12 Best Reasons to Cruise Right Now
Think Like a Winemaker
In addition to an oversize show kitchen where F&W Best New Chefs give demos, the new Holland America Line ship Koningsdam has a dedicated wine-blending space and tasting room created with Chateau Ste. Michelle. The famed Washington state wine producer teaches guests how to create signature blends with five of its single-vineyard reds. Seven-day trips from $700; hollandamerica.com.
Shop with a Chef
This summer, when Regent Seven Seas Cruises launches its new all-suite ship, Explorer, passengers will have both more reasons to luxuriate in their rooms and more reasons to leave thanks to an expanded list of excursions. For market fanatics, Regent chefs will lead local morning tours to destinations like the fantastic Mercato Trionfale in Rome, followed by cooking demonstrations and lunch. 10-night trips from $5,499; rssc.com.
Experience a Thomas Keller Restaurant
With a fleet of smaller ships, Seabourn stops in places that larger vessels can't, like Ho Chi Minh City and Antarctica. This feeling of privileged access also extends to the food on board with The Grill by Thomas Keller, the renowned chef behind Napa's The French Laundry. The Grill, which is open to all guests at no additional charge, just launched on the Seabourn Quest, and will roll out on all the cruise line's ships. Seabourn's chefs train with Keller's team at his research kitchen in California, learning signature techniques and dishes as well as Keller's famously exacting standards. Seven-night trips from $3,499; seabourn.com.
Go on a Mega Excursion
To get the most out of the places it travels, Celebrity Cruises has created land-stay packages that guests can purchase to venture far afield without having to rush back to reboard at night. For instance, the 12th-century temples of Angkor Wat and the surrounding archaeological sites are several hours away from port, so the cruise line organizes tours that include transportation and hotels. More time onshore also means more time to explore local foods, from morning glory soup and fish curries to Cambodia's version of a banh mi sandwich. Seven-night trips from $899; celebritycruises.com.
Pretend You're on a Private Yacht
Traveling on a small ship from Windstar Cruises can feel a little like chartering a yacht. Sailing yachts like the Wind Spirit and Wind Star have just 74 rooms; power yachts (Windstar just added three new ones to its fleet) have about 100 suites. All travel to remote locations like the dreamy islands of French Polynesia. For a fun food adventure, passengers can visit les roulottes, the food trucks in the capital, Papeete, to try everything from grilled mahimahi at Chez Romy to buckwheat crêpes at Crêperie Kerbrehan. Six-day trips from $1,799; windstarcruises.com.
Worship Jacques Pépin
The most famous executive culinary director in cruising (or maybe even the world) works with Oceania Cruises: Jacques Pépin. Now guests can try some of the French classics he loves—lemon sole, oxtail terrine—at Jacques Bistro. The restaurant is on the new Sirena, which recently made its virgin voyage from Barcelona to Venice; upcoming trips include a Paris-to-Rome itinerary with stops in glamorous ports such as Ibiza and Monte Carlo. Pépin's influence is also felt in onboard cooking classes like one based on his book La Technique, a curriculum to master the principles of French cooking. Seven-day trips from $1,799; oceaniacruises.com.
Take Local Craft Beer to Another Level
The Vista, a new ship from Carnival, has a suspended cycling experience called SkyRide, sort of like a zip line with a bike attached, and the first IMAX theater on a cruise ship. It also has RedFrog Pub, the line's first onboard brewery. Brewmasters make three different varieties, fermenting them in large tanks behind a wall of glass so guests can watch how it's done. A gristmill installed on a lower deck mills all the necessary grains. Six-day trips from $359; carnival.com.
Try Curtis Stone's Superfresh Flavors
At Share by Curtis Stone, passengers on Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess ships can try the bright, Australian-inspired flavors that made the Beverly Hills chef a star: butter-poached lobster with caramelized endive, say, or tagliatelle with crab, chile and parsley. Share also just debuted on the Sun Princess, which travels throughout Stone's native Australia. Seven-day trips from $569; princess.com.
Go on an Adrenaline-Fueled Adventure
Adventures on Royal Caribbean International now go beyond onboard thrills like its skydiving simulators. High-excitement activities include yacht racing in Antigua (an event that matches two teams of passengers with professionals for a head-to-head competition) and a mountain trek in St. Martin that passes through the ruins of a former sugar plantation. To allow passengers to document their activities on social media, the line recently began using a new high-speed Internet technology called Voom. Seven-night trips from $549; royalcaribbean.com.
Hang Out at a Wine Bar
Norwegian Cruise Line loves wine. It hosts winemakers onboard its ships, holds blind tastings (known as Black Glass Class) and recently introduced The Cellars, a wine bar created by the Michael Mondavi family, aboard the new Norwegian Escape. More than 100 wines are available, many by the glass. The bar also hosts guided wine flights and wine trivia competitions. Seven-day trips on Escape from $749; ncl.com.
Visit Wine Country
Luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises' new river ships can visit wine regions that its ocean liners can't. The Crystal Mozart launches this year in Austria, with more river ships being added next year. Passengers can try Grüner Veltliner, Austria's signature grape, at producers like F.X. Pichler in Dürnstein, the heart of the Wachau wine region. 10-day river cruises from $3,090; crystalcruises.com.
Eat Like a Local
Shore excursions on Viking Cruises are free, whether on its famed river tours or on new ocean liners, like the Viking Star. To help guests navigate ports of call, Viking offers onboard language classes that, among other excellent benefits, teach travelers how to pronounce the names of local restaurant specialties—in Sardinia, for instance, that might mean malloreddus pasta and a glass of Vernaccia or Carignano. Eight-day trips from $2,549; vikingcruises.com.