Cruisers have never had it so good – now is the time to book your voyage

·11 min read
There has never been a better time to book a holiday at sea - SACHIN SARASWAT /GETTY / EYEEM
There has never been a better time to book a holiday at sea - SACHIN SARASWAT /GETTY / EYEEM

Cruise lines are steaming through January 2021 with a dynamic line-up of cut-price offers and special promotions that have been hailed as the best ever.

While some mass market players in the cruise world have cut prices – drastically in a few cases – others have incorporated extra value with cabin upgrades, complimentary drinks, free Wi-Fi and speciality dining. Several companies are also offering cut-price or free flights and overnight hotel stays.

In a bid to reassure customers who may be wary of booking amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, deals are offered with low deposits and flexible booking conditions permitting cancellations 30 days or less before departure.

“I think we have never had it so good when it comes to offers and deals,” said James Cole, founder of travel agency Panache Cruises, which launched in 2020. “There are some phenomenal ones, especially for this year.”

Stefan Shillito, managing director of The Sovereign Cruise Club, warned that these offers – some of which are unprecedented – would disappear in the face of rising demand once lockdown lifts and the vaccine rollout gathers pace. He also pointed out that many sailings were already busy with postponed bookings from customers unable to travel in 2020.

“For anyone looking for good value, the time to book is now,” he urged. “Until the end of March, you will get a good deal, but if you wait until April onwards it will be too late.”

Island delights in the Caribbean

Sparkling turquoise waters dotted with lush tropical islands and dazzling white-sand beaches may sound like the stuff of dreams, but this West Indies voyage turns them into reality. Imbibe the unspoilt beauty of the British Virgin Islands, sample the Spanish-Caribbean vibe of the Dominican Republic, and splash out with porcine playmates in the Bahamas on an excursion to meet the islands’ famous swimming pigs.

One-week round-trip Eastern Caribbean cruise departs Miami on May 8, 2022, reduced from £1,129pp to £809pp. For £99pp guests can add up to five benefits, including free drinks, speciality dining and Wi-Fi (0333 241 2319;

Counting down the days until you lie on a beach in the Dominican Republic is one way to get through the winter months - SAMI SARKIS
Counting down the days until you lie on a beach in the Dominican Republic is one way to get through the winter months - SAMI SARKIS

Mediterranean maiden season

Sophisticates searching for stylish surroundings can revel in Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship Celebrity Apex, unveiled last year but yet to carry guests. This Mediterranean escape combines the glories of Provençal France at Marseille and the high-octane glamour of the French Riviera at Villefranche, with Ibiza’s chilled laid-back vibe and the Italian classical charms of Florence and Pisa, a coach ride from the port of La Spezia.

One-week Spain, France and Italy voyage from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome) departs July 10. From £1,378pp, including drinks, Wi-Fi; this package comes with flights under Celebrity’s airfare promotion, valid until Mar 1 (0800 441 4054;

Suite dreams from Sydney

Enjoy a taste of the suite life with Regent Seven Seas Cruises as part of the luxury line’s “largest suite upgrade promotion in its history”, with two-category upgrades included on all bookings made by Feb 28. After spending this long, cold winter living the lockdown life, plot your escape early next year to the balmy Southern Hemisphere summer on a voyage to remember from Sydney to Bali that promises diving trips on the Great Barrier Reef, croc tours in the Northern Territory and coming face to face with Komodo dragons in Indonesia.

The 16-night Kangaroos, Koalas & Dragons cruise departs Jan 19, 2022. From £9,939pp, including flights, shore excursions, three-night port stay, drinks and Wi-Fi (02380 682280;

Sydney is home to some of Australia’s most iconic sights, including its famous opera house - STEVE HEAP
Sydney is home to some of Australia’s most iconic sights, including its famous opera house - STEVE HEAP

Glaciers in Greenland

Putting holiday plans on ice takes a new meaning with this incredible expeditionary voyage to Greenland, where the crashes of calving glaciers and towering icebergs echo across Disko Bay. Such awesome displays compete with the thrill of breaching humpback whales and prowling polar bears, though as this cruise starts in Iceland, it’s a double-whammy for natural wonders with thundering waterfalls, dramatic granite cliffs and snowy peaks.

