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How to Choose Your Cruise

Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Photo: Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Southeast Asia
THE SHIP Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner
THE ITINERARY Before you set sail from Hong Kong, take a five-hour class at the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute, where you’ll learn the different techniques of Cantonese and Szechuan cooking and prepare dishes under the supervision of the school’s instructors. On the voyage, when you’re not exploring exotic ports, you can switch to European specialties crafted by Cordon Bleu–trained chefs in the Signatures restaurant, or stay local in the Latitudes dining room, where Indo-Chinese recipes get a modern update (try the prawn curry with lemongrass). Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the street food of Bangkok, with an expert guide to navigate you through everything from pad thai to khao soi.
THE DETAILS Twelve-night Hong Kong to Bangkok cruise departs October 10; 877/505-5370; www.rssc.com; from $6,746 per person, double.


French Riviera
THE SHIP Seabourn’s Seabourn Legend
THE ITINERARY Mix in at Monte Carlo, Marseilles, and St.-Tropez. Step off the ship onto sugar sands and perfect your tan while watching sheikhs and celebrities alight from their yachts. Or venture farther inland, with a shore excursion to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region, the hillside town of Eze, or the rustic village of Grimaud. And since you’re in the most stylish place in Europe, why not head to a château for a reception set up just for Seabourn guests?In your A-lister’s gift bag: one free Exclusively Seabourn shore excursion.
THE DETAILS Seven-day Yachtsman’s Riviera cruise departs April 21, July 21, September 1, and September 29; 800/929-9391; www.seabourn.com; from $6,265 per person, double.

South Seas
THE SHIP Star Clippers’ Star Flyer
THE ITINERARY The Star Flyer has just made French Polynesia its year-round home, which means you can sail to the magical ports of the South Pacific the way Captain Cook, Herman ­Melville, and Paul Gauguin did—aboard a masted ship. The mega-yacht has acres of teak-lined decks and carries just 170 passengers through the translucent waters near Bora-Bora. After gallivanting on virgin sands, lounge in the netting hanging from the bowsprit and watch green gumdrops of land come into view. Take a break from the sun with a lobster barbecue on one of the Society Islands
THE DETAILS Seven-night Society Islands cruises sail weekly; 800/442-0551; www.starclippers.com; from $1,845 per person, double.


Galápagos Islands
THE SHIP Eclipse, sailed by Abercrombie & Kent
THE ITINERARY Introduce the young environmentalists in your family to blue-footed boobies, penguins, and other creatures during specially arranged family excursions. The oceangoing Eclipse was built for 100 passengers, but a retrofit in 1999 brought the luxury up a notch, allowing for just 48 passengers in 27 outside cabins. From your stateroom, you can watch sea turtles meander through the shallows. On land, naturalists guide groups of 12 on walks up the rocky islets, where they get close enough to touch the animals (living in isolation with no predators, they are extremely friendly). On board, children’s activity coordinators arrange scavenger hunts, evening events, and learning activities. On the menu: pizza, PBJ’s, and, of course, movies (think: Shrek and Finding Nemo).
THE DETAILS Eleven-day Wonders of the Galápagos trips, each including a seven-night cruise, depart year-round; 800/554-7094; www.abercrombiekent.com; from $5,360 per person, double.

THE SHIP Holland America’s Westerdam
THE ITINERARY This classic cruise comes and goes from Fort Lauderdale. Such convenience is a big selling point, and the beaches the ship calls on can’t be beat: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Grand Turk, and Half Moon Cay—a private island owned by the cruise line, where your kids can live out their Treasure Island fantasies. The ship itself was built for families, with a teens-only lounge, a creative-play area for younger kids, and enough room on the decks for heated games of dodgeball. Trained crew members keep young passengers busy on days at sea, with balloon volleyball, kids’ Olympics, and a teen casino. Among excursions, a big hit with parents is the dune-buggy tour on Grand Turk.
THE DETAILS Seven-day Caribbean itineraries depart weekly; 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com; from $649 per person, double.


THE SHIP Via Australis, operated by International Expeditions
THE ITINERARY The Via Australis, carrying 125 passengers, departs from Punta Arenas, Chile, and sails down to Magdalena Island, where an active colony of Magellanic penguins lay their eggs each year. Farther south, near the Marinelli Glacier, guests go ashore to watch elephant seals, sea lions, and dolphins play in the surf. If you love birds, this is the trip for you: Andean condors, black-browed albatrosses, and flightless steamer ducks are all easy to spot from your outside cabin. Have photographer Eliot Cohen share the secrets to snapping that perfect shot, or ask the captain to deploy a Zodiac so you can land on a deserted beach.
THE DETAILS The 11-day Patagonia Epic Voyage of Exploration and Discovery itinerary includes an eight-day cruise and departs March 5; 800/633-4734; www.ietravel.com; from $3,948 per person, double.


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