Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Breakaway - Watery Holidays: Luxe Cruising, French River Barges and Historical Sites Under the Sea

Fabulous holidays are always planned way in advance, and now’s probably as good a time as any to start doing your research for your year-end getaway. We came across some really nifty holiday destinations/options that are high on luxe and a little different from the usual tried and true. We picked out some to share. Here goes….

Head to Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean on super-luxe Crystal Cruises in October. Sailing from Rome, it calls in Barcelona, home of Gaudí’s masterpieces; Valencia, Málaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and Almería, known for its coastline and beaches. On shore, you get bought around to culinary and cultural experiences on Crystal Adventures to see places like Gaudí’s La Pedrera House. The 11-day cruise which leaves on 31 October also goes to Naples and Sicily, Valetta in Malta and Tunis. The cruise has a two-for-one promotion starting at US$5,080, including US$1,000 per person shipboard credits.

Talking about America, the cruise liner will be doing four 11-day cruises between New York and Montréal departing on September 19, September 30, October 11 and October 22. It includes overnight stays in Montréal and either Boston or New York, plus visits to Newport, Rhode Island; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Québec City, Québec and either Bar Harbor or Portland, Maine. Pop on shore and see the land - cliffs and lavish estates in Bar Harbor and Newport, the cobbled streets and French shops in Québec City, or Portland’s art district! Two-for-One (double occupancy) promotional fares start at US$4,275, with US$500 shipboard credits per person and complimentary air transportation from many North American gateways.

Details: www.crystalcruises.com

Still on the waters, how about drifting down the waterways of France on a slow going barge? Afloat in France (part of the Orient Express group) runs five ‘luxury boutique barges’ and plies the waterways of Burgundy, Provence, the Rhône Vallée, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Loire Valley region. Round up some friends and charter an entire boat – they carry from four to 12 passengers - then drift from one French town to another with your own chef, tour guide and professional crew!

There’s lots of sightseeing to do, and amazing experiences which can be tailor-made to suit you - like wine tastings in chateaux, to rambles in the countryside and walks through historic towns and antique markets, even private gala dinners on board, hot air ballooning or golf. It’s no hardship holiday ‘cos you sleep in comfy cabins, and spend the day lounging on the sundeck when you’re not off sightseeing once the barge moors, and every meal is part of the deal. The itinerary can be tailor-made to suit you or you can pick from the existing ones. The boats ply from now until 24 October when the season ends for the year. Obviously the more people the better value – a two person charter of the Alouette starts at £12,960 for a 6-night journey while a 2 night cruise on the Napoleon starts from £29,940 for eight (or £3742 per person).

Details: www.orient-express.com

How about a diving or snorkelling trip in glamour-ridden Portofino? Check into the Hotel Splendido and they will arrange all manner of exotic dive excursions into history at the bottom of the sea between Camogli, Portofino and San Fruttuoso. Swim to the Spanish carrack Iveglia, a weapon carrying wooden sailing ship, built by order of Emperor Charles V, and sunk in 1579; see an German World War II U-Boat that lies between Punta Chiappa and Cala dell’Oro; the Christ of the Abyss, a 2.5 metre tall bronze statue placed 18 metres deep in the bay of San Fruttuoso and the remains of a 2nd century BC Roman ship and many other submerged monuments. There’s also the marine life near Isuela, one of the finest dive sites in the Mediterranean, and midnight dives reveal iridescent seahorses, red sponge, moray eels and octopus, lobsters, damsels, mullet and sea bass.

But if diving is not your thing, send the rest to sea and recline in land-locked luxeness!

- Ee Waun


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