Are you fascinated by photography, inspired by culinary stars, or an avid ballroom dancer or fitness buff? Then chances are quite good that there's a cruise with your name on it. Hobbyists cruises, in which lines and organizers offer planned activities in a breathtaking span of options -- which include tracking wildlife, indulging in Titanic-mania, vineyard-hopping to wine tastings and more -- are on the rise.
Themed cruises are more popular than ever, with a notable number of cruise virgins opting for them as an incentive to try a cruise. They may be worried about feeling trapped or isolated onboard, unable to relate to the seasoned cruiser, so a chance to immerse themselves in their passion with like-minded people can help them embrace a new type of vacation.
Before booking, be sure to research what type of theme cruise would suit you. The choices vary. You could opt for a block booking of cabins by a fan group, a series of lectures and workshops organised by the cruise line or even a full-ship charter, in which activities are fully centered on that trip's theme. The difference could mean anything from a diversion to keep your interest for a few hours a day to an all-encompassing adventure. As complements, all of these offer the usual in-port adventures.
This year's offerings are as dynamic as ever. From nude river cruises to radio soap operas, cruise operators and specialist holiday firms have something for everyone. Below is a selection of what is on offer for 2013, but please come and look again, as we will be updating the content on a regular basis. (And if you want us to include a trip that is not on the list, don't hesitate to contact us by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Details: Here's a chance to indulge in the pastoral, bucolic German landscape and to enjoy some of the wine that the region has long been renowned for. Passengers can relax with 2 nights in Prague before transferring to Nuremburg where they'll embark the Ama Dolce for a cruise through the Rhine Valley –- taking in the picturesque Rudesheim, Koblenz and Cochem on the way to Luxembourg. The cruise will include visits to local wineries, tours of historic cellars and, of course, tastings of some of Europe's most distinctive wines. The cruise ends in Luxembourg, from where passengers can transfer for an additional three nights in Paris.
Caveat: To get the best out of the landscape, the cruise organisers have included a range of shore excursions – with destinations accessible on foot or by bicycle. Make sure to pack suitable clothing to take full advantage.
Details: After the success of last year's immersive wine tours, Celebrity Cruises is once again clinking glasses with TV expert Oz Clarke for a second season of wine tasting and appreciating tours in Europe's finest wine producing regions. Passengers are invited aboard the Celebrity Infinity for a decadent 12 nights sailing the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal – sampling the very best produce Europe, as well as getting the chance to see the process of grape harvesting first hand. All through the cruise, passengers will be guided through the experience by Oz Clarke, whose passion for fine vintages and flavours is well known. Clarke will host lessons and master-classes on wine tasting and pairing, helping aspiring gourmands to get the best out of their food and drink all year round.
Caveat: The cruise features a number of shore excursions and passengers are advised to bring clothes suitable for walking, as well as for evening dinners, as much of the winemaking process takes place in the countryside!
Details: Here's a chance for gourmands to take a week's holiday on the Alaskan coast, taking in the rugged scenery, the bracing weather and – once they've built up a good appetite – some of the best food and wine in the world. Passenger aboard the Celebrity Millennium will be treated to some of the delights of a culinary themed cruise, with demonstrations from the cruise line's recipe book, hands-on classes and a food and wine pairing dinner being offered as part of Celebrity's ‘Excite the Senses' range of cruises. As well as getting to sample some of the most refined delicacies of the world's cuisine, passengers can relax in the company of renowned chefs, wine experts, pastry chefs and mixologists, and will be encouraged to experience and think about food in a different way.
Caveat: The ship has many different restaurants, catering to a myriad of different tastes. Passengers are sure to find something for them!
Dates: 29 July 2013, 30 September 2013 & 4 November 2013.
