For years, cruising has been a fairly straightforward affair: pick a cruise line, pick an itinerary, pack your bag and sail away. Now, cruise lines are luring both new and experienced cruisers alike to sea and river with exciting trends and unique destinations to explore.
Whether you're new to cruise or a seasoned sailor, jump aboard these popular and alternate itineraries.
1. South Pacific cruises for families
Endowed with all the trappings of a perfect tropical getaway, and just on Australia’s doorstep, the South Pacific is a mainstay for Australian families seeking fun in the sun. All throughout this vast region you’ll find glittering turquoise waters, fresh local cuisine and engrossing cultural experiences. But, if you want the tropics in a slightly different flavour, then the Caribbean is calling.
If this floats your boat, cruise the Caribbean with your crew
Colourful and diverse, the islands of the Caribbean are a bottomless chest of pirate’s gold, holding untold bounty for family cruisers. Book an island-hopping adventure through impossibly crystal clear waters and you’ll get a taste of the vibrant culture, music, food and rich history the region is known for. Disney Cruise Lines, Princess and Carnival all set sail from various US ports including Orlando, so you could pair a cruise with theme park visits. Or, for a cruise that puts fun for everyone front and centre, Royal Caribbean International will take you to their private island in The Bahamas, CocoCay, home to thrill-seeking rides and slides, restaurants and plenty of family-focussed fun.
2. Meander on the Mekong River
Flowing through six distinct countries, the Mekong River and its maze of waterways and tributaries carries with it the ecological and cultural lifeblood of the region. Mandatory for all pro-level cruisers, a cruise on the Mekong doubles as a fascinating immersion program. Experience immense biological diversity, culture and traditions – from tiny rural villages to bustling cities – as daily life revolves around this vast delta.
If this floats your boat, cruise the Red River in north Vietnam
Lesser-known but no less significant, the Red River Delta in North Vietnam should be next for all Asia river cruise aficionados. An ancient trade-route, the Red River flows from China across northern Vietnam before discharging into the Gulf of Tonkin. Luxury cruise company Pandaw showcases the fascinating history on their 10-day Red River & Halong Bay cruise, taking you where “no other tourist craft operates” for a slice of off-the-beaten-track river cruising.
3. Witness Greek history on a Mediterranean cruise
Ancient ruins and rugged coastlines give way to quaint cobblestoned villages and sun-drenched cities as you sail across the Mediterranean. Renowned for its calm, azure waters, a cruise through the Med uncovers myriad historical charms. Explore the remnants of the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman empires as you sail from continental European ports to the Greek Isles, Sicily and Crete, among others.
If this floats your boat, cruise the Nile to spy ancient Egypt’s treasures
Follow in the footsteps of once almighty pharaohs by gliding peacefully up the the world’s longest river – the majestic River Nile. Tour and cruise operators are filtering back into the country following years of civil unrest so now’s the time to cruise if you’re a history buff with a burning desire to explore epic ancient Egyptian treasures without huge crowds. Cruises generally embark in Luxor sailing upriver to Aswan, stopping at significant ruins and towns along the way. Tours from Cairo to the pyramids can be added easily to any itinerary, too.
4. A classic steamboat along the Mississippi River
Layered with a social and cultural history so complex that it’s more like a state of mind than a strict geographical location, America’s Deep South is easily explored from the waters of the iconic (and mighty) Mississippi River. Embark on a cruise that harks back to a bygone era aboard the historic American Queen paddlesteamer making your way between famous cities and historic landmarks, in style.
If this floats your boat, cruise on the Zambezi Queen
A queen is a queen no matter the continent; swap the USA for Africa to take a luxury river safari – African style. The Zambezi Queen – a collection of four sumptuous houseboats – traverses the banks of the Chobe River from Namibia to Botswana, highlighting the wild natural beauty of Chobe National Park as it goes. With only 14 suites and your own private balcony, you’ll be able to enjoy the splendour and majesty of the African landscape (and its famous inhabitants) far from the madding crowds.
5. Cruise eastern Canada’s epic coastline
Notorious for wind-ravaged and rugged locations populated by equally resilient inhabitants, eastern Canada’s Atlantic coastline is the perfect counterpoint to its west coast sibling. Explore seafaring towns that have stood the test of time (and nature) and discover the maritime history of places like Labrador, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
If this floats your boat, cruise North America’s inland oceans (Great Lakes)
As expansive as a small sea, the Great Lakes of Ontario – dubbed North America’s inland oceans – are an ideal place to become your own captain. Embark on a self-cruise adventure with Le Boat, a trend that’s been gaining popularity in waterways around the world, and see this part of Canada from a different vantage point. Casting off from Ottowa’s Rideau Canal, navigate through lakes, rivers and canals at your own pace.
6. An expedition cruise to the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands is, deservedly, one of the world’s most bucket-listed destinations with cruises to the Ecuadorian province at an all time high. The 13-island archipelago is popular with expedition adventurers and nature lovers who want to see unique flora and fauna and a pristine environment up close.
If this floats your boat, cruise Belize for wildlife, reefs, ruins and rivers
Popular with American adventurers, though still off-the-beaten track for most Australians, Belize has been a wilderness lover’s best kept secret for decades. The small central American nation (a former British colony where English is the first language) boasts crumbling mesoamerican ruins, stunningly deep blue holes, stalactite- and stalagmite-clad caves, endemic wildlife species and colourful reefs – including the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere – plus 35 major and minor rivers and tributaries coursing their way through verdant jungle.
Hop on board Linblad’s National Geographic Quest
, a purpose-built vessel that traverses both rivers and coastal waters, to explore the emerging cruise destination.