10 HOT SHIP STOPS

Throw down the anchor. These cruise des­ti­na­tions are all the buzz right now

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - WISHLIST CRUISING - MELINDA BROWN­ING

1 TOR­RES STRAIT IS­LANDS, AUS­TRALIA

Western Aus­tralia’s Kim­ber­ley re­gion has been cap­ti­vat­ing cruise vis­i­tors for years – but now the “next big thing” in Aussie cruis­ing looks to be tak­ing off. Ex­pe­di­tion cruise op­er­a­tor Ahoy Buc­ca­neers is mak­ing its first foray out­side its base in the Kim­ber­ley to visit the Tor­res Strait, with its first cruise de­part­ing in Oc­to­ber. Five more de­par­tures are planned next year. Scat­tered across a 150km stretch of ocean be­tween Cape York and Pa­pua New Guinea, the Tor­res Strait ar­chi­pel­ago is home to stun­ning blue wa­ters, dugongs, dol­phins, gi­ant mar­lin and sea tur­tles. The round trip from Horn Is­land vis­its reefs to snorkel, fish and marvel at the beauty of na­ture, plus it’s a chance to en­joy a beer at Aus­tralia’s most northerly pub – the Tor­res Ho­tel on Thurs­day Is­land.

2 COCOCAY, BA­HAMAS

Cruise com­pany-owned pri­vate is­land ports are a grow­ing trend and Royal Caribbean is up­ping the ante with its Per­fect Day Is­land Col­lec­tion of pri­vate is­land des­ti­na­tions. First is its ex­ist­ing pri­vate is­land, CocoCay, which is un­der­go­ing a $260 mil­lion up­grade to feature a mas­sive wa­ter­park, zip line, he­lium bal­loon at­trac­tion and beach club by the end of next year. It’ll have a 41m-high wa­ter­slide – the tallest in North Amer­ica, says pres­i­dent and CEO Michael Bay­ley.

3 TAHITI ITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA

A lit­tle is­land with big surf, Tahiti Iti has been call­ing to surfers for years as the home of the Bil­l­abong Pro Teahupoo – and now cruis­ers are about to dis­cover Tahiti Iti. The is­land is the smaller sis­ter is­land of Tahiti Nui, and is the star of Paul Gau­guin Cruises’ new­est itin­er­ary. In June this year, Paul Gau­guin will be­come the first cruise line to visit Tahiti Iti’s port city of Vairao. The seven-night cruise de­parts from Papeete and vis­its Huahine, Motu Ma­hana off the coast of Taha’a, Bora Bora and Moorea. Cruis­ing’s love af­fair with French Polynesia con­tin­ues to boom, with 11 cruise lines al­ready sched­uled to call at Bora Bora in 2019.

4 JA­PAN

It’s the des­ti­na­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips and cruis­ing – like the rest of the tourism in­dus­try – is boom­ing in Ja­pan. Princess Cruises is ex­pand­ing its Ja­panese itin­er­ar­ies, with Di­a­mond Princess to visit a record 41 ports in Ja­pan next year, in­clud­ing six brand new des­ti­na­tions – Ga­m­agori, Himeji, Mat­suyama, Ni­igata, Miyako and Taka­matsu. Princess Cruises Aus­tralia and New Zealand vice pres­i­dent Stu­art Al­li­son says Ja­pan is the fastest grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity for Aus­tralians over the past five years with 175 per cent growth in vis­its since 2011.

Cu­nard Line is also ramp­ing up its Ja­pan im­mer­sion with Queen El­iz­a­beth to make five maiden calls across the coun­try planned over the 2019-20 sea­son, while Nor­we­gian Cruise Line has re­cently launched its first Ja­panese cherry blos­som sea­son cruises.

5 EGYPT

Off the radar for years, Egypt is now hav­ing a cel­e­brated re­turn to the tourist scene – and cruis­ing the Nile is one of the best ways to see the coun­try’s top at­trac­tions. Stretch­ing 6670km, the river is cred­ited as the world’s long­est and the bucket-list at­trac­tions of an­cient Egypt are sec­ond to none.

Scenic’s first Egypt tour in five years de­parts this month, fea­tur­ing a Nile cruise, and – thanks to “phe­nom­e­nal” in­ter­est – the com­pany is al­ready adding new de­par­tures. It fol­lows Vik­ing Cruises’ launch of its el­e­gant new Nile ship, Vik­ing Ra, this month – with de­mand so strong that de­par­tures are al­ready sold out for this year and next. Be quick if you’re keen to travel in 2020.

