Cruise ship holidays: The biggest ships, the best destinations
There is an element of old school glamour about travelling on a cruise ship that no other transport can offer. This is one of the reasons that a cruise is on many people’s bucket list, and why others cruise regularly.
For a decade, the number of passengers grew on an annual basis, with 29.7 million passengers taking cruises in 2019. 2022 is expected to be a big year in cruise travel, with certain cruises already sold out shortly after launching.
If you’re considering embarking on a cruise adventure, there’s plenty of inspiration available. From weaving your way through scenic Norwegian fjords to island-hopping in the Caribbean, there’s a plethora of options.
Touring the Norwegian fjords has long been a popular cruise destination, and it is the best way to see them. How else would you see dolphins following in the wake of the ship? It’s the only way to feel the sheer magnificence of the mountains that frame the fjords. Cruise operators have dozens of routes available, and with 1,190 fjords to choose from, it’s possible to find traffic-free routes. Hurtigruten is a popular choice for cruise travellers and offers a 12-day coastal tour of Norway which never disappoints. See secret waterfalls and enjoy the sights of small coastal towns and cities.
The Bahamas never seems to lose its appeal for cruise travellers. Given its tropical temperatures, golden sands and great seafood, it’s not surprising.
In fact, many cruise liners sail under the Bahamian flag, making it the natural home for cruises. This is due to the tax free status of the country, which is appealing for shoppers too.
Many cruise companies have their own private islands in the Bahamas, which is a nice touch of exclusivity for passengers. Sipping a tropical cocktail on a private beach is simply bliss.
Virgin Voyages recently began touching down in the island chain of Bimini, a new spot for travellers in the Bahamas. Norwegian has its own private beach villas on Great Stirrup Cay.
The easiest way to visit Alaska is certainly by cruise ship. This is a nature-lovers destination and the sights truly are spectacular. Every major cruise liner offers seasonal sailings to Alaska, from MSC to Carnival and Princess to Royal Caribbean. This is fantastic, as all have plenty of entertainment onboard, if the day clouds over. Whether you’re outdoors whale-watching, or playing poker at the casino tables onboard, you’ll be enjoying yourself. In fact, on deck, you can do both – take in the glacial vistas while playing 888 poker online.
Alaska cruises generally only run from May – September, due to the climate. However, your itinerary will include charming cities such as Victoria and Vancouver.
If you’re looking for history, culture and fabulous beaches, then a cruise on the Mexican Riviera calls. Add the tasty food and the fun atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why Mexico is popular with cruisers. Many cruise liners offer departures from Southern California for Mexico. Sun worshippers will be pleased with the many beach breaks, while island tours are available for the more active. Carnival and Princess lines operate the most cruises to Mexico and are renowned for their onboard entertainment. Cabo San Lucas has a world-class marina, and often features on itineraries, seen as an upscale alternative to Cancun.
There are also stops for passengers to explore the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza, and their fascinating histories.
Israel and Cyprus
More recently, passenger cruise liners have been adding Israel to their itineraries. You have a variety of options with sailings from the Middle East or Eastern Mediterranean departing regularly. Steeped in history, but also blessed with hot weather, Israel is luring people to its shores for many reasons. Passengers dock at Ashdod and travel to Jerusalem to see the Wailing Wall and the Via Dolorosa. In Tel Aviv, there’s a world of culture to explore, lively cafes and of course, the tempting waves. The world’s 13th largest vessel, Odyssey of the Seas, hopes to add Israel to its schedule soon.
Of course, you don’t need to travel to ports in different countries for your holiday. You could take a leisurely, more intimate river cruise on a historic waterway.
In the US, river cruises on the Mississippi have gained popularity. The longest river in North America has its own tales from the riverbank and cruises take in quaint towns such Natchez.
In Europe, join a cruise down the river Rhine in Germany to get a glimpse of central Europe. Fairy-tale castles rise in the distance as you sample hearty German dishes and famous local wines.
If you venture to Asia, the Mekong river is a sight to behold, with many fishing villages lining its banks. See where three countries meet and marvel at the many delights on board.
The industry has been criticised for its environmental impact, but it is working hard to overcome this. We’re seeing the launch of electric and battery-powered ships, such as AIDAperla.
Everything from new hull paint to reduce drag and methods to convert engine heat to electricity are being debuted. Some people are choosing smaller ships and shorter itineraries making a choice for sustainability.
The popularity of cruise ships seems unlikely to wane over the coming decade. With better technological advances, it’s likely that taking the water will become even more sustainable in the future.