2023 Voyages for Inquisitive Travelers

Sailing on Regent Seven Seas Cruises into Leknes in Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands, luxury travelers will envision themselves helming a Viking ship as they approach stark mountainous isles with rare sea eagles soaring overhead. Alternatively, in Gythion, Greece, Azamara’s cruisers can get their UNESCO World Heritage Site fix at the 13th-century Byzantine citadel of Mystras, newly added to that impressive collection of global treasures. 

Luxury and ultra-luxury cruise lines will offer these and a multitude of other enticing options for travelers seeking new horizons in the Mediterranean and Baltic regions in 2023. Cruisers can expect new ports of call, longer voyages, immersive onboard programs, new ships and more off-the-beaten-path destinations not typically on travelers’ radar. Here’s a sampling of enticing options.   

Boutique Ports

Oceania Cruises will offer a new 12-day “Quintessential Mediterranean” voyage on the 684-passenger Sirena between Venice, Italy and Monte Carlo, Monaco, departing June 15, 2023. We like this itinerary as guests will embark and disembark at marquee destinations and visit many popular ports on this itinerary but, they’ll also go ashore at several boutique port calls that aren’t on every Mediterranean itinerary. For example, Sirena will call at Igoumenitsa, Greece; Kotor, Montenegro; and Mahon, Menorca, Spain. 

In ancient times, Igoumenitsa was part of the Kingdom of Thesprotis, celebrating its heyday in the 4th Century B.C., and later ruled by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, before being annexed by Greece in the early 20th century. From this port, Oceania offers an all-day tour to Greece’s Meteora Monasteries, as well as several other tours focused on ancient sites. 

For example, the four-hour “Ancient Nikopolis & Museum” tour will take cruisers to the ruins of Nikopolis, founded by Roman Emperor Octavian to celebrate his victory over Marc Antony and Cleopatra. Cruisers will view remains of the Roman baths, basilicas and an ancient theater, and see such treasures from the site as a statue of Aphrodite, now at Nikopolis’ Archaeological Museum.

Among other “Quintessential Mediterranean” ports of call are: Split, Croatia; Taormina (Sicily), Sorrento/Capri, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Livorno (Florence/Pisa/Tuscany), Italy; Barcelona, Spain; and Marseille (Provence), France. During the Marseilles port call, guests can attend a white wine aperitif tasting and extravagant lunch of seasonal locally sourced ingredients with wine pairings at Le Domaine de Fontenille, an estate built in the early 1800s; guests will tour the estate as well as the fashionable, yet medieval village of Lourmarin. 

During the day in Sorrento, Oceania will offer its exclusive Food & Wine Trails experience that visits the Sorrentino family winery. Cruisers will take a vineyards tour with a Sorrentino family member to learn about how the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius nourishes the grapes and enjoy a multi-course meal of regional dishes paired with Sorrentino’s wines. Guests also head out to the well-preserved remains of two opulent villas in the ancient Roman town of Stabiae. Cruisers will “dive into” Roman life by strolling amid colonnaded courtyards, visiting gardens, perusing frescoes and mosaics plus vestiges of the Romans’ early water-heating system.

As part of the OceaniaNEXT enhancements, new wine tastings have already launched onboard Marina and Riviera during select evenings; guests can taste local wines, spirits, small-plates, tapas and cheeses during the evening wine bar service that is offered in La Reserve or Baristas. These enhancements will debut on Insignia, Nautica, Regatta and Sirena as each vessel returns to sailing this year, so by 2023, they’ll be offered on all sailings. 

Syros, Greece

Syros, Greece is one of the new destinations that Regent Seven Seas Cruises will visit in 2023. Shown here is the Vaporia district of Ermoupoli. (Photo by Getty Images)

In Europe for 2023, Seabourn will operate four ships. For example, Seabourn Quest will focus on 10- and 11-day itineraries with in-depth explorations of the Adriatic. Among new itineraries are 10-day voyages roundtrip from Venice that will reach as far south as Corfu, Parga and Zakinthos; and 11-day voyages roundtrip from Venice that will reach Malta and Syracusa with a berth in the heart of the city.

We also suggests checking out Seabourn’s new 10-day western Mediterranean voyages on Seabourn Sojourn. The line’s goal is to provide more in-depth experiences and reach smaller destinations. Highlights include the Rivieras with itineraries between Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and destinations such as Sanary-sur-Mer, St. Raphael and La Ciotat, France, as well as Golfo Aranci, Sardinia, Italy. 

Seabourn Sojourn’s round-trip itineraries from Spain to Morocco will include evenings in Casablanca and Tangier, Morocco, plus late nights in Malaga. The 10-day voyages from Barcelona to Rome will sail east to Malta and Gozo in the Maltese islands; the latter is the site of the Ggantija Temples, one of the world’s oldest free-standing structures. 

