Norway and the Northern Lights
For a unique educational vacation, Telegraph Travel Solutions offers a range of tours, each hosted by a celebrity journalist, author, or other expert. This fall, it is offering a 12-day cruise from the UNESCO World Heritage port of Bergen, up the coast of Norway, and across the Arctic Circle, visiting towns, islands, and sites along the way. The promised highlight of the trip is experiencing the natural phenomenon Northern Lights. The cruise will also introduce passengers to Mariella Frostrup, author of “Wild Women,” who will give a talk about some of the 50 adventurous women who are the subjects of her book.
The northern end of Norway’s coast is a famous location for seeing the Aurora Borealis, and the sponsors are confident that it will be viewable. Passengers will be given a free six- or seven-day tour if the lights don’t appear.
America has its own navigable waterways to explore by cruise ship, including the iconic Mississippi River. There are a variety of cruises that explore different parts of the Mississippi and its tributaries, notably weeklong tours of the lower or upper Mississippi. American Cruise Lines offers a 22-day Complete Mississippi Cruise that covers the entire distance between New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, with many destinations along the way.
Comfortable staterooms have private verandas for fresh air enjoyment of the passing countryside. Passengers disembark at 23 ports of call to visit plantations and antebellum mansions, Civil War battle sites, and quintessentially American cities and towns from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Memphis, Tennessee, to St. Louis, Missouri, and points north in Iowa and Minnesota.
For a scenic introduction to Southeast Asia, Azamara offers a 15-day Vietnam and Thailand Intensive Voyage. The cruise ship takes passengers from Hong Kong through the South China Sea, along the coast of Vietnam to Halong Bay, and on to Thailand. Shore excursions take you into Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, and the tour’s final destination, Singapore.
Many cruise lines offer cruises designed for young adults, often with beach destinations, such as Cancun, Hawaii, or the Caribbean. Sometimes called fun ships or booze cruises, they offer a lot more than alcohol, though, for some, the alcohol is the point. Many focus on music and entertainment, headlining pop stars or comedians, while others stick to party themes. Two of Carnival’s newest ships have on-board breweries.
The most affordable trips are also the shortest; perhaps most well-known are weekend cruises to the Bahamas. Carnival hosts Miami to Nassau three-day cruises for as low as $300, including taxes. The ship has a tequila bar and a rum bar, an “adults only” area, a comedy club, and menus that are meant to appeal to 20-something tastes, with a “burger joint” and fast food sushi.
As an alternative to the family road trip, a cruise can be an affordable and memorable vacation, with plenty of things to do and see for both children and adults. Cruise lines compete to offer the most fun experiences for the best prices, well beyond the swimming pools that were the center of entertainment in the early days of cruising. Different cruises advertise activities that include, water slides, laser tag, climbing walls, go-karts, mini-golf, children’s “camps,” and teen lounges. There is adult entertainment as well, and relaxing downtime while the kids play.
Not surprisingly, Disney offers some of the best family cruises, heavily promoting its own characters and movie themes, but other cruise lines also have highly rated — and less expensive — family excursions. Norwegian Cruise Lines is prominent among them. The Norwegian Getaway sails from Miami to the Caribbean for a seven-day cruise. (There are 11-day cruises from New York.) It offers a range of fun activities on board, and also at its ports of call, including opportunities to see Mayan ruins and go tubing in a rain forest.