Looking for the best places to cruise to in 2020? Cruise expert Nick Dalton rounds up 8 top destinations to watch out for next year.

Everywhere’s special but sometimes places become more special than ever, whether because they’re suddenly hip or because of an anniversary or other event. Here are the best places to cruise to in 2020 so you can start planning your next holiday.

Africa

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After the success of the Royal Visit, there’s a lot of attention on Africa; the continent gets more popular by the year with everything from bustling mainland spots to idyllic islands to far-flung safaris. The 20-day Exotic Expedition: Seychelles, Madagascar & South Africa trip is a dream, travelling from Dubai to Cape Town. There are several days in Arabia, which includes visits to Abu Dhabi and Oman, before heading south across the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles for a near two-day stop. Even more exotic names follow (Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion) for a magnificent mix of beaches and jungle. Then it’s South Africa… wild Richard’s Bay, Port Elizabeth (with a chance to see big game at the Kragga Kamma Game Park) and Mossel Bay. Norwegian Spirit, for 2,000 passengers, is stylish and relaxed. 

Departs 2 March 2020, costs from £3,847pp (ncl.com).

Japan

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We’ve gone wild for Japan thanks to all those TV panoramas during the Rugby World Cup and this is only set to increase in the run-up to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo (24 July to 9 August 2020). Soak up the ambience with the 11-night Circle Japan cruise from Princess Cruises. The round-trip from Tokyo departs on 4 August at the height of the games and does indeed circle the country’s main Honshu island, calling at lesser-known places such as Kochi, Tokushima (where Mount Bizan gives views over land and sea) and the city of Aomori, all a wealth of castles, temples and gardens alongside sleek modern buildings. The cruise passes through the dramatic Kanmon Straits and also darts over to South Korea and its resort city Busan. Diamond Princess is tailored for Japan cruising and offers local experiences on board such as a traditional onsen bath and dining on freshly prepared sashimi. 

Departs 4 August 2020, from £1,524pp, cruise only (princess.com). 

Bahamas

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Despite the devastation brought by the hurricane, the region is open for business. One of the big new attractions – opening late 2019 – is Ocean Cay, the latest in a string of private island resorts, this one from MSC Cruises. It’s as green as they come, with thousands of new trees and tropical plants (which escaped unscathed) and surrounded by a marine reserve with protected coral. Visit on an eight-day cruise which also takes in Ocho Rios in Jamaica (close to Dunn’s River Falls), lovely George Town on Grand Cayman and the laid-back Mexican resort of Costa Maya. MSC Seaside is a vast resort at sea with the style of Miami’s South Beach… pools, a waterfront boardwalk lined with bars and restaurants, plus the Forest Aquaventure water park and even two full-sized bowling alleys.

Departs regularly, a 15 February 2020 departure costs from £1,599pp, includes flights (020 3426 3010; msccruises.co.uk).

Egypt

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The country is returning to favour, boosted by the Grand Egyptian Museum. Due to open next year on a 120-acre site located just across the plateau from the pyramids, the world’s biggest archaeological museum will feature the 5,000-piece Tutankhamun collection displayed in a replica of the tomb. The Cairo to Amman tour & Ancient Egypt River Cruise from Emerald Waterways features a whole wealth of antiquities too. It starts with three nights in Cairo (with a pyramids tour), then a four-night Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan (with tours of tombs and temples) before five nights in Jordan. Here there are visits to the ancient city of Petra, the capital, Amman, and the Dead Sea. The trip includes 16 excursions (including a felucca boat trip on the Nile and dinners with local families). 

Departs regularly, a 1 May 2020 departure costs from £3,795pp, including flights and drinks with dinner (emeraldwaterways.co.uk).

Puerto Rico

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The island is one of the loveliest in the Caribbean, rich in colonial history, and its capital, San Juan, is celebrating its 500th anniversary, with plenty of events throughout 2020. Sail there on a round-trip from Miami – the 10-day Atlantic & Amber Gems from Oceania Cruises – just as the winter’s setting in back home. The city’s cobbled streets are filled with 16th- and 17th-century Spanish-influenced buildings as well as the medieval Saint John the Baptist Cathedral. The trip also has days in St Lucia, Martinique, St Barts, Antigua and the Dominican Republic. Riviera is a ship of understated style (particularly the suites furnished by Ralph Lauren) and the speciality restaurants, not least the Polo Grill steakhouse, are all included in the fare. 

Departs 13 November 2020, from £2,949pp, including flights (oceaniacruises.com). For more information on the cruise line, take a look at this guide to luxury cruising with Oceania Cruises.

Croatia

Diocletian’s Palace can be seen on Game of Thrones cruises

Croatia has been trendy for some time, the sun-drenched coast rich in islands, such as Hvar with its cool waterfront bars, and the historic yet happening cities Dubrovnik and Split. Small ship cruising between isle and mainland is often close enough so you can all but pick the grapes from the vineyards as you pass. For an experience like this, Unforgettable Croatia – a specialist in both sea and land holidays – offers seven-night small ship cruises between Dubrovnik and Split (with nights in both). Seven calls include Omis, on the Cetina river, Hvar, the island of Korčula, said to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, and Mijet, an island national park with a Benedictine monastery. MS Splendid carries only 40 guests and serves half-board, with a welcome dinner, so you can explore the quayside restaurants in each port.

Costs from £1,195pp includes flights (unforgettablecroatia.co.uk).

Istanbul

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The stunning Turkish city has drifted off the tourist map over the past several years but is making its way back. Viking’s new Ancient Mediterranean Treasures cruise sails between Istanbul and Athens, with a night and day in each. The magnificent Blue Mosque stands high above the ancient Istanbul skyline – it’s a place to visit while the Hagia Sophia, former Greek Orthodox cathedral and Ottoman mosque, is even more spellbinding on the inside. Wander the streets – and the vast indoor Grand Bazaar – then revel in the included boat ride along the Bosphorus, the straits that divide Europe from Asia. Calls include Kuşadasi (with a free tour of the ruins of Ephesus), the ancient city of Troy (also with a tour) and the island of Rhodes. The cabins on board Viking Sky, for 930 guests, is all-veranda, so everyone gets a perfect view of Greece and Turkey as you sail the Aegean. The ship, glorious in pale colours, is a world of contemporary Scandinavian style.

Departs regularly from 25 April 2021, from £2,840pp, including flights (vikingcruises.co.uk).

Jamaica

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The name’s Bond… James Bond, and that makes this Caribbean island a killer destination. The long-awaited 25th Bond movie, No Time To Die, to be released in April 2020, features 007 having left active service and enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. The place is close to the character’s heart – it’s where creator Ian Fleming lived and wrote, and featured in the movies Dr No, starring Sean Connery, and Live and Let Die, starring Roger Moore. Marella Cruises’ Pride of Panama sails from Jamaica’s Montego Bay on new medium-sized ship Marella Discovery 2, all seaside colours and with drinks included. The cruise sails to Colon in Panama, the gateway to the Panama Canal (a canal trip is available here), and Colombia’s ancient cities Cartagena and Santa Marta. But it’s possible to add a week’s hotel stay in Jamaica, such as at the Royal Decameron Club on Runaway Bay, along the coast from James Bond Beach and its Mookraker bar.

Departs regularly from December 2019 to April 2020. A seven-night cruise with seven-night stay starts at £1,611pp, with flights from Manchester, departing 28 January (tui.co.uk). For more information on the cruise line, take a look at Marella’s guide to cruising.