Five exciting new cruise routes will take you to truly unusual places (2024)

  • Inspiration
  • Ocean cruises
By Brian Johnston

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This article is part of Traveller’s guide to the World’s Next Great Journeys.

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From ice-encrusted mountains to jungle-clad volcanoes, glamorous Asian cities to the remotest settlements, here are five of the most tempting new cruise routes.

Epic Arctic to Antarctica

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  • Start Nuuk, Greenland
  • Finish Ushuaia, Argentina (with a final charter flight to Buenos Aires)
  • Duration 87 days, 12,000 nautical miles

Sailing not quite pole to pole, but about as far as you can go in the north-south direction, this new cruise with Viking Cruises surely defines a great journey. It takes you from ice-encrusted mountains and icebergs to jungle-clad volcanoes, and great cities to the remotest settlements.

Departing in September 2025 and 2026 – the two itineraries differ slightly – you’ll visit 12 countries as the cruise meanders down the east coast of North America and west coast of South America, taking in one of the classics of cruising in the middle: a transit of the Panama Canal through its many mighty locks.

For maritime enthusiasts, there are the classics to tick off: the fabled Northwest Passage, the St Lawrence Seaway that takes you deep into the heart of Canada, a sail into New York harbour under the watchful gaze of the Statue of Liberty, and the glacier-gnawed Strait of Magellan through Patagonia.

Anyone with an interest in history and culture will enjoy cities such as French-flavoured Quebec City in Canada, Charleston in the US, Lima in Peru – former capital of Spain’s colonial empire, and now a hotspot of contemporary fusion dining – and Valparaiso in Chile, where colourful houses and neighbourhoods gaudy with street art cling to steep hillsides with views over the gritty working harbour.

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You’re in for a pleasant surprise and welcome relaxation in some of the smaller destinations you mightn’t have heard about, such as pretty fishing village Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, surrounded by cow-chewed fields and meadows of blue wildflowers. Iquique in Chile lies on a huge beach-strung bay surrounded by desert hills, and has grand avenues lined with colonial-era buildings.

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If all that isn’t enough, you can abandon ship for a week in the middle and take in the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu as well. The latter’s Incan ruins, sitting atop a mountain above a frothing river valley, are one of the highlights of South America.

If you aren’t up for the whole three-month cruise, you can do any of six sections in regions such as Canada’s Northwest Passage, the Chilean fjords, or Antarctica and South Georgia. The latter is one of the most wildlife-dense destinations on Earth, with astonishing numbers of penguins, seals and seabirds.

See vikingcruises.com.au

Asian megacities by night

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  • Start Tokyo, Japan
  • Finish Tokyo, Japan
  • Duration 15 days, 2890 nautical miles

If you’ve ever sailed away at sunset and wondered what you’re missing after dark, then Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new Immersive Overnight voyages are for you. Each features overnights in every port of call and, when those are among the biggest and most glamorous cities in Asia, you can expect plenty of sparkle and energy.

Regent’s “Blossoms, Towns and Temples” itinerary in March 2025, which has all-inclusive evening shore excursions, visits Kyoto (Kobe), Seoul (Incheon), Shanghai and Tokyo.

In Shanghai, you can ascend Jin Mao Tower for a twinkling panorama of the megacity, then hit fashionable nightspot district Xin Tian Di. Seoul is throbbing too, although you could equally explore eye-catching, uber-contemporary Incheon.

As for Kyoto, it offers buzzing eateries, shadowy alleyways and softly spot-lit temples for a quite different after-dark atmosphere.

See rssc.com

Falling for North America

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  • Start Boston, United States
  • Finish Montreal, Canada
  • Duration 13 days, 1510 nautical miles

Small-ship cruise line Azamara is notable for its destination focus, and its new Canada/New England Voyage in October 2024 will immerse you in the region’s legendary fall foliage.

Azamara Journey sails to ports dense in history and culture, including Boston, splendid former British colonial naval base Halifax, and French-Canadian settlements along the St Lawrence River. You’ll also visit that other Sydney in Nova Scotia.

But the season is what makes this journey truly great: scarlet maples, yellow birch, dogwood red as lipstick, deep purple sumac. Hillsides erupt in glorious Technicolor and, as early morning sea mist dissolves, reflect in harbour waters.

