Summer practically screams, “Get out on the water!” It’s only natural to demand some solid beach time, a reasonable tan, and a few days spent with a good book. However, most of us also crave urban glitz, a fine meal or two, and excellent shopping during our time off. How to have it all? Cruises give travelers both land and sea options — from cosmopolitan port cities, world-class cuisine, and volcanic hikes to time on pristine beaches — all in one easy package.
We asked our readers which cruise destinations they were most interested in for 2015, and — no shock — the Caribbean was first on nearly everyone’s agenda. We have some good news: There’s a brand-new ship with 28 dining options and a ropes course heading to Tortola in 2015. Alaska and the Mediterranean also made the top 10, and companies like Holland America Line and P&O Cruises have anticipated guests’ every need with foodie-focused journeys and cool ports of call like Dubrovnik, Croatia, for the summer.
Summer’s possibilities are endless, but cramming a world into one vacation just got even easier.
The new features-packed Norwegian Getaway is a fantastic way to cruise the Caribbean. (Courtesy: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Direct flights from major American cities to many of the Caribbean islands equals tropical surf and sand in mere hours. The World Travel Awards chose Norwegian as the Caribbean’s leading cruise line in both 2013 and 2014. Eager to hold on to the title, the company has launched the Norwegian Getaway, a new ship boasting an innovative multideck promenade and 28 dining options. The ship caters to kids with a ropes course, an area specifically for teenagers, and five waterslides. Norwegian Getaway has recently begun sailing to the British Virgin Islands, and this fall, Norwegian Escape — the line’s largest ship to date, with more than 4,000 passenger berths — will be welcomed to the fleet.
Summer is rife with fun cultural events in Bermuda. (Photo: Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)
From Harbour Nights street festivals on famous Front Street to incredible fishing excursions to historical reenactments in King’s Square, there are ample reasons to put Bermuda on your must-visit list this summer or fall. Winter’s whale-watching season is no less appealing.
If you choose to cruise, Celebrity Cruises has seven-night trips all summer. You’ll depart from New Jersey and spend three days and two nights exploring the Maritime Museum, traditional handicrafts in the markets, refreshing Atlantic waters, and so much more.
Beautiful beaches are just one of the many reasons people love cruising down the Mexican Riviera. (Photo: Thinkstock)
The combination of incredible street food, ancient temples, handicraft markets, impossibly clear, emerald waters, and significant savings make Mexico an appealing destination. According to Cruise Critic, Acapulco is significantly safer than in previous years and has become a hot destination in 2015, largely serviced by Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, and Holland America. Furthermore, if you are on the West Coast, the Riviera is perfect for short, three- to four-day cruises stopping in sunny Cabo San Lucas, ancient Mazatlan, and pretty Puerto Vallarta, as well as smaller hubs like Ensenada, Huatulco, and Zihuatanejo.
Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal – there are so many wonderful Mediterranean destinations to choose from! (Photo: Thinkstock)
Picking a destination in this region is the tough part. There’s the allure of the Canary Islands’ 500 beaches off the coast of Spain (check out Thomson, Fred. Olsen, Cunard, and MSC for itineraries), and the Western Mediterranean offers France, Portugal, and Morocco as ports of call (investigate Holland America, Celebrity, and Princess for rates).
More than 13,000 children will holiday at sea this summer with P&O Cruises. The company’s success with younger generations has helped produce a 26 percent rise in bookings compared with last year. The line’s Mediterranean cruise departs from Genoa, Italy, stopping in Florence, Naples, and Dubrovnik, with an overnight in Venice. Kids will love life aboard, thanks to puppet shows, sports challenges, music sessions, game shows, and discos, and Britannia’s Cookery Club offers free cooking classes. The best part? A seven-night, all-inclusive trip including flights starts at less than $1,000 per person.
Related: Confessions of a Cruise Ship Doctor
Alaska is a great choice for the adventurous cruiser. (Photo: Courtesy of Holland America Line)
Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and the Inside Passage of Alaska offer a wild level of romance, as do day excursions to Tracy Arm, Twin Sawyer Glaciers, and Glacier Bay National Park. The state promises tranquility as well as action-packed hiking, camping, and climbing in the interior add-on destinations of the Yukon and Denali. Holland America Line has been navigating the northernmost climes of America for the last 68 years. The company’s key to success is bringing modern touches to the historic passages. For example, the 2015 season brings Sip, Savor & Sail Cruises, featuring renowned chefs and beverage experts to enhance select Alaskan, European, and Caribbean voyages. Go luxe with the Pinnacle Suite, a 1,150-square-foot floating palace with its own private veranda soaking tub.
