Away from the main signature cruise ports are a growing band of lesser-known destinations that are working their way into more cruise itineraries, from Alaska’s Aleutian islands to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline.
Smaller Greek isles
Lemnos/Limnos: This large mountainous island in the northern Aegean has escaped the spotlight and remains secluded and unspoilt, even during summer. The island is noted for its beautiful golden sandy bays that span the coastline and rich history, from the archaeological site at Poliochni, thought to be the oldest settlement in Europe, to the Venetian castle overlooking the pretty main town of Myrina, where ships dock.
Who goes there? Ponant, Oceania Cruises, Seabourn, Star Clippers, SeaDream Yacht Club
Milos: The southern-most of the Cyclades, a short cruise from its livelier neighbours Mykonos and Santorini, Milos is known for its milky lunar landscape along the north coast which is frequently used as a space-age backdrop in fashion shoots. The south coast’s spectacular seascape of towering snowy white cliffs, rugged caves and roughly hewn archways lends itself to boating and swimming trips. Ships generally dock at the small port town of Adamas.
Who goes there? Celestyal Cruises, Seabourn, Azamara, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, SeaDream Yacht Club, Sea Cloud Cruises
Package: Celestyal Cruises visits Milos on its Idyllic Aegean sailings between April and October, from £749pp.
Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Dotted in an arc stretching more than 1,100 miles from the Alaska Peninsula, these islands partially separate the Bering Sea from the Pacific Ocean, reaching to within 500 miles of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. This untamed region, making up part of the volcanic Pacific Ring of Fire, comprises 14 larger islands and more than 50 smaller isles which are home to a rich profusion of wildlife that includes brown bears, sea lions, cetaceans and numerous seabirds. The spectacular landscape of ice-fields and calving glaciers also carries historical reminders of the Russian fur trade and remnants of World War II battles.
Who goes there? Aurora Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Swan Hellenic
Package: Aurora Expeditions offers a 16-night package that includes the 14-night voyage from Seward to Kamchatka from where guests fly to Tokyo. It departs on June 22 and costs from £9,770pp.
Central American outposts
The rain-forested islands off the Pacific coastlines of Costa Rica and Panama offer castaway heaven, their exotic mix of magnificent beaches and warm crystalline waters tempting a rising tally of specialist lines. Much of the area is protected by national parks, guaranteeing bountiful marine life, and including Panama’s uninhabited Isla Parida, the largest in a natural preserve of 50 islands and noted for its wildlife. The San Blas Islands, governed by the indigenous Kuna Indian community, are probably the best known of Panama’s archipelagos. The Pearl Islands are another draw with the main Contadora Island the most touristy and famous as a tax haven, while Coiba island is a former penal colony.
Isla Tortuga, a collection of islets clustered off the Costa Rican coast, is regarded as the country’s most beautiful island with idyllic white sand beaches.
Who goes there? Star Clippers, Scenic, Variety Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, Windstar Cruises, Ponant, Sea Cloud Cruises, Swan Hellenic
Package: Star Clippers offers round-trip sailings from Puntarenas in Costa Rica to the islands from this December until March 2023, from £1,395pp.
This Middle Eastern kingdom has always been more out of bounds than unknown for Western tourists, but its glorious Red Sea coastline, which offers fabulous diving and beaches, has started appearing in cruise itineraries. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s commercial heart is the main port for cruises and as the gateway to Mecca, its spiritual roots run deep though it has a cosmopolitan feel. Don’t miss the colourful souk in the heart of the Old Town. Other draws include the port city of Yanbu, dating back 2,500 years; Al Wajh, bursting with history and the gateway to the Unesco World Heritage site of Hegra, described as Saudi’s equivalent to Petra in Jordan.
Who goes there? MSC Cruises, Scenic, Emerald Cruises, Azamara, Silversea
Package: MSC Cruises (mscbook.com) offers one-week round-trip Jeddah sailings until the end of March. Prices from £999 for a March 5 departure, including flights.
Smaller Grenadine isles
Stretching more than 60 miles from St Vincent southwards to Grenada, this Caribbean archipelago is famed for its aquamarine waters where visitors can swim with turtles in the tempting lagoons of the Tobago Cays marine park. Alternatively, they can take a beach break on the dazzling sands of Mayreau or explore the pretty isle of Bequia and its atmospheric capital Port Elizabeth where lines of colourful bars jockey for position with pretty houses and shops. The island’s rugged lush terrain lends itself to hiking trips, while its most famous Princess Margaret Beach is said to have gained its name after the Princess stopped there for a swim in the 1950s.
Who goes there? Ponant, Star Clippers, Windstar Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, Azamara, Seabourn, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Silversea
Package: Silversea offers an 11-night round-trip cruise from Barbados, calling at Bequia and departing on November 13 from £5,900pp, including flights.