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Top cruise holidays for unique experiences

In 2023, cruise holidays bounced back. We began to board bigger ships and indulged in new experiences such as food tastings. A seamless service also arose alongside an increase in touchless and biometric technology. By the end of 2023, bookings were well above those seen in 2019.

Today, a cruise holiday can be an affordable all-inclusive holiday option. All accommodation, some meals, and entertainment are included. Plus, there’s a range of destinations to explore and cultures to observe during the voyage. This year, 32% of Baby Boomers are also planning ocean cruise holidays. So, the cruise industry is set to celebrate 2024 as the year of the cruise.

If you’re considering a cruise but are unsure which to choose, we’ve pinpointed some of the best cruise holidays to feed your thirst for adventure. Each will provide you with unique experiences and itineraries.

cruise holidays for unique experiences


International Cruise Holidays and World Cruising

Saga Cruises have created adventurous trips for you to visit international destinations. For example, board the Spirit of Discovery from Portsmouth to go island hopping around The Caribbean for a month. On route, you’ll enjoy panoramic excursions among the Azores, before admiring the aqua waters of the Caribbean sea. The sun-soaked islands you can visit include Barbados, Antigua, and Grenada.

If you have time, embrace world cruising. Holland America’s ship – Rotterdam- embarks on a grand world voyage for over 24 days. Begin your adventure in Amsterdam and glide gracefully to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, after cruising around northern Europe. On the way, you’ll dock into some contrasting European cities such as old Oslo and charismatic Cork, before walking along the sands of Half Moon Cay. This is not just a private island in the Bahamas – it’s a well-known paradise!

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Also, see more of the world such as Antarctica and the Galapagos, or even some hidden gems that no one speaks of during a Silversea Exhibition. This liner offers exciting cruise holidays that can take you to the ends of the world. For example, their Silver Origin ship sails among the Galapagos Islands, and includes a butler service. Plus, an Ecuadorian-inspired cuisine throughout.

On the other hand, the refurbished Silver Wind vessel can take you on an intimate expedition down the iconic Drake Passage, directly to the centre of Antarctica. Either route provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe and capture some of the world’s shyest and rarest creatures on camera.

animals of Antarctica

Cruise holidays around the Greek Isles and Italy

Book a cruise with the Norwegian Cruise Line for an odyssey around Greece’s ancient islands, to see Malta, and to discover Italy’s hidden masterpieces. Each destination you visit will have its own story to tell. For instance, you can admire archaeological sites in Mykonos or stroll along volcanic-sandy beaches in Santorini. Throughout your trip savour some seafood and go wine tasting when visiting the continent’s colourful markets.

On board, the ship, programs for children aged six months and up include sensory play and circus games. Also, you may find time to watch a show or take a dip in the aqua park. When you need a refreshment there are nearly 20 bars to choose from.

Mediterranean cruises

From Barcelona, you can experience the magic of Disney on the high seas. Children can meet their favourite characters and take part in creative workshops. In between, you can all chill out with a classic Disney movie.

When on dry land, learn about the notorious eruption of Vesuvius in Naples. Then walk among Roman architecture, before alighting upon historic sites, such as the pantheon. In Florence seek out some hidden art, capture the Leaning Tower of Pisa on camera, and tuck into the Mediterranean’s creative culinary scene.

cruise holiday food

A Norwegian cruise holiday

Travelling with children?

Plan a half-term trip to the Norwegian Fjords with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line from Southampton. It’s meant to be one of the best family-friendly cruises. On sea days, watch films in the 3D theatre or attempt the rock climbing wall – with the bonus of spectacular sea views. You can also dive into one of the many swimming pools and relax in the spa.

The ship will dock in three traditional towns in Norway on the route. These include artistic Alesund, full of Art Nouveau architecture and home to the picture-perfect Sunmore Alps. Also, pick an excursion to see the Briksdal Glacier in quaint Olden. Then visit Bergen, a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, where you can try a selection of seafood.

River Cruise Holidays

While cruising across the sea on a large cruise ship, you can experience a range of entertainment and attractions suitable for all ages and interests. During ‘sea days’ (in-between onshore excursions), you can visit waterparks, watch enchanting acrobatic performances, or even explore a theme park. Also, in recent years, cruise lines have created a range of onboard experiences and programs for children.

cruise holidays

However, the benefit of booking a river cruise is that they carry fewer people than a cruise ship. This is an ideal option if you want to escape the crowds and have a little more peace and quiet while away.

Want to know the best time to go on a river cruise in Europe?

Book one during late spring (April-May) or early autumn (September-October). For example, welcome the joys of spring by setting sail through Holland. Admire the blooming tulip fields and visit the colourful Keukenhof Park, which is famous for its fabulous floral displays. Then cruise down the Dutch Waterways to admire Amsterdam in full bloom.

For a little more heat, take in the dramatic scenery on the river Douro. Said to be Portugal’s river of gold, along its banks you can stop into Regua and Pinhao to sample fine wine in the famous vineyards. Back on the river you can enjoy the views from panoramic windows or take a dip in the pool on the sundeck.

Considering a river cruise for Christmas?

Here are our suggestions…

river cruise holidays

Christmas Cruise Holidays

If you’re gearing up for a Christmas break a Grand River Cruise at Christmas could be for you. Explore traditional Christmas market towns and walk among a winter wonderland of twinkling lights. While breathing in the sweet, warm aroma of gingerbread. Then back on board to tuck into festive food and allow yourself to be carried away by traditional entertainment.

For instance, in France, float along the scenic Seine River, from a festive Paris to Normandy. On route, you’ll dock into the traditional towns of Rouen and Honfleur and peer at cheerful illuminated lights. Then visit the snow-covered Martainville castle, before returning for a Gala Dinner to warm your soul.

cruise holiday at Christmas

Or you could sail from Germany to Austria and pay pretty Durnstein a visit. Sail down the upper Danube, where you’ll meander through the UNESCO heritage site Wachau Valley. This beautiful valley has the most splendid scenery on the river. Then wake up in Vienna, to discover elegant buildings adorned with Christmas lights and décor on Christmas day.

If you’d like to explore Europe’s oldest Christmas market sail along the River Rhine from Cologne to Koblenz in Germany during a river cruise. On route, you’ll stumble upon Strasbourg in France, as well as the magical, medieval town of Mainz. On board the ship, you’ll enjoy premium cruise accommodation, as well as live cooking stations and regional treats throughout.

Family sailing cruise


Travel Insurance for International Cruise Holidays

Wherever you go on your ship don’t forget to take Free Spirit travel insurance for your cruise holiday. Our policy includes Coronavirus cover if you have to cancel your holiday, which is one of its key benefits. Although the majority of us are fully vaccinated against Coronavirus, we can never rule out catching it before or during a trip. This means that travelling with insurance is still a good idea – for you and all your companions.

Download the new COVID Cruise Guidelines.

New to cruising? View some top cruise travel tips on the Cruise Critic website to help you prepare for your first cruise. Wherever you sail travel, with confidence.

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