Whether you want to explore ancient temples in the Far East, hike the Inca Trail or tango in Buenos Aires, itʼs more exciting on a cruise. We asked the experts for their hot picks for 2019
If you could go on your dream cruise adventure where would you go? Maybe you are longing to follow the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, or head further south to see the frozen Antarctic and its colonies of majestic King Penguins.
Or perhaps you’re attracted to the remote beauty of the Falklands or want to see the albatross made famous by David Attenborough in his study of the Galápagos. Maybe you would like to go East, to see Japan’s revered autumn colours or cherry blossom, or you’d like to visit Busan in South Korea.
All these far-flung destinations are predicted to be top of the 2019 cruise wish list, with genuine hot spots Hawaii, Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean’s Seychelles also enjoying their moments in the sun.
“South America is growing in popularity and is a bucket list destination for many of our guests,” says Nick Wilkinson, Norwegian Cruise Line’s vice president and managing director, UK, Ireland and MEA.
“Our cruises offer a great variety of itineraries and take in some of the region’s most incredible sights; from the legendary Machu Picchu in Peru to the world-famous ‘March of the Penguins’ in the Falkland Islands.
“For those looking for a cultural experience, stroll through the streets of Buenos Aires – the city that never sleeps – and enjoy fine food and quaint cafes. Or you could visit La Boca, the birthplace of the tango, and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newly refurbished 1,936-passenger ship, has an exciting 14-day South America fly-cruise itinerary from Santiago in Chile to Buenos Aires in Argentina throughout winter of 2018/2019. It sails on the west coast down to Cape Horn and up the east coast, with the chance to see Chile’s fjords and mountains, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the extraordinary Giant Condor. Prices start from £2,830pp, based on two people sharing, and includes return flights. Departs 16 February 2019
(0333 241 2319; ncl.co.uk).
This cruise also calls at Stanley on the Falkland Islands, a destination described by Seabourn’s UK and Ireland MD Lynn Narraway as ever-popular with Brits.
“UK guests always have a fascination to explore this remote outpost of Britain where they can see colonies of Rock Hopper penguins, learn about the island’s fascinating history as a whaling and timber trade post, visit the southernmost cathedral in the world – and even enjoy a pint at a traditional English style pub,” she says.
Seabourn has a 21-night Antarctica & Patagonia cruise calling at the Falklands that, as Lynn says, features some extraordinary destinations and scenery. Highlights include Chile’s Lake District, which has colourful stilt houses on the waterfront, and cruising around the two-kilometre-wide El Brujo glacier – a spectacular wall of ice. Prices start at £10,999pp, based on two sharing on a cruise only basis (0843 373 2000; seabourn.com).
Staying in the southern hemisphere, cruises to Australia and New Zealand are increasingly popular with British cruise fans – often as part of a visit to see family or friends or a relaxing addition to a land-based tour.
“Australia and New Zealand continue to be popular within the British market as it is an effective way to visit faraway destinations in a luxurious setting, where guests can settle in one place whilst being able to explore the new cultures and sights of Oceania,” explains Erin Johnson, Silversea’s director of marketing for the UK, Ireland, the Middle East and Africa.
A typical two-week cruise from Australia across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand might include an overnight stop in Sydney, where you can join locals in bars and restaurants around The Rocks area, close to the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House, as well as lots of great museums and shops. But arguably the most spectacular scenery in the world can be found in New Zealand, where a cruise is not a cruise unless you sail past the stunningly beautiful mountains of Doubtful Sound. There are also quirky towns like Napier, full of Art Deco buildings, and once seen never forgotten Auckland is surrounded by volcanic hills and islands within its sparkling bay.
Silversea’s 2019 Sydney to Auckland cruises are wait-list only but it has an Auckland to Bali cruise on Silver Muse that sails through New Zealand’s Bay of Islands to Sydney, Adelaide and Perth before reaching Bali in Indonesia. Prices start at £6,750pp, based on two sharing, cruise only. Departs 17 February 2019 (0844 251 0837; silversea.com).
