Spotlight: Maiden Port Calls

As cruisers visiting Saudi Arabia watch a skilled falconer launch a falcon from their wrist into the desert air, they’re experiencing a deep-rooted cultural tradition extending back thousands of years. In contrast, travelers walking along the soft sands or snorkeling at Mystery Island in Vanuatu are simply soaking up the sun’s rays, enjoying nature and living in the moment.  

No matter what type of activities they prefer, though, luxury travelers returning to the high seas in 2022, 2023 and 2024 will head out to explore new maiden ports of call. Cruise lines are creating new maiden calls, helping entice experienced and repeat cruisers back for another voyage.  

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

A new horizon for many cruise lines is Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a Red Sea resort city on the Arabian Peninsula. In Arabic, the city’s motto is “Jeddah Ghair,” which means “Jeddah is different.” It’s also called the “Mermaid of the Red Sea” and is widely perceived as the most liberal city in Saudi Arabia. Yet, in many ways, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is still traditional by western standards, and it’s also a gateway to the Islamic holy city of Mecca, and other remote spots on the peninsula. 

If visiting Jeddah, we’d suggest a trip to the traditional Souq Al Alawi, patronized by locals, traders and visitors alike over the centuries. Traditional coral houses line both sides of the market street, and souk (market) offers authentic Arabian jewelry, Islamic art and traditional clothing for sale. 

Located along the Tihama plain, Jeddah is popular with beach lovers and divers alike, as it has colorful coral reefs just offshore from its beaches. Prefer to keep your feet on dry land? Head to Fakieh Aquarium to view sharks, groupers, sting rays, sea horses and other ocean dwellers. Another fishy option is to peruse such fresh Red Sea catches as hammerhead shark, parrotfish and squid at Jeddah’s fish market.

Stretching almost 68 miles is the Jeddah Corniche, home to international hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, places for fishing, picnic areas, a science museum and mosques. It’s also home to the King Fahd’s Fountain, the world’s tallest water fountain. As the city’s symbol, it’s also known as the Jeddah Fountain. 

For those who love art, we’d suggest popping into the area in front of the Al-Hamra Mall to see 26 bronze sculptures made by world famous artists. Outdoor lovers can fish almost anywhere along the Corniche, and within its southern area, go horseback riding, bicycling or motorcycling. When it’s time to dine ashore in Jeddah, we’d opt for deep-fried Red Sea fish or a regional favorite, saleeg chicken and milky rice, and be sure to try khubz, a soft bread.

“Jeddah is a large, cosmopolitan city with nice hotels, beaches and restaurants,” reports Ken Heit, owner/president, Luxury Cruise and Tour Inc., affiliated with Frosch Travel, part of the Signature Travel Network. In fall 2021, he toured Jeddah and other spots in Saudi Arabia during a cruise on Scenic’s luxury oceangoing “Discovery” yacht, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse. While noting that the country still has a bit of work to do on the tourism side, Heit sees “great potential” throughout the region: “AlUla is a great area, but you have to drive or fly there from Yanbu,” Heit says. “It’s the Saudi version of Petra, Jordan.”   

The appeal of Jeddah and other Saudi ports as new cruise destinations is clear in looking at the planned port calls for cruise lines from 2022 through 2024. Destination-focused Azamara will call at Jeddah for the first time in 2024, as one of 12 maiden calls/new ports that year (others include Halong Bay, Vietnam; Pitcairn Island, U.K., and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, to name a few). For 2023-2024, Silversea Cruises will offer two Saudi Arabia maiden calls at Jazan and Yanbu. 

Jeddah is a maiden call for Oceania Cruises’ 1,250-passenger Riviera in 2023. On November 19, 2023, the ship’s 30-day “Mediterranean and Arabian Passage” itinerary from Barcelona to Dubai will include a Jeddah call, as will the 20-day “Holy Land and Arabian Jewels” option, departing on November 29, 2023 from Istanbul to Dubai. In addition, Atlas Ocean Voyages’ third expedition ship, World Seeker, which launches in 2022, will sail into Jeddah as a maiden call in 2023. 

In addition, Silversea will call at Jeddah during one segment of Silver Whisper’s 2022 World Cruise; that 13-day voyage departs Mahe, the Seychelles, on March 17, 2022, and sails to Aqaba, Jordan. The ultra-luxury line offers eight Jeddah shore excursions the first day, 14 on the second day, showing the robust nature of what’s to see and do for travelers. 

