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Here we are, grounded in a prolonged and unfamiliar time-warpish travel ban, and yet there are holidays – extraordinary, adventurous, sigh-inducing “trip-of-a-lifetime” holidays, coming out of the woodwork. We can at least find pleasure in planning.
Expedition cruises lead the way when it comes to seeking out the remote corners of the planet. The simmering pools and steaming fumaroles of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in far eastern Russia... how does one get there? By ship, of course. Struggling to choose between the Arctic or Antarctica? See both on a big-ticket trip.
As the following pages demonstrate, holiday planners have not folded up their maps. Dare to dream – it’s all there for the taking.
This extraordinary rail and cruise combo takes in alpine lake towns, historic cities and five Unesco World Heritage Sites in nine countries. After seven nights on the five-star SS La Venezia, passengers board the Golden Eagle Danube Express where en suite, air-conditioned cabins have picture windows, daytime seating and king-size beds. The holiday visits Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey and culminates with two nights at the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul. La Venezia launches later this year.
This 16-day Venice to Istanbul rail-cruise costs from £14,607pp departing July 3 2022. Includes excursions and unlimited drinks (uniworld.com).
Square rigger and safari
Another exceptional land and sea pairing, this time combining an Indian Ocean cruise with an African safari. After five nights at the Sanctuary Swala camp in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, passengers board the fully masted square-rigged ship Golden Horizon and head for the Seychelles (via Zanzibar). Few visitors make it to Astove, Alphonse and Desroches in the Seychelles’ dreamy outer island archipelago. Pristine Astove is a magnet for bird species, including the crab plover and Caspian tern, while Alphonse is a favourite of nesting green and hawksbill turtles.
This 18-night cruise safari from Tanzania to the Seychelles, costs from £7,300pp full board, including transfer, game drives, and B&B accommodation on transit nights (abercrombiekent.co.uk).
Science on sea
Join the explorer, conservationist and oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle on her namesake ship in Baja California next year. The Sea of Cortez is a personal favourite for Earle and in keeping with her vision the ship’s team of naturalist experts focus on marine education and conservation, underpinned by an on-board science centre. This calibre of guest comes around once in a blue moon.
The nine-day Baja California and Sea of Cortez cruise costs from £4,076pp round-trip from San Jose del Cabo on May 4 2021. Excludes flights (auroraexpeditions.co.uk).
Return of the Swan
The re-emergence of the popular cruise line Swan Hellenic in 2020 was well-received by the line’s loyal following of “Swanners”. The stylish Scandi-esque interiors of the new-build ships mark a change of direction. Polar-ready SH Minerva arrives in November 2021 followed in April next year by Vega. Join Minerva for a total solar eclipse in Antarctica on a bucket-list-worthy cruise that also visits the Falkland Islands.
The 16-day Solar Eclipse, South America, Falklands and Antarctic Peninsula cruise costs from £14,400pp departing on Nov 27 2021 (swanhellenic.com).
A decade in the making
One of two not-to-be-missed decennial events next year is the Dutch horticultural event, Floriade, in its new home at Almere, a modern “garden city” near Amsterdam. Passengers on Titan’s cruise will be among the first to visit Floriade before exploring the Dutch waterways and Cologne.
An eight-day cruise on the MS River Discovery II costs from £1,499pp departing on April 13 2022. Includes some excursions, a door-to-door transfer and return Eurotunnel or ferry crossings from Folkestone (titantravel.co.uk).
Egypt’s ‘long cruise’
When it comes to antiquities, Egypt is the country that keeps on giving. Last week archaeologists unearthed what could be the world’s oldest known brewery, dating back five millennia to around 3,100 BC. The brewery in Abydos, an ancient burial ground, may have been built to supply the ceremonial burials of ancient kings. Visit Abydos on the “Long Cruise” on the new 17-suite Steigenberger Senator. Private balconies afford extra privacy on longer sailing days and the ship has a plunge pool and a sauna and gym.
An 11-night cruise from Cairo to Aswan costs from £3,489pp departing Feb 24 2022 (discoveregypt.co.uk). Includes three hotel nights in Cairo.
