It’s hard to think of a better start to the New Year than booking yourself a cruise or two, but with so many places to choose from, where do you start? Here are my 10 top tips on where to cruise in 2018.
1. In what must be a first, Norwegian Cruise Line is sending a new ship to Alaska. Norwegian Bliss launches next spring and will be sailing seven night cruises to Alaska from Seattle between June and the end of September. The ship is brilliant, with a go-kart track on the top deck and exciting water slides (I'm not sure they'll get much use in chilly Alaska though!). Combine the cruise with a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train and a few nights in Seattle and you'll have ticked off three things on my cruise bucket list!
2. If it’s May it must be Seabourn Ovation. This new Seabourn ship is a sister to Encore, which was christened in Singapore last January. I loved Encore’s yacht-like looks and Ovation will be just as fabulous. She’ll spend her maiden season in Northern Europe, sailing to the Norwegian Fjords and Baltic from Stockholm or Copenhagen, and she is even coming to the UK in September for a 16 day round-Britain cruise. Clear the dates in your diary now!
3. It’s farewell Adonia in March as P&O Cruises’ smallest ship leaves the fleet, only to reappear five months later with a new look and new name as she starts a new life sailing as Azamara Pursuit for Azamara Club Cruises®. That’s excuse enough for Azamara to schedule its first-ever no-fly cruise from the UK – a 15 night round-trip voyage to Iceland from Southampton. After a summer cruise in the Med, she’ll be off to South America to spend New Year’s Eve off Copacabana Beach in Brazil.
4. If you like Asian cuisine, you’ll love APT’s Mekong river cruise – especially as new in 2018 you’ll get to dine at Vietnam House, a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City owned by Australian celebrity chef and APT Ambassador Luke Nguyen. Better still, book the 9th August 2018 cruise and during a three-night hotel stay in the city you can join Luke on a walking tour to see where his parents used to live and work, and learn about the street food that has inspired his cooking. The city stay is followed by a seven-night cruise to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where there’s another three-night stay and included tours to Angkor Wat.
5. A fellow passenger on a recent cruise asked for suggestions for a luxury cruise to Antarctica. I gave a couple of names but added that the one she really didn’t want to miss was Scenic Eclipse, the new luxury yacht Scenic is launching in August next year. Mainly because it’s one that I really don’t want to miss! Eight places to eat, butlers for all, a gorgeous spa, a seven-man sub and a helicopter for tours with a difference. Need I say more?
6. Fred Olsen’s Boudicca is getting a facelift next March – nothing too extravagant but she’ll get new furniture, carpets and interactive TVs in all the cabins and the furnishings in some public areas will be refreshed. Once the work is finished, she’ll be setting sail on a five-night mystery cruise from Dover. It departs 29th March 2018 and I’d tell you where she is going except that, well, it’s a mystery and the Captain is not saying!
7. Blink and you’ll miss Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam when she comes out of the shipyard in November 2018, as she heads straight from Europe to the Caribbean. Which as I see it, is just a good reason for escaping to the West Indies for Christmas (the seven-night 23rd December 2018 cruise spends the big day in the Dominican Republic, which is something very different to look forward to). If you need another excuse, she will feature the fabulous Sel de Mer brasserie that debuted on Koningsdam.
8. If Christmas in the warm doesn’t appeal, how about a festive cruise with guaranteed snow and ice, coupled with the chance to sail on the world’s first hybrid ship? The snow is in Antarctica (a Christmas cruise departing 11th December 2018 spends Christmas Day in the Falkland Islands where there might not be so much white stuff but it will certainly be cold); the ship is Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen, named after the Norwegian explorer who beat Scott to the South Pole. Launching in July next year, she can switch to electric power now and then so you can cruise among the icebergs in glorious silence. Magical.
9. If you’ve never cruised the Lower Danube (and even if you have), 2018 is the time to go (or go again). For one thing the cruise is a fascinating journey through the history of Eastern Europe under the Ottomans, Communists and, most recently, during the wars that led to the collapse of Yugoslavia. For another, Uniworld’s Beatrice will be sailing there after being converted into a boutique-style Super Ship with new big suites and more places to eat. The 10-day Highlights of Eastern Europe has everything from Count Dracula to a rock fortress. You’ll even get to sample sparkling Serbian wine. Who knew?
10. This one (an ROL Cruise exclusive) pairs a voyage on Celebrity Constellation® with a tour of India’s Golden Triangle. I toured the Golden Triangle recently and it is magnificent; combining bustling bazaars, markets, temples and tombs in Delhi with the exquisite Taj Mahal in Agra (you’ll have an early start to be there as the sun rises but believe me it is worth it) and the breath-taking Amber Fort in the pink city of Jaipur. The 24-night package also includes two nights in Abu Dhabi before embarking Constellation for a cruise to Cochin, Goa and Mumbai. Miss it if you dare!