Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 17, 2017
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This year's 10 best cruises

When it comes to cruising, the ship may offer its share of attractions and amenities — including lecturers who bring history and geography to life — but the real draw, of course, is the itinerary. In a world where air travel is becoming cumbersome, cruising offers a window on an ever-evolving world panorama. Consider one of these top 10 regions.


1 Eastern Canada and US
Fall is the perfect time to mix glorious foliage with the poignant legacies of the early immigrants who arrived in the New World through Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Pier 21 or New York’s Ellis Island. Besides coddling you with the pomp of legendary sailing heritage on its trans-Atlantic cruises, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II provides a wonderful sense of history on a coastal itinerary that also includes Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City and St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Seven-day cruises aboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 start from US$1695.


2 Baltic Sea
With layers of culture, history and architecture spanning more than a thousand years at the fortress-dominated ports fringing its waters, the Baltic Sea is a favourite of cruise lines. Itineraries run from as far as England, Scotland or Holland, via the Scandinavian or Northern European ports, to St. Petersburg, Russia.

The most intensive experiences link two itineraries over three or more weeks. Crystal’s 11-day itinerary includes excellent options to see the eclectic sites of Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki. There is also the opportunity for a day trip to Berlin, plus a generous three days to enjoy the new decadence of St. Petersburg, including the treasures of the Hermitage Museum and the gilt-embellished Petrodvorets, dubbed the Russian Versailles.
Crystal’s 11-day cruises start at US$5010.
Silversea’s seven-day cruises start at US$5176.


3 UK and Republic of Ireland
Ever since Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland joined tourism forces to market themselves as the peaceful “Island of Ireland,” cruising around the UK has become a joyful mingling of culture and history. And don’t forget the pubs, if you’re inclined to chase the Holy Grail of Guinness.

Holland America Line’s Prinsendam sails a delightful 14-day itinerary from Greenwich to Scotland, the Isle of Skye, Belfast and Dublin, before heading to Wales, the Channel Islands and the white cliffs of Dover. If you can spare 35 days, this cruise continues on to the Norwegian Fjords and Iceland before ending in Amsterdam.
Holland America Line’s Prinsendam 14-day Celtic Kingdoms cruise starts at US$3715.


4 Mediterranean
A mind-boggling scope of itineraries crosses the Mediterranean Sea from Barcelona to the French and Italian Rivieras, the Greek isles, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Turkey, Israel, Egypt and North Africa.

For first-timers to the region, Carnival’s intensive 12-day itinerary, looping from Civitavecchia (Rome), is a wonderful and economical introduction to Istanbul, Athens and Florence, as well as a couple of sun-kissed Greek islands.

Seasoned cruisers — particularly history buffs — will be enthralled by itineraries on smaller ships. Visit exclusive ports such as St. Tropez or Cassis in France, or explore rare archeological sites such as the walled Croatian city of Dubrovnik, Alexandria in Egypt for access to Cairo and the Pyramids, Istanbul in Turkey for the 1000-year-old Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque, or the neighbouring port of Kusadasi for the ruins of Ephesus. Here’s where experienced travellers will browse the brochures of, say, the Yachts of Seabourn, to find an enticing odyssey.
Carnival’s 12-day cruises start from US$1399.
Seabourn’s seven-day cruises start from US$3945.


5 South America
South America is the hot new locale for experiences in wildly contrasting landscapes from rainforests lush with exotic flora and fauna, to plunging waterfalls, to primitive mountaintop villages. Several lines offer lengthy cruises that circumnavigate the continent, some starting in Florida via the Panama Canal and sailing on to Polynesian islands.

Regent Seven Seas’ itinerary departs Buenos Aires for Montevideo, Uruguay, and other ports en route to the Falkland Islands, before cruising around Cape Horn, Chile — the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago — to Ushuaia. From here, the ship turns north to Punta Arenas, Chile, where nature excursions include a humpback whale sanctuary, a penguin reserve, a scenic hike, and an option for a four-day overland trip in Patagonia. After stopping in other nature-rich ports, the cruise culminates in Valparaiso, for Santiago, Chile.
Regent Seven Seas’ 15-night cruise starts from US$10,495.


