Travel Story Enriching experiences at sea: themed cruises

Silver Whisper, built for oceans.
Photo of Angie Tomlinson

No matter what your interest, it seems there's a cruise for you.

Fancy sailing Melanesia with the scientist who’s the namesake of the local monkey-faced bat? Or getting into the mind of a Booker Prize winner? Or perhaps an evening with one of Broadway’s great lyricists? If you have a special interest, cruise lines are delivering. 

Always searching for unusual experiences, cruise ships are turning to high-profile lecturers and hosts to enrich their itineraries. This year will be no exception, as operators look to tap into new markets and lure experienced cruisers back.

Silversea Cruises has secured Australian novelist, playwright and essayist Thomas Keneally. He will board Silver Whisper (pictured above) in February on the Melbourne to Bali sector of its World Cruise 2017. Keneally will present lectures, lead discussions and cover personal stories and experiences backed by his 30-odd novels and screenplays, and national and international accolades including the Booker Prize for his novel Schindler’s Ark, which was adapted into the Steven Spielberg-directed Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List. 

Scenic has a broad Australian offering for its river cruises, with Ray Martin hosting a Mekong sailing and TV host Catriona Rowntree cruising the Seine. Rowntree will host an 11-day Seine river cruise which departs round-trip from Paris on June 19, taking in Honfleur, Normandy’s beaches, Giverny and Monet’s Garden, and Auvers-sur-Oise to explore Vincent van Gogh’s room. It costs from $9740 per person, with return flights to France for $995 departing Perth.

Martin will host an eight-day Mekong river cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City including visits to Phnom Penh, historic Tan Chau and the Cao Dai temple, the floating market at Cai Be and the ancient capital of Oudong. It costs from $4990 per person, with a saving of $250 for bookings made by April 30. Flights are extra.

Conservationist, scientist, explorer and former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery will lead a World Expeditions trip from October 8-21 into Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. 

A prolific author and prominent climate-change activist, Professor Flannery has undertaken many expeditions to Papua New Guinea, discovering numerous mammal species and subspecies and studying the effects of climate change. He even has a greater monkey-faced bat, the Pteralopex flanneryi, named after him.

The 14-day Melanesia Discoverer cruise for 50 passengers on Spirit of Enderby has plenty of opportunities for landings, village visits, kayaking and snorkelling. It costs from $US6995 ($9501) per person for a triple cabin.

Seabourn is making star-studded speakers something of a signature with its Conversations series. 

Famed musical theatre lyricist Tim Rice plans to make some personal appearances early this year on Seabourn ships during the run of his new show, An Evening with Tim Rice. 

The concert-style show made its debut in Australian waters on January 7 and runs through to March, and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet. 

Rice’s much-loved work for Broadway, the West End and film includes Jesus Christ Superstar, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita and Chess. The show is narrated by Rice and features a cast of singers and musicians performing some of his best-known work. 

Darren McGrady — a former personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and princes William and Harry, who has also cooked for a number of US presidents — will cruise aboard Seabourn Sojourn on April 23.

On July 21, Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and author of the New York Times bestseller Salt, Sugar and FatHow the Food Giants Hooked Uswill sail with Seabourn Sojourn. 

And Walter Robinson, an editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Boston Globe, will join Seabourn Odyssey on October 30. His reporting as part of the Spotlight Team formed the basis for the Academy Award-winning film Spotlight

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