Destinations

10 cruise vacations to take in 2024: best ships and itineraries

Regent Seven Seas’ latest Grandeur ship is full of luxurious amenities — Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas

Versace tableware in a restaurant that feels like an electrified topsy-turvy forest. A blingy atrium chandelier inspired by a tennis bracelet. Hand-blown glass cherry blossoms and wallflowers designed by Coco Chanel. And a custom-designed Fabergé egg in a nest of pearls on a seven-seas-motif pedestal. The beauty of Regent Seven Seas’ Grandeur cruise ship lies in its details.

The luxury cruise line is already known for its high-end amenities, exquisite beauty, and ports of call. There’s so much to discover on Grandeur, from the mesmerizing fish-bowl fantasy of the Observation Lounge to restaurants ranging from pan-Asian to French and classic steakhouse. Take a cooking class with chef John Stephano in the Culinary Arts Kitchen one day, and end the night with glam stage productions to inspire the sweetest dreams.

This all comes on a cruise ship where fewer than 750 passengers occupy 372 balcony suites, and 548 crew members are aboard to indulge every whim.

The Grandeur is just one cruise ship that excels and elevates the cruising experience, as luxury lines continue to outdo each other with over-the-top vessels, services, and itineraries.

Here, in no particular order (impossible to rank such varied offerings), are 10 bucket-list cruise vacations not to miss this year.

Regent Seven Seas’ Grandeur: Spotlight on Fabergé

The first Fabergé egg at sea is part of the Grandeur's art collectionThe first Fabergé egg at sea is part of the Grandeur’s art collection — Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas

My fascination with Fabergé and Grandeur’s first-ever Egg Objet in residence puts this 10-night, all-inclusive European cruise on my bucket radar. Departing from Rome’s Civitavecchia port on July 1, it hits such ports as Valletta, Malta; Ibiza, Spain; and Marseille, France.

It includes pre-cruise experiences, excursions, private tours, and onboard discussions tied to Fabergé. Onboard, the attraction is the ship’s godmother, Sarah Fabergé, great-granddaughter of legendary artist-jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, and the first-ever Fabergé egg nested permanently on a cruise ship, dubbed “Journey in Jewels.”

Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas: Eastern Caribbean

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas rules in the size departmentRoyal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas rules in the size department — Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

When size matters, here’s a cruise ship so big, it has neighborhoods — eight of them, to be exact. Although, at 1,198 feet long, Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas isn’t just about size. One of 2024’s newest cruise ships, it’s now in the spotlight, thanks to the high-profile launch with international soccer star Lionel Messi.

To thrill every type of vacationer with theme park largesse, the more than 40 restaurants and entertainment options are unequaled. This Eastern Caribbean cruise departs from Miami with stops in St. Kitts, St. Thomas, and Royal Caribbean International’s private Bahama island, CocoCay.

French Country Waterways’ Nenuphar: Canals of Champagne

Nenuphar plies the waterways of Champagne for bubbly and top cuisineNenuphar plies the waterways of Champagne for bubbly and top cuisine — Photo courtesy of French Country Waterways

The ultimate in exclusive cruising, French Country Waterways’ Nenuphar transports 12 guests on a gustatory voyage through the waterways of France’s most celebrated wine region. Regal staterooms with antique provincial furnishings and innovative cuisine make the onboard experience enough to celebrate. Imagine exploring grand cathedrals and gardens, touring and tasting at prestigious wine cellars, and a special Michelin-rated dinner with wine pairings.

Guests also can enjoy independent walking and bicycling excursions along the canals and into charming villages. The inclusive cruise builds in a fully stocked open bar and wines, many from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards.

Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper: Barbados to Lisbon Ocean Crossing

The Royal Clipper is the largest in the Star Clippers fleetThe Royal Clipper is the largest in the Star Clippers fleet — Photo courtesy of Star Clippers

For those enamored by square-rigged sailing ships, a 16-day ocean crossing aboard Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper, a Guinness World Record-setting ship for size, is the ultimate. She boasts 42 majestic sails, plus modern amenities to balance with old-world elegance.

There’s plenty to fill your days at sea, including water sports, a spa and health club with underwater portholes, social lounges, 19,000 square feet of open deck, and mast-climbing to crow’s nests 75 feet above the water. The one port of call between Barbados and Lisbon allows the opportunity to explore the Azores on the gorgeous and historic Portuguese island of San Miguel.

