As the cruise industry sails into 2021, luxury cruise lines are adapting schedules and adding enticing new itineraries, many for late 2021, 2022 or 2023. Luxury Travel Advisor has singled out these upcoming itineraries that offer superb, in-depth immersion. Travelers can either “dive deeply” into exploring a targeted region of the globe or indulge their personal special-interest passions such as golfing in Ireland or experiencing a total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica.
For travelers seeking an exotic adventure in a part of the world “less traveled” by most Americans, we’d suggest checking out Crystal Cruises’ new “Grand Journey: Arabian Peninsula Adventure.” Sailing 14 days roundtrip from Dubai, the 848-passenger Crystal Symphony will depart March 10, 2023.
Itinerary highlights? Cruisers will experience Crystal’s maiden call at Khor Fakkan, U.A.E., home to Wadi Wurayah, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with wildlife, rocky outcrops and a scenic waterfall set amid the Hajar Mountains. Guests also will go ashore on a rare port call at Kuwait City. In addition, they’ll view Dubai’s spectacular Burj Khalifa and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Bahla Fort and Qal’at al-Bahrain in Bahrain.
This exotic itinerary begins with an overnight onboard the ship in Dubai after embarkation, and then calls at Khor Fakkan; Muscat, Oman; Manama, Bahrain; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Doha, Qatar (overnight); and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (overnight). The ship will spend two days at sea, cruising the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf and also call at Sir Bani Yas Island, U.A.E., an eco-reserve and cruise line private island destination.
Abu Dhabi is a popular luxury shopping destination, so if local government policies and cruise ship health protocols permit independent exploration ashore (by this point in time), we’d head to the Galleria at Al Maryah Island, which fields an appealing selection of luxury boutiques and shops. One new option is Manolo Blahnik, a newly opened boutique from the iconic Spanish shoe designer, with lovely signature Hangisi heels or lavishly embellished flats. Expanded in 2019, the Galleria is also a good spot for dining, entertainment, urban parks and a waterfront promenade.
Downtown, the sparkling, glass-fronted Abu Dhabi Mall offers more than 200 stores with the latest fashions, footwear, gadgets, cosmetics and accessories. For a traditional souvenir or gift while in Abu Dhabi, we’d opt for a “dallah” or “dalla,” which is a bulbous coffee pot and, in the Arab world, symbolic of generosity and hospitality.
For a robust, 14-night Japanese itinerary that also features two South Korean ports, Regent Seven Seas Cruises sails roundtrip from Tokyo (Yokohama) on April 11, 2023. Operated by the 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, this “Towering Mountains and Nippon Culture” itinerary includes calls in Nagoya, Kyoto (Kobe), Beppu, Nagasaki, Naze (Oshima Island), Okinawa (Naha), Kochi, Shimizu, all in Japan, as well as Busan and Jeju, South Korea.
It’s an eerie, “steamy” experience during the port call at Beppu. How so? Beppu is home to so many thermal springs — called “jigokus” or “hells” — that thick clouds of steam can always be viewed rising from the ground. Travelers who choose Regent Seven Seas’ “Hell Springs and Village Stop” excursion will head to view Umi Jigoku, the so-called “Sea Hell” at which the cobalt-blue water is near boiling.
Kochi Castle will be one of the highlights for cruisers on the Seven Seas Explorer, which sails roundtrip from Tokyo (Yokohama) on April 11, 2023. // Photo Courtesy of Japan Tourism
They’ll also visit Chinoike Jigoku or “Blood Pond Hell,” where cruisers who so desire can put their feet in the warm pool’s reddish (iron oxide-rich) water. Then the excursion will take travelers to Myoban Yunosato village to shop for healing minerals and bath salts so they can later create their own hot springs experience at home.
A totally different Japanese experience unfolds in the port call of Kochi. We’d opt for the full-bodied “Ryugado Caves and Kochi Castle” included tour. Passengers can view unusual geological formations within the Ryugado Caves and learn about the people inhabiting those caves 2,000 years ago. In addition, travelers will tour the 17th-century Kochi Castle, the seat of the powerful Yamauchi lords during the Edo Period.