Overall, Seabourn’s 2023 Europe season will have 16 “new and notable” destinations the line either hasn’t previously visited or hasn’t been to in years. They include Marbella and Alicante, Spain; Agadir, Morocco; Penzance, United Kingdom; Marmaris, Turkey; Livadi, Naousa, Kavala (Neapolis), Milos, and Poros, Greece; Ystad, Sweden; Gdansk, Poland, Port Pionersky (Kaliningrad), Russia; Riga, Latvia; Rønne, Bornholm, Denmark.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises will debut several enticing new ports of call in Europe for 2023. For example, one new destination call is at Syros, Greece, a maiden call for the line on its 10-night “Italian Wine & Turkish Delight” itinerary from Venice, Italy to Piraeus (Athens), Greece, departing October 23, 2023. The opulent, 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, the line’s newest ship (which debuted just prior to the pandemic’s start), will sail to Ancona (Urbino), Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Rhodes and Syros, Greece; plus, Bodrum and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey. 

While Santorini and Mykonos are tourism stars in Greece’s Cyclades Islands, Syros is an authentic bastion of Greek life. Here, it’s easy to get a feel for the lifestyle of the locals, as they go about daily tasks. Founded during the Greek Revolution in the 1820s, Syros’ capital city of Ermoupoli is characterized by a landscape of pastel-colored neoclassical buildings and grand churches. Cruisers can stroll through Plateia Miaouli, Ermoupoli’s marble-paved square; tour St. George’s Cathedral atop the medieval hilltop settlement of Ano Syros; and wander through Vaporia, the city’s most picturesque quarter. 

Among the shore excursions offered in Syros, the “Anos Syros & Scenic Coastal Drive” excursion includes a walking tour of the medieval village of Ano Syros and a drive past attractive coastal villages (including a photo stop within the beach area at Finikas). Cruisers will also visit a Syros candy factory known for its traditional, “loukoumi” nougat – chewy candies dusted in powdered sugar and often flavored with lemon, honey and walnuts, or with coconut and ouzo. The tour concludes with a visit to Hermoupolis’ Church of the Assumption, best known for its 1567-era, religious painting by El Greco, created by the artist when he was in his mid-20s. His signature is viewable at the base of the candelabrum. 

Or, if Regent Seven Seas’ guests desire a new Baltic port of call, they can pick a cruise that calls at Leknes in Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands, as mentioned earlier in this story. Deep fjords reveal sheltered bays and long, windswept beaches, plus Leknes itself is a small town of only 4,000 residents nestled on the island of Vestvagoy. While in town, we’d suggest shopping for works by local artists and tasting the dried cod or “stockfish,” a culinary tradition dating to the Viking era. It’s become a staple of the Norwegian diet. 

The Leknes port call is part of the 20-night “Northern Summer” itinerary of the 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator, which departs August 8, 2023, from Copenhagen, Denmark to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Beyond the new Leknes call, highlights of the voyage include overnight calls in both Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland and Bremerhaven (Hamburg), Germany. Guests also will visit the ports of Gothenburg, Sweden; Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Nordfjordeid, Trondheim, North Cape (Honningsvag) and Hammerfest, all in Norway; and Lerwirk in the Shetland Islands and Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. 

Also introducing new ports in 2023 is destination-focused Azamara. Departing July 20, 2023, its 10-night “Baltic & Scandinavia” voyage on the 702-passenger Azamara Pursuit will take guests to smaller, one-of-a-kind ports accessible to smaller vessels. Two maiden calls are Fredericia, Denmark and Gothenburg, which is Sweden’s second largest city. 

Ano Syros

Ano Syros is the medieval hilltop settlement of Syros. (Photo by Getty Images)

For a deep dive into Viking culture, we’d opt for Azamara’s five-hour shore excursion from Fredericia to Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town, where cruisers will visit the Museum of the Viking Ages and Middle Ages, telling the town’s history from 700 to 1700. Then it’s on to lunch, a visit to Ribe Cathedral for stellar views of the town from its high tower, and a visit to the Ribe Viking Center. 

Alternatively, another Fredericia shore option is the five-hour “Koldinghus and Christiansfeld” tour. Guests will walk into Kolding and visit Koldinghus, known as “the last royal castle of Jutland.” Then this tour continues to Christiansfeld, Denmark, recently selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One plus for Azamara’s guests is that’s the line’s destination immersion philosophy results in multiple touring choices, such as 20 different shore excursions or private car touring options in St. Petersburg, Russia, for example.