It used to take months to travel the 4,000-plus miles from Moscow to the snow-capped mountains at Kamchatka. Silver Shadow visits Russia’s eastern outpost at the seismically active city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on a 17-day cruise from Japan to Alaska. This really is a cruise of “outposts.” Passengers visit the Okinawa island chain and Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido, before Shadow slips across the Bering Sea and calls at Dutch Harbor, Kodiak Island and Homer in southern Alaska.
From £5,040pp departing on May 24, 2022 (silversea.co.uk)
Theatre on the Danube
On Ash Wednesday, the male residents of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps began growing their hair and beards in preparation for the Decennial performance of the Passion Play, next May. First staged in 1634 after plague struck the village, the play involves 1,500 local actors. Saga includes a performance on a Danube cruise on board its new river ship Spirit of the Danube.
A nine-night Oberammergau and a Four Country cruise costs from £2,649pp including Passion Play tickets and door-to-door transfers (travel.saga.co.uk).
Galapagos on Grace
In the Galapagos wildlife will always be the star turn, but few ships could tell as many stories as the elegant MS Grace. The 145ft ship served in the British Navy during the Second World War, when Winston Churchill stepped on board. Her latest reincarnation as a luxury motor yacht, with nine cabins, pays homage to Grace’s late owner Princess Grace of Monaco, who honeymooned on board with Prince Rainier. For a memorable trip, fly into Peru and visit Machu Picchu first.
A 16-day holiday combining Machu Picchu with a seven-night Galapagos cruise on board the Grace with Journey Latin America costs from £9,227 per person. The price includes flights, transfers and most meals (journeylatinamerica.co.uk).
The world awaits
If Japan, the Whitsundays, Komodo Island or Shanghai have eluded you, Regent Seven Seas’ Sydney to Tokyo cruise visits them all – as well as calling at Papua New Guinea. There is nothing cookie cutter about the Regent Explorer: a Chagall and a pair of Picassos form part of its 2,200-piece art collection and the top suite has a bespoke, £112,000 bed.
The 61-night Grand Asia Exploration world cruise visits 38 ports and departs on Jan 26 2022. From £33,569pp (mundycruising.co.uk).
Transatlantic centre stage
With any luck, theatre doors will be open before next spring. There’s an opportunity to make up for lost time, however, on a dedicated “London Theatre at Sea” transatlantic voyage on Queen Mary 2. The cruise raises the curtain on an Olivier award-winning line-up of guest speakers.
The seven-night London Theatre at Sea with the Olivier Awards cruise departs New York on May 15 2022. From £1,049 per person including one-way flight (cunard.com)
Above or below
This cruise features world-class snorkelling and diving opportunities in Cozumel and on the Belize Barrier Reef. The 92-passenger Le Champlain’s itinerary also includes the Mayan ruins of Quirigua and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Tikal.
An eight-day Natural and Cultural Wonders of the Western Caribbean cruise round-trip from Cozumel departs Nov 14 2021. From £2,650pp, excluding flights (ponant.com).
Pole to pole
Viking’s luxury expedition ship Polaris is working in partnership with the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge. Polaris’s inaugural season includes an all-encompassing itinerary that visits both the Arctic, and Antarctica.
The 44-day From the Arctic to Antarctica cruise costs from £27,995pp, departing Sept 21 2022 (vikingcruises.co.uk).
Fortnight on the Mekong
If Asia appeals, a river cruise is one of the best ways to visit several destinations. The new Mekong Serenity’s route includes a sunrise visit to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and a Buddhist blessing in Oudong.
Prices for the 15-day cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City start from £3,745pp including home-to-airport transfers and some excursions (aptouring.com).
Seabourn brings its distinctive brand of laid-back luxury to expedition cruising, kicking off with a season in the Arctic. Seabourn Venture will sail from Greenwich in December on her inaugural Norway, Northern Lights and North Cape cruise, which includes snorkelling with whales.
A 14-day Holiday Northern Lights, North Cape and Norway cruise from Tromso to Copenhagen, departing Dec 23 2021, costs from £13,100pp (seabourn.com).