To create an even more in-depth Japan experience, we’d suggest adding on Regent Seven Seas’ pre-cruise package to either Tokyo or Tokyo/Hakone.
Ireland and Golf
To explore the "Emerald Isle" and dive into its culture, cuisine and heritage, or alternatively, into its world-class golfing, Azamara will offer an 11-night “Ireland Intensive” voyage, departing July 27, 2022. Sailing between Southampton, U.K., and Dublin, Ireland, the 702-passenger Azamara Pursuit will call at many Ireland and Northern Ireland (U.K.) destinations and spend four late nights in port.
Ireland port calls include Donegal (Killybegs), Galway, Cork (Cobh) and Foynes, where the Pan-Am Clippers landed just offshore in the early days of commercial aviation. Aviation buffs shouldn’t miss diving into that era at the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum. In addition, the ship will call at Londonderry, Belfast and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.
While in Belfast, passengers who love “Game of Thrones” can opt for the “Live Like a Stark at Winterfell” shore excursion. They’ll travel to Castle Ward, the location of Winterfell and seat of the House Stark, learn how the actors and crew filmed at the castle and about contemporary CGI (computer generated imagery) effects used to bring the stories to life. Cruisers will also discover the art of falconry, slip into replica attire mirroring the show’s outfits, participate in an archery session, have a photo opportunity with the real Direwolves living in the local village, and chow down at a medieval banquet.
While Ireland has plenty of culture, heritage and landscapes to explore, golfers will appreciate that this cruise is also an “Irish Links Golf Cruise” managed by PerryGolf. For an added package fee, golfers will tee off at six top courses, including Fota Island’s Deerpark Course, three-time host to the Irish Open; Foyne’s golf course at Adare Manor, which received a 2018 renovation by Tom Fazio and will host the 2026 Ryder Cup; Ballyliffin’s renowned Glashedy Links; the Royal County Down course; the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush and the Portmarnock Links by Bernhard Langer.
Fully managed by PerryGolf staff onboard and ashore, golfers will find their clubs ready and waiting at each venue, tee times and pairings arranged and posted in advance, and box lunches, caddie fees (gratuities are additional) and an open bar after each round provided.
Heart of the Amazon
Seabourn’s new expedition ship, the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, will sail 10-day “Heart of the Amazon” voyages between Manaus, Brazil and Iquitos, Peru on March 29 and, in the opposite direction on April 8, 2023. This immersive upper Amazon voyage allows for in-depth Amazon eco-experiences along the river.
Depending on water levels and other conditions, the captain and veteran expedition leader will choose sites along the Amazon for kayaking and Zodiac explorations, as well as visits ashore. For example, Leticia, Colombia is the “frontier Amazon,” hundreds of miles from any Colombian road and has stilt and floating houses.
Expedition team members will also be on deck and in observation lounges offering insights into the passing terrain and pointing out wildlife and other highlights while the ship is at anchor or cruising the river.
Seabourn will sail 10-day “Heart of the Amazon” voyages between Manaus, Brazil and Iquitos, Peru in 2023. Shown here are stilt houses in the Amazon rain forest near Iquitos. // Photo: Getty Images
Each “expedition” will carry a 26-person expedition team of wilderness experts, scientists, historians and naturalists. At the Discovery Center, a spacious teaching and academic center adjacent to the Expedition Lounge on Deck 4, travelers will delve into the Amazon’s natural history and cultures via lectures, briefings and Seabourn Conversations enrichment programming.
For an independent pre- or post-cruise stay, we’d opt for a visit to Iquitos, located 2,000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon River. Among the sightseeing attractions is Casa de Fierro, the city’s late 19th-century Iron House. Designed in Europe (some say by Gustav Eiffel), it was shipped to Peru, carried in pieces through the jungle and reassembled in Iquitos — a testament to the rubber boom wealth of the era.