Grand European Voyage

When luxury travelers desire to explore Europe from coast to coast, we’d suggest checking out Silversea Cruises’ new “Grand Mediterranean Voyage 2023,” a 66-day extravaganza that will take luxury travelers to 52 destinations in 16 countries. Operated by the new 596-passenger Silver Moon, this new itinerary is billed as the most extensive exploration of the Mediterranean region in the cruise line’s history. 

Let’s just say this lengthy voyage covers the map. The ultra-luxury ship will depart Lisbon, Portugal on October 6, 2023, and guests will explore port destinations in Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, before the extensive voyage ends in Piraeus (Athens), Greece. One appealing facet of this voyage is its strong focus on the eastern Mediterranean including the Holy Land and Egypt, with overnight calls in Alexandria, Egypt; Haifa (for Nazareth), Israel and Ashdod (for Jerusalem). 

Throughout the voyage, though, interesting shore options beckon. During the ship’s call at Zadar, Croatia, guests can head out on active adventures including hiking, or cultural-focused options such as a half-day “Dalmatian Panoramas and Rural Estate” shore excursion. Guests take a guided tour of Novigrad, a well-preserved medieval town that lies on the slopes of a hill under the Fortica Fortress and surrounded by ramparts. Highlights include the Church of St. Nicholas, Church of St. Kate, Fortica Fortress and Novigrad Homeland Museum, which exhibits many valuable arts, crafts, and treasures from Roman and Byzantine times.

Then it’s on to Nadin Village for a visit to the Odzakovic Rural Estate, a rural tourism farmhouse surrounded by 360 acres of organic vineyards, other crops, walking paths and farm animals. At the heart of the home is the Odzakovic family’s small museum, brimming with exhibits and artifacts dating from 1835. During the interior visit, guests will taste home-made Dalmatian specialties prepared and served by the Odzakovic family and learn about other local traditions.  

Back on the ship, guests can immerse themselves in local tastes for destinations across the Mediterranean with Silversea’s new S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) programming. Look for local and regional cooking and tasting experiences onboard, plus culinary options ashore with S.A.L.T. shore excursions. 

If Silversea fans prefer a Baltic Sea cruise for 2023, Silversea will operate its first expedition voyages there on the 274-passenger Silver Wind, renovated in 2018, and further refurbished with its hull ice-strengthened in November 2021. Travelers enjoy butler service in every suite and will journey to off-the-beaten-path destinations along the Finnish coast, while new “Norwegian Fjord” departures will offer the chance to see autumn foliage and the Northern Lights. 

Leknes, in Norway

Leknes, in Norway, is a small town of only 4,000 residents nestled on the island of Vestvagoy. Here, Regent Seven Seas Cruises guests can shop for works by local artists. (Photo by Getty Images)

Luxury Travel Advisor likes the 24-day “London (Tower Bridge) to Helsinki” voyage on May 11, 2023, as this off-the-beaten-path itinerary has a lot for “been there, done that” cruisers. The journey begins with an overnight at Tower Bridge in London, and then calls at a dozen or so remote destinations/isles in and around the United Kingdom. Then the ship heads for Hamburg, Germany; Christianso Island, Denmark; Kuressaare, Estonia; Gotska Island, Gnaggen and Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, as well as multiple remote destinations in Finland, including Vaasa, Valsorarna, Oulu, Kalajoki, Rauma, Oro Island, Ulko Island, and finally Helsinki, Finland. 

For example, in Kalajoki, guests can choose from five “included shore excursions including a hike along the Siiponjoki Nature Trail; a visit to the Vihaslahti Bird Tower and Nature Reserve; a visit to the craft pottery, Iso-Pahkala, with a pottery workshop; a Zodiac cruise or, alternatively kayaking, with the Silversea expedition team. 

New Ships

The new Azamara Onward, the fourth ship in the Azamara fleet, will set sail October 4, 2023, on a 10-night “Jewels of the Med” itinerary from Venice, Italy to Istanbul, Turkey. The ports in this line-up include Koper, Slovenia; Pula and Dubrovnik, Croatia; Argostoli, Gythion and Santorini, Greece; Cesme and Istanbul (overnight), Turkey.

What’s to see and do? In Turkey, Cesme is popular for surfing and windsurfing, and has a lovely Old City collection of Greek neoclassical buildings. At Gythion, an off-the-beaten-path Greek port not on many itineraries, cruisers can peruse the turquoise bay waters and pretty Peloponnese town, visit the 13th-century Byzantine citadel of Mystras, go underground at Diros Caves, or head some 25 miles or so to the site of the ancient city-state of Sparta. Factoid? Mystras was Sparta’s port, leaving some cruisers to likely utter: “This is Sparta” as they arrive at the port.

A new, ultra-luxury expedition ship is Crystal’s 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor. It’s something a bit different to explore the Mediterranean by expedition ship, and this beauty (see our review on page 30) offers two “Cultural Discovery’ itineraries that Luxury Travel Advisor finds interesting. 

