Discover themed cruising: Explore the world through your passions

Author: Dave Monk

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Whether it’s horticulture or history, gastronomy or the great outdoors, a themed cruise lets you follow your passion to some of the world’s most amazing destinations.

Cruising is great fun – but, combined with your favourite hobby or interest, it really can be a voyage of discovery, too.

From wine to wellness, cuisine to cycling, live music to horticulture, there’s an itinerary out there for everyone, whatever your level of knowledge or fitness.

As well as the usual ports and onboard facilities, themed cruises offer special tours, speakers and activities – and the company of fellow enthusiasts. You might even meet your favourite TV and music stars, film characters and authors during the course of your voyage.

And although cruise ships could never be accused of stinginess with food and drink, certain itineraries focus on favourites like beer or chocolate. Across the cruise industry, there’s a voyage for every taste. Some don't even require clothes...

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Food and drink

Grape expectations

One river of wine might sound tempting– so how about three? A ‘Connoisseur Collection’ cruise in France aboard Uniworld’s Bon Voyage explores the Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne in just eight days.

The trip begins with a visit to the Rémy Martin estate, which has been producing cognac for almost 300 years. Passengers then take a tour of Margaux, past the vineyards of Châteaux Mouton Rothschild, Latour and Pichon Baron, and also visit the dessert wine country of Cadillac.

- READ MORE: Best Princess excursions for food and drink -

After Saint-Émilion, the tour ends with two nights in France’s wine capital, Bordeaux.

Get onboard
Uniworld's seven-night ‘Connoisseur Collection’ cruise aboard Bon Voyage, departs Bordeaux throughout July and August 2022, from £2,949pp.

Wine connoisseurs can sample some of the finest France has to offer. Credit: Shutterstock

Cheers for the beer

Beer lovers will raise a stein to this Avalon cruise through Germany, with plenty of opportunities to sample local brews along the Main and Rhine, plus nightly lectures, tastings and food pairings.

The voyage begins in Nuremberg, then heads to Bamberg for a hop-garden tour and tasting of an unusual smoked beer. More themed tours are offered as the ship visit Wurzburg, Frankfurt, Rudesheimand Strasbourg.

- READ MORE: Top five Europe culinary tours with Holland America Line -

In the Black Forest wine-making town of Breisach, you may wish to refresh your palate with a glass of the local speciality before returning to your ship for more delicious ale.

Get onboard
Avalon's eight-night ‘German Grandeur for Beer Enthusiasts’ cruise, from Nuremberg to Basel, departs July 21, 2023, from £2,219pp.

Where better to enjoy an array of beverages than on the magnificent Rhine? Credit: Shutterstock

Canadian flavours

Quebec may be the home of poutine – the dish of chips, cheese curds and gravy that only a Canadian could love – but you’ll discover a whole world of amazing flavours on this cruise with chef Irene Li, founder of a family-run Chinese restaurant in Boston.

Kamouraska lamb, lobster and Halifax donair (spiced beef in steamed pitta) are just a few of the delights to be sampled in port as Windstar's boutique cruise ship Star Pride sails south from Montreal.

- READ MORE: MSC Cruises unveils exciting culinary experiences on new MSC World Europa -

Chef Irene will lead guests ashore on a market tour, while back on board she will give cookery demonstrations and host a dinner with wine pairing.

Get onboard
Windstar's 11-night ‘Southeast Canadian Explorations’ cruise, from Montreal to Boston, departing 12 October 2022, from £4,015.

Expect to try delicacies such as lobster on Windstar's Canadian cruise which is perfect for foodies. Credit: Shutterstock

Chocs away!

If an interactive workshop in a chocolate museum sounds like your kind of holiday, join Scenic’s 11-day cruise through southern France, from Lyon to Tournus, Macon, Chalon-sur-Saone, Tain l’Hermitage, Avignon and Viviers.

As well as a behind-closed-doors treat at the Valrhona Cité du Chocolat, passengers on Scenic Sapphire will be treated to dinner by Michelin-starred Didier Goiffon.

- READ MORE: Princess Cruises offers first gelato experience at sea -

Then there’s a visit to the restaurant of another acclaimed chef, Georges Blanc, and naturally there will be plenty of wine to accompany all that fabulous food.

Get onboard
Scenic's 10-night ‘Tastes of Southern France’ cruise, round trip from Lyon, departs September 20, 2022, from £4,545pp.

Quintessential chocoholics can look forward to an interactive workshop at a chocolate museum. Credit: Shutterstock


Orchestral manoeuvres

While some ships host singers or bands, Cunard does things on a grander scale.

Conductor Anthony Inglis will lead the National Symphony Orchestra aboard Queen Mary 2 this autumn, for an eastbound transatlantic crossing that begins with an evening of all-American music, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

- READ MORE: Soprano Sarah Brightman to appear on Seabourn Encore -

Then, before arriving home at Southampton, music-loving guests can hear a ‘Best of British’ programme, as well as an afternoon concert featuring Ravel’s Bolero.

