Not all maiden port calls for luxury lines are in far-flung destinations across the globe. Increasingly, major global players are turning their vision to U.S. shores.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises both have upcoming maiden calls at Fernandina Beach on Florida’s Amelia Island. It’s just 24 miles northeast of Jacksonville, but a world away from any urban hustle and bustle. Instead, this charming, laid-back slice of the Sunshine State offers miles of soft sandy beaches, several state parks, multiple golf courses and such outdoor activities as fishing and kayaking.
In the late 19th century, railroad baron Henry Flagler put Amelia Island on the map as a haven for the wealthy. His legacy lives on with the island’s continuing appeal to high-end travelers, who stay at such pampering resorts as the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. For luxury cruisers, too, downtown Fernandina Beach is an enticing draw with 300 Victorian-era buildings. Luxury Travel Advisor would suggest that history buffs desiring to learn more about the Flagler era as well as earlier Spanish and colonial periods, indigenous heritage and pirate tales simply head for the Amelia Island Museum of History, quirkily nestled in an old jail.
Alternatively, shoppers will find eclectic shops, boutiques and galleries within Fernandina Beach’s historic core. Tip: We’d recommend popping into Blue Door Artists, home to the art studios of 11 artists plus mixed media galleries, and perhaps later in the day, sipping and savoring an aged rum or signature vodka — craft spirits — at the Marlin and Barrel Distillery. What’s new in Fernandina Beach? Earlier this year, a new seawall and walkway opened parallel to the riverbank in the marina’s southern section; it’s a good spot for a stroll to watch boat activity and birds.
On its May 5, 2023, voyage, Regent Seven Seas’ 482-passenger Seven Seas Navigator will call at Fernandina Beach for a full day visit; that occurs during the 15-night “Spring in Nova Scotia” sailing from Miami, FL, to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Or, for instance, sister line Oceania Cruises will call at Fernandina Beach during a 45-day “Bermuda to British Isles” voyage, departing April 19, 2025. Operating that voyage from Miami to London is the new 1,200-passenger Vista.
New England Bound
Much farther north along the U.S. East Coast, Scenic Group USA’s 228-passenger luxury yacht, Scenic Eclipse, will call at several new-to-Eclipse-ports in New England. For example, an “Autumn Colors of New England” voyage, departing from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York City on October 4, 2024, will call at Bar Harbor, ME. That nine-day journey offers a range of Scenic Freechoice shore excursions. Among them is a walking excursion to hear tales of the Gilded Age, the area’s “rum running” days and the people who influenced Bar Harbor’s development.
At Bar Harbor, Luxury Travel Advisor would suggest first-time visitors who love natural beauty book the Scenic Freechoice excursion to Acadia National Park. At this park, cruisers will gaze at dramatic cliffs, rocky coves, glacier-carved lakes and dense forest landscapes. Alternatively, we’d suggest “foodies” instead choose the Scenic Freechoice food tour that concludes with lunch at a local “lobster pound.”
Also in Maine, Regent Seven Seas has added Eastport as an upcoming maiden call. For example, Seven Seas Mariner will call at Eastport on the 11-night “Rugged Shores, Famous Lores” itinerary. That voyage sails from New York to Montreal, Quebec, Canada on October 9, 2023. While ashore in Eastport, cruisers will discover quirky shops, restaurants serving locally caught seafood and lobster and dozens of National Historic Register buildings. The perfect selfie? Well, it just may be taken by a guest at Eastport’s fiberglass fisherman statue.
The Last Frontier
Across the country and north to "The Last Frontier," Silversea Cruises will call for the first time at Valdez, AK, in 2023. One option is Silver Whisper’s seven-night Vancouver, B.C. to Seward (Anchorage), AK voyage, departing July 20, 2023. In Valdez, the ultra-luxury line will offer at least four shore excursions. One is the “Thompson Pass Tour,” which delivers sweeping views from the 2,666-foot-high pass—a “gap” in the Chugach Mountains—to Keystone Canyon and Prince William Sound.
