SPLASHING OUT ON SERVICE: Uniformed waiters from Seabourn Legend tempt guests to take the plunge and savour the caviar at a Caribbean gourmet beach barbecue
Hungry for a trip with a difference? LYNN HOUGHTON looks at gourmet sea breaks that offer delicious cuisine, fine wines and a chance to learn how to cook WADE IN FOR CAVIAR
Experience a taste of the Caribbean on Seabourn Legend, the all-suite ship from The Yachts of Seabourn (0845 070 0500/www.seabourn.com
This week-long cruise takes in some of the most picturesque islands in this tranquil part of the world, including Prickly Pear Island, just off Antigua. Click here now for amazing offers to Antigua!
On and off the ship you can enjoy gourmet cuisine. For something out of the ordinary, waiters in smart uniforms stand thigh-deep in the ocean with trays of caviar beckoning you to paddle out and have a taste, the first course of a gourmet beach barbecue on the white sand beaches of Prickly Pear Island.
Eat freshly-caught fish and lobster and other locally sourced ingredients.
The 200-passenger ship offers spacious modern suites with crisp Egyptian cotton linen and a complimentary fully-stocked, en-suite bar.
This round-trip itinerary departs from the port of Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas and calls at island hotspots including St John, famous for its shopping malls and boutiques and picturesque beaches such as Trunk Bay, St Barthelemy (St Barts), a natural marine reserve which is a haven for water sports, and St Kitts with its 17th-century plantation inns.
A seven-night Caribbean Hideaways cruise from £2,599pp, including return flights to the UK. Departs Charlotte Amalie, March 4, 2011. SPICE MARKETS
Sample the spicy foods of the Orient on an Asian Wonders itinerary aboard Oceania Cruises' (0845 505 1920/ www.oceaniacruises.co.uk
) MS Nautica.
The 15-night voyage on the newest vessel of the Oceania fleet includes two days in the bustling Thai capital Bangkok and includes a trip to a traditional market. The Suan Lum Night Bazaar is the city's most famous outdoor food market where the spice displays are a riot of colour and scents.
In Koh Samui guests can try a one-day Thai cookery class at the Nora Beach Resort and Spa. The chef will show you how to prepare chicken soup, deep-fried stuffed crab and fried noodles, all of which can be sampled.
In Ho Chi Minh City savour Vietnamese cuisine with its unique blend of Asian spices and French-style cooking.
For a very special treat take a day-long Mekong River cruise.
A 15-night Asian Wonders cruise from £1,172pp (two sharing), full board. Departs Singapore, January 14, 2011.
Singapore Airlines (0844 800 2380/www.singaporeair.com
) offers flights from Heathrow to Singapore and return from Hong Kong from £746. Want incredible deals to Singapore? Click here now...
A TASTE OF ITALY
This Mediterranean cruise on MSC's Fantasia (0844 561 1955/www.msccruises.co.uk
) has top Italian chefs to instruct you in the art of making fresh pasta including ravioli and tortellini. Sommeliers are also on hand to show which wines match individual courses.
Rome and Genoa are two ports of call where you can practise the Italian you have learned in classes on board.
In Barcelona take in Gaudi's Cathedral Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas quarter.
Looking for extra pampering?
Book yourself as an MSC Yacht Club passenger and benefit from private areas on the ship, including separate bar and lounges, solarium and hydro-massage pools. There are also butlers on hand who can help with unpacking and serve guests English high tea.
An 11-night Mediterranean cruise from £489pp (two sharing), full board. Yacht Club from £2,879pp. Departs Genoa, March 14, 2011. Return flights from the UK to Genoa can be arranged from £290pp. PORT AND PAELLA
Learn more about the wines and ports of the Iberian Peninsula on this Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines voyage (01473 742424/ www.fredolsencruises.co.uk
) on board Balmoral.
The nine-night voyage which sails to northern Spain and Portugal includes fascinating excursions. Galicia and Wine (£50pp) sets off from Vigo and visits the Albariño wine region, including the island of La Toja, with its one-of-a-kind seashell covered church, and a stop at the postcard-perfect village of Cambados.
There is also a chance to visit a wine cellar. Back on board the 1,350-passenger ship a renowned expert will host wine-tasting sessions.
A nine-night France, Spain and Portugal cruise from £852pp (two sharing), full board.
Departs Southampton, September 27, 2011. FINE WINES AND FOOD
Taste Côtes du Rhône wines during a scenic cruise along the Rhône and Saône rivers with Saga Holidays (0800 096 0082/ www.saga.co.uk
Cruise past the vineyards and learn more about the region's wine from experts on board the Avalon Scenery. The 138-passenger vessel is known for its gastronomy, offering gourmet lunches and dinner with complimentary wine.
Cabins on Royal and Sapphire decks have floor-toceiling windows and French doors and there is also a whirlpool on the Sky Deck.
One of the highlights is wine tasting in Châteauneufdu-Pape, famous for its fullbodied reds. The week-long cruise also explores France's second city Lyon, Avignon with its famous bridge, the Roman remains at Arles and the medieval cities of Tournon and Tain-l'Hermitage.
A seven-night Flavours of Burgundy and Provence cruise from £1,824pp (two sharing), full board. Departs London St Pancras, April 19, 2011.
Price includes return rail travel by Eurostar and TGV and transfers.