Get onboard
Cunard's seven-night ‘Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra’ cruise, from New York to Southampton, departs October 25, 2022, from £949pp.

Lose yourself in one of the grand performances held by the National Symphony Orchestra on Cunard.Credit: Shutterstock

Get onboard with Gareth

Given that he was actually the runner-up in the first series of pop Idol (2002, can you believe it?), Gareth Gates has done pretty well for himself.

As well as enjoying a highly successful singing career, he has also become a familiar face in musical theatre, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Les Misérables.

- READ MORE: Holland America Line's enjoyable musical experiences -

This year he’ll be a familiar face aboard Sky Princess, too, performing on cruises in July and August.

Get onboard
Princess Cruises' 14-night ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ cruise aboard Sky Princess, round trip from Southampton via Tromso and Bergen, departs August 20, 2022, from £1,249pp.

Climb aboard and set sail for Australia. Credit: Princess Cruises.

All that jazz

Love the big band sound? Then treat yourself to a transatlantic voyage on QM2 this spring.

- READ MORE: Princess Cruises reveals dedicated jazz lounges on two ships -

As Alex Mendham & His Orchestra entertain you with the music and style of the 1920s and 30s, you’ll believe you’re back in the golden days of the great ocean liners.

Get onboard
Cunard's seven-night ‘Dance Across The Atlantic’ cruise from Southampton to New York, departing 24 April 2022 (preceded by a gala night in London), from £1,299pp.

Enjoy hot jazz and showtunes from the Golden Age of Hollywood on a Cunard cruise. Credit: Shutterstock

Health and fitness

On your bike

Cruising has the reputation of being a sedentary sort of holiday – but you won't say that if you take one of the new breed of activity trips, such as cycling tours with Sail Croatia.

A typical seven-day Adriatic cruise includes bike rides on the island of Mljet, through the wine region of Lumbarda, across the Stari Grad plain and over the island of Brac.

- READ MORE: Explore Virgin Voyages' fitness and wellness offerings -

And if that sounds a little too energetic, don’t worry – electric bikes are also available.

Get onboard
Sail Croatia's seven-night ‘Cycling Croatia’ cruise, from Split to Dubrovnik, departs September 24, 2022, from £869pp.

On your bike: Sail Croatia's 'Cycling Cruise' is perfect for cyclists. Credit: Shutterstock

Take a hike

Hiking on city tours, through wine regions and even along a low mountain range are on offer with a CroisiEurope cruise from Austria to Slovakia via Hungary.

Passengers get to pull on their walking boots in the Little Carpathian mountain range, the Wachau Valley and through the urban splendours of Buda, Pest and Vienna.

- READ MORE: Bizarre ways to stay healthy on a cruise -

As well as seeing the Visegrad Fortress – one of the most photographed castles on the Danube – there’s a chance to hike to it, too. The cruise also includes calls at Melk, Durnstein, Bratislava and Esztergom.

Get onboard
CroisiEurope's seven-night cruise, round trip from Vienna via Bratislava and Budapest, departs September 21, 2022, from £2,019pp.

Passengers get to pull on their walking boots on a CroisiEurope cruise. Credit: Shutterstock


Luxe lounging

Wellness doesn’t have to be all about kale smoothies and tai chi. Silversea’s new Otium programme – named after the ancient Roman term for leisure hours spent bathing, drinking, eating and relaxing – emphasises pampering rather than self-sacrifice.

Beginning on Silver Dawn this year, the line will offer comfort food, such as lobster and caviar in brioche rolls, served on your balcony, with a hot chocolate menu if it’s chilly.

- READ MORE: Silversea Cruises unveils unique wellness programme -

Guests can then warm up in a relaxing bath prepared by their butler, before a blissful night’s sleep on a specially designed mattress.

Get onboard
Silversea's seven-night ‘Barcelona Return’ cruise aboard Silver Dawn, via Marseille, Monte Carlo, Rome and Palma de Mallorca, departs October 26, 2022, from £2,550pp.

Pamper yourself as part of Silversea’s new Otium programme. Credit: Shutterstock

Natural selection

Discover the benefits of aloe vera by visiting a farm that grows it in Ibiza before strolling the streets of Santa Gertrudis, a bohemian haven for artists, during a seven-night cruise with Regent Seven Seas.

Other excursions include yoga in the island’s countryside, learning about ancient alchemy on a citrus farm in Malaga, and finding out how organic honey is produced in Cadiz.

- READ MORE: Explore vibrant island culture with Regent Seven Seas -

Back onboard Seven Seas Voyager, you can soothe your mind and body with treatments including body wraps, massages and facials.