Did you know that the pass is the “snowiest place in Alaska,” recording 500 inches of snow per year on average. Even in late spring, the pass often still has some snow. We’ve witnessed people dropping to the ground and chuckling as they created “snow angels.” Of course, that’s totally optional. Both the Thompson Pass Tour and Silversea’s new “Columbia Glacier Cruise” are rated as minimal for the level of activity. The ultra-luxury line also plans a “Duck Flats Sea Kayak” trip and “Keystone Canyon Rafting,” both rated as “moderate” activities.
Another line making a maiden port call at Valdez is Windstar Cruises. The 312-passenger Star Breeze will operate two 11-night “Alaska Glaciers and Prince William Sound” sailings, departing July 1, 2023, and August 6, 2023. The voyages begin in Seward (Anchorage), AK, and end in Vancouver, AK.
One shore option offered by Windstar will be the “Valdez, City Tour and Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery,” rated as an easy-to-moderate activity. On this city tour, hosted by local residents, cruisers will learn about the local fishing industry and regional history, followed by a fish hatchery tour to learn about Pacific Salmon and a trip to the Valdez Museum. Guests who prefer a bit more adventure might check out several “moderate activity” options. We’d suggest considering Windstar’s three-hour “Valdez, Concierge Collection: Helicopter Glacier Explorer with Landing.” Not only will guests explore multiple glaciers and look for wildlife, but they’ll get out and walk on a glacier just as the early gold miners did. Another adventure option is the four-hour “Valdez, Mineral Creek ATV Tour.”
History buffs heading out independently in Valdez might check out the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, with exhibits in two separate buildings four blocks apart. Go to the Valdez Museum on Egan Drive first for a historical overview. Then, move to the Valdez Museum on Hazelet Avenue to gain a broader understanding of the time frame of the devastating 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. One interesting thing to see is the museum’s 1:20 scale replica of Old Town Valdez, as it looked just prior to the massive earthquake and tsunamis.
By their nature, new cruise operators just beginning service also have a slew of maiden calls. That’s the case for the new Explora Journeys, which is heading to Alaska in 2024. Offering 461 oceanfront suites, the luxurious Explora I will sail an 11-night “Inaugural Alaska Journey – Remote Wrangell and Fabulous Sitka” itinerary. On May 6, 2024, it departs roundtrip from Vancouver, BC. Guests will go ashore at Wrangell, Sitka, Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau, all in AK, and enjoy scenic cruising at Alaska’s Tracy Arm Fjord and Misty Fjord.
In addition, Explora Journeys will offer multiple summer 2024 departures of an 11-night “Sailing the Whale’s Highway” itinerary, also roundtrip from Vancouver. Guests will spend time ashore in Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka and Valdez, plus Victoria, BC. On this itinerary, Explora I will also sail to Alaska’s Hubbard Glacier. Lastly for 2024, Explora Journeys also will offer a 10-night “Journey to the Glaciers,” roundtrip from Vancouver between May and July.
Frequent Alaska cruisers will likely appreciate having one totally new port experience in 2023. Oceania Cruises will be the first cruise line to sail into the newly created Port of Klawock, located off the western coast of Prince of Wales Island, AK. The new 16-acre port is close to Klawock, a native Tlingit town of fewer than 1,000 residents. So, cruise travelers can definitely expect Klawock to offer indigenous Alaskan cultural experiences.
Those will be akin in concept to what’s been developed at Icy Strait Point. That’s because Klawock’s developer is Na-Dena, a joint venture between Alaska Native corporations Doyon, Limited and Huna Totem Corporation, which also owns and operates Icy Strait Point. The new Klawock destination also will work alongside Klawock Heenya Corporation, an Alaska Native village corporation, representing the local Tlingit population.
