Cruise holidays: How (and where) they will return over the next year – an expert guide

Dave Monk
·10 min read
After 12 lost months, the next year will see holidays at sea return - GETTY
After 12 lost months, the next year will see holidays at sea return - GETTY

After months of waiting, it’s time to find your sea legs again and feel the ocean breeze on your face.

The countdown to cruising has begun – starting in the UK, where six new ships will debut this summer, with a seventh due to launch in December. Around the world more than 400,000 people have already sailed since last July but the round-Britain cruises starting next month – most of them requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated – herald a confident renaissance.

Although the major operators are still lobbying to be allowed to use US ports, they have begun announcing itineraries from Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Iceland, as well as the UK. Pent-up demand is huge despite the difficult steps out of lockdown both here and abroad, including the current Foreign Office advice against overseas cruises.

With some foreign travel likely to soon be given the green light, here is how the next 12 months are shaping up…

Summer starts close to home

Britain is the focus of the global cruise industry this summer, with the cream of the new ships heading to our shores.

Iona, P&O Cruises' new flagship, will sail to her namesake Scottish island this year - P&O CRUISES
Iona, P&O Cruises' new flagship, will sail to her namesake Scottish island this year - P&O CRUISES

With continuing restrictions in the US, Europe and other parts of the world, our high vaccination rate and eagerness to travel mean we have our choice of vessels to explore our own beautiful coasts, from the white cliffs of Dover to the rugged shoreline of Cornwall and the scattered Scottish islands.

P&O Cruises (pocruises.com) is concentrating on scenic cruises, which will include the Channel Islands and French coast. The week-long maiden voyage of new flagship Iona in August will head as far as the tiny Scottish island after which it was named.

The first cruise passengers to leave UK shores will be on the new MSC Virtuosa (msccruises.co.uk), on May 20 from Southampton, followed a couple of days later by the maiden voyage of Viking Venus (vikingcruises.co.uk) departing from Portsmouth. With sails fluttering, the world’s largest tall ship, Golden Horizon, will leave from Harwich on July 1 on a month-long circumnavigation of our island nation via Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool (tradewindvoyages.com).

Also that month, Riviera Travel’s 158-passenger Seaventure will be travelling around the north of Scotland, with calls including Aberdeen, Inverness, Oban and Belfast (rivieratravel.co.uk). Tours on offer include trips to the brooding expanse of Loch Ness, the Callanish Standing Stones, which predate Stonehenge, and the Neolithic Ring of Brodgar.

Saga’s Spirit of Adventure (travel.saga.co.uk) and Virgin Voyages’ (virginvoyages.com) first cruise ship, Scarlet Lady, will also be carrying their first passengers.

Expert picks

A seven-night cruise on Iona leaves Southampton on August 14. From £1,999pp (pocruises.com).

A four-night cruise on MSC Virtuosa along England’s south coast leaves Southampton on May 20. From £499pp, including drinks and tips (msccruises.co.uk).

Return to the Med

Mykonos - GETTY
Mykonos - GETTY

As soon as Britons get the chance to fly to Greece they will be able to join cruises on Celestyal, Variety Cruises and new line Elixir, with its first ship The Elysium, all due to start next month.

Celestyal Crystal (celestyal.com) will visit the Turkish port of Kusadasi, close to the ruins of Ephesus, as well as the popular holiday islands of Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Crete.

Come June, Celebrity Apex (celebritycruises.co.uk) and Silversea’s Silver Moon (silversea.com) will both start their inaugural seasons from Athens. The city’s port of Piraeus will also host Norwegian Jade (ncl.com) and Seabourn Ovation (seabourn.com), while Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas will be based in Cyprus (royalcaribbean.com).

Lovers of small-scale cruising will warm to the Elysium, a 48-passenger ship, which will sail alternating itineraries between the Ionian islands and the Cyclades (elixir.cruises). The ship will arrive in Santorini as most cruise and ferry passengers are leaving and stay overnight so guests can dine ashore in a five-star restaurant or traditional taverna as they enjoy the sunset. In Mykonos, Elysium will anchor off one of the southern beaches mid-afternoon to allow passengers to swim before enjoying a late drink at Little Venice or a stroll through the whitewashed pathways of Chora.

Elsewhere in Europe, river cruises will be on the increase during the summer, with travellers enjoying the scenery and historic cities along waters such as the Rhine, Danube, Seine and Douro.

Expert picks

A seven-night Idyllic Aegean cruise on Celestyal Crystal leaves Athens on June 26. From £1,078pp (celestyal.com).

A seven-night Cyclades cruise on The Elysium leaves Athens on July 24. From £1,920pp (elixir.cruises).

The Caribbean calls

Major players such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines are still banned from sailing from US ports so are looking into other areas of the Atlantic to restart sailings.

The beaches of the Bahmas await - PER BREIEHAGEN/GETTY
The beaches of the Bahmas await - PER BREIEHAGEN/GETTY

June will see the first Caribbean cruises begin with Celebrity Millennium (celebritycruises.co.uk) based in St Maarten and Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas (royalcaribbean.com) in the Bahamas. Vision of the Seas and Viking Orion (vikingcruises.co.uk) will sail from Bermuda. Norwegian Cruise Line will be operating ships both from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic (ncl.com).

Crystal Serenity (crystalcruises.co.uk) will welcome vaccinated Britons as it sails from Nassau around four islands in the Bahamas – the pink sand of Harbour Island, the hidden caves of Great Exuma, the diving spots of San Salvador Island and the deep blue waters of Long Island. Sister ship Crystal Symphony will sail 10-night Caribbean escapes from Antigua to the islands of Barbados, St Lucia and the British Virgin Islands.