The 14-night Exploring the High Arctic itinerary, from Reykjavik to Copenhagen aboard luxury Scenic Eclipse, departs Aug 4, 2022. It has been reduced to £9,147pp until Feb 15, and includes drinks, excursions and flights (0808 159 7205;

Arabian allure and Indian spice

This exotic Seabourn sailing from Arabia to Asia is all the more tempting thanks to its "Signature Savings Event", offering on-board credits as high as a jaw-dropping $2,000 (£1,464) per suite and three-category suite upgrades. Embrace the ambience of the 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation, more mega-yacht than cruise ship, and explore the mountains and minarets of Muscat before plunging into India’s cultural heart with Mumbai’s bustling bazaars and Chennai’s temple-laden streets.

The 18-night Pearls of Arabia, sailing from Dubai to Singapore, departs on Nov 10. From £6,259pp, including drinks and Wi-Fi; book by Feb 28. (0118 467 8929;

Disko Bay is the largest open bay in western Greenland - MINICA BERTOLAZZI
Disko Bay is the largest open bay in western Greenland - MINICA BERTOLAZZI

A voyage of Greek legends

Ancient wonders abound on this cruise into centuries-old cultures of Greece and Turkey with two days devoted to heady Istanbul before discovering the legend of Troy and its infamous Trojan horse at the Turkish seaport of Canakkale. The Greek city of Thessaloniki is a historian’s dream with Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman treasures, though Santorini tops the bill for dramatic landscapes crowned with whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches.

A seven-night Eclectic Aegean round-trip cruise, departing Athens on Oct 30, from £759pp (as part of a 25 per cent ‘Early Bird’ promotion ending Feb 28. Includes drinks and two excursions (0800 411 8038;

Uncover the backwaters of Venice

Sail through La Serenissima aboard Uniworld’s lavishly refurbished river ship La Venezia, which visits the Renaissance city’s lesser-known neighbourhoods across the Venetian Lagoon. Explore pretty Chioggia, known as “unspoilt Venice”, and sample markets, crafts and brightly-painted fisherman’s houses on the isles of Torcello, Mazzorbo and Burano. Venice’s main sights are not forgotten with walking tours and an out-of-hours visit to St Mark’s Basilica.

Uniworld’s one-week Gems of Northern Italy round-trip cruises from Venice have been reduced by around £1,000, with prices from £1,699pp for a Jul 18 departure. Flights, Wi-Fi, drinks and excursions included; book by Feb 28. (0800 810 8220;

All Greek islands are impressive but Santorini tops the bill - LEVENTE BODO
All Greek islands are impressive but Santorini tops the bill - LEVENTE BODO

Bargain to Barcelona

Bag yourself a bargain on P&O Cruises’ newest and largest ship Iona, which accommodates more than 5,000 passengers and even has its own gin distillery. This sailing around the Iberian Peninsula into the Mediterranean works out at a rock-bottom rate of just over £50 a night. Celebrate with a pint in one of Gibraltar’s English-style pubs, glide along Alicante’s Paseo de las Palmeras seafront promenade on a Segway tour and catch the Catalonian spirit of Barcelona, where architect and artist Antoni Gaudi’s distinctive hand has left an indelible impression.

A 14-night round-trip cruise from Southampton to Barcelona departs Jan 29, 2022. From £769pp (0344 338 8003;

Seasonal cheer in Amsterdam

Make up for last Christmas’ subdued celebrations by throwing yourself into festivities at the yuletide markets of Antwerp and Amsterdam aboard Fred Olsen Cruise Line’s Balmoral. Nothing captures the Christmas spirit more than trees twinkling with fairy lights, stalls groaning under heaps of colourful decorations and the sweet heady scent of glühwein. It’s all perfectly complemented by the cobbled streets and canals of Amsterdam, and gabled houses surrounding Antwerp’s main square, where its market is held.

A five-night round-trip voyage from Southampton departs Dec 17. From £599pp, including a £100pp onboard credit or free drinks; book by Feb 2 (01275 848097;

Family flavours of the Med

Fancy a family beach trip in the Greek islands, a history lesson amid the ancient ruins of Pompeii or striking the best selfie pose in the billionaires’ playground of Monte Carlo? Nothing illustrates the Mediterranean’s appeal to all ages better than a cruise, and this voyage adds Montenegro’s breathtaking scenery in Kotor to the mix, along with the gondola-filled canals of Venice and the rich Renaissance glories of Florence.