One fascinating draw is that Klawock has one of the world’s most extensive collections of totem poles. Oceania’s new two-and-a-half-hour shore excursion, “Klawock Highlights,” will show guests how salmon are raised at a hatchery for release into the Klawock River; stop at scenic viewing platforms while walking along a river trail in the rainforest; watch a master carver working on a totem pole; and gain insight into the meaning of totem poles while viewing this collection.
In Klawock, Oceania also plans other new shore excursions during the 2023 Alaska summer sailing. One option involves hiking and kayaking, another goes in search of whales and sea otters. Whatever activity they select, cruisers will likely see many marine birds throughout the area. Good to know? The Klawock area is home to a dense population of bears, due to the abundance of salmon.
The 656-passenger Regatta’s “Glitz to Glaciers” itinerary will call at Klawock during its 12-day voyage from Los Angeles, CA, to Vancouver, BC. Other Oceania itineraries throughout summer 2023 will also include calls at Klawock. And while the new port will have many on-site experiences, cruisers can also travel farther out as there’s a bridge to Prince of Wales Island. For example, during Oceania’s “Klawock and Craig at Your Leisure” shore excursion, cruisers can ride buses that loop between Klawock and Craig every 45 minutes or so. Tour guests simply “hop on, hop off” at their leisure to see local attractions.
The Great Lakes
Moving to a different section of the U.S., the Great Lakes straddling the U.S./Canada border are also becoming more popular. In 2023, Viking will offer first-ever calls at Cleveland, OH and Algoma, WI, during the line’s many “Great Lakes Collection” voyages between Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Duluth, MN. In Cleveland, for example, Viking will offer guests a choice of many different tours—10 over the course of the voyage.
We’d suggest the four-hour “Arts and Parks” excursion, a moderate activity tour. Cruise guests will discover green spaces at the city’s Cultural Gardens, which commemorate the many ethnic groups that have settled in Cleveland. Or alternatively, guests might peruse collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art, home to more than 45,000 pieces of art from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to 19th-century impressionism and 20th-century cubism.
One tip? On the ground floor, that museum has interactive ArtLens exhibits. Travelers can make a digital painting or sculpture with their fingers or record their reaction to various artwork. If food is more the traveler’s passion, then Viking’s “Taste of Cleveland,” will take guests to the West Side market for a deep dive into the city’s culinary threads. Eco-lovers who seek an active shore trip will appreciate the three Cuyahoga Valley options—hiking, biking and kayaking.
Also cruising within the Great Lakes, Ponant’s 184-passenger Le Champlain will add Sturgeon Bay, WI, on Lake Michigan to its 2024 line-up. Think “picture-postcard-looking” as an apt description for Door County, WI and its small town of Sturgeon Bay. Travelers can expect to see landscapes with vineyards and fruit trees, a historic lighthouse and a jagged coastline.
Departing September 4, 2024, the 184-passenger Le Champlain sails an 11-day “Expedition between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.” The 10-night voyage will begin at Milwaukee, WI, on Lake Michigan, continue through Lake Huron and end at Thunder Bay, MI, on Lake Superior. Guests can go hiking, kayaking, and learn about the region’s indigenous communities in the region.
Sometimes what appeals to luxury travelers too isn’t all about maiden calls but rather a combination of ports that haven’t typically been combined together in one voyage by a particular luxury line. Within the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a U.S. state that attracts many cruise lines on repositioning cruises between North America and Asia. But some luxury lines in the past haven’t had Hawaii intensive itineraries (with all Hawaii ports and just the one foreign port call required via U.S. law, often Ensenada, Mexico).
Hawaii and The West Coast
That’s the case with ultra-luxury Seabourn, which plans to offer its first-ever Hawaiian adventure, a 20-day “Allure of Aloha Holiday,” on Seabourn Sojourn departing December 22, 2023, roundtrip from Los Angeles. Following a call at Catalina Island, the ship will spend five days sailing the Pacific Ocean as it heads to six days within Hawaii. Guests will go ashore at Hilo on the “Big Island” of Hawaii; Manele Bay, Lanai; Honolulu, Oahu (overnight on New Year’s Eve); Kauai, often called the “Garden Island; and Lahaina, Hawaii.