Japan can be expensive to explore on a solely land-based holiday, which is partly why cruise holidays to these Pacific Ocean islands are selling so well. Japan is also high on the must-do list for its wildlife, dolphins and humpback whales that you can often see from your ship balcony, as much as for its temples, palaces and castles. Tokyo is unforgettable, with a captivating mix of ancient, including the Tokyo Imperial Palace and Meiji Shrine, and modern, with the interesting street art and fashion scene at Harajuku. Azamara Club Cruises has a 14-night Japan, Russia and Alaska cruise from £2,769pp, based on two sharing, cruise only. Departs from Tokyo towards Seward in Alaska
(0844 493 4016; azamaraclubcruises.co.uk).
“Asia is becoming a key destination for cruise travellers, and for the 2018/2019 season Holland America Line has a larger ship with more capacity in the region,” says Lynn Narraway, HAL’s managing director for UK and Ireland. “South Korea features as a popular destination on our Taiwan and Japan cruises where guests may, for example, visit the monks of Beomeo-sa Buddhist temple in Busan and soak in healing hot springs.”
Most cruises to South Korea call at Busan, the second city, where there’s a United Nations Memorial Cemetery for the Korean War. There are sandy beaches – Songjeong and Haeundae – and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is along the coast. Busan itself has great restaurants and interesting markets (including a colourful fish market) selling street food such as gukpab – rice soup.
Holland America Line’s 14-night Taiwan & Japan cruise from Shanghai to Hong Kong calls at Busan and costs from £2,049pp, based on two sharing, including return flights, departing on 3 March 2019 (hollandamerica.com).
Still in the East, the Seychelles have been on many people’s radar since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent their honeymoon there in 2011. Mahé is the main island and while it has a natural history museum and botanical gardens, its beaches are the main attraction. There are 60, with Anse Royale great for swimming and snorkelling and Anse Soleil more off the beaten track.
Neighbouring island Praslin, another cruise destination, has the UNESCO-listed Valée de Mai, great hiking country and more beautiful beaches.
Silversea’s Silver Whisper, refurbished this spring, calls at both islands on its 16-day Singapore to Mombasa cruise departing 18 March 2019. Prices start from £8,280pp, two sharing, cruise only (0844 251 0837; silversea.com).
Equally isolated yet increasingly popular are the Hawaiian Islands, with Honolulu on Oahu its best-known cruise port. Tours of Pearl Harbor’s museums, and memorials to the Second World War attack in 1941, are popular excursions but the natural beauty of Hawaii’s other islands is a major draw. Maui has the historic town of Lahaina while the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hilo has an active volcano and Kona’s beaches offer surfing lessons and kayaking.
Norwegian Cruise Line is the only company to offer round-trip cruises from Honolulu all year, most others leave from California. Its seven-day itineraries on the beautifully refurbished Pride of America include several overnight stops at Kahului on Maui and Nawiliwili on Kauai, known to many as “the garden island”. Prices start from £1,109pp, based on two sharing, on a cruise only basis. The cruise departs on 19 January 2019 (0333 241 2319; ncl.com).
Finally, the people of the tiny Caribbean island of Puerto Rico are happy to be welcoming visitors after the devastation of last autumn’s Hurricane Maria. Much has been done to rebuild and recover, and life is now returning to normal on this beautiful island. The main port, in the capital city San Juan, has a distinctly Spanish feel in its lovely 16th century old town, where most of the cruise ships dock. The walled city’s winding cobbled streets lead to the ancient Castillo San Felipe del Morro – named in honour of King Philip II of Spain, the magnificent cathedral, and several plazas full of galleries and boutiques for you to buy gifts and souvenirs to take home.
Holland America Line’s regular voyage, the 14-day Eastern/Western Caribbean round-trip, cruises from Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Ports of call include the pretty US Virgin Islands, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Prices start from £1,599pp, based on two people sharing, on a cruise only basis. Departs on
6 January (0344 338 8605; hollandamerica.com).