The launch this year of Coachella’s first festival at sea on board Celebrity Silhouette, headlined by Pulp and Hot Chip, marks a new age of cruising. From chocolate tours to personal shopping experiences, if you’re after a unique holiday there are some incredible options available, discovers Annabelle Bladon
From the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, birthplace of the tango, to the laid-back beaches of Rio de Janeiro, fiery Latin rhythms lie at the heart of this Azamara cruise, which culminates in three days at the largest carnival in the world. On your way you will pass through Punta del Este, summer playground of Latin America’s rich and famous, and the lush green island of Ilhabela, once a hideout of smugglers and pirates. With an emphasis on overnight and late stays, you will have plenty of time to explore, but as the ship enters Rio’s spectacular harbour, make sure you savour the peace and quiet with a Caipirinha; you’re about to hit the frenzy of the street parties and the world-famous Sambadrome.
Azamara (azamaraclubcruises.com) Twelve nights on Azamara Quest, 31 January 2013, from £2,309 (approx.) based on double occupancy, cruise only, calling at Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Ilhabela, Brazil; Parati, Brazil; Buzios, Brazil; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Whether you are an underwater enthusiast or simply need to get away from it all, eastern Indonesia is an unrivalled paradise. Though its emerald waters churn with life, the thousands of islands are largely uninhabited, and remain almost untouched by tourism.
A few small boats are now starting to explore the region, from Komodo with its dragons to the otherworldly wilds of West Papua’s Raja Ampat. Our favourite is Tiger Blue, a timber and teak phinisi, hand-built by village craftsmen, which promises to leave civilisation behind while retaining its comforts (ensuites, sun loungers and an excellent chef). Charter the schooner and its crew with up to ten of your friends and tailor-make your own itinerary. Dive with mantas in the lava flow of a dormant volcano, kayak through swamps and spend a night on deck under the stars. Lazing on one of the only pink beaches in the world with not another soul in sight, you might just have to pinch yourself; this is the ultimate desert-island experience.
Tiger Blue (tigerblue.info) The schooner charters from £2,055 (approx.) per day, including dives and excursions, excluding flights.
If you fancy cruising the Italian Riviera or the Côte d’Azur, the chances are you’ll want to do a spot of shopping. Not only are Seabourn’s megayachts the way to sail in style and luxury, they also make shopping easy, allowing you to book a special shopping excursion in just about any port in the world. Whisking you away in a private car with the help of an English-speaking guide, Seabourn will take you to the special places you might miss on your own, and make sure that every item on your wish-list is located. Arrange to explore the boutiques of Monte Carlo or the ateliers of Florence – broken up with lunch at a carefully chosen local restaurant – and you could be taking home some very special souvenirs.
Seabourn (seabourn.com) Ten days aboard the Seabourn Sojourn from 1 May 2013 will cost from £3,010pp based on double occupancy and excluding flights. The cruise will be calling at Civitavecchia, Italy; Ile Rousse, Corsica; Livorno, Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Ile de Porquerolles, France; Palamós, Spain; Barcelona, Spain; Valencia, Spain; Cartagena, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal.
With a spate of Peruvian restaurant openings across the world, Peru is enjoying the spotlight as South America’s foodie capital, and boutique river cruise company Aqua Expeditions is offering the chance to learn about its cuisine from deep within the Amazon. Developed by top Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, the multi-course menus incorporate rainforest ingredients with dishes such as shrimp escabeche and armoured catfish caviar. You can even learn how to prepare your own ceviche and mix the perfect pisco sour. Starting in Iquitos, Aqua’s custom-built vessels take you into the remote and pristine wilderness of Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. For the adventurous, a team of local guides lead you through the flooded forest in search of three-toed sloths, howler monkeys and caimans. Breakfast next to pink river dolphins and try your hand at piranha fishing.
Aqua Expeditions (aquaexpeditions.com) offer three nights aboard MV Aria exploring Peru’s Ucayali, Yarapa and Yanallpa rivers starts at £1,557pp, based on double occupancy, including excursions, food and drink, transfers, flights and entrance to the Reserve.
For the chocolate addicts among you, this unique tour of the Southern Caribbean takes place aboard one of Silversea’s small and intimate ships. Beginning in Barbados with three nights at the Relais & Châteaux hotel Cobblers Cove, the cruise will stop at the lesser-known ABC Islands before meandering along the unspoiled Venezuelan coast. From the glitzy boutiques and resorts of Aruba, to the magnificent coral gardens of Bonaire and the thousands of pink flamingos that grace its saltpans, this is the Caribbean that large cruise ships cannot show you. The final destination and highlight of the trip is the tiny ‘Spice Isle’ of Grenada (grenadagrenadines.com). In among the nutmeg and cinnamon is the organic cocoa plantation that supplies trendy London chocolatier Rococo. Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo, will escort you to the plantation. She will then demonstrate the art of chocolate-making and hold tastings.
Mundy Cruising (mundycruising.com) offers 11 nights in a Vista Suite on Silversea’s Silver Whisper on 5 November 2013 from £3,095pp, including return flights from London, calling at the islands of Barbados, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Margarita Island and Grenada.