Details: Set sail from Paris and navigate the lush valleys of Europe, following the flow of the Mosel and Rhine rivers, and sampling the wines that have made these regions famous for hundreds of years. Passengers on the Ama Dolce can appreciate the journey from grape to bottle with visits to some of Europe's most famous wine growing regions and a programme of wine tastings and vineyard visits. There will also be opportunities to take in the striking architecture in Cologne, Amsterdam, Koblenz and Bernkastel – giving connoisseurs the perfect backdrop to some fine vintages.
Caveat: If you plan to buy wine to take home with you after the cruise, be sure to leave extra room in your luggage. And remember: All liquids must be stored in checked baggage when flying.
Details: Norwegian Cruise Line has long been known for its more laid-back take on cruising life and its attitude towards sports and fitness onboard is no exception. Looking to use a cruise to kick bad health habits? Keen to flex your muscles, shed a few pounds and have some fun while at sea? NCL suggests that passengers ‘ditch the workout and join the party' with its programme of onboard Zumba classes! From Spring 2013, passengers on NCL ships will be able to complement their cruise with a series of integrated zumba workouts, with elements of hip-hop, salsa, African inspired dance and Reggaton helping participants to get into the groove. All classes will be taught by registered ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) istructors.
Caveat: Remember to pack your trainers, tracksuits, t-shirts and anything else you need for a good work out!
Details: Set sail on a summer cruise through the Norwegian Fjords and take the opportunity to get in shape in some of the most inspiring surroundings the world has to offer. Fred Olsen's Health and Wellbeing cruises give passengers on the Balmoral the chance to participate in extensive fitness sessions in the company of the original TV fitness guru, Diana Moran (or, as viewers might know her, the Green Goddess). Passengers will be encouraged to tailor their workouts to suit their specific needs and, when not toning up, there'll be opportunities to explore the stunning local scenery, including the mighty Briksdal Glacier at Olden, the fjords at Bergen and the waterfalls, hills and fishing villages that have made this part of the world a stand out cruise destination for hundreds of years.
Caveat: Remember to bring your gym clothes and trainers!
Details: Here's a chance to cruise in the company of renowned environmentalist (and son of Jacques Cousteau) Jean-Michel Cousteau who, as well as delivering a series of enriching lectures and films of his own work in oceanography and conservation, will accompany passengers on several dives from the ship. Passengers are invited aboard the MS Paul Gauguin for an 11 night cruise that takes in the best of the natural beauty of the Austral Islands and the Society Islands. The region, visited by Captain James Cook, is famed for its abundant wildlife, with whales, turtles and exotic birds sure to capture nature lovers' imaginations.
Caveat: Snorkelling and diving equipment is available from the cruise line.
Details: Following the success of the BBC's recent Volcano Live series, Voyages of Discovery is giving passengers the chance to get closer to the fire and ice of the lava fields of Iceland, one of the most dramatic places on Earth, and to take in the unique plant and wild life that characterises the area. The MV Discovery will take visitors through the North Sea, on a circumnavigation that will take them close to the Arctic Circle, getting them access to the country's frozen glaciers, snowy mountains and volcanoes. There will also be opportunities to meet some of the wildlife that inhabits the region, including whales, puffins and other sea birds.
Caveat: Remember to pack some warm winter clothes!
Details: 2013 is a significant year for amateur and professional horticulturalists up and down the country. It marks 100 years since the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was first held on the Chelsea Royal Hospital site and, to celebrate this, Voyages of Discovery is dedicating a special cruise to discovering the flowers and gardens of Great Britain. The cruise will circumnavigate the UK, taking in areas of special horticultural interest, including the Channel Island of Guernsey, Fowey in Cornwall, Kirkwall and Invergordon in Scotland and Waterford and Dublin in Ireland, before calling in, via Greenwich, at the Chelsea Flower Show. Passengers aboard the mv Voyager will have the opportunity to cruise the British coast in the springtime, seeing some of the best of the country in bloom. If there ever was ample inspiration for green fingered feats of your own, this is it!
Caveat: Be prepared for large crowds at the Chelsea Flower Show, which often hosts over 150,000 visitors a year.
