If you’re itching to get your sea legs, smell the salt spray and feel the wind in your hair as you sail off into the horizon, we’ve got just the ticket. We might be staying home now but the 2021/2022 cruise season itineraries are being polished, along with rigorous health and safety protocols to welcome travellers onboard.
Here are the top cruise destinations and trends set to make waves in 2021, along with a smattering of new and exciting destinations to visit. Even better if you can’t pronounce the destination name! For South Africans, cruising will head even closer to home and in other cases, whisk you far off the beaten path.
Where will you be cruising next year?
Say where? You’d be forgiven for not knowing how to get your tongue around this one! Pronounced something like “KAK-or-TOCK”, this town is hidden amongst a series of fjords in southern Greenland. With a town centre harking back to the 18th-century and hugged by mountains and hot springs, not to mention an iceberg filled bay, Qaqortoq will leave you speechless for more than its tongue-twisting name.
Consider other off-the-beaten-path Northern European routes too, stopping at other unpronounceable and exciting destinations such as Nuuk and Nanortalik in Greenland.
Himeji has stepped straight out of the pages of a Japanese fairy tale. Topped by a confection that is the White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo), the city is most famous for its snow-white castle, one of the few remaining feudal castles in the country. Boasting spectacular views over the castle grounds and surrounded by age-old Buddhist temples and serene gardens, the city is spectacular year-round. In winter, the landscape is frosted with snow and in spring, it blushes with thousands of blooming cherry blossom trees.
Coron is the third-largest island in the dreamy Palawan archipelago, Philippines. There are two “Corons” to confuse matters slightly. Coron Town is located on Busuanga Island, whereas Coron Island is a little island, visited by day-trippers. Coron Island can be reached in 30 minutes by boat from Busuanga. Although Kayangan Lake is popular with tourists, locals say Barracuda Lake is just as beautiful – and unbelievably clear. The water is painted in every shade of blue, green or turquoise imaginable, making Instagram or Pinterest photos so perfect they truly don’t need a filter. Diving is a popular pastime, especially to the sites of the sunken Japanese warships, well preserved in their watery graves 25 to 30 metres underwater. There are also many smaller and quieter beaches and lagoons to discover.
Keeping it close to home
A local favourite, MSC Cruises, hopes to be cruising our regional waters this year, stopping at Lüderitz, Namibia, Port Louis in Mauritius and Pomene, Mozambique. Cruisegoers will be delighted to learn that a whole new voyage awaits with NCL’s Norwegian Jade set to make her South African debut from December 2021 through January 2022.
Norwegian Jade will embark on a 12-day Extraordinary Journey sailing, including visits to Lüderitz, Walvis Bay and Durban, and will feature overnight calls in Cape Town and Richard’s Bay along South Africa’s stunning coastline. 2020 saw the first NCL sailings to South Africa. Pre-pandemic, the global demand to explore the Indian Ocean and the shores of South Africa was incredibly strong, and so Norwegian Jade will make Norwegian Cruise Line history as the first ship in their fleet to offer roundtrip cruises from Cape Town.
This cruise itinerary is designed to appeal to both local and international guests and South Africans, in particular, will appreciate the Freestyle Cruising concept – offering unrivalled freedom, flexibility and the greatest choice on board – such as 21 dining options, solo-traveller staterooms and no fixed dinner times, seating orders or dress codes. If you are looking for a smaller and more intimate cruise, look no further than Oceania Cruises. Renowned for its boutique cruise experience and onboard cuisine, Oceania Nautica will be sailing round trip voyages from Cape Town in January 2021 before heading up to Singapore.
More effort with sustainability
Pre-pandemic, the cruise industry was putting in concerted efforts to improve recycling, and waste processing; reduce carbon emissions; and focus on energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable practices. Now rigorous health and safety protocols are on the agenda and the entire industry will look to ensuring the long term sustainability, both environmentally and health-wise, of these protocols.
The upgraded private beach experience
Private islands have always been a hallmark of cruising, and the cruise passenger of the future can expect more amenity and programming upgrades to come – along with announcements of brand-new private beach areas and resorts in the works. Several cruise lines have already staked claim to private islands. Carnival Cruise Lines has previously announced plans for an expansion of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, an island owned by the line. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) also unveiled an exclusive oceanfront lagoon area on their island, Great Stirrup Cay, with a private beach, luxurious villas, a spa, and new restaurant and bars. With the cruisegoer seeking out more exclusive and private experiences, the appeal of private islands, where health and safety can be governed “in-house,” is going to become an increasing trend.
Expedition cruises on the rise
A significant trend in cruising was the rise in popularity of river and expedition cruises. From Alaska to the Amazon, the expedition niche of the cruise industry has been steadily growing, with the cruisegoer looking for more than a ‘fly and flop’ cruise experience.
The expedition cruise industry will likely be the first to see a phased comeback in the post-pandemic recovery stages of cruise travel. Travellers will continue to seek out these authentic experiences and off-the-beaten-path locales when they take to the waters once more.
More perks for living the ‘suite’ life
Expect an increase in the demand for ‘outside’ cabins and suites with balconies, and an even sharper focus on a ‘priority everything’ cruise holiday when it comes to suite upgrades –embarkation, tendering, theatre seating and more.
By: Jenna Berndt