Desire to learn about wildlife preservation? We’d suggest a visit to the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center to see endangered manatees and even bottle feed younger manatees who stay in the reserve until they can be released back into the wild.
European Grand Voyage
Luxury cruisers often choose either a vacation in the Mediterranean or the Baltic, but what if they want to explore both extensive European regions on the same voyage? Newly announced, Silversea Cruises plans its first-ever “European Grand Voyage,” departing Piraeus (Athens), Greece on March 30, 2022. Over a 90-day period, it will sail to 72 destinations in 22 countries before ending in Stockholm, Sweden.
Operated by the new, 596-passenger Silver Moon, this Grand European voyage will also offer guests seven exclusive events and eight overnights in such cities as Istanbul, Turkey; Sorrento, Italy; Bordeaux, France; and Saint Petersburg, Russia, among others.
Highlights include three ports in Turkey — Istanbul with an overnight call, as well as Dikili (Izmir) and Kusadasi for Ephesus. Guests will also see destinations within the Greek Islands, Adriatic Sea, and along the Italian and French Rivieras, plus Malta and many ports in Spain, Portugal and France. On the northerly end of this “European Grand Voyage,” guests can go ashore at many U.K., Icelandic and Norwegian ports, along with the Baltic draws of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Russia.
One plus on this voyage is that Silversea recently announced that it will include one complimentary shore excursion in every port as well as free roundtrip air for all voyages in its new collection of 2022/2023 itineraries. Business class upgrades are also included in selected destinations and on selected voyages, including this Grand Voyage.
Special savings in the form of "non-use air credit" is offered to travelers making their own travel arrangements. Depending on Silversea’s air program flight schedule, guests may also enjoy one or two hotel nights, or the use of a dayroom, included in the cruise fare.
Among the many free shore excursions on this “European Grand Voyage” is a “Sicilian Wine Estate” excursion during the call at Giardini Naxos, Sicily; guests will be transported to Catania’s Linguaglossa on the northern side of Mount Etna to tour the town, savor pistachio gelato at a local patisserie and then tour and taste at the Gambino Wine Estate, owned by the Raciti Gambino family.
Silversea Cruises’ first-ever “European Grand Voyage” will give guests an opportunity to visit the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey. // Photo: Getty Images
Antarctica and Solar Eclipse
Newly introduced are two small-ship, luxury expedition “solar eclipse” cruises to Antarctica. Ponant’s new 15-day “Solar Eclipse” itinerary will depart November 30, 2021 from Ushuaia, Argentina and take luxury cruisers to Antarctica’s Weddell Sea ice pack, the only area in the world where the solar eclipse will be 100 percent visible.
This themed voyage will unfold on the new 270-passenger Le Commandant-Charcot, a luxury hybrid electric polar exploration vessel; it’s powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas) and electric propulsion.
On December 4, 2021, passengers will disembark onto the ice pack to watch the fascinating natural phenomena as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. The pristine white landscape will create a high-pressure zone conducive to clearer skies. In Antarctica, where the sun never seems to completely set, cruisers and onboard scientists will be enveloped in darkness for a few minutes.
During this expedition cruise, travelers can also join eco-research efforts by helping scientists set up a station on an ice floe and taking water samples. The ship itself will be equipped with scientific laboratories and research equipment. The voyage will improve guests’ knowledge of the biodiversity, ecosystems and humans’ impact on Antarctica.
The itinerary also includes sailing by the Larsen Ice Shelf, the ice barrier that helps prevent the erosion of the Antarctic ice sheet; visiting the South Shetland Islands, home to scientific research stations; and observing such wildlife as Weddell seals, Adelie penguins and humpback whales. Passengers will enjoy participatory scientific activities, lectures by experts and exploring via hovercraft, hot air balloon and snowmobiles.
Another line offering a Solar Eclipse voyage is luxe-adventure Atlas Ocean Voyages. The new 196-passenger World Navigator will sail from Ushuaia, Argentina on a 12-night “Antarctic Solar Eclipse” voyage on November 28, 2021. The expedition ship will head south through the Drake Passage, visit the South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. Guests will witness the total solar eclipse on December 4.
