If you’ve already taken all the usual cruises, or haven’t but want to cruise where not that many have cruised before, then read on!
African Sea Safari
We all know that Africa is renowned for its wildlife and safaris, but did you also know that it has magnificent beaches and sunshine?
In the south, South Africa has the magnificent Table Mountain, where you can hike or take the cable car to the top, and be able to see the entire city below, the sea, and the mountains.
Port Elizabeth boasts beautiful beaches and is a great place for whale watching.
The Cape Coast in Ghana is renowned for its vineyards and winemaking, and also has Cape Coast Castle (World Heritage site), where slaves were held before they were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean in the 18th Century.
And if you fancy glamorous hotels, large casinos and golden beaches, then Durban is the place to cruise.
Now that Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has eased its restrictions and is open to visitors (some areas are still closed), the influx of travellers has resulted in a shortage of hotel rooms, which makes cruising along the Chindwin and Irrawaddy Rivers an even better idea!
Along the banks of the Irrawaddy River is Bagan in Central Myanmar, considered one of the world’s greatest archeological sites - it has the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas (dome shaped building built as a Buddhist shrine) and ruins dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.
Inle Lake is a popular tourist attraction, with its homes on stilts, floating gardens and leg rowing by the locals - the unique technique where one leg is wrapped around the wooden paddle of the skiff, which then drives the blade through the water in a snake-like motion.
Myanmar’s former capital, Yangon, boasts 19th Century British colonial architecture.
The must see here is the 2, 500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda, which is considered the most important religious site in Myanmar and is said to enshrine strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics. The 110 m high pagoda has intricate wood carvings, is covered in hundreds of gold plates, and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds – the largest being 72 carats!
Mandalay was the last royal capital of Myanmar and along with the magnificent Mandalay Palace, Pagodas and Monastery, it is particularly famous for its Kuthodaw Pagoda, where there are 729 upright stone slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scriptures and hence is known as “the World’s Biggest Book’’.
Even with the increased number of visitors, Myanmar is not yet plagued by long queues and groups at its tourist attractions, so get there soon!
Why just enjoy the view from the top of the boat, when you can also enjoy the view from the bottom too?
From next year, the National Geographic Orion cruise ship will be equipped with an undersea exploration vehicle which can descend to 300m (the maximum you can descend for scuba diving is 40m).
The remote controlled vehicle will broadcast sounds and images from under the sea on big screens fitted on the ship.
Also, there are dedicated rooms for single travellers. How's that for having all your bases covered?!
Mississippi River Cruise By Paddle Steamer
After a 4 year absence (the owners of the last paddle steamer went bankrupt), the paddle steamer came back in all its glory in 2012, and is once again plying the waters of the Mississippi river.
For some, the steamboat itself would be enough enticement…think grand Victorian-era fit outs (chandeliers, sweeping staircases and antique furnishings), with 21st century needs (wi-fi, flat screen TVs and air conditioning!).
But if you want more, there is more!
In the form of the river life that passes you by, the prairies on the river banks, and the informative talks on-board your paddle steamer, on various subjects like Southern Culture, the Civil war, music in the time of the paddle steamer and the Kentucky Derby.
So channel Mark Twain or Elvis Presley, whichever is your particular fancy, indulge in your mint julep and pecan pie and enjoy the gentle cruise of a by-gone era through places like Alton in Illinois (site of the underground railroad and Abraham Lincoln practised law here), Cape Girardeau (from where the Cherokees were forced to relocate in 1838), New Madrid (where an earthquake in 1812 forced the Mississippi river to flow backwards for a few days) in Missouri, Paducah (known as the Quilt city, and their other claim to fame is providing the recipe for the first Krispy Kreme doughnut) and Columbus (heritage sites) in Kentucky, and of course, get All Shook Up at Memphis, Tennessee!
Have you been on any of these cruises?