6 new cruise itineraries you should book right now
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There are almost no cruise ships sailing anywhere in the world these days, thanks to the coronavirus. And it could be many months before cruising resumes in a meaningful way. But that doesn’t mean that cruise lines have stopped dreaming up exciting new routes.
With an eye toward a return to normalcy in the travel world at some point over the coming year, cruise lines in recent months have continued to roll out innovative new itineraries to debut as soon as this coming summer.
In some cases, these are itineraries no other cruise line has done before, while others are a first for a particular line. Other itineraries had disappeared for several years and are now returning.
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As you might expect, many of the most interesting new routes are in off-the-beaten-path corners of the world such as the Russian Arctic. But we’re also seeing alluring routes appear in more common cruise destinations such as the Mediterranean and Australia. And we’re even seeing some interesting new itineraries out of U.S. ports.
Read on for our picks for the six most notable new itineraries. A few of them start up later this year. Others are new for 2022. But what they all have in common is that they’re available to book right now and — given their rarity — could book up far in advance.
If any of these pique your interest, we’ll be definitive with our advice: Don’t wait long to book.
The grand tour of Europe with Silversea
Not impressed with the typical seven- to 10-night Europe cruise itinerary? If it’s something longer you’re after – way longer – you’ll want to take a hard look at the epic new pan-Europe routing recently announced by Silversea.
The European Grand Voyage, as it’s being called, will be 91 nights in length (no, that’s not a typo) and include 72 stops in the Mediterranean, along the Atlantic Coast of Europe and in the Baltic Sea. In a single trip, you’ll be able to see everything from the iconic Grand Bazaar of Istanbul and the Vatican in Rome to the pubs of Dublin and the palaces of St. Petersburg in Russia — all without ever switching vessels or having to change hotel rooms.
Billed as a first for Silversea, the trip includes a complete circumnavigation of Iceland and eight overnight stops in such ports as Sorrento, Italy, and Bordeaux, France.
There’s just one big caveat with the itinerary, and it’s the reason you might not want to wait long to book it: Silversea only plans one departure. It’s a one-off sailing that’s scheduled to kick off in Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens), on March 30, 2022, and end June 28, 2022, in Stockholm.
The trip will take place on Silversea’s newest ship, the 596-passenger Silver Moon.
The details: Fares start at $47,900 per person, not including taxes and fees. Yes, we know, that’s almost as epic as the cruise. But that sort of pricing is par for the course at Silversea, which is among the world’s most upscale cruise lines (think: Four Seasons, but at sea). To avoid the cash drain, you could pay all or part of the bill with an “eraser” card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You can then apply your miles at a 1 cent per mile ratio to statement charges that code as travel. It sure would take a heck of a lot of miles to cover the entire cost of the trip, of course. For information, call 888-980-0160 or visit silversea.com.
The Northeast Passage with Lindblad Expeditions
There’s almost nowhere in the world more remote than the Arctic islands above mainland Russia. But that could be about to change, thanks to adventure companies like Lindblad Expeditions. The expedition cruise pioneer will operate its first two voyages deep into the Russian Arctic this year, after canceling plans to offer such trips in 2020 due to the coronavirus.
Lasting 26 days and covering more than 4,000 miles, Lindblad’s new sailings will be complete crossings of the Northeast Passage, the icy Arctic sea route at the top of Russia. It’s a very rare trip, something that only a handful of expedition cruise specialists such as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have ever attempted (I was on what was only the fourth-ever sailing through the Northeast Passage by a non-Russian expedition ship, in 2018 — since then, only two more such vessels have made it through).
For Lindblad, the voyages only are possible due to the development of a new, hardier expedition ship specifically built for polar travel. Completed in 2020, the 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance debuted with the highest ice class rating (PC5, Category A) ever for a purpose-built passenger ship — one reason it made our list of last year’s most exciting new cruise vessels.
Lindblad’s Northeast Passage trips will be one-way voyages between Tromso, Norway, and Nome, Alaska, that take in such hard-to-reach places as polar bear-filled Franz Josef Land, the world’s northernmost archipelago, and the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago. The latter set of islands only was discovered in 1930. The ship also will push through pack ice to the New Siberian Islands, home to large numbers of walruses and seabirds. A visit to Wrangel Island, another polar bear haven, also is on the schedule.
The details: As is typical for expedition trips to polar regions, fares for the voyages aren’t inexpensive. They start at $36,990 per person, including taxes and fees. The good news is you can avoid the massive cash outlay by using World of Hyatt points, thanks to a relatively new partnership between Lindblad and Hyatt. You’ll just need a ton of the points (more than 2 million!). If your World of Hyatt points balance isn’t quite that robust, you can instead earn five base points per dollar spent on the trip (excluding incidentals), plus the standard bonuses for Hyatt elite members, as well as elite tier qualifying night credits. And all members — regardless of status — will enjoy a $250 onboard credit to use on incidentals. For more information, call 800-397-3348 or visit Lindblad’s cobranded Hyatt site.
The Mexican Riviera in summer with Princess
Princess Cruises this year plans to do something it’s never done in its 56-year history: offer summer sailings to the Mexican Riviera.