Details: Paris has long been considered one of the world's foremost destinations for both the creators and connoisseurs of fine art. This cruise, which is presented by Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, aims to show off the city's galleries, museums and salons from a local's perspective. Passengers will get to see, not only the larger and more visited galleries, but also the lesser known treasures of Parisian art, as well as some of the sites that inspired and cultivated some of western art's most prolific talents. The cruise will include special access granted by museum curators and guided tours. After setting off from Paris, the cruise will take in the sights of Normandy, visiting sites that have been immortalised in art, such as Rouen Cathedral and Giverny.
Caveat: Spaces on this cruise are limited and will be allocated on a first come-first serve basis.
Details: Take some time to focus on your photography skills with a 22 night cruise of the Mediterranean, Adriatic and the Greek Islands. Passengers on the Saga Sapphire can take advantage of the region's fantastic light to learn how to take better photographs with the help and advice of professional photographers. Passengers will get to build a portfolio of shots, drawing inspiration from the beautiful surrounds, the region's history and their own holiday experiences.
Caveat: Saga are renowned for offering great holidays for over 50s, but younger cruisers may want to look elsewhere for their cruise!
Details: Here's a chance for art aficionados to cruise the rivers and waterways of Holland and Belgium enjoying some of the finest work of some of Europe's most celebrated masters. Passengers on the Minerva can explore the vibrant Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Doordrecht, Middelburg and Rotterdam as well as Antwerp in Belgium. The cruise will feature visits to the world famous Van Gough museum in Amsterdam, as well as the house of Peter Paul Rubens and the Franz Hals museum. A tailor made programme of shore excursions, with enriching lectures from an eminent guest speaker, will help passengers to get the maximum from their holiday.
Caveat: Bring some good, comfortable, walking shoes – the cities and the countryside alike are well worth exploring.
Details: Ever felt you could be making more of your time at sea? Fred. Olsen Cruises is giving passengers the chance to spend some time with experienced arts and crafts guru Doreen Ritchie and to pick up hints, tips and skills that they'll be able to take away with them. Doreen Ritchie, who has been teaching crafts on cruise ships since 2005, will be joining passengers on the Black Watch for a cruise to Lapland and St. Petersburg. On the way, she'll be delivering a series of inspirational but friendly workshops designed to bring passengers together and help them learn new things! If you're looking for a cruise that indulges your creative side and helps you foster new talents, this could be a great opportunity for you!
Caveat: No special materials or extra equipment is required, but it might be an idea to pack something old to wear in case of glue or paint spillage!
Details: Cruise the Caribbean at Halloween with one of the world's most recognisable rock bands – Kiss! Original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are joined by long-term guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer on this celebratory 4-night cruise from Miami. Passengers on the Norwegian Pearl will get the rare opportunity to attend Q&A sessions with the band themselves as well as to meet with them and pose for photos. Kiss will also perform aboard the ship, both in full rock-mode and in a quieter acoustic deck show. This is a great way for Kiss fans to meet one another, with a full contingent of the ‘Kiss Army' expected to climb aboard. There'll be face paint, outrageous costumes and, of course, Rock and Roll.
Caveat: Before booking a place on this cruise, passengers will need to register a username with the cruise organiser, Sixthman.
Details: Enjoy the tranquillity of a Mediterranean cruise with the drama of Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco. This special deal from Regent Seven Seas allows passengers a two night stay in a Verona hotel where they'll be given Gold Tickets to see the opera in the world-famous Arena di Verona. Passengers will then transfer to Venice where they'll board the Seven Seas Mariner for a cruise that takes in the Italian coastline and the French Riviera on the way to Barcelona. This could be a great way to see one of the classic operas in situ and to enjoy one of the most stylish Mediterranean breaks available.
Caveat: Remember to pack your formal evening wear!