What’s new? For all Antarctic season voyages for 2021 and 2022, Atlas plans to charter a private widebody aircraft to transport guests from Orlando, FL, nonstop to Ushuaia, Argentina. Roundtrip airfare to Orlando is also provided from 16 North American gateways. Flights are included within the cruise fare and the line says the new charter service will save passengers more than a day of normal flight time in reaching Ushuaia.
Atlas Ocean Voyages’ new 196-passenger World Navigator will sail from Ushuaia, Argentina for a 12-night “Antarctic Solar Eclipse” itinerary on November 28, 2021.
The Great Land
For the 2022 Alaska season, upscale Oceania Cruises offers a mix of enticing Alaska cruise itineraries. Luxury Travel Advisor particularly likes the 10-night itinerary roundtrip from Seattle, WA, on the 684-passenger Regatta. Port calls include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), all in Alaska, plus the Hubbard Glacier and a call at Victoria, B.C., Canada.
Icy Strait Point has a new Wilderness Landing port area and new high-speed gondola system (the port’s second one) to whisk guests into the destination with stellar eco-views; this also avoids the use of less environmentally friendly motorcoach transport.
Among the destination experiences on this robust Alaska itinerary are several that should appeal to anglers. During a half-day “Fly-in Fly Fishing” excursion from Juneau, cruisers can take a floatplane flight into a national forest, then enjoy fly fishing for trout in that remote wilderness, while keeping their eyes peeled for bald eagles, deer or other wildlife. Separately, during Oceania’s half-day “Salmon Sportfishing” excursion from Sitka, cruisers will board a cabin cruiser to fish for salmon and then, if desired, will ship their catch home.
Whatever the traveler’s personal interest — either a bucket-list region of the globe or favorite personal activity — cruise lines have new schedules that offer much during the coming years. Check out our sidebars (below and right) for even more in-depth options, both ocean and river.
What’s New in River Cruising?
Following a successful “Cruise & Rail” itinerary launch between Venice and Zurich, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is now planning similar experiences for 2022 through Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Romania, Austria and Switzerland. For example, a new “Castles of Transylvania” rail experience will connect Golden Eagle’s Danube Express train with Uniworld’s “Enchanting Danube” cruise on S.S. Maria Theresa, for eight different departures.
Guests will choose from either a pre-cruise rail option for a 12-night trip starting with a one-night hotel stay in Budapest or a post-cruise rail option for an 11-night trip starting in Passau, Germany. Uniworld also will debut a new Venice-to-Istanbul (and in reverse) “Cruise & Rail” itinerary, which includes a train trip plus an S.S. La Venezia voyage from Venice. This new eight-night option will operate between July and September 2022, includes a two-night hotel stay in Istanbul and features travel through nine countries, including Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria.
A recent Riviera River Cruises study revealed that 34 percent of past ocean cruisers are considering sailing on rivers instead during 2021. To instill confidence in travel during a challenging era, the river line has introduced new, more flexible customer care policies, including free changes to bookings, COVID-19 Cancellation Protection and a happiness guarantee.
On the new ship front, American Cruise Lines’ American Melody has successfully launched from Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, MD. As the line’s fourth new “Modern Series,” the five-deck river vessel will accommodate 175 guests in 91 staterooms/suites, all with private balconies. American Melody will offer sweeping expanses of glass, a grand, multi-story glass atrium and easy-boarding via the Modern Series’ patented opening bow and retractable gangway. On schedule to begin cruising the Mississippi River in summer 2021, the new vessel is the first American Cruise Lines vessel to reflect a newly revealed interior design concept created by Studio DADO, a boutique Miami design firm.
