Andy Church, from GoCruise, looks at some of the themed cruises that are now available

In a previous article we discussed cruising for the first time, and why cruising can be for everyone. In this article, we will look a little closer at cruises which are designed to attract those interested in a particular subject – whether that is a hobby, interest or geographical field. Themed cruises are a growing part of the industry aiming themselves at holidaymakers who want to dig deeper into a specific area of interest – and there are many different themes to choose from – both on ocean and river ships.

In almost all cases these cruises will appeal to those who just want to experience the destinations, as much as to those who want to explore their passion. This means that a couple or a group can all travel together, with some enjoying immersion into their chosen area, whilst their partners or friends can just enjoy a regular cruise.

Wine is something that appeals to many, and the possibility of discovering more about it, and particularly being able to sample the goods, makes wine themed cruises extremely popular. Indeed, many river cruises wend their way through some of the best wine-producing country there is. Cruises around Bordeaux are offered by many of the river cruise lines with the most luxurious, Uniworld, offering a cruise called ‘Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux’.

Over the course of 8-days guests savour the unique heritage of southwest France, from delightful Pauillac, the gateway to the storied Médoc wine route, to elegant Bordeaux, the ‘Pearl of the Aquitaine’, as the region is also known. Explore Saint-Émilion’s astonishing 12th-century Monolithic Church, and enjoy the beautiful Médoc vineyards on a bicycle. It’s immersion in all things wine, with tastings and incredible food – as is the case on all of Uniworld’s cruises. On Uniworld everything – that’s food, drinks and excursions – is included.

This year’s hottest spot for river cruising is the Douro in Portugal, where most of the major cruise lines offer an itinerary which will include some visits to wineries, along with both wine and port tasting. Most also offer pre or post cruise extensions to what is usually a 7-night cruise – either in Porto, or with a short journey up to Lisbon.

Some take it further though. Amadeus Cruises are offering three specific wine themed cruises in 2018, with cruises on rivers which are not necessarily so obvious – the Rhone, Rhine and the Danube. On all these cruises you have the opportunity to visit four vineyards. Amadeus are all inclusive apart from the excursions, so these tours are in addition to the base price. However, this means that if you are travelling with someone who is not so interested they can opt out by either staying on the boat or enjoying a different excursion entirely. These cruises do include a Captain’s dinner and a wine dinner – both of which include wine pairings – and a Master of Wine on board to share their expertise at lectures and wine tastings.

Cunard’s Queen Victoria hosts its first dedicated Voyage du Vin, calling at some of Europe’s finest wine and port destinations including Oporto, Lisbon and Vigo. On this sailing in 2018 guests have a unique opportunity to join the new Cunard Wine Academy, where they can elect to take the Wines and Spirits Education Trust Level 1. The Academy will also feature a bespoke series of dinners, tastings and masterclasses with leading Iberian wine producers and experts to satisfy the interests of oenophiles, from budding beginners to advanced enthusiasts.

Something a little different can be found on the Holland America cruise ship MS Koningsdam – an intimate venue at which wine connoisseurs and novices alike can experience the art of winemaking. Called BLEND, it is run in collaboration with Chateau St. Michelle, Washington State’s oldest and most acclaimed winery. Guests are able to blend their own wine and enjoy it either at dinner or in the privacy of their own stateroom.

Given that so many people consider themselves to be ‘foodies’ these days, it is no surprise to learn that the cruise lines are catering more and more to this market. From having famous chefs demonstrating onboard (James Martin and Marco Pierre White on P&O for instance) to being taken to extraordinary restaurants along a speciality river cruise, getting your hands-on quality cuisine has never been easier.

Almost all cruise ships these days have a variety of extraordinary places to eat, but many now also offer other experiences, such as culinary academies, where you will be taught all manner of cooking techniques.
Christmas Market cruises are another growing sector with more and more cruise lines offering short breaks to see markets as diverse as Antwerp, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rouen, Honfleur, Hamburg, Strasbourg, Bremen, Budapest and Vienna to name but a few. These are either short 2-3 day trips on ocean cruise liners or 7-day river trips and sail in November and December.

There are cruises which offer African safari excursions, or to see caimans and sloths in the Amazon. From fitness to painting, the variety of cruises on offer today is truly extraordinary, and whether you have an existing interest, or want to learn about something new, it’s likely that you will find a cruise to suit.

We will discuss more in a future issue of VantagePoint, but in the meantime, please call GoCruise if you would like some help.

GoCruise is your local cruise specialists, run by Andy Church & Olivia Chapman. Tel 01483 808787, email or visit