Every fall, as family vacations draw to an end, cruise lines start promoting their most enticing theme cruises to attract adult travelers during the winter season.
Some theme cruises are standards, such as Norwegian Cruise Line's annual Caribbean jazz sailings aboard the Norway, two weeks with some of the biggest names in jazz aboard. Fans book these cruises as much as a year in advance, but at press time there were still a few cabins available for the Oct. 31 jazz cruise from Valley Travel Group in Sherman Oaks, (800) 348-7865. Evalina Stanley of Valley Travel says the $1,684 per person, double occupancy, package includes round-trip air fare from LAX, transfers in Miami, an overnight hotel stay in Miami before boarding the ship, port charges, taxes and a Category I cabin (inside with double bed).
Such stars as Arturo Sandoval with his 18-piece big band, the Milt Jackson Quartet, Ruth Brown and her band, the Al Grey Sextet and the Great Guitars of Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd and Mundell Lowe will be playing in concert and in casual jam sessions around the ship. Ports of call include Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, Mexico.
But NCL's musical offerings don't stop there. The Norway also hosts two country and western Caribbean sailings this fall and winter. On Nov. 14, Tanya Tucker headlines a roster that includes Ricochet, the Kinleys, Billy Charles and the Tennessee Water Walkers, and Burton Edwards' Magnum Cloggers.
On Jan. 9, Kenny Chesney, named Best New Male Vocalist for 1998 by the Academy of Country Music, will be aboard, along with Martina McBride, Ambush, Jason Sellers and Warren Brothers.
A Dixieland cruise aboard NCL's Norwegian Star set for Sept. 27 includes Conrad Janis and the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, Banu Gibson and the New Orleans Hot Jazz, Tommy Saunders and the Wild Bill Davison Legacy Band and Eddie Polcer's 52nd Street Band. Bob Greene plays the music of Jelly Roll Morton, while Carol Leigh and the Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band will celebrate their 51st anniversary aboard. The ship sails from Houston and visits Cozumel and Calica in Mexico's Yucatan plus Honduras. Fares start at $849 per person, double occupancy, plus air fare.
In the wake of the success of public television's "Antiques Roadshow," Cunard's Royal Viking Sun has scheduled a May 10, 1999, sailing from New York to Bermuda and the colonial South with art historians and antiques experts from Christie's auction house aboard to talk about 20th century art, furniture and decorative arts and antiquities.
Crystal Cruises continues its popular "Wine and Food Festival" aboard the Crystal Harmony this fall with star chef Barbara Tropp, sailing from Hong Kong to Sydney Oct. 19 through Nov. 7 to prepare signature Asian dishes as a guest chef, as well as sign copies of her "China Moon Cookbook."
On Nov. 29, California's own John Ash, creator of the wine country's John Ash & Company restaurant, sails from Sydney to Auckland on Crystal Harmony. During the 11-day cruise he will host a guest chef dinner, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings.
Holland America's new University at Sea offers optional college-level classes for credit entitled "State of the World Global Conference," "Politics, Economics and Tax Outlook" and "Continuing Medical Education." They take place aboard the Westerdam during a 21-day Panama Canal cruise between Vancouver and Fort Lauderdale Sept. 26 and on a 15-day sailing between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles starting April 3, 1999.
For the 11th year, Princess Cruises offers its popular fall foliage sailings to Canada and New England. For the first time, Grand Class service is offered aboard the 1,200-passenger Royal Princess; this means round-the-clock cafe dining and casual evening bistro service to supplement the more formal dining room, expanded spa facilities and personalized butler service in the suites and mini-suites.
The 10-day cruises sail between New York and Montreal, calling in Newport, R.I.; Boston; Bar Harbor, Maine; and in Canada, St. John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Quebec City. Fares range from $3,246 to $9,629 per person, double occupancy, including air fare. Ask a travel agent about the Love Boat Savers fare, a 50% reduction for the second passenger in the cabin.
The antebellum South comes to life in 13 "Spring Pilgrimages" next March and April aboard Delta Queen Steamboat Co.'s paddle wheelers, the Delta Queen, American Queen and Mississippi Queen. From New Orleans, the cruises visit historic mansions, plantations and gardens in Natchez and Vicksburg, Miss., and St. Francisville and Baton Rouge, La., where costumed hostesses guide tours through private homes normally closed to the public.
For more information, contact a travel agent or call the cruise lines. Crystal Cruises, telephone (800) 820-6663; Cunard, tel. (800) 7-CUNARD; Delta Queen Steamboat, tel. (800) 543-1949; Holland America Line, tel. (800) 426-0327; Norwegian Cruise Line, tel. (800) 327-7030; and Princess Cruises, tel. (800) PRINCESS.