Whether you’re a maritime maiden or a seasoned seafarer, the guide showcases the best cruises for voyagers of all kinds. We’ve cherry-picked 11 of the finest cruises from all the watery reaches of the globe. Float down the majestic Danube. Sail to far-flung Zanzibar. Island hop in the mellow Maldives. Step aboard legendary windjammers, repurposed junk rigs, boutique river barges and other world-class vessels. See which undiscovered ports call to you and wake up each day to a new horizon.
Port Cities of the Mediterranean
Cruise around a greatest hits of Mediterranean port cities, including Barcelona, Marseilles, Genoa and Naples on this luxurious eight-day round trip aboard the MSC Bellissima. With 18 decks, a stunning indoor promenade, accommodation for up to 4,500 passengers, and the world’s first digital cruise assistant, Zoe (a voice-enabled AI device fitted in every cabin), the Bellissima is one of the finest cruise liners to experience the high life on the Med. Begin your voyage in the UNESCO-protected harbour of Valletta, the capital of the island of Malta, which is in itself a must-see stop for any Mediterranean cruise of merit. The Bellissima also boasts not one, but two exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows performed nightly, which aren’t put on anywhere else in the world. Guests can also book several fantastic shore excursions, including trips to all city centres, the charming seaside town of Portofino in Genoa, and the beautiful island of Capri off the coast of Naples.
A Danube Rhapsody
The aptly named MS Amadeus Elegant cruises the iconic Danube river between April and November and ticks off a handful of Europe’s most splendid capitals: Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava. This beautiful river barge boasts spacious suites and cabins, most of which feature French balconies with stunning views, and holds up to 150 passengers maximum. Starting from Passau, Germany, experience the breathtaking views of verdant hills, bounteous vineyards and fairy tale fortresses in the Emmersdorf region. Sample Viennese culture, bohemian Budapest, historic Bratislava and more over eight tranquil days. The onboard Panorama restaurant further enhances the cruise experience, thanks to a masterful kitchen team who prepare exquisite dishes inspired by the culture and produce of each country the Amadeus Elegant passes through.
The Caribbean Under White Sails
Experience a handful of the Caribbean’s most elysian isles on a seven-night cruise aboard the enchanting Sea Cloud. This legendary windjammers holds up to 64 passengers and is the epitome of seafaring elegance with its white lacquer cabins, marble fireplaces, Louis Philippe chairs, golden swan faucets, and a smattering of genuine antiques. Board the ship in St John’s, Antigua where you’ll spend the first day en route to Moskito Island, the remote playground of business tycoon Richard Branson. Here you’ll discover the Baths, a cluster of giant granite boulders that form other-worldly grottoes on the beach. Then it’s on to the tropical islet of Jost Van Dyke with its shamrock hills fringed by blinding white beaches. Finally make your way to the sky-scraping volcanic peaks of Gros and Petit Piton in St Lucia. The pleasure cruise ends in Bridgetown, Barbados the next day where rum tasting and swimming with turtles awaits.
Zanzibar & the Treasures of the Indian Ocean
This 13-day expedition cruise aboard Ponant’s Le Bourgainville is the perfect way to discover stunning natural environments, exceptional wildlife, and UNESCO World Heritage sites loaded with history in the Indian Ocean. Sail to La Digue, where a veritable picture-postcard of the Seychelles awaits you: palm trees, granite rocks, white sand and crystal-clear waters. Other ports of call include the small islands of Poivre and Alphonse, where you can snorkel among brightly coloured sea life; the Aldabra Atoll, a largely untouched natural sanctuary; as well as Tanzania, which is home to the 13th-century Swahili trading post of Kilwa Kisiwani. Meanwhile, guests are kept entertained with the onboard infinity pool, a 188-seat cinema and the multi-sensory Blue Eye Lounge, where you can watch and hear passing marine life glide by the two giant windows shaped like whale eyes. Journey’s end is Zanzibar, the exotic melting pot that has fused African, Arabian and Indian cultures for well over a millennium.
Senses of Lan Ha
Experience three days of blissful cruising around Lan Ha Bay aboard the Ylang. This North East region in Vietnam is known for its jade waters and thousands of towering limestone pillars topped by rainforests. Prizing exclusivity with only 10 boutique suites, the Ylang is essentially a modern take on a traditional junk rig, those distinctive Asian vessels possessing fully battened sails. With its Vietnamese design offset with French-Colonial stylings, the entire cruiser exudes opulence and charm. The first anchorage spot is a pier to the south of Cat Ba where you can cycle to Viet Hai, a small fishing village nestled in a nearby valley. Here you’ll meet the locals and learn about their way of life. Ylang also offers plenty of lifestyle and wellness options with extensive spa treatments and healthy food options. Other highlights include on-deck Tai Chi sessions, kayak tours as well as squid fishing.
Adventure on the Amazon
Head on an epic eight-day odyssey of the majestic Rio Amazonas aboard the elegant Aria Amazon. This great river is home to a miraculous cradle of life brimming with thousands of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. The Aria Amazon is an innovative river cruiser custom-built to explore this watery Eden with minimal impact to the environment. The top deck features a jacuzzi, indoor lounge and bar, and an outdoor observation deck. Embark in the jungle metropolis of Iquitos and sail along the river’s two largest tributaries: the Ucayali and the Marañon. Go fishing for piranhas in Charo Lake and see Amazon monkeys, three-toed sloths and caimans in their natural habitat. Watch pink and grey freshwater dolphins at play in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Also row down the Jungle of Mirrors, where the dark river surface reflects the contortions of the overhanging trees that are alive with a menagerie of iguanas, toucans, macaws and more. Truly a dream realised for wildlife lovers of all kinds.