Cruise New Zealand and you can stop for sightseeing in such places as Dunedin Railway Station. (Photo: Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)
Last year, the Travel Channel chose Silversea as its pick for best New Zealand cruises. The company offers nearly a dozen options, giving guests the choice of wandering the cosmopolitan university city of Dunedin and whale watching in Kaikoura or going for a more naturalist route to the famed Norfolk Island, with stops in the Marlborough wine region.
Royal Caribbean has also increased its service in Australia and New Zealand over the last year, with three fully revitalized ships that include movie theaters, signature Vitality Spa treatments, exceptional nurseries, and Concierge Club lounges.
The Disney Wonder in Kauai. (Photo: Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
Disney Cruise Line will add a new route this year, allowing travelers to explore the Hawaiian Islands on two special 10-night cruises in September 2015. The Disney Wonder will sail you to the famous beaches of Waikiki on Oahu and invite you to hike the summit of Haleakala Crater on Maui, visit the lush tropical gardens and waterfalls of Kauai, and explore the natural wonders of the world’s most active volcano on the Big Island. No Disney ship would be complete without some characters, and kids will never forget going to “infinity and beyond” at the space- and science-themed Disney’s Oceaneer Lab or partying with Captain Hook on his plank bridge.
For the ultimate South American cruise experience, go double duty and hit Ecuador and the famous Galapagos Islands. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Did you know that Ecuador’s government has spent $287 million in the last five years to increase the country’s tourism infrastructure? Quito’s historic district is both safe and stunning, and it makes a great starting point for visiting the legendary Galapagos Islands. If you want the trip of a lifetime, two ships excel in these waters: Quasar Expeditions’ M/Y Grace and Yacht La Pinta. Aboard the M/Y Grace, you sail in partnership with Sacha Ji Wellness Hotel and Retreat to experience Ecuadorian culture and adventure with wellness in mind. Meditation, yoga, hikes, sea kayaking, and snorkeling are all part of the package.
Yacht La Pinta also offers extreme luxury, with floor-to-ceiling windows in every stateroom, a max capacity of only 48 passengers, and guided trips as short as four days and three nights that hit major points like San Cristóbal Island, known for giant tortoises.
You can take an 18-day Oceania cruise that includes Tahiti. (Photo: Courtesy of Oceania Cruises)
Ah, Tahiti. Oh, wait. Bora Bora is so close! Can we also visit Moorea? How to choose? The islands of French Polynesia must be accessed by boat — they are islands, after all. Hotels are also quite expensive. Signing up for a cruise that hits several of them will save you money and eliminate that pesky boat-booking issue. An 18-day journey with Oceania starts on the most populous and famous island, Tahiti, known for its lush, volcanic jungle peaks, Faarumai Waterfalls, and ferns at Maraa Grotto. You can snorkel and kayak to your heart’s content in the glittering turquoise lagoons of Bora Bora and shop the pearl farms of Rangiroa. You begin or end your trip in Los Angeles, and rates begin at $3,999 per guest.
Tallinn, Estonia: a popular summer cruise stop. (Photo: Courtesy of Tauck)
When someone says summer in Europe, you might immediately think of the usual culprits: England, Italy, Germany, and France. However, the Baltic countries offer a wealth of natural beauty and historical significance, which explains why cruises through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are one of the most sought searches for boat trips on the Web. Tauck hosts smaller ship cruises all over the world, but its Baltic trips include onboard speaker Asa Ovrelid, an experienced naturalist and lecturer at two universities. While aboard, guests learn about marine archaeology, Russia and the Romanov dynasty, and the Baltic region’s history, economics, and current politics. You then alight in Tallinn, Estonia’s vibrant capital with a UNESCO-designated old quarter, to visit the places discussed aboard the ship. All-inclusive 12-day itineraries start at around $8,000 for double occupancy.