There’s always an air of excitement when a cruise ship sails into a port it has never called at before – more so if that destination is one rarely visited by any vessel.
Although there are few places in the world today that cannot be explored by ship, cruise lines manage to throw tantalising new options into the mix that translate into new experiences (and bragging rights) for guests. Here is a selection of exciting destinations that ships will visit in the next year or two. (Fares include flights unless specified.)
1. Cayo Largo, Cuba
Regularly ranked among the top 10 beaches in the world, Playa Paraiso on Cayo Largo, a skinny isle off Cuba’s south coast, is the haunt of dreamers seeking laid-back seclusion. You could be on the only cruise ship scheduled to call there next spring during SeaDream Yacht Club’s inaugural Cuba season. Those able to drag themselves away from Playa Paraiso’s dazzling white sand may spot turtles and iguanas in the limpid blue water (and perhaps the odd traveller annoyed that you’ve discovered their secret paradise). A seven-night Cienfuegos to Havana cruise departing March 18, 2019, costs from £3,992pp excluding flights (0800 783 1373; seadream.com).
2. Samothraki, Greece
Home to the tallest mountain in the Aegean, and with waterfall-fed swimming holes plus two significant archaeological finds, it’s no wonder the Greek island of Samothraki has been sought out by Voyages to Antiquity as a new destination for its inquisitive guests. In 1863 a huge statue was unearthed on the island – that of Nike, the Winged Victory. Today she stands proud in Paris’s Louvre, but visitors to the island can see the remains of a 2,500-year-old temple, Sanctuary of the Great Gods, an important religous site. Ferries aside, Aegean Odyssey is the only passenger ship visiting Samothraki this year.
A 12-night Aegean Experience cruise, a round-trip from Athens departing October 10, 2018, costs from £2,595pp (01865 565844; voyagestoantiquity.com).
3. Bijagos Islands, Africa
Although the Bijagos archipelago consists of 88 islands, you’ve probably never heard of this piece of paradise located off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa. The islands are difficult to reach – unless you are travelling on a small ship – so it’s worth the journey aboard Ponant’s brand-new 92-cabin Le Dumont-d’Urville. These isles are a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, home to saltwater hippos as well as manatees, crocodiles, tortoises, notable birdlife and quiet beaches. Western visitors are still rare, so witnessing the islanders’ ancient traditions is a privilege.
An eight-night Adventure in the Bijagos Archipelago cruise, a round trip from Dakar departing October 8, 2019, costs from £3,680pp excluding flights (00 33 488 666400; en.ponant.com).
4. Jan Mayen, Arctic Ocean
Little Jan Mayen island in the Arctic could be considered a mini version of Iceland, 350 miles to the south – were it not for its conical volcano called Beerenberg, which, at 7,470ft, is higher than any peak on its larger “sister”. Lakes, glaciers and barren slopes make up the rest of Jan Mayen, which was found by whalers in the late 18th century. Cetaceans still patrol its waters. A few temporary inhabitants reside in meteorological outposts; they are heavily outnumbered by seabirds. Island visits are strictly controlled but Aurora Expeditions is planning to sail here with its new expedition ship, Greg Mortimer, in 2020. A 20-night Arctic Discovery cruise from Longyearbyen to Bergen, departing August 31, 2020, costs from AU$14,900/ £8,200pp excluding flights (020 7978 4534; auroraexpeditions.com.uk).
5. Chioggia, Italy
Protruding into the wondrous Venetian Lagoon, Chioggia is a much smaller version of its tourist-crammed neighbour. It has picturesque canals, bridges and fine architecture, but on an intimate scale. Usually, only river ships that explore the lagoon and the Po river stop here, but this autumn Fred Olsen’s Braemar will make a grand entrance (as well as overnighting in Venice itself). Visit the grand cathedral and pay a visit to the Church of San Domenico, located on its own small island. It houses the last signed masterpiece of painter Vittore Carpaccio. A 23-night Historic Towns and Cities of the Adriatic cruise, a round trip from Southampton departing October 2, 2018, costs from £2,799pp (0845 314 3801; fredolsencruises.com).
