What's new in cruising

MORE THAN CRUISING: There's so much more to life on the high seas, than sipping on cocktails and lounging on sun decks.
MORE THAN CRUISING: There's so much more to life on the high seas, than sipping on cocktails and lounging on sun decks.

As the number of people cruising continues to rise, many are now choosing to cruise every year and want to see new places.

Cruise lines are responding by tinkering with their itineraries to include new ports, longer stays in more interesting places, and offering new excursions ashore.

The uniqueness of a port depends on the size of the ship. One of the advantages of cruising on smaller ships is stopping at ports which are not accessible to larger vessels and having more opportunities to get off the beaten track.

In New Zealand, for example, Coral Princess Cruises offers award-winning expeditions between Auckland and Milford Sound which take in places the bigger ships cannot reach. Expeditions aboard the luxury 72-passenger ship Oceanic Discoverer explore the east coasts of both islands, as well as Stewart Island.

The Australian-owned small-ship cruising pioneer is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary with a 30 per cent discount for New Zealand residents on their 8- and 12-night Auckland to Milford Sound expeditions from December to February.

A growing trend, especially with premium cruise lines, is the inclusion of overnight stays in more interesting ports, allowing guests time to immerse themselves in destinations. Next year, for example, Celebrity Cruises has scheduled overnight stays in 11 cities, including Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Dublin and Buenos Aires.

Part of the shift in developing new itineraries is a trend for cruise lines to redeploy ships to other parts of the globe. Australia is currently a popular option, with Carnival Cruise Lines scheduled to base a second vessel, Carnival Legend, there next year.

Royal Caribbean will have three ships based in Australia, joining long-time cruise lines P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises.

Meanwhile, five Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises superliners are on their way to New Zealand waters for the 2013-2014 cruise season.

Among the features of megaliner Voyager of the Seas, which is returning for a second season, are an ice skating rink, a shopping promenade and a "1940s Cupcake Cupboard", offering freshly baked cupcakes every day.

The combined fleet will keep adventurous travellers happy with a selection of 73 cruises throughout New Zealand, Australian, South Pacific and Asian waters.

Itinerary highlights include a 15-night New Year cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas which combines ports in Queensland and the South Pacific islands for the first time.

Looking ahead to 2015, ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has just announced 71 new destinations including Nikumaroro, the Pacific island some believe to be the final resting place of aviator Amelia Earhart. And after a year's absence, the exotic west coast of Africa is back on the schedule for Silver Explorer, one of five ships in the Silversea fleet.

She will return to the Congo's exotic Pointe Noire, renowned for its beaches and the spectacular red rock cliffs at Diosso Gorge.

River cruising
Highlights for 2014 from award-winning river cruise operator APT include:
European River Cruising - New ship the AmaPrima will serve the Dutch and Belgium waterways, and the Danube and Rhine Rivers.  A deluxe 164-foot passenger vessel, it carries a fleet of bicycles so guests can enjoy Europe's picturesque riverside bike paths on their own.

The Royal Experience - A new and entirely indulgent style of European river cruising featuring private opera recitals, Michelin-star  dinners, truffle hunting, personal butlers, and chef's table private dining.

Mississippi River Cruising - The Queen of the Mississippi paddledhwheeler, with   75 suites, will sail through the Deep South on journeys such as the 13-day New Orleans to Nashville cruise, which takes in Vicksburg, Memphis and Nashville.

New ships to sail in 2014
February: Norwegian Cruise Lines launches Norwegian Getaway, the second of four Project Breakaway ships. Getaway will sail year-round from Miami.

June: Princess Cruises launches Regal Princess, a sister ship to Royal Princess, which was launched last June by the Duchess of Cambridge. Regal Princess will share many of the amenities of her sister ship dhincluding the SeaWalk, a cantilevered glass-enclosed walkway extending 8.5 metres beyond the ship's edge and 39m  above the water, an adults-only pool, and the Princess Live! television studio.

November: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line launches Quantum of the Seas, the first of three next-generation ships for this line. The ship will be loaded with first-at-sea activities including onboard bumper cars, a skydiving simulator, and a viewing ''pod'' which extends up and over the ship for 360-degree views. Inside cabins will feature ''virtual balconies'' - floor-to-ceiling LCD television screens linked to a camera mounted on the outside of the ship.

Sunday Star Times