The Lights of Aurora Borealis
Board M/V Plancius in Akureyri, Iceland and cruise to the tree-like fjord system of Scoresby Sund, where Aurora Borealis glows especially bright. The Plancius is an oceanographic research vessel, which accommodates up to 116 passengers in 53 comfortable cabins. Over the course of this Arctic Circle voyage experience the indigenous wonders this vast canvas of sapphire and ice has to offer. From the deck you’ll spot mighty whales and swift seabirds. In Clavering Ø, a large island in eastern Greenland, visit the remains of a 19th-century Inuit settlement. And in the stark tundra terrain of Cape Hofmann Halvø observe grazing muskoxen. These shaggy beasts, dubbed ‘the bearded one’ by the Inuit, are only found in Greenland. In between your on land excursions, sail through beautiful fjords and a snow-dusted landscape choked with jagged icebergs that glitter like giant diamonds in the rough.
Jewels of the Nile
A Nile river cruise on board the beautiful Sun Boat III is an ideal way to experience some of Egypt’s more underrated relics. The Sun Boat III has gained repute as one of the world’s most beautiful boats. Inspired by Egypt’s opulent 20s and 30s, this graceful cruiser boasts 18 lavishly designed cabins, ensuring passengers enjoy an intimate journey with a personalised touch. Begin your journey in the frontier town of Aswan, which has been southern Egypt’s commercial gateway since antiquity. Explore the archaeological sites of Elephantine Island and the pink-bricked Agha Khan Mausoleum. Your Egyptologist will also shepherd you to Valley of the Kings, a vast city of the dead where magnificent tombs carved into desert rocks were once filled with pharaonic treasures, gifts for the afterlife. All the while enjoy gourmet delicacies, Egyptian cooking lessons onboard and ride on traditional felucca sailing boats. Finally, arrive in Luxor, an open-air museumopolis boasting an embarrassment of antiquities and riches.
Nirvana in the Maldives
The Maldives is made up of some 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks, and the only way to reach most of them is by boat. Seven nights aboard Scubaspa Ying will whisk you away to the region’s finest ports of call. This breathtakingly luxurious 40-passenger cruiser, boasts a sprawling two-deck Asian-style spa, with open-air Thai massage, meditation spots and a shaded yoga lounge. It is quite simply, a floating nirvana. You can also sign up for a fabulous diving programme. At Kuramathi Kandu, swim with hammerhead sharks. At Moofushi Point, see the graceful Manta rays. From dive to dive, explore sunken tropical gardens teeming with schools of rainbow-hued clownfish, oriental sweetlips, parrot fish, bluestripe snappers and more. Between underwater quests is a booty of beaches, each one more heavenly than the last. Think stretches of impossibly soft white sands embraced by crystal clear cyan waters that lap up onto the shore. If anywhere deserves the epithet of paradise on earth, then the Maldives is a sure-fire contender.
Papua, Spice & Everything Nice
Set out on an unforgettable 12-day voyage to discover the South Pacific’s ancient wonders of Papua and Spice on board Le Lapérouse, a Ponant explorer ship that is the embodiment of the cruise liner’s hallmark blend of refinement, intimacy and comfort. Setting out from the ultra-modern rainforest metropolis of Cairns, Australia, you’ll stop off at a variety of exotic Pacific Ocean villages before reaching the Asmat region. This ‘land of a thousand cultures’ is home to some 44 tribes, many of whom have never been in contact with the outside world. The highlight of this cruise is surely the Maluku Islands, dubbed the Spice Islands due to European colonials battling over precious clove and nutmeg harvests in the 16th-century. Anchor in Pulau Neira and wander through sleepy streets lined by tumbledown colonial-era buildings exhibiting Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. Your final port of call is Darwin, a free-spirited cosmopolitan enclave in Northern Australia.
The Dalmatia region offers a twist to a typical Mediterranean holiday thanks to a healthy dosage of bushy, verdant landscapes into golden sun and sapphire sea mix. With some eighty islands sprinkled around Croatia’s Adriatic coastline, the best way to experience the best of Dalmatia is on the Adriatic Queen. Renovated two years ago with all new state-of-the-art equipment, this boutique yacht hosts up to 30 passengers, making for a truly intimate voyage. Set sail from Dubrovnik harbour and head to Mljet, a forested paradise peppered with vineyards, olive groves, salt water lakes and a picturesque 12th-century Benedictine monastery. Discover the fairy tale citadel of Korčula, which is laid out like a fishbone. In Omis, visit the Cetina River Canyon which is all gushing waterfalls and pools of deep greens. And in Bol, spend a morning swimming at Croatia’s most famous beach, the steeple-shaped, golden-pebbled Golden Horn. Then it’s time to head back to the coastal jewel that is Dubrovnik for a final day exploring the quaint wonders hidden in this UNESCO World Heritage listed city.