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There’s something about a nice cruise that gets us going. Whether it is the air of romance that accompanies the sights of vast water bodies and the bracing sea air, or whether it is the thought of leaving civilization behind and embracing the inner wanderer, nothing freshens us up quite like a stint on a cruise liner. No matter what your tastes are, there exists a cruise just for you, whether you want to hit the open seas or the hilly waterfalls and narrow passes.
We’ve put together just five out of the thousand or so cruises you could be on. You know, just to get you started.
Norwegian Fjords
The waterfalls around you cascade down majestic mountains. The water is clear and deep. The cruises in the Norwegian fjords are peaceful, unhurried, and full of natural beauty that you can relish at leisure. There are ports along the coast of Norway that you would wish to stop by – by all means take in the sounds and sights of Bergen, but also stop to appreciate the quaintness and silence of Flam, a fairy-tale hamlet with a population of four hundred.
The word ‘Fjord’ means a deep inlet of sea between high cliffs. Look out for Geiranger Fjord and Sognefjord, easily the most dramatic of scenes. To get the feel of Oslo and the countryside, there are tours that you can take by road and rail once you’re on land. But if you’re going to the Fjords, make sure you let the sea into you. Breathe deeply so that you don’t ever forget the smell of the deep blue.
May to September is your best time.
French Polynesia
The combination of blue waters, lush green islands and white sand beaches is breathtaking in French Polynesia. Kick back on the beaches of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Hyahine, but do not miss Moorea Island, not on any famous list but still very easy on the eye. It’s a heart-shaped island with both white and black sand beaches, dotted with craggy volcanic peaks covered with moist foliage. If you’re thinking waterfalls will make the picture perfect, let us not disappoint you. There are tiny white waterfalls everywhere you look on Moorea Island. It’s impossible not to fall in love with it.
Activities such as snorkelling, swimming with stingrays and scuba diving are also available for the adventurous. Be warned, though: when we tried it, the water was too cold!
Any time of the year is good for French Polynesia.
The blue continent. The dry continent. The cold continent. The pristine continent. However you wish to describe it, Antarctica is Earth’s final frontier. Though it covers as much as 10% of the planet’s surface area, it houses only 30,000 people, and most of them are tourists that go there in the peak of summer. If you’re one of those, though, you will be treated to sights that are out of a science fiction movie, because you will forever be thinking that you’ve gone back in time, to the years before humanity came to power.
Most Antarctica cruises depart from South American ports. Though there are no actual ports in Antarctica, you can see sights such as Deception Island, Half Moon Island and the Lemaire Channel from the warmth and security of your cruise ship. If you go on a smaller vessel, you will be able to take an inflatable landing craft onto shore and gambol in the ice for a bit.
November to March is summer in Antartica, so you’d do well to time your trip for that period. If you want to catch sight of penguin chicks, go after mid-January and you will run into them everywhere.
Penobscot Bay, Maine
If you read Stephen King or watched any of the movies made of his books, you will have a fairly horrifying image of Maine as the town of vampires, rabid dogs and possessed cars. But in reality, it is a historic city with ships and windjammers powered by the wind. The Maine Windjammer Association contains thirteen sailing schooners (please don’t read anything into the number) which were built near the turn of the century.
The destination is never the same for two cruises, because which way your vessel turns depends on the weather and how your captain is feeling that day. There are hundreds of islands inland from the rugged coast of Maine, so one thing we can promise you is that you won’t be spoilt for choice.
Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a week-long journey, you will find your pick here. All windjammers – regardless of the name – offer plush accommodation and delicious food.
Between May and October is your best bet.
Doubtful Sound, New Zealand
Closer to home, situated in a remote section of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park, often called the ‘Switzerland of the South Pacific’, is no less than a national treasure. Mountain peaks, wildlife, unadulterated nature – whatever you wish for, Fiordland will grant it you with a touch of magic sprinkled on it. If on reaching there you feel that it’s familiar, you’re not wrong, because it has been used as the backdrop for filming the popular ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies.
Experiencing the national park is best done through a cruise on Doubtful Sound. Take a 45-minute boat ride across Lake Manapouri and then ride a bus over Wilmot Pass to reach Real Journeys, a local cruise company who will take you out on the water and show you around. The cruise is called the Fiordland Navigator, which is a 70-passenger sailing vessel with private cabins, a dining area and a full meal service.
You will find bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguins in the wilderness of Doubtful Sound. Your cruise will drop anchor during the day and equip you with kayaks so that you can go exploring the inlets and coves. If you return from this cruise and still don’t believe that New Zealand is Paradise on Earth, then you must have been to the real Paradise.
If you go in the summer months (December to March), you can swim in the water. But the cruises run all year.

Damien Peters

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