Cruise on a theme: Moving away from old stereotypes

Wine and dine against a sunset with Blue Star Yachting’s Sunset Cruise.
Wine and dine against a sunset with Blue Star Yachting’s Sunset Cruise. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Have the impression that cruises are for retirees and seniors?

Well, think again. New, niche cruises might just change your mindset and have you hopping aboard a ship soon.

Much like the current trend of themed cafes being geared towards specific interests such as cycling, cats and books, cruise operators and event organisers are programming onboard experiences that revolve around certain interests such as cycling, Korean culture and electronic dance music.

This also allows cruise operators to cast the net wider when it comes to wooing customers.

For example, Star Cruises is hoping to ride on the success of "hallyu", or the Korean wave, with its Korean-themed offerings.

It is banking on Broadway hit Nanta (Cookin'), a Korean cooking, music and comedy show, which will be performed onboard the SuperStar Gemini from Nov 14 till Jan 2 next year, to bring in the crowds.

"Nanta" means to strike relentlessly in Korean, which is what the performers will be doing to traditional Korean water drums with cooking utensils to create music.

Besides watching the show, guests can also enjoy activities such as kimchi-making classes and K-pop line dancing lessons on the cruise, which will sail to destinations in Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

"The K-pop wave has gained phenomenal global popularity and we are confident this entertainment will appeal to many holiday-makers," says Star Cruises' senior vice-president of sales Michael Goh.

Event organisers, too, are hoping that people will try out their sea legs.

Malaysian company The LiveScape Group is throwing a five-day, four-night music festival titled It's The Ship, from Nov 21 to 25 onboard Voyager of the Seas by Royal Caribbean International.

The event boasts a line-up of 45 music acts, with headliners such as British electronic dance music duo Basement Jaxx and Dutch DJ group Dash Berlin. The ship will dock at Langkawi for a beach party hosted by American rapper Lil Jon.

LiveScape's public relations head Jason Kong says the idea came about because though the festival scene in South-east Asia is heating up, the festivals were "all starting to look pretty much the same".

"The one key difference between It's The Ship and other music festivals is that it is not just a music festival, it is also a vacation," he says.

He adds that the event will be a yearly affair with different destinations each time.
Though there have been similar cruises in the United States and Europe, such as SS Coachella that will sail to Bahamas and Jamaica in December, the idea of a floating music festival is novel in these parts.

To date, 60 per cent of the 3,800 tickets for It's The Ship have been snapped up.

One partygoer who has booked the cruise is Ms Nurul Giyanto. The 26-year-old electronic dance music fan is hoping that the event will emulate the Las Vegas party scene, which she recently experienced.

"They have parties on a bus and in limousines. The atmosphere was very different. It wasn't just about the DJs, the atmosphere was just something else," says the events producer, who is looking forward to catching Dash Berlin on the cruise.

For wine aficionados looking for a more laidback experience, Blue Star Yachting's new three-hour wine cruises might be your cup of tea.

Its wine packages, introduced last month, include selections of Australian and New Zealand champagnes and white and red wines, paired with platters of cheese or cold cuts.

Mr Arjen Blom, owner of Wine Directions, not only supplies the tipples but will also be the resident "wine host" and expert.

"This is the perfect package for people to unwind with after a day at work," says Ms Celine Flamain, captain of the Sunreef62 catamaran where the wine tasting will take place.

Ms Katherine Ong, 35, was invited for a preview last week with her aunt and found the experience "refreshing".

"In Singapore, everything is quite fast-paced and stressful. Being on a yacht felt like taking a break - it was very relaxing," says the sales director.

Another fan of these specialised cruises is avid cyclist Kevin Soh, 50, a ear, nose and throat surgeon. He went on a four-day, three-night cycling expedition to Phuket and Penang in March.

Cyclists get to take their bicycles on the trip, which would be unloaded at each dock for a day of cycling.

"After a hard day of intense cycling and calorie busting, I found it powerfully gratifying to be able to bathe and soak in the luxury, comfort and cosiness of the cruise ship," says Dr Soh.

Conditioning classes to aid muscle recovery and safety workshops were conducted onboard as well.

After organising three successful cycling trips over the past two years that attracted an average of 40 cyclists a trip, Star Cruises says it hopes to have more next year, though dates have not been fixed.