Get onboard
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' seven-night ‘An Iberian Exploration’ cruise, from Barcelona to Lisbon, departs June 25, 2023, from £5,009pp.

Fancy finding out how organic honey is produced? You can do so on a Regent Seven Seas Cruise.Credit: Shutterstock

History and culture

In the footsteps of heroes

If your family lost someone during the two world wars, this cruise – taking place over Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday – may give you the chance to remember them where they fell.

Sailing aboard Fred Olsen’s Bolette, you’ll be able to visit the Dunkirk beaches, Ypres and the town of Liège, where the opening engagement of the First World War took place.

- READ MORE: What is cultural expedition cruising? -

Bolette also stops at Boulogne, the closest port to the Somme, where guests can see the Thiepval Memorial. The final call is at Honfleur to visit the sites of the D-Day landings.

Get onboard
Fred Olsen's eight-night ‘Remembrance Beaches & Battlefields’ cruise, round trip from London Tilbury, departs November 9 2022, from £1,199pp.

Coinciding with Armistice Day, this cruise on board Bolette provides a unique opportunity to pay your respects to the fallen. Credit: Shutterstock.

Greek odyssey

Follow the journey of St Paul the Apostle on your own Greek odyssey through the Cyclades islands and the coastline of Turkey, discovering how his ideas sparked riots and landed him in prison.

- READ MORE: The best islands to visit in Greece -

Starting in Athens, Celestyal Crystal calls at Thessaloniki, Kavala, Istanbul, Dikili, Kusadasi and Patmos, with chances to visit landmarks including the Hagia Sophia mosque, the Holy Grotto of the Apocalypse, the Faustina Baths of Miletus and ancient Ephesus, the best preserved historic site in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Get onboard
Celestyal's seven-night ‘Steps of St Paul’ cruise, round trip from Athens, departs October 15, 2022, from £979pp.

Greece is the word. Credit: Shutterstock

Way out west

In 1804, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off to chart the newly expanded United States, heading from east to west in a 55ft sailing vessel.

You can retrace some of their journey along the Snake and Columbia rivers on a modern river ship.

- READ MORE: From ancient pyramids to preserved temples: The top Nile cruise -

Starting off from Portland, Oregon, guests visit Mount St Helens, see Multnomah Falls – the second tallest waterfall in the country– and enjoy the views and wildlife of the Columbia River Gorge. There’s a taste of the Wild West in Pendleton, too.

Get onboard
American Cruise Lines' 10-night ‘Northwest Pioneers’ cruise, from Portland to Clarkston, departs September 27, 2022, from £5,482pp.

The Columbia River gorge is a spectacular river canyon that rewards a visit. Credit: Shutterstock


Horticultural hits

Green-fingered cruisers can get new inspiration next spring with a tour of Britain's most beautiful gardens.

Noble Caledonia’s themed cruise around England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland sails from Portsmouth to the Channel Islands for the gardens at La Seigneurieon Sark, and then to Fowey for Caerhays Castle.

- READ MORE:Review: An Italian adventure with Noble Caledonia -

On the Isles of Scilly, onboard guide Mike Nelhams will show guests around his own Abbey Garden. In Waterford it’s Mount Congreve; in Dun Laoghaire you’ll see the gardens of Powerscourt; Llandudno has Bodnant Garden; there’s Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland guests will visit the secluded Isle of Gigha.

Get onboard
Noble Caledonia's 10-night ‘Coastal Gardens of Britain & Ireland’ cruise, from Portsmouth to Oban, departs May 11, 2023, from £5,095pp.

Venture to one of Britain’s incredible gardens on a cruise. Credit: Shutterstock

Flower power

Heading further afield, new line Ambassador offers a winter sun cruise from Tilbury to the Canaries, Madeira and Morocco with its own panel of gardening experts on board.

Passengers can not only learn when best to prune their fuchsias but also how to make elderflower champagne and nasturtium vodka, thanks to advice from wildlife gardener Professor Chris Baines, lecturer Advolly Richmond, author Andy Hamilton and herbalist Julia Behrens.

- READ MORE: Charlie Dimmock interview: TV gardener on cruising and flowers -

Stops include Funchal, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Casablanca.

Get onboard
Ambassador Cruise Line's 15-night ‘Canaries, Madeira & Morocco Winter Sun’ cruise, round trip from London Tilbury, departs November 24, 2022, from £1,099pp.

Learn how to make Elderflower champagne with Ambassador Cruise Line. Credit: Shutterstock

Adult fun

It’s not only golf-themed cruises where you might find a few swingers – there are also adults-only, clothing-optional voyages with some pretty racy entertainment.

- READ MORE: Cruise ship entertainment: Best cruise lines for fun at sea -

If the fancy takes you, Desire Resorts is offering a Venice-to-Rome cruise in May 2023 which includes ‘an alluring playroom, sexy pool parties and temperature-raising theme nights’.

Well, if it floats your boat...

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