As we pass the lush mangroves and head out into the open sea I feel the warm afternoon breeze on my face. The only sound is the splash of the paddles in the water as we follow in the wake of kayak expedition leader, Garth.
Stopping for a breather I drift along on the gentle current. Gazing into the clear shimmering water I can see the outline of the coral reefs. I know, from an earlier talk, that the 64 square miles of Caribbean Sea surrounding the island is now protected and home to 88 species of fish. Loggerhead turtles have also returned to lay their eggs on the beach close to where we set off.
Looking across the pristine sands, palm trees and pastel-coloured wooden buildings on Ocean Cay, MSC Cruise’s private island in the Bahamas, it’s hard to believe this was once an old sand mine.
Later, as the sun dips over the horizon, the balmy air fills with the unique tropical sound of Junkanoo music. Colourful dancers sway in time to the drumbeats and it’s impossible to stop my feet moving – less expertly – to the infectious rhythm.
When the ships come in
“Demand is increasing not just for cruises for summer 2022 but well into 2023,” says Antonio Paradiso, Managing Director MSC Cruises UK & Ireland.
“Cruise has always been unique when it comes to early booking, and since opening the sales of our 2023 itineraries we have already seen strong demand with particular interest in our ex-UK programme on MSC Grandiosa,” adds Paradiso.
Passengers are now “aiming high”, according to Ben Bouldin, Vice President EMEA at Royal Caribbean.
“The lifting of travel restrictions across the world makes it a perfect time to recommend ocean cruises, with more options available than ever,” he says. Consumers are looking to splurge their savings on a bucket list trip, bigger and better than before, to make up for the memories missed over the last few years. We saw the beginning of this trend after announcing our Ultimate World Cruise which sold over 70% in the first week.
“We’re excited to be able to offer a full European season this year, with eight ships sailing in Europe.”
At Celebrity Cruises, Jo Rzymowska, Vice President and Managing Director EMEA, says that with six ships in Europe for the summer, including the new Celebrity Beyond launched in Southampton and spending a maiden season in the Mediterranean, the Med was a top seller, while Alaska and the Galapagos were popular with adventure-seekers.
“Family and friends keen to make up for lost time are booking trips of a lifetime to all corners of the world, and what better way to see it than on a cruise,” she says. “Our first priority is the health and safety of our guests and crew, which is why all of our crew and eligible guests are fully vaccinated. We want our guests to have the very best holiday knowing that it is also the safest holiday so they can relax.”
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has also seen a trend for bucket list trips and Head of Sales, Geoff Ridgeon, comments: “The uptake we have had on our summer 2023 cruises shows people are already planning their travels for next year. People are also looking at once-in-a-lifetime trips so our longer grand voyages and world cruises are continuing to peak interest. We are also seeing demand continue to rise for our shorter sailings to Norway, with Rosyth departures proving particularly popular.”
Providing guaranteed winter sunshine and affordable fares at other times of the year, the Caribbean ticks all the boxes when it comes to palm-fringed beaches and warm waters that are fantastic for diving and snorkelling. The beauty of this region is that while all the islands share a tropical climate, they are all very different, from the spice island of Grenada to one-of-a-kind Cuba.
Many lines have their own private islands and Caribbean cruises are a top choice for families. Large ships have fantastic kids’ clubs and cruises can be sold with a stay in Florida to visit the theme parks.
Book it: The 670-passenger Azamara Onward is the latest vessel to join the destination-focused line. Its classic look will appeal to lovers of traditional vessels. A 10-night round-trip Miami eastern Caribbean voyage in December 2022 starts from £954pp. azamara.co.uk
Nowhere else in the world offers the contrasts that can be found in enigmatic Asia. In rural villages there are timeless floating markets where locals buy their wares and a few hours away some of the most cutting-edge cities on the globe.
Home to some of the world’s oldest civilisations, adventurous and curious clients will discover ancient history and modern innovations everywhere they go.
This is a destination for food-lovers, with the chance to try authentic Asian cuisine. Recommend excursions featuring food tours and tastings or cookery classes.
Book it: Cruising allows clients to experience different cultures in one trip which would be impossible on a land tour. A 12-night sailing in December 2022 on the 2,852-passenger Celebrity Solstice starts from Hong Kong and visits Vietnam and Thailand before ending in Singapore. Prices start from £1,185pp. celebritycruises.com
It’s easy to see why this vast cruise region, covering nearly one million square miles, is a perennial favourite with Brits. Teeming with history, it’s an ideal recommendation for culture vultures who can explore cities such as Rome and Florence which are living museums. With a wide range of cruises on ships ranging from luxury yachts to action-packed mega-vessels, Med sailings are also perfect for new-to-cruise clients.
They are generally divided into eastern (Greek Islands, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel) or western (Spain, France, Italy, Gibraltar and Morocco) itineraries, which also helps find the perfect fit for customers.
Book it: The line’s newly launched 5,448-passenger Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest-ever cruise ship with a new all-suite neighbourhood, is sailing the Mediterranean for its maiden season with two alternating itineraries departing from Rome and Barcelona. With departures until October 2022, a seven-night sailing is priced from £679pp. royalcaribbean.com
Australia and New Zealand
A cruise down under is a once-in-a-lifetime journey and full of big-hitting sights including the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest in the world, and Sydney Opera House, one of the world’s most instantly recognisable buildings, while in New Zealand Napier is famous for its amazing Art Deco architecture.
A destination for seasoned cruisers, consider packaging cruises with railway journeys, such as The Ghan train from Darwin to Adelaide or the Marlborough Flyer steam train from New Zealand’s cruise terminal at Picton.
This is also a fantastic destination for wine lovers and shore excursions include vineyard visits and tastings.
Book it: As clients are travelling such a long distance suggest a cruise tour so they can enjoy the best of both worlds. A 17-night Australian outback tour and cruise combines a six-night Australian land stay with a New Zealand cruise aboard Majestic Princess. Departing in December 2022, prices start from £3,810pp. princess.com
South and Central America
From the steamy tango in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires to the samba in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, this exotic cruise area is filled with natural and man-made marvels. Some sailings feature a transit through the Panama Canal, a bucket list experience for many cruisers.
The diverse and dramatic scenery is famous for its wildlife, a huge cruise selling point. Animals have no fear of humans in the Galapagos Islands, providing incredible photographic opportunities, while in Costa Rica national parks are home to red-eyed tree frogs, tapirs, sloths and brightly coloured birds.
Book it: After almost a decade, tall ship line Star Clippers is returning to Costa Rica from November 2022 to March 2023. The 166-passenger Star Clipper will sail on two itineraries along the Pacific coastline, using wind power as much as possible. A seven-night sailing starts from £1,500pp. starclippers.co.uk