Cruise Hot Spots
The booming cruise sector is opening up new destinations all over the world, some remote and others simply overlooked until now. Here are some to watch:
This most contentious of Caribbean countries has been on the next-big-thing list for a long time, but the past year has seen an explosion in the number of cruise lines offering visits to Cuba’s shores. The beautifully weathered capital of Havana and several other colourful Cuban ports are now easily accessible from world cruising’s epicentre in Florida, only a cigar’s throw away. A relaxation of US travel bans during the Obama era raised hopes for routine tourism in Cuba, and although President Trump has sought to wind back the measures of his predecessor, cruising seems to have escaped any new restrictions. Most major cruise lines now offer Cuba visits — look out for itineraries offering overnight stays in Havana and multiple ports around the Cuban coast.
The distances involved in exploring the Kimberley by land are immense and much of the most spectacular scenery is secluded around its intricate coastline, making this an ideal region to explore by sea. Earthy red landscapes meet vivid turquoise waters in a surreal clash of colours, while natural wonders like King George Falls now sit alongside many of Australia’s most iconic postcard sights. This area has been a favourite for expedition cruises for some time and much of the coast is only accessible to smaller vessels, but a commitment from the West Australian Government last month to dredge the Port of Broome means larger ships will soon make regular calls.
Favourable exchange rates and cheaper airfares have helped fuel impressive tourism growth in what was once considered an expensive destination, so it’s only natural that the cruise sector should turn its attention to Japan. As a compact island nation, its key cities like Tokyo and Osaka are ideal to visit on cruise itineraries, while inland points like the former imperial capital of Kyoto are easily reached on shore excursions or aboard bullet trains. Though it’s known for its temples and high-energy cities, Japan is also home to beach destinations like the Okinawa Islands where azure lagoons and coral reefs make for classic cruise backdrops. Several major lines include Japan on world cruise itineraries or seasonal visits, and regular circuits now operate from other Asian ports like Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The Galapagos Islands
Sailing among Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands has been the ambition of adventurers everywhere since the day Charles Darwin first set eyes on a tortoise and pondered its greater meaning. These islands might be the very origin of expedition cruising, with their remote location, ruggedly beautiful landscapes and intense concentration of wildlife. What was once familiar only through the pages of National Geographic has more recently become accessible through small ship operators and hardy explorer vessels. But now, with the rise of luxury expedition cruising and increasing visits by mainstream cruise operators, the islands of the Galapagos have become a reality in an evolution Darwin could never have foreseen.