A 12-night Mediterranean Romance sailing from Venice to Barcelona departs on August 7. From £5,456 for a family of four, including an upgrade to a balcony cabin, flights and free drinks for the two adults. Book by Feb 28 (0344 338 8605;

Kotor sits between mountains and a romantic sweep of the bay - DAVID C TOMLINSON
Kotor sits between mountains and a romantic sweep of the bay - DAVID C TOMLINSON

Norway’s natural wonders

Mother Nature excels herself along Norway’s rough-hewn coast, where granite cliffs stretch up to the sky, laced with waterfalls tumbling into the millpond waters below. This is where cruise ships come to pay their respects to the magnificence of the Norwegian fjords and MSC Magnifica is no different, visiting five ports in seven days, including new destinations Nordfjordeid, where athletic types can hike up Mount Hoven, and Rosendal, sitting on the banks of Norway’s second-largest fjord Hardangerfjord.

A one-week round-trip Norwegian fjords cruise from Southampton, departing on June 19, costs from £739pp. Drinks included if booked by Apr 30 (020 3426 3010;

Magic on the Mekong

Who couldn’t do with exotic dreams right now? This Far East odyssey is full of "pinch-me moments" that come from watching the sunrise across the stone spires of Angkor’s temples in Cambodia and sailing around the limestone karsts of Vietnam’s Halong Bay in a traditional junk. At its heart is a one-week Mekong river cruise showcasing the frenetic scooter-filled streets of Ho Chi Minh City with its Vietnam War history, plus Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh and the sobering Killing Fields legacy of the Khmer Rouge.

The 18-night Treasures & Temples of Vietnam and Cambodia departs Aug 12, 2022. From £4,395pp, including flights and excursions. Book by Feb 28 (0808 301 3352;

The Mekong begins on the Tibetan Plateau and runs for more than 2,600 before emptying into the South China Sea - MELANIE MAYA
The Mekong begins on the Tibetan Plateau and runs for more than 2,600 before emptying into the South China Sea - MELANIE MAYA

Cut-price Cote d’Azur

Go on, spoil yourselves; this sailing with six-star line Crystal Cruises is an absolute steal. Normally luxe cruises cost around £300-£400 per night, but this Mediterranean voyage is less than £260. Sail along the Italian and French rivieras in unashamed luxury aboard the suite-only Crystal Symphony, which carries less than 1,000 passengers and even has its own Nobu restaurant, making it the perfect accompaniment to explore the jet-set resorts of St Tropez, Villefranche and Portofino.

A one-week Italia, Espana & the Riviera voyage from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona, departing on May 17, 2022, from £1,811pp. Drinks included (0161 516 8531;

Rolling down the Rhine

Thousands of years of history washed down with a surfeit of fine wines grown along the banks of the Rhine are hallmarks of this river cruise, which cuts through Germany and into Switzerland. Roman roots and medieval streets bring an old-world air to the cities of Speyer and Koblenz, while the half-timbered houses of Strasbourg point to an intoxicating heritage of German and French ancestry dating back to the Middle Ages.

A one-week round-trip Rhine Gems cruise from Frankfurt, departs May 9. From £849pp, which includes a £500pp discount (valid until Feb 28). Price includes flights and £120 excursion credit (0800 975 4477;

Canaries beckon

Whale-watching, buggy tours and even camel rides promise to liven up this Canary Islands sailing on Sky Princess. Catch welcome autumnal sunshine while kayaking off the coast of Gran Canaria, exploring Tenerife’s Las Canadas National Park, or plodding past the extinct volcanoes and craggy outcrops of Lanzarote’s volcanic Timanfaya National Park atop a camel. As one of Princess Cruises’ newest ships, Sky Princess is kitted out with its ground-breaking Ocean Medallion technology, which offers a bundle of digital twists and even unlocks your stateroom door.

A12-night round-trip voyage from Southampton departs on September 23. From £784pp. (020 3811 7690;

  • Prices exclude flights and all departures are for 2021 unless otherwise stated.

Overseas holidays are currently subject to restrictions.