Expert picks

A seven-night cruise on Celebrity Millennium leaves St Maarten on June 5. From £2,241pp, including flights (celebritycruises.co.uk).

A seven-night Luxury Bahamas Escape on Crystal Serenity leaves Nassau on July 10. From £2,103pp (crystalcruises.co.uk).

Iceland, Norway and Northern Lights

Alaska will be out of bounds to all but the smallest lines this year, due to a Canadian ban on big ships calling at its ports. But lovers of northern latitudes will still be able to cruise around Iceland on Viking Sky (vikingcruises.com) or new expedition ship Crystal Endeavor (crystalcruises.co.uk).

Late September signals the start of Northern Lights in Norway, with most themed cruises starting the following month. Astronomer Dr John Mason told The Telegraph: “With the ship sailing well away from the light pollution of large towns, there are plenty of opportunities to view the spectacle from the deck, but you must be ready to get up and go outside whenever the sky is clear – even at three in the morning.

“During the spring of 2021 there have been many superb auroral displays, so I expect the season beginning this September to be even better.”

South of the Equator, in Chile, Patagonian specialist Australis (australis.com) will begin its season of small-ship voyages in September through the fjords of Tierra del Fuego, past the glaciers of the Beagle Channel and along the Strait of Magellan to Cape Horn.

Finding aurora borealis is a cruise holiday highlight - STIAN KLO
Finding aurora borealis is a cruise holiday highlight - STIAN KLO

Expert picks

A 15-day Northern Lights cruise on Hurtigruten ship Maud leaves Dover on October 6. From £2,879pp (hurtigruten.co.uk).

A five-night Patagonian Explorer cruise with Australis leaves Ushuaia, Argentina, on September 29. From £1,799pp (polarroutes.co.uk).

Autumn and winter sun

The traditional autumn sailings along the US eastern seaboard will be badly affected by Canada’s ban on large cruise ships, but small operators such as American Cruise Lines (americancruiselines.com) will still be able to offer passengers the chance to admire the vividly changing colours.

With the hurricane season ending, Caribbean sailings will be in full swing in November. Virgin Voyages’ second ship, Valiant Lady, is due to begin sailing from Miami, with a stop at the Beach Club in Bimini, where DJs will lead pool and flotilla parties before a beach barbecue ends the evening back on dry land (virginvoyages.com).

For sunshine within sailing distance of British shores, Madeira and the Canary Islands offer warmth, delicious afternoon teas, other-worldly volcanic landscapes and black sand beaches. Plump for one of Cunard’s Canaries itineraries (cunard.com).

Expert picks

An eight-night Hudson River cruise on American Cruise Lines ship American Constitution leaves New York on October 9. From £5,299pp, including flights (fredholidays.co.uk).

Valiant Lady’s six-night inaugural Caribbean cruise leaves Miami on November 14. From £1,495pp, including flights (virginvoyages.com).

Explore autumn blooms from the river in the States
Explore autumn blooms from the river in the States

Solar eclipse and Christmas rivers

The Antarctic cruise season looks likely to go ahead, whatever the Covid situation in Argentina, even if arriving passengers have to be “bubbled together” in Buenos Aires and flown in a chartered plane to Ushuaia to embark directly on to the ship, according to Martin Johnson, co-founder of agency Polar Routes.

A highlight in the polar region this year will be the solar eclipse on December 4, with expedition ships poised to get a first-class view.

Christmas river cruises should return to Europe, especially along the Rhine and Danube. Shoppers can browse traditional stalls for gifts and delicacies while enjoying mulled wine. Lines offering these sailings include Uniworld, AmaWaterways, Avalon and Emerald Cruises.

Back home, the new Seabourn Venture (seabourn.com) expedition ship – equipped with two six-person submarines – will sail from London to the Norwegian fjords and as far north as Tromso in the Arctic Circle.

Festive feeling to the max in Cologne - THOMAS SCHMIDT
Festive feeling to the max in Cologne - THOMAS SCHMIDT

Expert picks

A 14-day voyage on Ocean Endeavour to experience the solar eclipse leaves Ushuaia, Argentina, on Nov 29. From £10,644pp (polarroutes.co.uk).

A 12-day voyage Northern Lights & North Cape cruise on Seabourn Venture leaves Greenwich on December 11. From £11,999pp (seabourn.com).

2022: A new frontier

If your new year’s resolution is to go on a world cruise, there should be plenty of options in January 2022.

One setting off from Britain is on Fred Olsen ship Borealis (fredolsencruises.com). Passengers have the chance to board at either Liverpool or Southampton for the 100-night cruise to 37 ports.

The epic voyage will include transits of both the Suez and Panama Canals, seeing the volcanic landscape of Hawaii, visiting Papua New Guinea, the fjords of New Zealand, the Great Barrier Reef and the lost city of Petra in Jordan – as well as a three-day stay in Sydney.

Australia and New Zealand will once again be open and popular with visitors, with Oceania being one of the cruise lines sailing between the two countries using its 684-passenger ship Regatta (oceaniacruises.com).

In March and April, the cruise year should be getting under way around the world, with voyages to the Norwegian fjords, the first European river sailings and even ships heading to the Med. A key draw will be the chance to see the cherry blossom in full bloom in Japan – Cunard has just the itinerary for that.

Expert picks

A 14-day New Zealand Explorer cruise on Oceania ship Regatta leaves Sydney on February 4, 2022. From £5,239pp, including flights (oceaniacruises.com).

A 20-night Singapore to Tokyo cruise on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth leaves on March 24, 2022. From £2,199pp (cunard.com).

Prices exclude flights unless stated otherwise.