Details: Music connoisseurs can revel in the luxury of Regent Seven Seas' Seven Seas Mariner on this special cruise and opera package. Passengers are flown from the UK to Verona where they can enjoy two nights' stay in a five star hotel as well as a ‘gold ticket' performance of Verdi's Aida at the world famous opera venue, the Arena de Verona. Passengers are then transferred to Venice for a ten day cruise through the Mediterranean to Athens, taking in the tranquil Greek Islands along the way.
Caveat: Remember to pack your formal evening wear!
Details: Lovers of the arts are invited to enjoy all the refinement of a classical music concert from the luxurious decks of the MV Discovery as it takes in an intriguing itinerary of some of Europe's favourite cities. Enjoy the history and architecture of Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin (via Warnemunde) and Kiel before spending three days in St. Petersburg, where passengers can visit the legendary Hermitage museum for a recital of some of the region's most famous music. The ship will also play host to a troupe of prestigious musicians, who will deliver a series of onboard concerts, showcasing compositions of Europe's most inspiring composers – from Brahms and Rachmaninov to Tchaikovsky. Definitely a trip to savour.
Caveat: Keep an eye on Voyages of Discovery's website for announcements about the musicians.
Details: Take a classic cruise through the Norwegian Fjords, enjoying the rugged scenery, the glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife of the region –- and perhaps learn to dance while you're at it! The Dance Factory is coming aboard the MSC Opera to guide passengers through the steps and to help them to become fully fledged dancers. Professional tutors Alison Biggs and Peter Metelnick will be on hand to demonstrate some of the world's most distinctive dances in a series of ‘funshops' dance tutorials and socials, with enough scope for everyone from complete beginners to dancing queens to learn a thing or two! The ship will be equipped with a dedicated dance floor, encouraging participants to strut their stuff as often as they feel like! Adding to the party atmosphere onboard, there will be an inclusive food and drinks package, with unlimited wine, beer, spirits and cocktails helping everyone to get into the mood!
Details: There are plenty of ballrooms in the world, but not many venues can match the kind of Golden-Era opulence and sense of occasion that can be found aboard Cunard's magnificent Queen Elizabeth. Strictly Come Dancing favourites, Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe, take a break from their busy schedules to host a series of dancing workshops on this 13 night cruise of the Baltic. Both outstanding dancers in their own rights, Natalie and Ian will guide participants through various styles of dance, helping to inspire confidence and develop technique, as well as performing specially choreographed evening shows and mixing with the passengers in glamorous cocktail parties.
Caveat: Make sure to bring some appropriately flexible clothing and comfortable shoes for the dance lessons, as well as some elegant evening wear for the formal evenings.
Details: Have you ever wondered how your dancing shapes up alongside that of the Strictly Come Dancing professionals? Have you ever thought that, with just a little bit of tuition, you too could perform the dazzling dances seen on TV? Celebrity Cruises is giving its passengers the opportunity to put on their dancing shoes and join Strictly Come Dancing stars Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova on their 2013 Strictly Dance Cruise. Passengers on the Celebrity Silhouette will get the chance to watch the stars perform choreographed routines and will be able to attend special workshops where Darren and Lydia will offer their guidance and advice.
Caveat: Places on this cruise are limited and it is advisable to book well in advance.
Details: Cruise the rivers of northern Europe and celebrate the allied liberation of France from occupation during World War 2. Passengers can board the ship for a week long cruise that will pay homage to the soldiers' journey through France – boarding theCreativity, in Paris and heading towards Vernon – taking in Rouen, Les Andelys and Auvers sur Ouse. Passengers will be joined aboard by a series of guest lecturers who will, through a series of onboard lectures and shore excursions, help them to understand the history of the region and the war-time connections that made the region such a key wartime battlefield.
Caveat: Details of this cruise will be finalised in April 2013 – please check the Avalon Waterways website for up to date details of the lecture programme and speakers.