6 ALASKA, US

Alaska has sky­rock­eted up the charts in 2018 to be named the hottest des­ti­na­tion among US

travel agents (up from No.5 last year). Pre­mium cruise line Celebrity Cruises has recorded a 100 per cent in­crease in Aus­tralian trav­ellers join­ing its Alaska cruises over the past five years – “a phe­nom­e­nal in­crease” ac­cord­ing to Celebrity Cruises Aus­tralia and New Zealand direc­tor Adam Arm­strong, prompt­ing the cruise line to step up its Alaska ca­pac­ity by 20 per cent in 2019.

Within Alaska, cruise lines are find­ing new ports to ex­plore – like the tiny vil­lage of Larsen Bay on Ko­diak Is­land, pre­par­ing for its first cruise ship visit when Sil­versea’s lux­ury liner,

Sil­ver Ex­plorer, drops by in Au­gust. Fel­low lux­ury line Seabourn re­turned to Alaska last year for the first time in 15 years and the high­end Aza­mara Club Cruises will soon fol­low, vis­it­ing Alaska for the first time next year.

7 CON­FLICT IS­LANDS, PNG

P&O Cruises be­came the first cruise line to visit in 2016, and the Con­flict Is­lands are set to reap­pear in sev­eral of P&O itin­er­ar­ies next year. One of the most re­mote is­land groups in the world, the 21 pris­tine, un­in­hab­ited is­lands – pri­vately owned by en­tre­pre­neur and con­ser­va­tion­ist Ian Gowrie-Smith – span 375ha in the Coral Sea, and are home to one of the world’s most bio­di­verse reef sys­tems. Kayak­ing, snorkelling and stand-up pad­dle­board­ing are pop­u­lar pur­suits.

Lux­ury cruise line Seabourn has also joined the race to be among the first to ex­plore the is­lands with Seabourn Sojourn mak­ing sev­eral vis­its this year, while Cu­nard is set to fol­low suit, with Queen El­iz­a­beth’s maiden call sched­uled for 2020.

8 HO CHI MINH CITY, VIET­NAM

Tak­ing a cruise on a ship that’s about to get re­fur­bished mightn’t seem like your best bet for a top-notch cruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but there’s a sil­ver lin­ing – the chance to check out new des­ti­na­tions. Car­ni­val Spirit, usu­ally based in Syd­ney, is headed for dry dock in Sin­ga­pore next month, and pas­sen­gers who join her fi­nal jour­ney on May 3 will be on board for the ship’s maiden call to two Asian ports, Ko Sa­mui and Ho Chi Minh City. With the ship booked to be in port overnight at Ho Chi Minh City, trav­ellers can join the Viet­nam band­wagon and ex­plore the bright lights, great food and fas­ci­nat­ing culture of the bustling city of Saigon.

9 CUBA

It’s one of the hottest tick­ets in cruis­ing, hav­ing opened up to tourism in the past few years, and this year the hottest ves­sel to take you to Cuba is Scenic Eclipse. The six-star lux­ury ship sets sail for the first time in Au­gust, with an in-depth tour of Cuba sched­uled for Oc­to­ber. Sure, the 14-day jour­ney costs $15,000, but it’ll take you to some of Cuba’s most in­trigu­ing des­ti­na­tions, in­clud­ing the re­mote lo­ca­tion of An­tilla.

But if your bud­get doesn’t stretch to a berth on Scenic Eclipse, Nor­we­gian Cruise Line has re­cently ex­panded its line-up of Cuban tours for 2018, and lux­ury line Re­gent Seven Seas is spruik­ing eight up­com­ing Cuba cruises be­tween now and 2020.

10 PERU

From its In­can tem­ples to its pisco sours, Peru is a tourist draw­card and cruise lines are catch­ing on in droves. Dozens of ships are sched­uled to visit Lima this year – with Celebrity Cruises’ new ship, Aza­mara Pur­suit, set to make three maiden port vis­its in Peru soon af­ter launch­ing later this year, in­clud­ing the lesser vis­ited port of Salaverry (Tru­jillo).

And if you thought Machu Pic­chu was Peru’s one big-ticket at­trac­tion, think again. From din­ing with a 17th-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily mem­ber at Lima’s Casa de Aliaga – the old­est in­hab­ited house in the Amer­i­cas, built in 1536 – to par­tic­i­pat­ing in open-air yoga classes in the Para­cas Desert on a tour from Pisco, Celebrity is mak­ing sure cruis­ers get a unique taste of Peru on its shore ex­cur­sions.

JA­PAN

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK, SCENIC, AHOY BUC­CA­NEERS, SEABOURN

From Jodoga­hama Beach’s rock for­ma­tions in Ja­pan to the colour­ful na­tional in­de­pen­dence cel­e­bra­tions of Peru, there’s not much of the world that cruis­ers can’t see.

TOR­RES STRAIT IS­LANDS

EGYPT

PERU

ALASKA

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