Scenic Eclipse II: Discover the Kimberley Coastline (Australia)

The Scenic Eclipse II has veranda suites and lots of dining optionsThe Scenic Eclipse II has veranda suites and lots of dining options — Photo courtesy of Scenic Group

Aboard the Scenic Eclipse II, an 11-day itinerary titled, “An Ancient Wilderness Wonderland,” travels along the rugged Australian coast from Darwin to Broome. Discover waterfalls, rookery islands, reefs, and nature reserves on inflatable boat excursions, or luxuriate aboard the cruise ship that’s outfitted for exploration and pampering.

With a one-to-one crew ratio, you’ll want for nothing. As one of the best boutique cruise lines, the 228-passenger ship features veranda suites and 10 dining experiences. On the intellectual side, expect deep-dive lectures and educational programs from a team led by award-winning wilderness expert Mike Cusack.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s Ilma: Maiden Voyage from Monte Carlo to Rome

Ilma's pool deck fits the Ritz-Carlton brand to a teeIlma’s pool deck fits the Ritz-Carlton brand to a tee — Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

The second luxury superyacht for the new Ritz-Carlton brand, which debuts September 2, offers a Mediterranean cruise that takes in medieval hilltop towns along the Livorno countryside, Florence, the French Riviera, and the sophisticated ports of Corsica and Porto Cervo. It sails into the Roman port Civitavecchia eight days later.

With fewer than 450 passengers aboard and a near one-to-one crew ratio, Ilma, like its predecessor Evrima (the first-ever hotel-company cruise ship), is all about personal, exclusive service. Suites with private terraces, a nice mix of fine restaurants and bars, a signature brand spa, plus an onboard marina bring its level of amenities to the Ritz standard.

Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer: Antarctica Direct

Kayaking excursions get Explorer guests up-close to Antarctica wildlifeKayaking excursions get Explorer guests up-close to Antarctica wildlife — Photo courtesy of Sven-Olof Lindblad

Those looking for high arctic adventure and enrichment with the most luxury and least travel time possible will find it aboard Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, which skips the slow crossing through the Drake Passage with a quick flight.

Built for polar exploration and recently refurbished to bolster its luxe adventure mission, Explorer maximizes its observation experience with high perches and a welcoming bridge. You become part of the scenery with wildlife explorations on kayaking and inflatable excursions, from onboard observation vantages, and even from staterooms outfitted with “Command Center” tools.

The eight-day itinerary begins in Puerto Natales, Chile, with a two-hour flight to King George Island to board the Explorer. Whales, penguins, elephant seals, icebergs, and glaciers headline the breathtaking views, all of which are interpreted by expert team members. Three departure dates are available during the Explorer 2024 season: Nov. 26, Dec. 1, and Dec. 15.

Silversea’s Silver Nova: Panama City to Lima

Silversea's on-board S.A.L.T. lab is a foodie paradiseSilversea’s on-board S.A.L.T. lab is a foodie paradise — Photo courtesy of Silversea

Food and fine dining have always beat at the heart of the cruising experience, but Silversea’s S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) concept takes culinary cruising to the next level. Developed by a James Beard award-winning editor, the program immerses guests into rare on-shore and on-board foodie fantasies.

On this seven-day cruise aboard the all-suites, 728-passenger Silver Nova, shore excursions visit a cacao hacienda in Ecuador and include a gala with Peruvian dinner in a colonial Lima mansion.

UnCruise’s Family Wilderness Adventurer: Juneau to Juneau

Families can take the polar plunge in Glacier BayFamilies can take the polar plunge in Glacier Bay — Photo courtesy of UnCruise

In an informal poll among fellow travel writers about the best Alaskan cruises, UnCruise was a clear winner. They cited its small-boat ability to go where no others have gone before them (apologies to “Star Trek”) and the fact that guests have the option to take daily off-boat excursions, from hiking to kayaking.

In the past, UnCruise excursions into Glacier Bay were age-limited. New in 2024, the cruise line offers a family-friendly itinerary. Specially tailored family activities fill the eight days in renowned Glacier Bay National Park aboard the 60-guest Adventurer. Six Family Explorer cruises are on the docket starting in June.

Viking Sky: World Voyager I

The Explorers' Lounge of the Viking Ocean ShipThe Explorers’ Lounge of the Viking Ocean Ship — Photo courtesy of Viking

Move over, Magellan and Phineas Fogg. They’re not the only ones who can go around the world. You can too!

Board Viking Sky to circumnavigate the globe — the ultimate cruise. A Dec. 19 departure from Fort Lauderdale ends up in New York City three months later. In between, you’ll visit 37 countries with the possibility of 83 guided, culturally immersive tours, from Panama and Los Angeles to Tahiti, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Turkey.

Although more commonly aligned with river cruises, Viking boasts ocean liners with the same small-ship (930 guests max) nimbleness and sleek, Scandinavian design. Viking Sky’s staterooms garner praise for their private verandas and understated elegance.

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