American Queen Steamboat Company will introduce several new North American itineraries for 2022, among them the 12-day or 13-day “Scenic Gorges in Autumn” sailing between Memphis and Chattanooga, TN, on October 17 and October 28. Crisp fall weather, leaf viewing, tree-lined bluffs and transit through the highest single-lift lock in eastern North America are highlights; port calls include such destinations as Paducah, KY and Florence, AL. Also, starting in February 2022, AQSC’s new “Special Edition Voyages” will include an “Exploring Haunted History” itinerary on the Lower Mississippi River and a “Quilting the Fabric of America” itinerary with expert quilters leading hands-on, onboard quilting sessions.
In a feel-good moment, AmaWaterways released its first music video showcasing an original song, “Ama Means Love (Family).” Filmed in Budapest, Hungary with David Onka, AmaWaterways’ lead onboard entertainer and musician, the song and music video is dedicated to travel advisor partners and loyal guests. Check out Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music or the line’s YouTube channel.
Puerto Banus is known for its high-end marina, which brims with large mega yachts and exotic cars owned by celebrities and VIPs. // Photo: Getty Images
On December 23, 2022, Cunard Line’s 2,061-passenger Queen Victoria will sail a “Canary Islands Celebration” roundtrip itinerary from Southampton, U.K. The ship calls at Lisbon, Portugal and Cadiz, Spain but its top draw is the line-up of sunny “winter season” island calls — at Funchal, Madeira, Portugal and Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Scenic has released its new 2022-2023 Scenic Eclipse schedule and expanded its discovery program with a range of new helicopter excursions. Among the enticing voyages is “Fire & Ocean: Russia’s Kamchatka & The Kurils,” a journey into the Russian Far East and “The Pacific Ring of Fire.”
Home to at least 100 volcanoes, the Kuril Islands are famed for their dramatic landscapes. Cruisers will also learn about heritage of the indigenous Ainu people and the dispute between Russia and Japan over the remote isles.
During 2021, 2022 and 2023, Viking will operate a variety of intensive Greece itineraries. For example, we particularly recommend the 10-night “Greek Odyssey” itinerary operating roundtrip from Athens on February 7, 2023. The 930-passenger Viking Sky will call at Volos, Thessaloniki, Santorini, Crete, Nafplio and Rhodes, a savory mix of diverse Greek ports and one call at Kusadasi (for Ephesus) in Turkey. The voyage also features scenic cruising of Mt. Athos and eight included shore excursions. Add-on stays feature Athens or “Classical Greece.”
Another luxurious Greece option? On September 13, 2022, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 500-passenger Europa 2 also will operate an eight-day “Picturesque Greece” itinerary roundtrip from Piraeus (Athens). Ports of call include Hydra, Mykonos, Santorini, Agios Nikolaos, Rhodes and Simi, Greece, plus Marmaris, Turkey.
Cunard Line will sail a “Canary Islands Celebration” roundtrip itinerary from Southampton, U.K. in 2022. Shown here is Candelaria on Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. // Photo: Getty Images
For those seeking an in-depth southern Spain experience, SeaDream Yacht Club just unveiled a seven-night Malaga roundtrip on the 112-passenger SeaDream I. Departing November 5, 2022, the voyage visits Almeria, Motril (for Granada), Puerto Banus/Marbella and Cadiz, Spain, as well as Gibraltor, U.K., and Tangier, Morocco. On four of those calls, the ship stays late into the evening.
One fun SeaDream offering? The focal point of Puerto Banus is its high-end marina, brimming with large mega yachts and exotic cars owned by celebrities and VIPs. During SeaDream’s call, several local Ferrari Club members will arrange a gathering of club members with guests as well as line up 20 or so Italian iconic automobiles along the pier.
Alternatively, if the tropical isles of French Polynesia beckon, Windstar Cruises offers many seven-night “Dreams of Tahiti” voyages on the 148-passenger Wind Spirit sailing roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Ports of call include Huahine, Moorea, Raiatea, Moto Mahaea and Bora Bora (overnight).
One popular activity is “drift snorkeling,” and another is snorkeling to find a black pearl during the Raiatea call. Windstar’s guests can also swim, snorkel and kayak from the ship’s aft watersports platform. Longer voyages that include other South Pacific islands are also available.