Assuming the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifts its restrictions on cruises out of U.S. ports in the coming months, the “Love Boat” line’s 3,080-passenger Crown Princess and sister ship Ruby Princess will operate an intermittent series of seven-night summer voyages from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta starting on May 15.
The ships also will operate a handful of five-night sailings to Cabo San Lucas over the summer out of Los Angeles as well as California Coast sailings.
The new summer routings are part of a temporary shift to closer-to-home itineraries at the line in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — and we’re guessing they won’t be around for long. So if the idea of a summer cruise to the Mexican Riviera with Princess intrigues you, you probably should book one now.
Princess is, of course, no stranger to the Mexican Riviera. Los Angeles-to-Mexico routings have been among the line’s core itineraries for decades. But like many lines, Princess typically offers its Mexican Riviera sailings in the fall through the spring.
The details: Fares start at $469 per person, based on double occupancy, for a five-night sailing to Cabo San Lucas. For more information, call 800-774-6237 or visit princesscruises.com.
Eastern Australia with Windstar Cruises
Small-ship specialist Windstar Cruises was scheduled to operate its very first Australia-focused sailings this winter. But due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the trips now have been pushed back until 2022.
If you’re a Windstar fan, or are just looking for a unique way to explore the eastern coast of Australia, you’ll want to jump on the new dates for the sailings, which have only recently opened for bookings and already are booking up quickly.
That’s in part because, for now, Windstar has just two of the Australia-focused voyages on the books, leaving very little inventory. The trips will take place on Windstar’s yacht-like Star Breeze, which only has 156 cabins.
The two departures are similar though not exactly the same. The first of the two starts Nov. 10, 2022, in Cairns, Australia, and ends 12 days later in Sydney. The second sailing begins in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 24, 2023, and ends 11 days later in Cairns.
Both routings bring stops at several remote places that aren’t on the typical Australia cruise ship circuit. Among them: Middle Percy Island, a beachy spit of land that’s well known in yachting circles but not normally visited by vessels carrying cruise passengers. Since there’s no infrastructure, Star Breeze will anchor offshore and ferry passengers to the island by Zodiac boat.
The trips also includes a stop at Fraser Island, which is billed as the world’s largest sand island. One of the shore excursions will bring a walking tour focused on native plants and the survival methods of the local Butchulla tribe. There’s also time on the trips set aside for a full-day excursion to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (from Port Douglas) and an overnight stay in Sydney.
Other stops on one or both of the voyages include Mooloolaba and Airlie Beach in Queensland.
The details: Fares start at $3,999 per person, not including taxes and fees. Note that if you pay with The Platinum Card® from American Express, through the card’s American Express Cruise Privileges Program, you can get an up-to-$300 shipboard credit plus such onboard amenities as a bottle of Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Both of Windstar’s Australia sailings are among the voyages bookable at the dedicated Cruise Privileges Program booking site. For information on the trip, call Windstar at 866-569-1707 or visit windstarcruises.com.
Antarctica’s Weddell Sea (and an eclipse) with Ponant
Call it one of the most epic Antarctica sailings ever. Upscale expedition cruise specialist Ponant plans a rare voyage to the remote ice pack of Antarctica’s Weddell Sea in December that will include the chance to see a total solar eclipse.
Kicking off Nov. 30 in Ushuaia, Argentina, the 15-day itinerary will take place on Ponant’s soon-to-debut Le Commandant-Charcot, an ice-breaking expedition ship that will have the highest ice class ever for a purpose-built passenger vessel (PC 2).
Passengers on the sailing will disembark the vessel onto the Weddell Sea ice pack on Dec. 4 to watch the total solar eclipse. The eclipse will be 100% visible only from this area.
The eclipse will, notably, cause a few minutes of darkness in Antarctica at a time when the sun normally never quite sets on the continent — a very rare occurrence.
Passengers will be accompanied on the sailing by a team of naturalist guides and working scientists who will be taking measurements on an ice floe and collecting water samples. In addition to the visit to the Weddell Sea ice pack, the itinerary also includes a sailing past the Larsen Ice Shelf, the ice barrier that helps prevent the erosion of the Antarctic ice sheet, and a visit to the South Shetland Islands, home to wildlife and important scientific research stations.
As with the Silversea sailing above, this is a one-off trip and likely to book up quickly.
The details: Fares start at $24,150 per person, including round-trip flights to and from South America. For more information, call 888-400-1082 or visit us.ponant.com.
New England and Canada with Celebrity Cruises
There’s a new option for cruising to Eastern Canada coming in 2022 as Celebrity Cruises adds its first-ever 10-, 11- and 12-night New England and Canada sailings from Boston.
Scheduled to begin in August 2022, the extended sailings to the region will allow for an overnight stay in either Charlottetown on Canada’s Prince Edward Island or Quebec City. The itineraries also will include visits to ports in Nova Scotia and along the Maine coast. Both Portland and Bar Harbor in Maine are on the schedule.
The sailings will take place on the 2,158-passenger Celebrity Summit, which recently underwent a major makeover that brought redesigned cabins, restaurants and bars as well as the addition of an exclusive sundeck and lounge area for suite guests called the Retreat.
The details: Fares start at $1,399 per person, not including taxes and fees, for a 10-night sailings. For more information, call 888-751-7804 or visit celebritycruises.com.
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Featured image courtesy of Princess Cruises.
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