Cruising isn’t all about new destinations. Some of the hottest places appearing in itineraries are former old favourites, proving that even while cruises delve into new areas of the world, there are a wealth of established gems waiting to be rediscovered. Sara Macefield selects the top cruises for 2021.
Black Sea bounces back
This historical treasure trove was one of the rising stars until 2014 when Russian forces took control of the Crimean Peninsula and annexed it from the rest of Ukraine. Unrest in nearby Turkey two years later forced cruise companies to give this area a wide berth but, thankfully, the tide is turning as cruise ships return to Istanbul and sail from here into the Black Sea.
Admittedly, they are still steering clear of Crimea and the port of Yalta, but there are numerous other draws and passengers will discover a region steeped in scenic beauty that perfectly complements its fascinating past.
Luxury line Silversea features Sochi in Russia, where passengers can visit Stalin’s dacha – his country retreat located on the forested hills – and Odessa in Ukraine, noted for wide boulevards and statuesque architecture that give it the feel of a European city.
The coastal Bulgarian town of Bourgas and Constanta in Romania inject a seaside resort feel while visitors to Batumi in Georgia can discover its fascinating heritage.
Silversea’s 15-night round-trip voyage from Athens to the Black Sea departs September 20, 2021, and costs from £7,560pp, with business-class flights (0844 251 0837; silversea.com)
Indonesia’s island delights
As the world’s largest island nation, Indonesia is prime cruising territory for those wanting to sail off grid to explore some of its 17,000 islands.
Growing interest is helping to fuel demand for voyages to its lesser-known archipelagos on pocket-size craft that slip into areas such as the Spice Islands and limestone outcrops of Raja Ampat.
Bali is arguably Indonesia’s most famous island and jumping-off point for many voyages, including those of G Adventures which offers regular departures between May and January.
Its sailings aboard a 12-passenger catamaran explore the adjacent isle of Lombok and tiny Gili islands that surround it, where the gin-clear waters are made for snorkelling with tropical marine life. Hiking trips showcase the islands’ jungle-covered terrain and a chance to sample local life.
G Adventures’ one-week round-trip voyage from Bali to Lombok and the Gili Islands costs from £1,149pp cruise-only, departing 3 January, 2021.
Japan stays strong
The Land of the Rising Sun continues to shine brightly in cruise schedules from next winter onwards with several cruise companies offering dedicated sailings to the country or combining it with other Asian destinations.
Holland America Line features Japan with stops in China or as part of longer cruises that additionally visit other Asian countries. Its most in-depth sailing is a Japan Explorer round-trip cruise from Yokohama where stops include Kobe from where it is easy to visit the atmospheric temples of Kyoto; the port city of Kagoshima with its dramatic views of the Sakurajima active volcano; and Shimizu with its centuries-old shrines, Hakone National Park and pine-forested coastline where Mount Fuji provides a stunning backdrop.
Holland America Line’s 14-night sailing departs March 27, 2021, and costs from £1,589pp cruise-only.
Greenland grows apace
The world’s largest island is building up a reputation as a pristine cruising spot thanks to its incredible land and seascapes underpinned by a rich Viking heritage.
Sailings past remote fishing villages and former whaling settlements stop at glaciers, where passengers can step out on snow-shoeing expeditions or spot the different whales species that inhabit these waters.
Seabourn’s Majestic Fjords of Greenland sailing gives passengers the chance to witness the spectacle of calving glaciers as vast chunks of aqua blue glacial ice crash into the sea, creating vast clusters of giant icebergs.
Settlements such as Qaqortoq and Narsaq, with their pretty multi-coloured houses, add a cultural touch flavoured by the Inuit customs of the local people, while the capital Nuuk brings a fascinating mix of Arctic traditions.
Seabourn’s 15-night sailing from Reykjavik to Sisimiut departs September 4, 2021, and costs from £11,999pp, including return flight from Kangerlussuaq to Reykjavik.