If you wish to hone your culinary skills, sail with luxury cruise operator SilverSea Cruises. Hosted by SilverSea's culinary trainer, Chef David Bisland, a former instructor at London's Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, the itinerary includes cooking demonstrations and private lunch sessions with the chef.

Prices for niche cruises can vary from as low as $350 to as high as $10,000, depending on the length of the trip and the destination. But the cost usually includes meals, entertainment options and access to facilities (though not all are free).

For example, It's The Ship participants will also enjoy access to an ice-skating rink, rock climbing wall and a surf simulator, among others.

Whatever your interests, one notable draw of niche cruises is that they tend to attract like- minded individuals who may bond almost instantly.

IT consultant Andrew Lum, 40, made friends during his first cycling expedition last year with Star Cruises, and joined them for a second trip in March this year.

"Going with someone you know is more fun. Somehow, we 'click' already," he says.

nabilahs@sph.com.sg

SUNSET WINE CRUISE WITH BLUE STAR YACHTING

What: Enjoy a package deal that includes champagne and red and white wines, paired with food such as cheese cubes, on these three-hour weekday sunset cruises.

The yacht operator is partnering wine distributor Wine Directions to offer a selection of Australian and New Zealand wines such as Tarrawarra Estate Pinot Noir 2010.

The 37-seater catamaran plies the Sentosa Cove area on the way back, just in time to catch the fireworks show, Wings Of Time, at Sentosa.

When: Weekdays, 6 to 9pm

Tickets: $2,050 (for 23 people) to $2,550 (for 37 people) for three-hour cruises, wine packages are an additional $90 (for a selection of four wines) to $120 (for a selection of five wines) a person

Info: www.bluestar yachting.net

CYCLING EXPEDITIONS WITH STAR CRUISES

What: Star Cruises has offered two cycling expeditions over the past two years to destinations such as Phuket, Penang and Langkawi.

The cruise comes with conditioning classes conducted by a professional trainer, free cycling jerseys and workshops on cycling safely.

Info: For information on upcoming cruises, go to www.facebook.com/groups/tourdestarcruises

KOREAN NANTA @ SEA ON SUPERSTAR GEMINI

What: Organised by Star Cruises and supported by Korean media company Hannah Press, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Singapore and Korea Tourism Organisation, this Korean-themed cruise will offer a basic Korean language class, K-pop line dancing class, and art and craft sessions focusing on crafts such as Korean paper fans and paper dolls.

Also catch Broadway hit Nanta (Cookin’), which combines food with percussion and comedy.The ship sails to Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang and Langkawi.

When: Nov 14 to Jan 2, 2015

Tickets: $578 to $997 a person (varies according to length of trip and destination)

Info: www.starcruises.com

IT’S THE SHIP BY THE LIVESCAPE GROUP

What: Billed as Asia’s first music festival on a ship, this five-day, four-night event boasts a packed line-up of international and regional dance and electronic dance music acts such as Basement Jaxx and Chvrches.

The cruise liner will dock at Langkawi on Nov 23 for a beach party headlined by American rapper Lil Jon.

The ship, Voyager of The Seas by Royal Caribbean International, will boast five stages for an ultimate party experience organised by Malaysian company The LiveScape Group.

When: Nov 21 to 25 (registration closes on Nov 1)

Tickets: US$538 (S$684) to US$1,568 for quadsharing, US$628 to US$1,858 for triple-sharing, and US$728 to US$2,548 for twin-sharing. (Prices include meals and access to 80 per cent of the ship’s facilities, excludes alcoholic drinks)

Info: www.itstheship.com
CULINARY SCHOOL BY SILVERSEA CRUISES

What: These L’Ecole des Chefs Voyage cruises are hosted by SilverSea’s culinary trainer chef David Bisland, and are designed by Relais & Chateaux, a global association of 500 prestigious hotels and restaurants. Enjoy cooking demonstrations and competitions. There is a special “Market to Plate” segment offered at certain destinations, where guests will be taken to a market to shop for fresh ingredients, followed by a cooking class onboard the ship or on a Relais & Chateaux property.

Info: For information on upcoming cruises, go to www.silversea.com