Details: Set sail for Turkey and Greece to discover the roots of ancient civilisation! The MV Voyager sails from Istanbul to Athens (Piraeus), taking in the ancient architectural ruins, natural wonders and significant sites that shaped the development of the world as we know it. Passengers can visit the temple of Artmis – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, as well as the monastery of St John in Patmos, Greece, the Acropolis in Athens and the ruins of ancient Corinth. They'll get to see, first hand, how the Ancient Greeks influenced the Mediterranean and how later cultures, such as the Corinthians and the Holy Roman Empire, added to and borrowed from them. The cruise will include a series of talks from guest lecturers, who will help to give context and background to the historical wonders on show.
Caveat: There's likely to be a degree of walking involved and, with high Mediterranean temperatures expected, it's best to dress accordingly!
Details: Great Britain is an island nation, rich in history, natural beauty and architectural remains. It is a country that owes much to its coastal position. What better way of seeing some of the country's best historic sites, then, than by sea? Passengers on the newly refurbished Voyager will be taken on a round trip of the UK, visiting the historic ports of Liverpool and Belfast, the traditional naval base of Portsmouth, Holyhead, Oban and St. Peter Port on Guernsey. There will also be a visit to Port of Tyne, whose deep water was once used by the Romans to supply the garrison of Hadrian's Wall. The voyage will show off some of Britain's most diverse historical sites, with visits to castles, cathedrals and stately homes planned alongside trips to ancient stone circles and relics of the mighty Roman Empire. This is a great opportunity, both for gaining some perspective on the history and development of the British Isles, and for those who want to see some of the most spectacular sights and beautiful buildings the country has to offer.
Caveat: Remember to pack some good boots and prepare for some walking as many of the shore excursions feature sites that are begging to be explored on foot!
Details: Passenger with a love of Hollywood glitz and glamour can take in some of the most iconic film cities of the US, from New York to Baltimore and Charlestown, south to Jacksonville, Miami and Oranjestadt, Aruba. This cruise is hosting the cruise line's Film and Theatre Festival, with guest speakers and film authorities coming aboard the Crystal Symphony to salute stage and film actors, actresses, directors and writers that made some of the world's greatest films possible.
Caveat: Remember to pack some evening wear to mingle successfully with the stars!
Details: As family entertainment goes, getting to meet favourite Nickelodeon characters such as Sponge Bob Squarepants, Dora the explorer, the fairly-odd parents and the stars of iCarly, makes for quite a special cruise. Passengers traveling aboard theNorwegian Epic or the Norwegian Jewel will be able to mingle with the Nickelodeon stars as well as take part in special onboard games and activities, such as singing and dancing, watching exclusive premieres of Nickelodeon TV shows and taking part in the channel's signature ‘slime time' game show. These children's activities are intended to help bring families together over long cruises, giving them plenty of opportunities to play together as well as providing some time alone for parents.
Details: Fans of one of Sci-Fi's longest running franchises can take to the seas to celebrate Doctor Who's 50th anniversary. The cruise will take place aboard the Carnival Liberty and will offer Doctor Who fans the chance to meet past and present stars of the show and even to write their own episodes in creative workshops with professional writers. Some of the best plots will be acted out and recorded by celebrity actors and professional filmmakers. Already confirmed to be putting in an appearance is prolific English actor Ian McNeice who, as well as his several appearances as characters in Doctor Who, including Zeus and Winston Churchill, is known for his roles in cult drama Game of Thrones and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. A range of themed shore excursions and events is also planned.
Caveat: Keep an eye on Sci-Fi Sea Cruise's website for ‘timely' (sorry) updates on attending celebrities and cast members.
Details: Zumba is taking hold as one of the most popular and engaging ways to keep slim and has been getting into town halls, sports centres and, increasingly, cruise ships too! Passengers on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas can enjoy the Caribbean climate as they participate in a set series of Zumba fitness classes from experienced instructor, Angie McConnell. The cruise sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, taking in the coasts of Belize and Mexico – with visits to Belize City and Cozumel.
Caveat: Passengers must register with the organiser, ‘Rocks the Boat 2013, before they can participate in the onboard zumba classes.
