The cruise is back. Like, all the way back. And what repeat guests remember—and newcomers learn—is that there’s no better way to travel. And as the industry prepares for its biggest year in history, there have been some major advancements, exciting new itineraries, innovative and fresh shore excursions and more. Here, we share the latest trends as well as some tips and tricks to keep you up to date.
The journeys go on
With more than two years of missed travel opportunities, the rise of remote work and the collective human desire to make our moments count more than ever, it’s no surprise that grand voyages – sailings longer than 21 days – are growing in popularity. “Covid-19 has seen a massive reassessment of the quality of life, so a great experience is essential,” says Tom Baker of travel agency CruiseCenter. When Holland America Line launched its grand 73-day Africa voyage this year, it sold out so quickly that the company created another one for 2023, which will take passengers from the beaches of Zanzibar to historic Petra. This month, Oceania Cruises embarked on an epic 218-day voyage from Miami. Seabourn’s grand multicontinent voyage in 2023 will become two 80-day adventures in 2024. And Silversea will operate five times as many itineraries of 21 days or longer next year than it did in 2019. Even river cruises , traditionally a week, offers more. cruises: After its inaugural 2023 Seven River Journey Through Europe sold out almost instantly, AmaWaterways has created two more of its 46-night and two 49-night itineraries, and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will launch the rivers its 47 days, in nine countries. of the World next year. “Think of experiencing the Pyramids of Giza one day and the Moulin Rouge the next,” says Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO of Uniworld. As airlines invest in improved digital connectivity through SpaceX’s Starlink, the trend will continue to grow. “Smart lines will reduce this to attract affluent young cruisers,” says Linda Allen-Speer of Cruises By Linda. A stronger hook than fast internet? It only needs to unpack once. — Janice Wald Henderson
Get more when you step ashore
With passengers wanting more meaningful ways to explore, cruise lines are strengthening their partnerships and extending guests’ time on land. “Now it’s about making your travel experience exclusive, unique and ‘local,'” says Jill Jergel of Frontiers Travel Agency. This year, river cruise giant Uniworld began combining ship and train experiences with boutique rail tour company Golden Eagle Luxury Trains on its Danube runs. Guests travel by train within Central Europe for five days before boarding the ship in Vienna; Uniworld has added two more departures for 2023. Next year, Ponant and Smithsonian Journeys will offer co-branded crossings through Panama, where Smithsonian experts like climate specialist Steve Paton will guide passengers through hard-to-reach areas like the San Blas archipelago. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which has been looking for ways to extend the guest experience before and after sailing, is planning more free add-ons for 2023, including three days with exclusive access to boutique wine estates around Cape Town for passengers on cruises originating from South Africa . There is also great news for those looking to spend more time in their home ports. Many lines now include a hotel room the night before a sailing in their fare. It’s a perk that allows passengers to explore a little more — and an insurance policy against the continued volatility of the airline industry. — Erin Florio
Luxury is at a new level
Many lines – Ponant, Silversea – have a reputation for offering a champagne and caviar experience on board. But two new players are upping the game for luxury at sea. Think all-suites, more time in port, and Michelin-style pizza-filled food. Hotel titan The Ritz-Carlton has long been in the sailing space with the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, but in October it added the high-touch sophistication of the 298-passenger. Evrima. Imagine the 624-foot vessel as a floating Ritz-Carlton resort, sailing the Caribbean, the Americas and the Middle East with a personal concierge assigned to each suite and a splurge-worthy tasting menu created by Chef Sven Elverfeld of Germany with three Michelin stars. Water. In May, Explora Journeys, a new cruise concept from the Aponte family, founders of MSC Cruises, will launch Explore 1, which will offer oceanfront suites and private decks to all 900 passengers. A major focus will be guest well-being, a response to new needs arising from the pandemic and other societal changes. “We’re creating more immersive experiences in the destination and the people you meet,” says CEO Michael Ungerer. E.g, Explore 1 they could spend up to three days in ports of call such as Istanbul instead of blowing up. No itinerary will ever be repeated. “With Explore 1, it’s all about timing and we know that more time in port is what counts,” says Anne Scully, travel advisor at Embark Beyond. The ship has four swimming pools, ten lounges and nine restaurants, so days at sea will never risk feeling idle. —Fran Golden
Go back to Asia
“With travel spending on the rise and two years of pent-up demand, Asia, which is a longer period and a bigger investment, comes out on top,” he says Condé Nast Traveler specialist Angela Turen, from Churchill & Turen. The continent began reopening to international cruises in July 2022 when Royal Caribbean arrived in Malaysia, and major lines have moved or expanded there since then. Japan was particularly popular; in addition to new Ponant crossings in the Seto Inland Sea launching in May 2023, Regent and Silversea are both offering new itineraries that circumnavigate the island nation, and Holland America Line will relocate its Westerdam in Japan after recovering from COVID-19 in Australia. Singapore expects to reach its pre-Covid passenger numbers in 2023, thanks in part to new itineraries such as Viking’s 15-day voyage from Bali to Singapore, while RC Specter of the Seas has added two new 12-night itineraries for next year, visiting countries such as Vietnam and Thailand. “When will China reopen?” remains the big question, but most observers expect it to happen next year. — EF
This article appeared in the December 2022 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine Here.