Live bluegrass performances are part of American Queen Steamboat Company’s Bourbon and Bluegrass cruise. // © 2014 AQSC
Feature image (above): Rouen, France, is one stop on Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ Parisian Winter Holiday itinerary. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Everybody loves theme cruises, and travel agents often emphasize the importance of interest-driven itineraries in attracting all-important first timers to cruising.
But it’s not just the newbies who love theme cruises. The extra features on these journeys add spice to any itinerary and give guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in their special interests and avocations, from wine and culinary cruises to jazz and golf.
Here’s a sampling of four theme cruises that set sail in the coming months.
Bourbon and Bluegrass
American Steamboat Company’s nine-day Bourbon & Bluegrass cruises sails between Cincinnati, Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri.
I know that area well, and guests will enjoy a very creative program that should have fans lining up. On these cruises, AQ brings groups such as five-time Grammy Award nominated Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers (Jones has taken national awards as a songwriter and bluegrass broadcaster) and the Louisville-based Storefront Congregation onboard.
Passengers can tour the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky., and there’s a shore side barbeque luncheon at My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, Ky., of Stephen Foster fame.
Guests who want to take a more active role while on the cruise can bring their own instruments and join in open jam sessions every day in the “Pickin’ Parlors,” fueled by lectures and tasting opportunities at Four Roses Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries and other Kentucky bourbons. Tours of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, where 95 percent of all bourbon is made, are augmented by an onaboard moonshine tasting. Famous bourbon makers will also be on the ship to share their finest creations.
Health and Wellness
Avalon Waterways’ 13-day Budapest to Prague Health & Wellness cruise aboard the Illumination is a full river cruise scheduled for July 2015, plus a wonderful opportunity for renewal. With two overnights in Budapest and guided sightseeing, the Illumination sails to Regensburg, Durnstein, and the magnificent Abbey at Melk before spending three nights in Prague.
Fitness guru Suzanne Florence will offer guests her expertise in everything from aerobics and interval training to Pilates and strength training for all levels. She is the creator and master trainer of the Start to Fitness Program, designed to provide classes for de-conditioned, overweight and physically challenged participants. Florence has been teaching yoga and Pilates for more than 10 years and has developed therapeutic sessions for helping individuals with physical limitations such as Parkinson’s Disease, arthritis and joint replacements.
AmaWaterways’ 14-day Jewish Heritage cruise on AmaPrima in November combines all of the normal features of a Blue Danube Discovery itinerary from Budapest to Prague with additional features following Jewish interest. Dedicated Jewish Heritage tours are offered during the two-night stay in Budapest and in Bratislava, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg and in Regensburg. Another Jewish Heritage tour is offered during the three-night stay in Prague.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ Parisian Winter Holiday itinerary sails roundtrip from Paris on River Baroness. Travelers will enjoy the romance of the City of Light as it glitters with Christmas markets in virtually every neighborhood of the city, and the department stores — first invented in Paris — are irresistible at this time of year. In Rouen, cruisers will go on the special “A Taste of Christmas, Normandy style” excursion.
I’d feel it was my duty to try the tarte tatin in the cafes, hear music in the great cathedrals and shop for ceramics at the Christmas markets.