in open waters for long stretches of time. The ship will depart West Palm Beach on January 16 and sail across the Florida Straits to Rose Island in the Bahamas and spend the next week visiting several nearby cays and towns in the Exumas, Long Island, and Harbour Island. The SeaDream II carries just 112 passengers in all-suite cabins but is large enough to offer a range of amenities including a saltwater pool, a freshwater hot tub, and watersports off the stern of the ship. Fares for this voyage start at US$3,599 for an ocean view cabin. Hot Tip: Book one of the Balinese Dream beds on the outdoor deck where you can sleep for a night under the stars.

(All cruise fares and availability as of November 27 2021and subject to change.)

Featured image – Seabourn Odyssey in the Caribbean

This is David’s 99th post on Gentleman’s Portion. Please add a LIKE or COMMENT if you have enjoyed this article — clickable at the top or bottom of each story. Click on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of the page if you would like to receive email notifications of new articles. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories.

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