6 Antarctica
The frosted wilderness of Antarctica leads to a spiritual awakening on Silversea’s new Prince Albert II expedition ship. Looping from Ushuaia, Argentina, the 11-day voyage crosses the Drake Passage, its converging waters pushing nutrients to the surface that become a magnet for seabirds and other animals. This leads to astonishing animal encounters, including humpback, minke and orca whales. Around the Antarctic Peninsula’s glacial landscape, passengers board Zodiacs that bring them face to face with penguins and seals sunbathing on drifting ice floes.
Silversea’s 11-day Classic Antarctica journey starts from US$6168, cruise only.


7 Middle East
For all the historic and political significance of the Middle East, both past and present, itineraries to the region offer insights to people who are forging incredible changes to barren landscapes in the United Arab Emirates. Several lines (including Holland America, Seabourn, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas) call at Dubai en route to Mumbai, India or Capetown, South Africa. Crystal, which overnights in Dubai, offers visits to Abu Dhabi and deep desert treks. It then sails to Oman and on to Luxor, Egypt and Aqaba, Jordan before transiting the Suez Canal, en route to Alexandria, Egypt where passengers can venture to the Sphinx and Pyramids outside of Cairo before the ship heads across the Mediterranean to Piraeus, Greece.
Crystal’s 14-day Modern & Ancient Wonders Cruise starts at US$6400.


8 Asia
Now is the perfect time to cruise around Asia before development completely transforms the settings of the few remaining pristine cultural sites. In a region where itinerary selection is tough, because choices range from Japan to India, two itineraries stand out purely for the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.

Regent Seven Sea’s itinerary from Hong Kong provides inspiring glimpses of Vietnam with visits to Hanoi, the ancient city of Hue, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) and a day cruising among the karst formations and tiny villages of Halong Bay — truly one of the world’s most beautiful places — as it heads to Bangkok in Thailand before ending in Singapore.

Crystal’s Asia itinerary is spectacular. It starts with three days in Beijing and cruises the Yellow Sea before berthing for a couple of nights in Shanghai. The ship then heads to the East China Sea and overnights in Osaka, Japan, before sailing to Hong Kong — one of the world’s most remarkable harbours for all its surrounding skyscrapers — where the ship is your hotel for three nights.
Regent Seven Sea’s 16-day Hong Kong to Singapore cruise is from US$9495.
Crystal’s 15-day Far East Enchantment cruise is from US$5995.


9 Down Under
Awesome scenery, evocative local cultures and a constant array of delicious local wines are the hallmarks of a cruise to Australia and New Zealand. Holland America Line’s itinerary from Sydney, Australia — undoubtedly one of the world’s most scenic ports — allows ample time to explore sophisticated Melbourne and trek the rainforest or barren plateaus in Tasmania. There is also full-day access to breathtaking sea, land and aerial adventures in the diverse ports of New Zealand as you circumnavigate the two-island country en route to its capital city of Auckland.
Holland America’s 14-day New Zealand and Australia Cruise starts from US$1382.


10 Alaska
Whether you already dwell on the concepts of global warming and receding glaciers, an Alaska cruise will put those environmental issues in context by exposure to vast natural beauty.

Conducive to families and inter-generational travel, all the vessels plying Alaskan waters offer thrilling adventures: flight-seeing over the Misty Fjords; walking on glaciers; fishing or boating to nature reserves; and hiking among ancient totem poles in the northwest rainforests.

Seasoned travellers may be dismayed that many ports have taken on the commercial qualities of Caribbean islands. But that will be quickly forgotten after sailing into Glacier Bay, where the views of seals afloat on ice floes and the thunder of calving glaciers is a reminder of nature’s pristine heritage. For all the variations, the best Alaskan itineraries include Glacier Bay.
Cruise West’s 13-day Coastal Odyssey from Vancouver to Anchorage Alaska runs from US$7599.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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