Jeddah Waterfront

Jeddah is a gateway to the Islamic holy city of Mecca. Multiple lines have planned maiden calls to this resort city between 2022 and 2024. (Cruise Saudi)  

We’d suggest cruisers consider the fun, four-and-a-half-hour, optional “Jeddah Evening Desert Safari,” which unfolds inside a Bedouin-style camp. This excursion will showcase everything from dune bashing to camel riding, sheesha, sand boarding, a belly dance show and BBQ buffet dinner.  In Jeddah, Silversea’s guests also have other optional tours to consider, along with three “included” tours: “Cultural Highlights of Jeddah,” “Jeddah Sights & Fakieh Aquarium,” and “Markets of Jeddah.” 

Tasked with developing cruise tourism, Cruise Saudi recently joined Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) for greater exposure to CLIA’s membership base of nearly 40,000 travel advisors and 7,125 travel agencies within the U.S. and Canada, as well as nearly all cruise lines.

Mystery Island, Vanuatu

High up on the “exotic port scale” but totally different in its natural and cultural vibe is Vanuatu’s Mystery Island, also known as Inyeug. Ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises will make a maiden call here as part of its “2023-2024 Voyage Collection,” which includes highly inclusive cruises to 15 new ports of call. 

The 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator will call at this far-flung South Pacific isle during a 16-night “Secret Isles of the South Pacific” itinerary, which operates from Sydney, Australia to Papeete, Tahiti on January 10, 2024. This pampering cruise also visits such other appealing South Pacific isles as the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia, Pago Pago in American Samoa, Bora Bora in French Polynesia and Suva in Fiji, to name a few. 

For travelers seeking a pristine, nearly deserted isle, Mystery Island entices with soft sandy beaches and swaying coconut palm trees. It’s typically uninhabited, but on days when a cruise ship calls, residents from neighboring Aneityum often pop over with local crafts or to offer beach massages or hair braiding. 

While it’s a bit too early for Regent Seven Seas’ specific shore trip options, but travelers who visit Mystery Island typically enjoy sun bathing, strolling the beach and snorkeling along protected coral reefs to spot clown fish, parrot fish and even the occasional sea turtle. Stand-up paddleboard lessons also are typically available. 

Seven Seas Navigator

The Seven Seas Navigator will visit Vanuatu’s Mystery Island during a 16-night itinerary from Sydney, Australia, to Papeete, Tahiti in January 2024.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruise’s luxurious Europa 2 also calls at Mystery Island (Inyeug) during a 14-day voyage from Lautoka, Fiji to Auckland, New Zealand on January 6, 2023. In addition, Silversea’s Silver Muse also calls at Mystery island during November 2023. 

Kaliningrad, Russia

New in 2023 as part of Seabourn’s northern Europe and western Mediterranean line-up of voyages, Seabourn Ovation will sail 10- and 11-day Baltic regional voyages between London and Stockholm, Sweden. Those voyages will include ports of call that the ultra-luxury line hasn’t visited for several years including Skagen, Denmark; Ystad, Sweden; and Gdansk, Poland. Also notable is the ship’s maiden call in Kaliningrad, Russia.

Formerly the port city of Konigsberg in German East Prussia, both the city and surrounding region were ceded to the former Soviet Union under the Potsdam Agreement in 1946. Renamed in honor of Mikhael Kalinin, a former Bolshevik revolutionary and Russian leader, Kaliningrad today serves as an important Russian naval base.

City tours often give travelers a glimpse of the 22-story, so-called “Ugliest Building in the World,” designed as the “House of Soviets” during the USSR’s post-war era. However, because it was built on the ruins of an old castle with many underground tunnels, instability resulted. The structure began to collapse. It does remain standing but is unoccupied.

Outside the city, tours also take travelers to seaside Svetlogorsk and for views of the Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Formed by the sea, the 60-mile long, thin, curved, sand-dune spit is a national park. 

Harstad, Norway

With a rich history stretching from the Middle Ages, Harstad in Northern Norway  is strategically placed on Norway’s largest island, Hinnoya. In 2023, Harstad is a maiden call for Azamara. The 670-passenger Azamara Pursuit will call there on a 16-night “Norway Intensive” voyage, departing June 23, 2023 from Southampton, U.K., to Copenhagen, Denmark, as will Azamara Journey, departing August 1, 2023 on a “Norway Intensive” voyage from Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

From the city center, cruisers can easily head out for outdoor adventure including hiking, skiing, cycling, canoeing and kayaking. In winter, cruisers can gaze at the spectacular Northern Lights, while in summer, more activities are possible, given that the daylight hours extend longer in the land of the midnight sun.

To learn about life on a traditional 13th-century farm, cruisers can consider an excursion to Trondenes Middle Ages Traditional Park; here visitors can learn about the activities and routines of the men of the era who headed to sea to fish, and the women who ran both the household and the farm. 

