I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE, MAN
Well no, you haven’t. And these under-the-radar destinations are sure to tempt career cruisers
As more travellers choose a cruise holiday, demand grows for variety from seasoned sailors. “Adventurous travellers are looking for cruises which visit destinations they haven’t been to before, or which are hard to reach via land and air,” says Adam Armstrong, managing director, RCL Cruises Australia and New Zealand.
Cruise lines are responding by continually expanding itinerary options. Here are some newer and more intriguing port destinations to visit in the 2017-18 cruise season.
TRISTAN DA CUNHA, BRITISH OVERSEAS TERRITORY
They call it the “remotest inhabited island in the world”. It takes seven days to get there from the closest port in Cape Town. Lying midway between Africa and South America, Tristan da Cunha is a volcanic mountainous island with a peak culminating at more than 2000m. It’s home to 265 people, 300 cattle and 500 sheep and in the surrounding waters, leatherback and loggerhead turtles.
In 2018, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Ponant will stop into this South Atlantic Ocean island, which is a British Overseas Territory.
HAMBANTOTA, SRI LANKA
The gateway to Bundala National Park on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, this is the port to see some of the island’s best wildlife. The national park is home to migratory waterbirds including flocks of greater flamingoes. Indian peafowl also roam, as do spoonbills, pelicans and painted storks. There’s also the opportunity to spot monitor lizards, monkeys and crocs. Also nearby is the busier Yala National Park for leopard and elephant spotting. A visit to the port of Hambanota is part of Azamara’s The Spice Route Voyage sailing November 2018.
SIR BANI YAS, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Sir Bani Yas is a natural island in the United Arab Emirates and one of the world’s newest cruise destinations.
Here, there’s a safe swimming beach (that permits sunbathing) lined with cabanas and bars. The island is also a nature reserve with endangered wildlife including a herd of 400 Arabian onyx as well as gazelles, hyenas and cheetahs, collected by Abu Dhabi’s late ruler, Sheikh Zayed. There are guided tours by 4x4 available to view the wildlife.
Seabourn, Silversea, Celebrity and MSC Cruises are some of the cruise lines stopping into the port in 2018.
CORON ISLAND, PHILIPPINES
Named “the last frontier”, Coron is the commercial capital of the Calamian Islands and offers a vista of limestone cliffs and jade green lagoons. It’s a scuba diver’s paradise as Coron Bay is home to a dozen World War II shipwrecks, as well as an abundance of clownfish and seahorses. Beyond the sea, horseback adventures are available in the jungle, as are treks through the mountains.
There’s also geothermic hot springs, and market stalls to visit. Seabourn and Silversea visit the port.
It’s Cuba’s “Pearl of the South”, and was settled in 1819 by French immigrants. The French touch can still be seen in the architecture (so incredible it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the locals’ mix of Caribbean and French joie de vivre. Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, as well as smaller lines such as Scenic and Star Clippers are stopping into the port, all fully approved (despite recent US government changes under President Donald Trump) to sail the region. Fortunately, the area was largely untouched by recent Hurricane Irma.
THE SCATTERED ISLES, FRENCH SOUTHERN AND ANTARCTIC LANDS
Situated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, the Scattered Islands are classified as a nature reserve.
Here, there’s almost entirely unspoilt vegetation, including flocks of seabirds that hover above. Lagoons are turquoise, the beaches are long and sandy, and in among the coral is the highest concentration of sea turtles in the world. The Scattered Isles fly the tricolour flag as part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Expedition cruise company Ponant, in partnership with GEO, has a 16-night itinerary leaving from Durban to discover the Scattered Island and the Seychelles.
Nudging the Arctic Circle, Siglufjordur is Iceland’s northernmost city; it’s also one of the world’s most picturesque ports. A new berth now allows for larger ships to visit the port, to sample local herring, Icelandic schnapps and rye bread, and watch ring dancing to accordion music. In summer, you can hike the mountains and in winter, don the skis and go cross-country, or explore via snowmobile. Silversea, Ponant, Seabourn and Peregrine are among cruise lines visiting in 2018.
While it’s true that some ships are already stopping into the city, 160km north of Sydney, a new $12.7 million cruise terminal, set to be opened in 2018, will mean that Newcastle will well and truly be a destination port on Australian cruises. It’s already well known that the city has some of the best bars (including The Edwards, owned by former band member of Silverchair, Chris Joannou), cafes, galleries, museums and boutiques.
Celebrity Solstice, Pacific Eden, Norwegian Jewel and Viking Spirit are just some of the ships to stop into Newcastle in 2018.
This coastal town in the west of Madagascar is well known for being the home of the otherworldly Avenue of the Baobabs, possibly the most famous treescape in the world.
Within driving distance (via fourwheel drive only) is Kirindy Reserve, home to seven species of lemurs as well as an array of amphibian and reptile species. A Silversea expedition cruise through Africa and the Indian Ocean on board Silver Discoverer will visit this port in 2018.
Part of the Yaeyama group of islands, Ishigaki is perfect for diving or just lying on the beach, namely in front of the turquoise waters of Kabira Bay. There’s a hilltop Shinto shrine to visit and low-lying palm forests to hike through. Be sure to sample the island pineapples and sugar cane candy from the covered market. While Princess Cruises are regular visitors, they will be joined by Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America and Celebrity Cruises in 2018.
Even seasoned sailors will marvel at new cruise destinations taking in the turquoise waters of Ishigaki’s Kabira Bay, Japan (main), the incredible baobabs in Morondava, Madagascar (below right), and wildlife in Sri Lanka.