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BEST FOR TROPICAL SUNSHINE: SOUTH PACIFIC
The lowdown: 'Paradise' is too often overused to describe idyllic
beaches, but in the picture-postcard isles of the South Paci c it is
for once well deserved, with soft white-sand beaches, turquoise
waters and palm tree-fringed interiors that are worth ying
halfway around the world for.
The cruise factor: The only downside to the South Paci c is
choosing which islands to focus on - they might look alike, but
each has a distinct character, cuisine and often language. Cruises
are an ideal way to get a feel for several islands in a single trip.
The details: Celebrity Cruises has a 12-night South Paci c and Fiji
y-cruise for £7,646, based on two sharing a balcony stateroom,
including ights from London Heathrow to Sydney and a cruise
to New Caledonia, Mystery Island and Fiji on 23 December.
BEST FOR ISLAND HOPPING: CYCLADES ISLANDS
The lowdown: Greece hasn't had the best time of late, but its
nancial woes haven't made the sun any less bright, the sea any
less blue, or its islands any less inviting.
The cruise factor: The only way to really understand this
seafaring nation is from the water, so instead of following the
crowds to Santorini, hop around the rest of the Cycladic isles, big
and small, to explore ancient ruins on Amorgos, admire pretty
countryside on Naxos, and drop anchor for a cooling swim when
it gets too hot.
The details: Intrepid Travel's Greece Sailing Adventure - Cyclades
Islands takes groups of up to 11 on a 10-day trip, starting at
£1,084 without ights. intrepidtravel.co.uk
BEST FOR LOCAL CULTURE: MEKONG RIVER
The lowdown: This epic waterway isn't called the rice bowl
of Indochina for nothing. Supporting 60 million people
as it snakes 2,700 miles from the Tibetan Plateau through
Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, it also contains rare
Irrawaddy dolphins, giant freshwater stingrays and giant
Mekong cat sh.
The cruise factor: A journey along the river provides a real
window on everyday life here, from the sh sellers of Vietnam's
colourful oating markets to the Cambodian washerwomen
rinsing their clothes on its verdant banks.
The details: There's no shortage of cruises through the
Mekong Delta, often paired with a few days on land to
see Angkor Wat or northern Vietnam. Viking River Cruises'
Magni cent Mekong is a 15-day cruise-tour starting in Hanoi
then ying to Siem Reap for a cruise to Ho Chi Minh City.
Full-board prices including ights, drinks and 14 guided
excursions start at £4,299. vikingcruises.co.uk