One is the 11-night “Andalusia, Morocco and the Mediterranean” voyage from the Canary Islands, Spain, to Nice, France on April 12, 2023. Guests can dive into the mystique of Marrakesh and the Moorish history of the Alhambra before this intimate ship — with upscale dining, onboard enrichment talks, spacious suites with butler service and two “live” entertainment options nightly — heads for the Balearic Isles and the Côte d’Azur. 

A separate 12-night “Cote D’Azur, Catalonia & Andalusia Discovery,” a cultural discovery itinerary for Crystal Endeavor, departs April 23, 2023 from Nice to Seville, Spain. Most notable is the rare chance for cruisers to sail into the heart of Seville for an overnight; the ship doesn’t simply dock at Cadiz or another ocean port as is the case for guests arriving on larger ships, who must then board motorcoaches or other transport to Seville. 

Crystal Endeavor also will offer a new 14-day “Exploration: Springtime in the British Isles,” from Portsmouth to Edinburgh, Scotland, departing May 26, 2023. This is a good option for guests who want a U.K.-intensive voyage that’s strong in Scottish port calls and yet a voyage with an expeditionary feel. In Scotland, guests will visit Iona Island and Staffa; St. Kilda and Flannan Isles; Inverewe Garden; Kirkwall, Orkney Islands; Isle of Noss and Lerwick, Shetland Islands; Unst; Fair Isle; and Leith (Edinburgh, for overnight). Other port calls will include St. Helier, Jersey; Tresco and Hugh Town, St. Mary’s, both on the Isles of Scilly; Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Milford Haven, Wales; Dublin, Ireland; and Portrush, Northern Ireland, U.K.

Close to Home in 2023 

American Serenade

American Serenade will debut in 2022. (Photo by American Cruise Lines)

Not all enticing new voyages are in Europe, so for travelers seeking voyages — river, ocean or canal — closer to home, here are a few appealing 2023 North America and Central America voyages to consider. 

Outfitted with an upscale interior designed by Miami’s Studio DADO, the new 175-passenger American Serenade, American Cruise Lines’ second new modern riverboat debuting in 2022 and its sixth overall for the river line in that series, will operate a new eight-day “Tennessee Rivers” itinerary from Nashville, TN, to Chattanooga, TN in 2023. Port calls will include Clarksvillle and Savannah, TN; Paducah, KY; and Florence and Decatur, AL. Guests will spend a complimentary pre-cruise night in Nashville.

Starting in June 2023 and continuing through the summer, Viking’s new expedition ship, the 378-passenger Viking Polaris, will operate a 15-day “Great Lakes Collection” itinerary between Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Duluth, MN, taking cruisers to all five Great Lakes. Highlights will include visits to urban centers, Niagara Falls, the granite islands and sheltered inlets of Georgian Bay and the famous Soo Locks.

For a robust 15-day voyage, Ponant’s “Canada to the American East Coast” voyage departs October 23, 2023. It’s operated by the 184-passenger Le Dumont-d’Urville between Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Gloucester, MA, the latter site founded as “Le Beau port” by Samuel de Champlain in 1604. Port calls include Montreal, Quebec City and Perce, Quebec, Canada; Baddeck and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; Bar Harbor, ME, and many others.  

American Queen Voyages’ new, oceangoing, 186-passenger Ocean Discoverer will operate an appealing, 12-day Pacific coastal itinerary, the “Hidden Coast of British Columbia,” departing October 4, 2023, from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle, WA. On this in-depth adventure, the ship will call at such off-the-beaten-path spots as the secluded Princess Louisa Inlet with mile-high cliffs and dozens of waterfalls. 

On the opposite coast, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse will operate Scenic’s 16-day “Adventures through the Inside Passage” voyage, departing September 3, 2023. This isn’t your usual Alaska itinerary. It starts with a flight from Anchorage to Nome, AK, and then the “Discovery Yacht” calls at St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea, Dutch Harbor and Kodiak in the Aleutian Islands, all in Alaska, before heading for Homer, Seward, the Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Kake and Wrangell, AK, and Vancouver, BC.

For those seeking a warmer climate, Windstar Cruises’ new seven-day “Spanish Treasures via the Panama Canal” itinerary on Star Legend travels between Balboa/Fuerte Amador on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal and Oranjestad, Aruba in the Caribbean, with calls at Panama’s Bocas del Toro (visited by Christopher Columbus in 1502) and San Blas Islands, plus Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia. Multiple departures in early 2023 are planned.

Related Articles

Viking Floats Out Newest Egypt Ship, Viking Osiris

Explora Journeys' Trade Policies to Help Ensure Trade Longevity

On Location: Sailing on World Navigator

Spotlight: Maiden Port Calls