It’s not only major foreign-flagged lines adding calls at U.S. shores, though. Two U.S.-flagged lines, American Cruise Lines and American Queen Voyages also continue to add to their coastal portfolio. For example, American Cruise Lines is offering a new “San Francisco Bay” cruise in 2023. The 190-passenger, modern Riverboat-series American Jazz sails for the first time roundtrip from San Francisco on voyages to the interior California ports of Napa, Stockton, Vallejo and Sacramento.
Wherever luxury travelers are headed, even if they’re frequent cruisers, there are a slew of enticing new port destinations or a combination of appealing ports to explore.
Maiden Calls in Asia, Europe and Beyond
All across the globe, oceangoing cruise lines are sending ships into new ports of call or remote islands at the ends of the Earth. Below is just a small sampling of the many maiden calls for luxury lines.
Multiple Japanese ports are maiden calls in 2023 for Scenic Group USA’s oceangoing Scenic Eclipse. Departing June 5, 2023, a nine-day “Cultural Wonders of Japan” voyage sails from Otaru (Japan) with Japanese port calls at Hakodate, Aomori, Sado Island/Ogi Harbour, Kanazawa, Maizuru, Sakaiminato and Hagi.
Hakodate is well-known for the panoramic views from Mount Hakodate, and a Scenic Freechoice option for touring includes a cable car ride up the mountain. Or active guests can opt for the line’s Discovery tour for hiking up Mount Esan. Another option is a stroll around the Hakodate Asaichi (the morning market).
Tip: Feeling adventurous? Perhaps taste Hakodate’s signature salty Hakodate Ramen; it’s Japan’s first ramen dish, according to the locals.
Also making a maiden call at Taketomi, Japan is Ponant. Departing March 24, 2023, the 264-passenger Le Soleal will sail a new seven-night “Japanese Subtropical Isles” expedition voyage between Keelung (Chilung), Taiwan, and Osaka, Japan. Going ashore at Taketomi, visitors will learn about traditional Okinawan dwellings and the insulated lifestyle of the former Ryukyu Kingdom.
For 2024, Azamara will offer luxury travelers a maiden port call in Taranto, Italy. For example, the 684-passenger Azamara Pursuit will call at that port during its 10-night “Italy Intensive Voyage” from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Venice on April 10, 2024. Tucked away in the Puglia region, it’s often referred to as the capital of the ancient Magna Graecia. Draws for travelers include the 15th-century Aragonese Castle, the Spartan Museum of Taranto and the Cathedral of San Cataldo with a lovely Baroque facade.
Small-ship Atlas Ocean Voyages is expanding its “reach” with the addition of the recently delivered 200-passenger World Traveller, sister to World Navigator. Other new sister vessels are on the horizon too. During 2023-2024, Atlas will sail for the first time into such Mediterranean ports as Cannes, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Portovenere, Italy; Seville, Spain; Mahon, Menorca, Spain; and L’Ile Rousse, Corsica, France to name just a few.
In the eastern Mediterranean, Izmir and Marmaris, Turkiye (Turkey), are new ports of call for Regent Seven Seas Cruises as part of its 2023-2024 Voyage Collection. For instance, the 732-passenger Seven Seas Splendor will sail a 14-night “Aegean Adventure” itinerary from Athens (Piraeus) to Rome (Civitavecchia), departing on October 30, 2023.
During its Izmir call, Seven Seas Splendor is slated to arrive at 10 a.m. and depart at 8 p.m., leaving time for many line-offered excursions; many are focused on ancient civilizations such as “Discover Ephesus with an Expert,” the “Pergamum Acropolis and Asclepion,” “Ancient Sardis” and “Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary.”
