x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The christening of a cruise liner, India's backwaters and African adventures

Coming up Costa, a cruise company that operates weekly trips between Dubai and Abu Dhabi via Oman throughout the winter, is introducing a new route from Italy to Dubai.

The cruise ship Costa Deliziosa boasts three swimming pools, four cinemas, a theatre, casino, Grand Prix simulator and a spa.
The cruise ship Costa Deliziosa boasts three swimming pools, four cinemas, a theatre, casino, Grand Prix simulator and a spa.

Costa, a cruise company that operates weekly trips between Dubai and Abu Dhabi via Oman throughout the winter, is introducing a new route from Italy to Dubai. The inaugural cruise on Costa Deliziosa will depart Savona on February 5 next year on a 20-night trip, calling at Civitavecchia in Italy, Port Said, Sharm el Sheik and Safaga in Egypt, Aqaba in Jordan, Aden in Yemen, Salalah and Muscat in Oman, and Abu Dhabi, before arriving in Dubai on February 23 for the official naming ceremony - the first time a commercial ship will have been launched in Dubai. Prices start from US$2,117 (Dh7,757) per person, on a cruise-only basis.

After four days in Dubai, the ship departs on February 26 for a 17-night cruise, calling at Fujairah, Goa, Cochin, Mumbai, Male and Muscat. It will return to Dubai on March 13. Prices start from $2,690 (Dh9,880) per person, again on a cruise-only basis. It is also possible to combine the two cruises to create a 37-night grand inaugural adventure. The ship has three swimming pools, four cinemas, a theatre, casino and - to tie in with Abu Dhabi's new passion - a Grand Prix simulator, but the big difference onboard is the Samsara Spa, one of the largest floating spas ever built. It extends over two decks with sea views, of course. The spa has a focus on Ayurvedic principles - samsara is a Sanskrit word meaning the continual search for spiritual nirvana. Guests who want to devote their time to the spa can book into a Samsara room or suite within the complex which allow free access to the spa as well as some complimentary treatments. For details, visit www.costacruises.co.uk or call 004420 7940 4499.

A different sort of cruise comes from one of India's best known hotel groups, Park Hotels. Apsara is an eight-cabin cruiser-cum-floating boutique hotel, which is taking to the waters of Kerala's Vembanad Lake this summer and gliding guests through the backwaters. The interiors - personally overseen by Priya Paul, the Park Hotels' chairman, a collector of art and a trustee of the India Foundation of the Arts - reflect both the heritage of Kerala and the European yachting style. All feature plasma screen TVs, high-speed internet and a wide range of books, music and films, while each cabin displays individual works of art.

Back on dry land, the Park on Vembanad Lake has 10 luxury rooms, a deluxe suite, and as tented spa offering Ayurvedic and other treatments. Greaves Travel (www.greavesindia.com; 0044 207 487 9111) can arrange flights from Dubai on Emirates arriving at Kochi for a tour of the city before setting off to board the Apsara. A four-night stay, with three nights full board on the Apsara, and one night (room only) at the Park on Vembanad Lake, plus sightseeing tours and transfers costs $1,899 (Dh6,795).

Village Ways, the tour operator that pioneered trekking holidays in the Himalayas run in partnership with local communities - and won the admiration of conservation groups on the way - is to start operating in Ethiopia from December 5. The 10-day highland trek in the remote Meket district of Wollo will mark the opening of the area to tourists for the first time. The trek takes you through four hilltop villages, where you can stay in round thatched tukuls, home to the local Amhara tribe. Trekking time is between four and seven hours daily and six nights will be spent in the tukuls.

Trekkers can expect spectacular views across some of Ethiopia's most beautiful countryside, as well as lots of wildlife including baboons and soaring birds of prey. The trek starts and ends in Addis Ababa and includes a stay at Bahir Dar, the gateway to the Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana. A 10-night trip costs $1,420 (Dh5,216) and can be booked via www.villageways.com or by calling 0091 164623175.

Keen photographers, wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers can also sign up for a once-in-a-lifetime safari from November 3 to 10 next year - the season when the Zambian bush is at its most exciting for wildlife activity - led by the experts Jonathan Scott and Phil Berry. Scott is a BBC Big Cat Diary presenter, author and wildlife photographer and Berry is the Bushcamp Company guide and an expert on leopard and giraffe. Guests stay at Mfuwe Lodge in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

The Mfuwe Lodge has its very own elephant family that wanders through the reception area and apparently loves to get "up close and personal" with guests. Nearby there is an abundance of giraffe, wild dog, hippo, zebra and lion, that can be spotted on day and night game drives. The week-long trip includes specific bird watching expeditions and photography lessons, visits to local conservation and community projects, as well as presentations by representatives from the South Luangwa Conservation Society about its ongoing efforts to eradicate poaching.

The seven-night trip costs $6,995 (Dh25,695) per person, including full-board accommodation and return domestic flights from Lusaka to Mfuwe, park entrance fees, all game activities, one massage per guest, talks, presentations, and the conservation and community levy. International flights are extra. For an extra $3,895 (Dh14,307), guests can add on a three-night extension to their stay accompanied by Scott, and experience the Lower Zambezi staying at Chongwe River House.

travel@thenational.ae