Cruise holidays have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and it’s no longer about endless days at sea only to disembark at a port to follow an umbrella-wielding rep. These days, cruise companies offer luxury voyages on smaller ships that allow you to visit some of the most interesting and remote areas on earth. From a voyage to Antarctica to a journey through the epic Panama Canal, our Travel team picks four of the most impressive itineraries.
At the very tip of Argentina, the town of Ushuaia sits at the point where the mighty Andes meet the Southern Ocean. From here, Silversea embarks on monthly round trips through the ice-chocked Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Few ships that pass this way are as luxurious as the Silver Explorer, a five-deck icebreaker with grand state rooms, a cinema, spa, library and lavish dining room.
Days at sea are spent watching for humpback, orca and minke whales and attending talks from leading scientific experts. When the ship reaches the Antarctic coast, passengers embark on guided day trips on board Zodiac inflatables – a major highlight is a day at Whalers Bay on the ominously-named and totally uninhabited Deception Island. Here, a rusting whale oil station lies as a reminder of the island’s history and an active volcano bubbles away in the distance.
Few cruise holidays are as convenient as Silversea’s voyage through northern Europe, which sets sail from London’s Tower Bridge on a monthly basis. The first stop on the 12-day journey is Amsterdam, before the Silver Wind ship cuts through the 60-mile Kiel Canal which links the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. In the days that follow, there are opportunities to explore Germany’s overlooked northern coastal towns like Wismar and historical trading cities in Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Finland.
On day 10, the golden spires and gilt domes of St Petersburg appear on the horizon. Built on more than 100 islands and connected by 342 bridges, arriving by boat is the most fitting way to enter this magnificent city. Two full days here will allow passengers enough time to visit the grand palaces and galleries, tour the endless canals and get an insight into the city’s cutting-edge dining scene. It’ll be hard to leave, but a day in Estonia’s capital Tallinn before the voyage ends in Stockholm makes it much more bearable.
The sea has played such an important part in the history of New England that it has engrained itself into every aspect of life among the coastal communities. It’s a fascinating region to explore by boat and Seabourn’s 450-passenger vessel, Quest, is small enough to dock at beautiful harbour towns in Maine and Nova Scotia, where you can gorge on some of the world’s finest seafood. The 10-day cruise begins in Quebec, before looping around Prince Edward Island via the majestic Saguenay Fjord.
The ship underwent a $250million refurbishment in 2011 and remains one of the most stylish of its kind in the world. Lifestyle concierge members who have sailed on her loved the outdoor pool surrounded by wooden decking, the old-world library, and the sizable guestrooms. We especially recommend opting for a suite with a balcony on the starboard side so you can watch the sun set behind the craggy coastline every evening.
The first idea of building a canal through Panama is credited to the King of Spain, Charles V, in 1534 who proposed a waterway to speed up passage between his home nation and colonised Peru. However, it wasn’t until four centuries later that US-led construction would begin. It’s one of humankind’s most extraordinary engineering feats and today more than 13,000 ships use the canal each year, including the Seabourn Odyssey. The luxury liner embarks from Florida’s Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena in Columbia and on to the atmospheric fort town of Portobelo in Panama – the final stop before the boat enters the mighty canal.
Stretching 48 miles, it takes a day to traverse the waterway before the cruise continues up the Pacific coast, with stops in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico before the voyage ends in Los Angeles.
Pictured: Seabourn Odyssey | Silver Explorer photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises | Silver Wind photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises | Seabourn Quest | Seabourn Odyssey
Last updated on 26 May 2016