For those who’ve been to Ephesus or Pergamum in the past, Sardis is a good option. Cruisers on tour will enter this former ancient Lydian capital via roads lined with stately columns. They’ll also see an impressive two-story gymnasium complex that once housed a synagogue plus explore the remains of a 3rd-century B.C. temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis.
The High Arctic
In the Canadian High Arctic, Silversea Cruises’ new expedition ship, the PC6-class, 200-passenger Silver Endeavour will sail to many new polar region destinations with 24 maiden calls, including the Canadian High Arctic, Hudson Bay and the spectacular Ellesmere Island, Canada’s most northerly isle. For example, on August 10, 2023, Silver Endeavour will sail a 10-day voyage roundtrip from Pond Inlet, Nunavut Territory, Canada. The ship will call at Ellesmere’s Grise Fiord, a small Inuit hamlet, where the sun shines 24 hours a day from April through August.
Venturing to the Norwegian High Arctic region, Viking’s Viking Neptune, Viking Saturn and Viking Star will sail several itineraries in 2023-2024 that call for the first time at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, and the volcanic isle, Jan Mayen. Ships will visit on such itineraries as the 15-day “Iceland & Norway’s Arctic Explorer,” 29-day “Greenland, Iceland, Norway & Beyond” and 36-day“Grand Fjords & Iconic Viking Shores” itineraries.
While the Caribbean is a highly popular sailing region, many cruise lines continue to make maiden calls. One good example involves ultra-luxury SeaDream Yacht Club, which offers a pampering, yacht-like cruise experience. SeaDream plans three maiden port calls in the region.
For example, on February 13, 2023, the 112-passenger SeaDream I heads for River Bay, Barbuda, a new port of call during an eight-night cruise from St. Thomas, U.S.V.I, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship will make a morning call for guests to go ashore and visit The Caves, a mile-long underground area, or in contrast, to take a dip at Barbuda’s famous Pink Sand Beach.
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S.V.I., is also a maiden port call for sister ship, SeaDream II, which will call there on its five-night roundtrip cruise from St. Thomas, U.S.V.I, on March 25, 2023. A third maiden call is Trellis Bay, Beef Island, Tortola, B.V.I., offered on that ship’s seven-night St. Maarten to St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, voyage, departing March 24, 2024.
What’s special? SeaDream will offer a late-night departure from Trellis Bay so that guests can—if they so choose—join the bay’s famous Full Moon Party. Guests can purchase celebration options from local vendors. For example, they can enjoy a full Caribbean dinner buffet — chowing down on jerk and barbecue chicken or pork, barbecue ribs, fish, a vegan option and more. Full Moon Party entertainment also typically includes a live band, fire dancers, and colorfully attired Moko Jumbie performers — stilt walkers and dancers. The Moko Jumbie cultural heritage dates to 13th and 14th century Africa.
As SeaDream sails into new Caribbean ports of call, it’s also bringing along a fun, new amenity for guests. SeaDream II has a newly installed 24-foot-long inflatable water slide, which deploys from the pool deck about 19 feet above the water line. Guests can hop aboard the slide to zoom down into warm Caribbean waters. Sea Dream I also will receive the SeaDream-branded slide this month.
The new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first yacht, the 298-passenger Evrima, has set sail this fall, and so all the ports it visits are new to the brand. On April 7, 2023, the yacht sails roundtrip from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Santo Domingo and Isla Catalina, Dominican Republic; Boqueron, Puerto Rico; St. Croix, U.S.V.I.; Jost Van Dyke, B.V.I.
And of course, it’s not simply maiden port calls that interest frequent cruisers. Upscale travelers also desire new activities in port—making the day seem a totally new experience. One good example? Arriving in PortMiami during the winter 2023-2024 Caribbean season, Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International’s largest ship ever, will take guests to Perfect Day at CocoCay. That’s the cruise line’s private Bahamian island. What’s notable is that Icon’s guests will have a new option ashore—the new adults-only Hideaway Beach, the first major project to expand use of the island’s western side.