Details: Unwind and discover your inner yogi in the tranquil surrounds of the Mediterranean. Meet like-minded enthusiasts and learn in the presence of experienced yoga practitioners as you cruise. Yoga has long been seen as a great way to separate the stresses of everyday life from one's thoughts, with the extra serenity of a placid cruise giving passengers everything they need to forget about the daily grind and regain some much-needed balance. Daily classes are taught, with everyone from beginners to yoga veterans welcomed to learn new things. The cruise will take place aboard the Atlantis, a specially fitted motor-launch, which will help passengers to get their ying closer to their yang with an exciting blend of shore excursions, kayaking, wildlife watching and snorkelling. Relax – recharge, and enjoy yoga in peace.
Caveat: If you can't make it on the May cruise, there are similar cruises taking place later in the year.
Dates: Multiple cruises on selected Costa ships in 2013.
Details: Everyone knows that the sea air is good for you, but Costa Cruises has gone one further with the introduction of their health and wellness cruises, aimed at giving passengers the full spa treatment to make their holiday that bit more relaxing. Passengers can book a place on the Wellness programme aboard theCosta Mediterranea or the Costa Atlantica, while passengers traveling on the Costa Magica, Costa Fortuna, Costa Victoria, and Costa Classica can also partake in therapeutic ‘Harmony and Relaxation' treatments. Guests can also visit the exclusive Samsara Spas aboard selected ships.
Caveat: Watch out for treatments that cost extra or that aren't included under the wellness package.
Dates: Multiple cruises on selected MSC Cruises' ships in 2013.
Details: MSC Cruises want you to have a more balanced experience aboard their ships and are encouraging passengers to replenish both their bodies and their minds in one of their onboard Aurea spas. There are a number of packages for people looking to incorporate the spa experience more fully into their cruise. Passengers on the MSC Divina, MSC Splendida, MSC Fantasia, MSC Magnifica, MSC Poesia, MSC Orchestra and the MSC Musica, can enjoy a Wellness package for two, including massages and special treatments, while single gentlemen or ladies travelling on these ships can consider a male or female only spa experience.
Caveat: Be careful to keep an eye on what treatments are included under the spa packages and remember that extra treatments may cost extra.
Details: As soon as you boarded the ship, you knew something was wrong ... Suddenly, a shrill scream rings out in the dark through the impenetrable fog that swirls like cobwebs over the deck ...
Step aboard P&O's Arcadia and be transported back to the scene of a 1920s murder mystery, with excellent food and drink, opulent balls, onboard cocktail parties and (optional) 1920s fancy dress helping to set the scene. Passengers are invited to test their detective skills as the extravagant atmosphere is rocked by a dastardly crime. As the story unfolds, passengers can mingle with fellow guests and ‘It's Murder' actors, as everyone tries to work out the intriguing case. Deerstalkers optional.
Caveat: Detective work is a serious business and passengers should be advised that this is an adults-only cruise.
Details: Enjoy the Caribbean au naturel and perfect that all-over tan with a nudist cruise aboard Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam. This is a great opportunity for nudists to meet other, like-minded people and to enjoy the pristine beaches and resorts of the Caribbean as nature intended. Passengers can visit the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Honduras, visiting famous nude beaches, coastal resorts and the exclusively nude island of Half Moon Cay. Holland America will treat passengers to everything they'd expect on any other cruise, including fine dining, spa and fitness facilities and a range of shore excursion activities, including hiking, scuba-diving, snorkelling and swimming with dolphins.
Caveat: Passengers with sensitive skin might want to pack extra sun lotion.
Details: Whodunit Productions will be stepping onboard a variety of Royal Caribbean ships to bring a sense of mystery and intrigue to your cruise. With comical shows and performances, you will have the chance to solve murder mysteries at sea. This is not one for the meek, as you will be given your own character to play. All cruises leave from America and are priced in U.S. dollars.