Explore the iconic on the Med
Longer cruises, such as this 24-day voyage from Oceania Cruises, offer more opportunities to spend time in smaller towns and cities, such as Valencia in Spain. This has 15th-century Gothic buildings as well as the ultra-modern architecture of its state-of-the-art Science and Culture Park, not to mention sandy beaches. There is island hopping, from Menorca to Sardinia, Malta and Sicily – where Syracuse is known for its Greek and Roman ruins. In addition, this cruise offers the chance to visit Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Granada and Seville. Sirena will then sail up the Atlantic coast to northern Spain and France before reaching Southampton.
*The Catalonia to Crowns cruise on Sirena departs 18 April 2021, with prices from £4,719pp, based on two people sharing, including flights (0345 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com).
Check out more of the best mediterranean cruises on offer next year.
Natural allure of the Seychelles
Scattered like lush jewels across the Indian Ocean, the rugged Seychelles are an idyllic utopia of alabaster beaches and cobalt seas, patrolled by their famous giant tortoises.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises is returning in autumn 2021 when it sails into this natural paradise on a voyage from Abu Dhabi, spending an overnight stop at Mahe where Seychelles capital Victoria enjoys a dramatic mountainous backdrop, before visiting the former pirate hideaway of Praslin.
This is the second-largest island in the chain, enjoying equally stunning surroundings, and a quieter, more laidback feel with tropical forests and the lush Vallee de Mai nature reserve. This voyage also showcases the Seychelles’ Indian Ocean neighbours, notably Mauritius, Reunion Island and Madagascar before finishing at Cape Town.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers a 22-night voyage departing October 30, 2021, and costing from £10,789pp, including flights.
Nile regains its crown
For years, terrorism fears and general unrest ruled cruises along the Nile out of bounds, but with Egypt’s fortunes on the up, demand for sailings along this most legendary of rivers has rocketed.
Viking is one of the companies promising to transport guests into an ancient world ruled by the mysteries of the pharaohs and their unimaginable treasures.
An 11-night package starts with a three-night stay in Cairo to visit the Pyramids and the city’s famous antiquities museum, which contains Tutankhamen’s death mask, before flying to Luxor for the seven-night sailing, and finishing with an overnight stay in Cairo. Highlights of the cruise include Luxor’s breath-taking Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings and Aswan where the temples of Abu Simbel are located.
Viking offers regular Pharaohs & Pyramids packages, with a departure on May 19, 2021, costing from £6.025pp, including flights.
Adventures along the Amazon
South America shows no sign of losing its sheen as a cruising hotspot and the Amazon River gives visitors a chance to immerse themselves in jungle life with rainforest hikes to spy tropical songbirds, vividly-hued parrots and squirrel monkeys or fishing trips to hook voracious piranha fish.
An Oceania Cruises Rio de Janeiro to Miami voyage sails inland along the Amazon to the white beaches of Alter do Chão and the tiny settlement of Boca de Valeria before reaching the Amazonian city of Manaus, famed for its classical old mansions.
It is also the jumping off point for trips into the jungle and boat trips to see the “Meeting of the Waters where the dark, clear Rio Negro joins the muddy yellow Rio Solimõesto form the Amazon. Guests can enjoy a flavour of Amazonian culture at Parintins, where they will be treated to an exclusive performance of the colourful Boi Bumba Festival, for which this city is famed.
Oceania Cruises’ 21-night sailing departing March 19, 2021, costs from £4,859pp including flights.
Vilnius takes centre-stage
The Baltic States have long been the perfect accompaniment to cruises to St Petersburg, with Tallinn and Riga, the capitals of Estonia and Latvia, respectively grabbing much of the limelight. But now Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is enjoying a higher profile thanks its setting as a film location and a recent marketing campaign designed to shake up its dowdy image. This city is bursting with old world charm thanks to its medieval old town and cobblestone streets, while its quirky character and complex history add another dimension.
MSC Cruises’ Baltic cruises call at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, a three-hour drive from the city, while other stops on its sailings include Gdansk, Riga, Helsinki and Copenhagen.
MSC’s 11-night round-trip voyage from Warnemunde in Germany departs May 26, 2021, and costs from £1,099pp cruise-only.
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