In summer, those who want to just cool off can visit the city’s cool waterpark; it’s built into a mountain in the city center. Alternatively, World War II buffs may desire to tour the Adolf guns, among the largest battleship cannons of World War II. 

Azamara offers a “Vikings and Cannons” shore excursion that first takes cruisers to the Trondenes Historical Center to learn about the region’s history via a multi-media show, lights, sound and smell. Then, it takes cruisers to the “Adolfkanonen,” which with four guns was the largest, most powerful battery along Germany’s World War II-era Atlantic Wall. Cruisers will also see a coastal artillery collection before the tour’s last stop — a visit to a stone church dating from the Middle Ages. 

Nome, Alaska

Musk Ox in Nome Alaska

In Nome, Alaska, the Musk Ox is a common sight. The Scenic Eclipse sails here in 2023. 

A gateway to rugged outdoor adventure, Nome lies on Alaska’s western coast within the Bering Sea’s Norton Sound. Both Nome, Alaska, and Petropavlovsk, Russia are first time ports for Scenic Eclipse, which will operate a 14-day “Jewels of the Russian Far East” itinerary. Arriving in Vladivostok, Russia, cruisers will take an included flight to Petropavlovsk, Russia, where they embark the ship and sail to Nome, Alaska on May 27, 2023, disembarking and taking an included flight to Anchorage; there is also a reverse option for a July 25, 2023 departure. 

Scenic Eclipse also sails atop the world from Nome to Tromso, Norway on its 26-day “Cross the Legendary Northeast Passage” voyage on August 6, 2023; guests take an included air flight from Anchorage to reach Nome for embarkation. All the ports in this Arctic region are maiden calls for Scenic Eclipse, which has a new Panorama Bar on Deck 10, the yacht’s top level, and new window seating at Sushi@Koko’s, the ship’s authentic Japanese restaurant.  

Also sailing to Nome in 2023 is Seabourn’s second expedition ship, Seabourn Pursuit, a PC6 vessel launching in February 2023. Sailing from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Nome, the new ship’s “Northwest Passage” voyage will take cruisers through the remote Arctic region along the northern icy seas above Canada and Alaska to see polar bears, indigenous rural villages, whales and much more. Carrying a 26-person expedition team, the ship carries kayak and 26 Zodiacs. 

A gateway to rugged adventure, Nome itself is a small city of about 4,000 residents, many indigenous Alaskans. It was the site of the last great Gold Rush era stampede in America. Check out the city’s Carrie M. McClain Memorial Museum as well as the Katirvik Cultural Center to learn about native Inupiq culture and Gold Rush-era history. 

One of the best ways to see Nome is to ask for a “Walking in Nome” hand-out from the visitor center. It’s a historical self-guided tour to view the buildings that survived the city’s notorious fires and floods. If cruisers are interested in seeing a gold dredge, the historic Swanburg Dredge is within walking distance of downtown. Active travelers can head East on Front Street and it’s about a mile from town on the left-hand side of the road. 

Binz, Germany

As the largest seaside resort on the isle of Ruden, Binz, in northern Germany, is a charming destination with many early 20th century resorts and villas. Its beach scene dates to the 1880s, when it became Germany’s first bathing resort. Today, its three-mile-long soft sandy beach is clean and well-maintained, with lifeguards on duty at certain times. Travelers can rent pedal boats, go water skiing, head out for a thrilling banana boat ride or set up a sailing lesson. 

Binz is also the gateway to Jasmund National Park, famed for Germany’s largest chalk cliffs that extend up to 384 feet from ground/sea level and the largest beech forests on the Baltic Coast. Another popular day trip is to visit the former 18th-century hunting palace of Jagdschloss Granitz; check out the incredible views over Ruden island from its observation tower. 

During a dark historical chapter, Binz came under Nazi control in 1937. A visit to the “Dokumentationszentrum Prora” will explain the Nazi attempts to establish a “Strength through Joy” approach with the locals. 

Cruisers who desire to sample the local Pomeranian regional specialties should order dishes that include such vegetables as sugar beets, tuften (potatoes served many ways) or “Swede,” a round vegetable with dark yellow flesh and either brown or purple skin. Meat cuts are usually from locally raised livestock, and fish is freshly caught in the region’s lakes and rivers as well as the Baltic Sea. 

We’d recommend the one-Michelin-star Freustil, famed for its creativity and also uncomplicated, aromatic and light seasonal delicacies, or the fifth-generation Fischraucherei Kuse, which specializes in tasty fresh flounder, herring, eel or cod; some fish is salted or smoked.

In 2023, Windstar CruisesStar Legend will sail from Amsterdam to Copenhagen on May 25, 2023, with a maiden call at Binz. The small-ship boutique cruise line also has added other maiden calls for 2023, among them Hamburg, Germany and both Valdez and Petersburg, Alaska.

