Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding? Ask us in the comments!)
Ship: MSC Divina
Where: The Bahamas
Who: Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor
Why Onboard? This is Divina’s first sailing out of its new Miami homeport
We Can’t Wait: MSC, an Italian line, has committed a lot of time and money into making Divina more attractive to U.S. passengers — going so far as creating a more restrictive smoking policy (no smoking in the casino!) and adding entertainment that appeals to a North American base. I’ve never sailed MSC and am excited to see what the ship and line offer. It’s rare to see a new ship enter the market like this, and I’m looking forward to giving our readers the low-down on the experience.
Ship: CroisiEurope’s MS Gerard Schmitter
Where: Rhine, boarding in Cologne and stopping in Koenigswinter, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Mannheim and Strasbourg
Who: Jamey Bergman, U.K. River Section Editor
Why Onboard? We’re reviewing the ship, launched in April 2012.
We Can’t Wait: A French line at the lower end of the market, price-wise, CroisiEurope is just beginning to market itself to North American and Brit travelers. The a’la carte pricing means that it comes with a lower fare, which is nice for passengers experiencing their first river cruise. The line also caters to families, rare in the river world, and – in anticipation of expanding beyond its typically French/continental European audience – has drastically cut back its smoking policies. We’re also excited to see how good the French food and wine will be!
Where: A seven-night cruise along the upper Amazon River, starting with an overnight in Lima, Peru
Who: Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
Why Onboard? La Estrella Amazonica is a brand-new ship for International Expeditions, so the chance to check out this line — which is actually new to Cruise Critic too — is one lure. And after cruising twice on mainstream ships down the lower Amazon (Manaus – Rio de Janeiro in Brazil), the opportunity to have a small ship experience on a section of the mighty river that’s less touristic is absolutely intriguing.
We Can’t Wait: I’m equal parts curious and excited for my first-ever expedition/soft adventure cruise; the cruise line’s pre-trip info definitely hints at this being an unusual voyage. International Expeditions suggests packing super-strong mosquito repellant, warns of limited (very limited) phone and Internet access, and notes that diet sodas are not always available on the riverboat (yikes!). Also anticipated: The chance to hone photography skills with this voyage’s expert and, I’ve got to admit, hanging out on a gorgeous new ship and watching the river, and the world beyond it, pass by.
Ship: Sagitta, a 24-person sailboat run by Island Windjammers
Where: A six-night sail through the Leeward Islands, including St. Maarten, St. Kitts, St. Bart’s, St. Eustatius, Nevis and Anguilla.
Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
Why Onboard? Island Windjammers rose from the ashes of the popular but troubled Windjammers Barefoot Cruises several years ago, with fans of the laid-back line vowing to continue its barefoot cruise style. I’ll be reviewing Sagitta, the second ship in the fleet, and checking out the dual personality island, St. Maarten/St. Martin.
We Can’t Wait: This trip marks my third sailboat cruise (besides Island Windjammer’s Diamant, which I reviewed for Cruise Critic in 2010, I sailed on Arabella before that company went out of business), and there’s something special about experiencing the sea at such an intimate level. Besides visiting many Caribbean islands that are new to me, I’m looking forward to snorkeling my heart out and trying the Killer Bees at Sunshine’s.