As the fastest-growing sector of travel, with some 11 million people boarding vessels each year, the cruise industry must relentlessly reinvent itself, adding fresh ports of call, itineraries, onboard activities, shore excursions—and ships. And as the ships become more luxurious and the destinations ever more far-flung—from Coquimbo, Chile, to Maputo, Mozambique—getting there is more than half the fun. Want to learn about art, study a language, watch penguins waddle across an ice shelf?Whatever your interest(s), there’s a voyage (or two) for you. T+L has the latest offerings for seven types of trips, plus booking tips and a sneak peek at ships that will be christened in the New Year.
THE SHIP Oceania Cruises’ Nautica
THE ITINERARY Tracing the conquests of the 16th-century Ottoman Empire, the 684-passenger Nautica sails from Athens across the Aegean, through the Bosporus, and over the Black Sea to Yalta and Sevastopol, in Ukraine, then to medieval Nesebûr, Bulgaria, finishing in Istanbul. You’ll spend days in port exploring the ruins of Ephesus and the onion domes of Odessa with specialized guides, and evenings on board kicking back in your balcony suite, dining on Jacques Pépin’s sautéed sea bream with olive tapenade, and catching lectures by renowned classics scholars.
THE DETAILS Twelve-day cruises depart July 2 and September 2; 800/531-5619; www.oceaniacruises.com; from $2,999 per person, double.
THE SHIP Silversea’s Silver Whisper
THE ITINERARY See some of the wonders of the world on the Silver Whisper. The Passage Through Antiquity cruise takes you from Dubai via the Suez Canal to Alexandria, the Pearl of the Mediterranean, where a side trip to the Great Pyramids is just a car ride away. In addition to learning about classic civilizations on expert-led tours of Petra and Luxor, you can study ancient as well as modern shopping habits in the souks of Oman and the supersized malls of Dubai. A few bonuses: every stateroom has a balcony, the passenger-to-crew ratio is almost 1-to-1, and on such a small ship, you’re sure to rub elbows with celebrity guest lecturers, such as Egypt’s director of antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass.
THE DETAILS The 15-day Passage Through Antiquity cruise departs March 25; 877/215-9986; www.silversea.com; from $8,695 per person, double.
Southern Africa and Mount Kilimanjaro
THE SHIP Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity
THE ITINERARY Between segments of the Treasures of Sun and Sea world cruise, test your fitness with an adrenaline-spiked journey up the highest freestanding peak on the planet. Crystal has partnered with Micato Safaris to take you from Nairobi through the bush to Marangu, where you’ll hike four hours a day in grassland, desert, rain forest, and ice fields. As one of Micato’s pampered campers, you’ll never have to pitch a tent or cook a meal, plus you’ll see the Big Five in their natural habitat and take in the view from the top of the world. On the ship, reward yourself with dinner at Crystal’s outpost of Nobu, or a tasting with the Society of Wine Educators.
THE DETAILS Fourteen-day Treasures of Sun and Sea segments depart February 14 (Buenos Aires to Cape Town) and March 3 (Cape Town to Dubai); 800/804-1500; www.crystalcruises.com; from $7,392 per person, per segment, double; Conquering Kilimanjaro excursion $7,250 per person, double.
Alaska and Denali National Park
THE SHIP Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess
THE ITINERARY From Vancouver, head up the Pacific to Alaska’s Ketchikan, Juneau, and Glacier Bay National Park, where icy peaks silently slip past your balcony. In Whittier, disembark into a glass-enclosed Denali Express railcar that whisks you through the Alaska Range and Hurricane Gulch in time for dinner at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Use the extra time you have, compared with other cruise lines’ itineraries (thanks to the fact that Princess owns the railcars here), to take a helicopter flight over the glaciers, white-water raft in Denali National Park, or simply watch the majestic caribou brooding over the vast emptiness.
THE DETAILS Seven-day Alaska cruises with the three-day Direct-to-Wilderness rail trip run from May through September; 800/774-6237; www.princess.com; from $1,399 per person, double; cruise only from $649 per person, double.
THE SHIP SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I
THE ITINERARY On this voyage, food is the focus, with gastronomic excursions nearly everywhere you dock. In Portofino, guests are invited to visit the romantic Hotel Splendido, where a sommelier and chef guide them through a private olive-oil tasting and a lunch of regional dishes (braised local lobster and scampi, fillet of rabbit with ham and sage). On another day, the ship’s chef takes a small group ashore to purchase fresh herbs, then teaches them to prepare a pesto dish, which is served for dinner that evening. (The cost of this extra?It’s free.)
THE DETAILS Seven-day voyage from Monte Carlo to Rome departs June 23; 800/707-4911; www.seadream.com; from $6900 per person, double.