Cruise lines are outdoing themselves to offer ever more epic itineraries. Here’s our pick of some of the most exceptional odysseys on the market.
Around the world
You might think that a round-the-world voyage would be the apogee of cruising, but Viking Cruises goes one better: its Ultimate World Cruise will be the longest ever holiday at sea. The extraordinary journey will take in six continents, 53 countries and 112 of the world’s greatest cities on its eight-month circumnavigation of the globe. Highlights include Rio de Janeiro, New York, the Amazon, Sydney and the Suez Canal, with overnight stays in 22 destinations plus 111 included tours.
Viking Ocean Cruises offers the 244-night round-trip odyssey from London. From £68,590pp, departing August 31, 2019 (vikingcruises.co.uk).
In addition to lengthy itineraries, cruise ships themselves are becoming more superlative. When Crystal Cruises launches Crystal Endeavor in August 2020, the all-suite, purpose-built, polar-class ship will be the world’s largest and grandest expedition yacht. Among its most anticipated adventures will be a trip through the Northeast Passage, the seasonal shipping route that connects the Pacific to the Atlantic. The journey takes in Arctic Russia’s little-visited coastline and its mighty walruses, whales and polar bears.
Crystal Cruises offers the 28-night expedition from Anadyr, Russia to Tromsø, Norway. From £36,731pp (ncluding one night’s pre-cruise accommodation), departing August 18, 2021 (crystalcruises.co.uk).
Patagonia and penguins
At the other end of the planet, demand for Antarctica cruises is booming. See the sixth continent in style on this journey from Chile to Argentina via six full days of immersive Antarctic experiences. Sailing on luxurious Seabourn Quest, passengers can kayak amid floating ice or zip about in Zodiacs to spot penguins, orcas, seals and other wildlife. The Falkland Isles and Chilean Fjords make the journey more magical still.
Destinology offers the 21-night Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia cruise from San Antonio to Buenos Aires. From £9,215pp (including flights and transfers), departing November 28, 2019 (destinology.co.uk).
Land Down Under
The growing demand for luxury small-ship cruising goes beyond the polar regions. Among 12 new expedition ships hitting the waves in 2019 is Coral Expeditions’ Coral Adventurer, which debuted in April. As well as offering itineraries to Papua New Guinea and Australia’s Kimberley Coast, the ship will celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary with a circumnavigation of Australia, calling at Kangaroo Island, Cape York and the Great Barrier Reef, with private jet transfers to Uluru for Christmas dinner under the stars.
Coral Expeditions offers the 59-night, round-trip sailing from Darwin. From £21,445pp, departing November 7, 2020 (coralexpeditions.com).
Another new ship for 2019 is Hapag-Lloyd’s Hanseatic Inspiration, a state-of-the-art, 230-passenger, 5-star expedition ship launching in October. Though equipped for polar explorations, the versatile ship will be equally at home in much more tropical climes. Join its inaugural Amazon cruises next year and follow the world’s longest river downstream almost in its entirety. Simple villages, emerald forests and the urban centre of Manaus provide a colourful contrast of jungle experiences.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises offers a 16-night Expedition Amazon cruise from Iquitos, Peru to Belem, Brazil. From £9,576pp (including a flight from Lima to Iquitos), departing April 11, 2020 (hl-cruises.com).
Perhaps this year’s most anticipated launch is that of Scenic Eclipse, which bills itself as “the world’s first discovery yacht”. Setting sail in August 2019, the ultra-luxury ship’s outstanding artillery of grown-up toys (including a fleet of electric bikes, two helicopters and a seven-seater submarine) will make every sailing particularly special. Discover its all-suite comforts on a close-to-home itinerary to two of the great seafaring nations at the mouth of the Mediterranean.
Scenic offers a nine-night Discover Portugal & Spain itinerary from Lisbon to Barcelona. From £5,955pp, (including flights and one night’s pre-cruise accommodation), departing April 24, 2020 (scenic.co.uk).
Pacific to Panama Canal
Bucket list experiences can be found on many a cruise, but few itineraries can match the wow-factor of this 34-night, trans-Pacific odyssey. Starting with an overnight in Tahiti, Seven Seas Navigator hops between French Polynesia’s isles before crossing the ocean to Easter Island and beyond to Lima, Peru. The voyage continues with a daylight passage through the Panama Canal, with stops in Costa Rica and vibrant Havana before disembarking in Miami.
Bon Voyage offers a 40-night itinerary. From £15,495pp (including flights, three nights pre-cruise in LA and three nights post-cruise in Miami), departing April 4, 2020 (bon-voyage.co.uk).
Indian Ocean island-hopping
Island destinations do not come more magical than Seychelles. Sail them in style onboard Le Bougainville, the newest ship from luxury expedition cruise line, Ponant. From the populated isles of Mahé and La Digue to less-visited Alphonse and Aldabra (home to giant tortoises), this is island-hopping in exceptional style. Other ports of call – The Scattered Islands, Mayotte, Latham Island – are further-flung still, while Pemba Island and Zanzibar provide an exotic finale.
Ponant offers the 12-night Zanzibar & the Treasures of the Indian Ocean cruise from Seychelles to Zanzibar. From £10,895pp, departing February 4, 2020 (ponant.com).
BBC One’s Blue Planet Live put the Sea of Cortez in the spotlight on a journey to seek whales along the Baja Peninsula. Those inspired by the show can follow suit aboard UnCruise’s 88-passenger Safari Endeavour on a wildlife-themed adventure that coincides with peak grey whale season. Sea lions, dolphins and frigate birds also inhabit this body of water that marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau once dubbed “the world’s aquarium”.
Mundy Adventures offers the seven-night Baja’s Bounty cruise round-trip from San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. From £4,580pp (including flights, transfers and two nights accommodation), departing February 21, 2020 (mundyadventures.co.uk).