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Theme cruises alter the course

So, you've cruised many times and it's getting a little old. Eastern, western, southern Caribbean, you've seen it all. Europe? Old hat. Panama Canal? Twice.

Or maybe you've never cruised but want more out of the experience than umbrella drinks on the Lido deck. Or, at least that's your impression of cruising.

Maybe you should put a themed cruise on your list.

No matter what your passion, cruise lines have likely found a way to cater to you and like-minded travelers with voyages full of topical activities to scratch your itch. And here's a bonus: Many of the themed cruises leave from one of Florida's five ports (Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa.

Here are some that caught our eye:

• Overpack for Norwegian Cruise Line's Antiques Vacation cruise, departing on Oct. 24 on the Majesty, a round-trip from Philadelphia to Bermuda. Dr. Lori, nationally syndicated columnist, certified fine art and antiques appraiser and TV talk show host, will appraise passengers' treasures during the cruise. In addition, there are lectures, valuation tips, private cocktail parties and several antiques-related audience participation games.

• Holland America offers an intellectual smorgasbord during its Dec. 5 Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Eurodam. Scientific American Travel presents its Bright Horizons No. 6 cruise, a heavy-duty array of lectures and classes covering topics such as astrophysics, planetary science, the space program, immunology, and a Q&A based on the book The Physics of Star Trek — not your average cruise ship topics! Even shore excursions have a scientific angle. Classes are all day every sea day.

• Crystal gives golfers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play on some of the best courses in Europe, Southeast Asia and North America during its golf-themed cruises. PGA professionals onboard provide course insights and tips and escort golfers to a legendary golf course in almost every port. And the pros are on hand to commiserate over those hooks and shanks.

• What can we say except that a Spotlight on Chocolate cruise is heaven? Regent Seven Seas' Navigator 11-night Caribbean cruise out of Fort Lauderdale begins Nov. 30. Chocolate lovers (and who isn't) will find lots to savor in the cooking demonstrations with master pastry chefs, explorations with wine experts of what to drink with chocolate, and in conversations about the history of chocolate (and its role in history). Needless to say, your taste buds will get a blissful workout with all the sampling involved.

• For those with a more artistic bent, Cunard hosts a number of special guests on cruises throughout the year to add literary flare to a voyage. This year, visiting authors include Susan Cheever, E.L. Doctorow, Erica Jong and Brad Gooch. The lectures and discussions cover each author's work as well as the state of literature in general. And Oxford Discovery offers acting, both watching and learning, with graduates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, on the Queen Mary 2.

• On Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess, every seven-day cruise in the Caribbean is romance-themed. The original Love Boat gives passengers the chance to "build their own" romance cruise with special onboard and onshore activities. The ship offers shore excursions for couples such as a two-person miniboat ride to Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and the Passion Island beach adventure at Cozumel, Mexico. Princess' Ultimate Balcony Dinner and special champagne breakfast let the romantically inclined enjoy a special interlude in the privacy of their cabin. And a couples' massage in a cabana in the Sanctuary is just the thing to spark up a sea day — and you'll be sent back to your cabin with a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. For the ultimate, passengers can wed or renew their vows in the onboard wedding chapel with the ship's captain officiating (sorry, Capt. Stubing is retired).

• Wine-tasting cruises are popular and numerous. For 2009, Oceania has a series of wine-themed cruises, each built around a single American vintner or type of wine. In addition to the requisite wine tastings, events include lectures from the winemakers, classes on food and wine pairing, cooking demonstrations, special dinners, and winemaker tours of the best wineries near each port.

• Or how about motorcycles, Scrabble, medieval history, soap operas or Big Bands? There is almost no limit to themed cruises. It's a great way to broaden your horizons, increase your knowledge, or just indulge . . . all while sailing. Perhaps the perfect vacation.

Maria Smith is a freelance writer based in Dallas.

fast facts

Themed cruises

They are often sponsored by an outside organization or agent, and they may not be highlighted on cruise lines' Web sites. A comprehensive source:

Theme cruises alter the course 04/27/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 4:30am]
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