With travellers increasingly searching out once-in-a-lifetime experiences, cruises can ace plenty of bucket-list thrills, from the icy wilds of Antarctica to the sizzling celebrations of Rio Carnival.
When and where: Sailings operate year-round to this remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador, with flights via capital Quito. Celebrity Cruises’ offers four different one-week itineraries in packages that also include three nights in the city with a day’s sightseeing.
Why: This Ecuadorian archipelago takes top prize for wildlife-lovers thanks to incredible encounters with animals with no fear of humans. Visitors swim and snorkel with playful sea lions, curious penguins and turtles, while on land tiny birds hop around your feet as blue-footed boobies strut past.
Book it: Celebrity Cruises offers a 10-night package on Celebrity Flora from £6,456pp, departing July 10.
When and where: The season runs from November to March. Scenic’s packages start in Buenos Aires before guests fly to Ushuaia from where the voyage departs, with a two-day crossing of Drake Passage before reaching the Antarctic Peninsula.
Why: The White Continent’s unparalleled landscape of towering icebergs, stark cliffs and majestic glaciers can only be explored by ship and luxury “Discovery Yacht” Scenic Eclipse is equipped with helicopters, a submarine, kayaks and zodiac boats for the best views of vast penguin rookeries and waters thronging with seals and whales.
Book it: Scenic offers a 15-night package that includes a 12-night sailing from £11,952pp, departing January 2, 2023.
South Pacific islands
When and where: There are year-round cruises to these exotic outposts offered by Paul Gauguin Cruises, which offers six itineraries, while other cruise lines tend to promote them on longer point-to-point voyages or world cruises.
Why: This collection of dreamy isles comprising Tahiti and French Polynesia, Fiji and the Cook Islands among others offer a tropical idyll of aquamarine seas, dazzling sand beaches and dramatic rugged landscapes cloaked with lush terrain.
Book it: Paul Gauguin Cruises’ seven-night Tahiti and the Society Islands round-trip sailings from Papeete cost from $4,500pp on July 23.
When and where: Transits of this famous 50-mile waterway, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, are offered year-round, though winter brings the largest choice of sailings.
Why: The famous short-cut, saving an 8,000-mile 21-day detour around Cape Horn, remains a badge of honour for many cruisers. However, the experience isn’t just limited to full passages as partial transits are offered whereby ships sail into the first lock on the Atlantic or Pacific side to give guests a fleeting taste.
Book it: Norwegian Cruise Line offers a 15-night sailing from Miami to Los Angeles, from £1,496pp, departing April 16, 2023.
When and where: The best time to discover the Indonesian archipelago is during the drier winter months of October to February, when Aqua Expeditions offers round-trip sailings from Sorong in West Papua.
Why: This 1,500 collection of craggy islands and distinctive limestone karsts are scattered like droplets across lagoons whose tropical waters resemble an aquarium with more than 1,000 species of rainbow-coloured tropical fish and hundreds of corals, making it one of the world’s top dive spots. This natural treasure chest is also home to countless bird species, including rare birds of paradise.
Book it: Aqua Expeditions features seven-night sailings on Aqua Blu from $8,505pp, departing December 10.
When and where: The mother of all parties explodes in a riot of music and colour in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro every February. The annual fiesta is featured by a number of cruise lines who often dock overnight in the city during South America sailings, with some offering Carnival packages, including grandstand seats overlooking the street parades.
Why: It’s impossible not to get caught up in the party vibe with saucy samba revellers and more rhythms than you can shake your maracas at.
Book it: Azamara Cruises offers a 15-night Carnival in Rio round-trip Buenos Aires voyage, from £2,599pp on February 10, 2023.
When and where: This iconic journey needs little introduction with the ultimate crossing between New York and Southampton on Cunard Line’s classic ocean liner, Queen Mary 2 offering departures virtually year-round.
Why: It’s a classic ocean experience that recaptures the Golden Age of travel by sea. Sail from Southampton for an unforgettable early morning arrival to New York or experience the celebratory atmosphere of departing Manhattan and arriving back minus jetlag, thanks to onboard clock changes that swallow up the time differential.
Book it: Cunard offers a special London Theatre at Sea showcase on its seven-night Southampton-New York crossing on May 15, costing from £1,199pp.
When and where: Circumnavigations generally depart at the start of the year, lasting an average of three/four months, but Royal Caribbean International claims to have launched the longest world cruise at 274 nights visiting more than 150 destinations in 65 countries.
Why: Classic itineraries serve up the world in a nutshell, heading east through the Suez Canal towards Asia and Australia, returning via the Americas or westwards to the USA or Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, towards Australia and returning via Asia.
Book it: Royal Caribbean International’s Ultimate World Cruise departs Miami on December 10, 2023, returning to the Florida port on September 10, 2024, from £46,409.