Quebec City is surely the highlight, rising above the river in a pile of historic buildings topped by a whopping pseudo-castle, and all splashed in orange and gold.

See azamara.com

New beats in Africa

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  • Start Barcelona, Spain
  • Finish Cape Town, South Africa
  • Duration 27 days, 7680 nautical miles

Africa is a continent largely unexplored by cruise ships, but as cruise lines avoid the Red Sea, that may well change as ships relocate between Asia and Europe around Africa instead.

No journey is grander than one that brings you to truly unusual places. Jaded cruisers rejoice: Oceania Cruises’ West African Rhythms itinerary in November 2024 takes you along the continent’s entire western coastline for a sampling of countries such as Gambia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo.

Among highlights is chaotic and colourful Senegalese capital Dakar and nearby Goree Island, former gateway of the Atlantic slave trade, plus an overnight at Walvis Bay in Namibia, with its spectacular sand dunes and flamingo-dense lagoon.

Cape Town is a fitting grand finale, offering one of cruising’s most thrilling sail-ins beneath the looming bulk of Table Mountain.

See oceaniacruises.com

Split the differences in the Med

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  • Start Athens (Piraeus), Greece
  • Finish Fusina (Venice), Italy
  • Duration 10 days, 1600 nautical miles

A great journey isn’t always long: the quantity and splendour of what gets packed in counts, too. That makes any cruise in the Mediterranean great, and Silversea’s Athens to Fusina itinerary in late April 2025 is the perfect example.

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Every port, whose very names such as Bari and Dubrovnik ought to thrill any traveller, is dense in maritime history. Monemvasia in Greece mightn’t be familiar, but grew wealthy on medieval trade, then sank into a slumber that has preserved its chapels, mansions and fortifications.

Meanwhile, an excursion from Katakolon takes you even further back in time to Olympia, where you can sprint across the stadium from still-preserved marble starting blocks. Split and Zadar in Croatia add more history, while the approach to Kotor in Montenegro is one of cruising’s most impressive sail-ins down a fjord-like flooded valley.

See silversea.com

Q&A: JANOS HORVATH, THE RIVER CRUISE DIRECTOR, APT

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My job involves a lot of responsibility and a lot of fun. The No. 1 thing is to ensure guests have an unforgettable holiday which entails managing every aspect of a cruise, from organising sightseeing tours to transfers and restaurant bookings. I also co-ordinate the ship’s various departments and the suppliers ashore and deliver commentaries and lectures on locations to our customers.

My definition of a great journey is … An experience that has a lasting impact on the traveller that is more than just a physical voyage. It’s unique experiences that help us make meaningful connections with people, places and cultures along the way. You want to leave the cruise with a sense of fulfilment and joy.

My greatest journey ever was … a family driving holiday through the scenic countryside of Provence, France. The car gave us the freedom to go and stop whenever and wherever we wanted. I found fields of lavender swaying gently in the breeze and quaint villages nestled amid rolling hills. Each village street led to delightful surprises ranging from charming cafes to local markets. Among the highlights was the discovery of Provence’s famed truffles – an extra layer of culinary delight.

The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen on a journey … was the sunset over the limestone islands scattered along the Dalmatian coastline in Croatia. The sound of the seagulls and the smell of the Mediterranean vegetation with views overlooking the olive groves created a magical atmosphere.

The great journey I still really want to do one day is to experience the journey from Agatha Christie’s famous novel, Death on the Nile, to visit the Karnak Temple complex near Luxor in Egypt and to be enveloped in the whispers of history echoing through colossal pillars and sacred halls.

The world’s next great journey destination is … the Valley of the Douro River. This part of Portugal has dramatic landscapes as you sail away from Porto, and as you reach the middle of the valley, it just gets more breathtaking. Steep-terraced vineyards carved into the hillside, rugged mountains, picturesque villages with cosy, family-run estates offering tasty home cooking, and historic towns with charming medieval architecture.

My best tip for getting the most from a great journey is … to embrace spontaneity, engage with the local culture and allow yourself to wander off the beaten path and truly immerse yourself in the adventure. Experience a country with all of your senses. See aptouring.com.au
-Sue Williams

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Five exciting new cruise routes will take you to truly unusual places (2024)

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