Torbay, U.K.

During Oceania Cruises’ inaugural season for the new 1,200-passenger Vista, that upscale ship will make a maiden call at Torbay, U.K. Thanks to the area’s sandy beaches, mild climate and recreational and leisure attractions, it’s often referred to as the “English Riviera.” Vista will call at Torbay on its 18-day transatlantic “Old and New World Medley” sailing from Southampton (London), U.K., to New York City, departing August 30, 2022. 

This voyage will call at Le Havre (Paris) and St. Malo, France; Torbay, UK.; Cobh (Cork), Dublin and Killybegs, Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K.; St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada; Saint Pierre & Miquelon Islands, France; Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada; Bar Harbor, ME; Boston, MA; and Newport, RI.

As a new ship, Vista will offer residential-style luxury accommodations that range from 270 square feet for newly introduced solo staterooms to 290 square feet for standard staterooms and more than 2,400 square feet for the palatial Owner’s Suites; those top-end suites are styled exclusively (along with the ship’s Library) in Ralph Lauren Home. The ship will also offer 12 dining options, four new to the brand, plus eight bars, lounges and entertainment venues. 

Oceania Vista

Oceania Cruises’ new 1,200-passenger Vista will make a maiden call at Torbay, U.K. next year. 

While Torbay is Vista’s only maiden call, the entire Oceania brand — across the 2023 Europe and North America Collection — has nine new ports of call across all ships. Among them, in addition to the previously mentioned Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are Kalundborg, Denmark; Nordfjordeid, Norway; Limnos, Greece; Lipari, Italy and Eastport, Maine.

Expanding Horizons

Cruise lines continue to seek out new ports. During 2023-2024, Regent Seven Seas Cruises also has many other appealing maiden calls (beyond Mystery Island, Vanuatu, mentioned earlier); among those are the less-visited Syros in the Greek Islands, the Lofoten Islands of Norway and Puerto Banus, Spain. Among Silversea Cruises’ offering of 60 maiden calls in 2023 are the Comoro Islands off Africa’s southeastern coast; the island of Colonsay in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides; and Foula Island in Scotland’s Shetland archipelago.

And as new lines launch, they also have many maiden calls. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s 298-passenger Evrima will visit five new ports during its 2023 Mediterranean season — Melilla, Spain; La Gomera, Canary Islands; Praia and Mindelo, Cape Verde; and Catania, Spain.  

Another new line, the luxe-adventure Atlas Ocean Voyages has a maiden call at Norway’s remote Jan Mayen Island during the 196-passenger World Navigator’s 13-night voyage on July 31, 2022 from Longyearbyen, Norway to Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland. Atop the world within the Arctic Circle, the mountainous Jan Mayen is a small, volcanic island with no permanent population. Atlas’ day call will allow guests to head out for escorted sea kayaking, paddle boarding and Zodiac water safaris. Alternatively, on land, cruisers can go snowshoeing and hiking (including a glacier hiking option). 


Crystal Endeavor will navigate through the Russian High Arctic in 2023 with the potential for guests to spot polar bears, walruses, puffins and rare bird species.

In addition, Crystal Endeavor, Crystal’s new 200-passenger expedition ship, is essentially just starting to explore the world, so the vessel has many upcoming maiden calls. Certainly, one bucket-list itinerary is the 28-night “Northeast Passage” from Tromso, Norway to Anadyr, Russia, departing August 2, 2023. 

The PC6-class ship will navigate through the Russian High Arctic with the potential for guests to spot polar bears, walruses, puffins and rare bird species. Highlights? Passengers will spend three days exploring Franz Josef Land, two days visiting Severnaya Zemlya and time ashore at the New Siberian Islands, to name just a few of the High Arctic regional experiences. 

In addition, not all new ports are simply day calls. Some are new home ports for embarkation/disembarkation. For example, Viking’s 930-passenger Viking Orion is now home porting for the 2021-2022 late fall/winter season at Port Everglades, FL. It’s the first time the line has ever sailed from that South Florida port. 

Sister ship, Viking Star, will begin sailing from Port Everglades on November 6, 2021. Both ships will sail on a variety of Caribbean and Central America itineraries through 2022. Azamara also plans to use Port Everglades as a new embarkation/disembarkation port in 2023.

And horizons too continue to expand. Earlier this year, Ponant’s new expedition ship, Le Commandant Charcot did a “test run” of sorts, becoming the first modern-era cruise ship to visit the “true geographic North Pole.” The ship, which is a Polar Class PC2 ship, can cut through ice floes of up to seven-feet thick. But in summer 2022, it will head for that northern tip of the world again — this time with guests aboard, certainly a tribute to new technology and new ship design.

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