Read more: Mediterranean Cruise Port Guide
6. Maniitsoq, Greenland
With its razor-toothed mountains falling into the sea, coloured wooden houses perched on rocks and maybe an iceberg or whale to spot in the water, there’s much to look forward to at Maniitsoq. This pocket-sized port is included in a new Seabourn itinerary that takes in the south-west coast of Greenland before heading across to Canada. The island town tends to be bypassed by ships that sail this route – Seabourn Quest is the only one due to drop anchor here both this year and next, so expect the locals to turn out to greet you. A 23-night Route of the Vikings cruise from Reykjavik to Montreal, departing August 6, 2019, costs from £7,799pp excluding flights (0344 338 8615; seabourn.com).
7. Vilagarcia, Spain
Many pilgrims walk for weeks to reach Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain, where the apostle St James is said to be buried in the city’s magnificent cathedral. Most cruise-ship passengers jump on a coach from La Coruña or Vigo, but Oceania Cruises has found an easier way. This year Nautica will call at Vilagarcia de Arousa, an estuary town that is the closest port to Santiago. That way you can make the most of your time in the city, soaking up the history and sampling the fabulous seafood. A 14-night Iberian Radiance cruise from Southampton to Barcelona, departing September 26, 2018, costs from £3,579pp (0345 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com).
8. Antofagasta, Chile
Big Ben in Chile? Okay, the one in Antofagasta’s Plaza Colon is a much smaller replica, but it’s one of many surprises here. Chile’s second-largest city rarely makes it on to cruise itineraries, which is surprising as it is a gateway to the country’s vast Atacama desert and salt flats. Azamara Club Cruises will call here for the first time in December, with its newly acquired ship, Pursuit. Many guests will want to head up the coast to the beautiful 140ft rock arch, La Portada – or venture far out into the desert to see a giant concrete hand created in the 1980s by the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal. A 21-night South America cruise from Lima to Buenos Aires, departing December 1, 2018, costs from £3,618pp excluding flights (0844 493 4016; azamaraclubcruises.co.uk).
9. Toba and Himeji, Japan
Two maiden ports in Japan will be visited by Diamond Princess next year. At Toba, on the south coast of the main island, the aquarium is home to 1,200 species of marine creatures including a bizarre-looking sea cow, the dugong. Further west at Himeji, the World Heritage-listed castle is one of the most spectacular in Japan. Dating back 400 years, it is painted a dazzling white. The surrounding gardens set it off perfectly. A seven-night Spring Flowers cruise, a round trip from Tokyo departing April 3, 2019, costs from £1,169pp excluding flights (0344 338 8663; princess.com).
10. Thursday Island, Australia
Sandwiched between Papua New Guinea and the Australian mainland, few places in Australia are as remote as the Torres Strait archipelago. Thursday is between Wednesday and Friday islands, thought to have been named by a post-mutiny Captain William Bligh in 1792. This speck in the Pacific will be a stop for Viking Cruises’ new ship Orion, when it sails in Asia and Australasia later this year. Thursday is a melting pot of cultures and has a 19th-century hill fort, shops selling local pearls and 13 churches – unusually for Australia, these outnumber pubs. A 16-night Komodo and the Australian Coast cruise from Bali to Sydney, departing November 30, 2018, costs from £5,155pp (0800 458 6900; vikingcruises.co.uk)
11. Sur, Oman
Oman is known for its hospitality so imagine the welcome that will greet the sole visit by a cruise ship next spring. Guests on Silversea’s Silver Shadow will find much to fascinate in the reputed home of Sinbad, including a 13th-century castle, a pleasant seafront promenade and watchtowers guarding a harbour full of traditional dhows (the boats are still built here). Not far away the dramatic gully of Wadi Shab offers an authentic taste of desert life. A 14-night Dubai to Athens cruise on April 26, 2019, costs from £3,510pp excluding flights (0844 251 0837; silversea.com).
12. Mocha, Chile
About 20 miles off the coast of Chile, the small island of Mocha punches way above its weight. Legends abound. A sperm whale spotted here was said to be the inspiration for Moby Dick. Indigenous Mapuche people believed that Mocha was where the souls of the dead came to rest, while pirates loved its remoteness. Today, most of the world’s pink-footed shearwaters nest here. Mocha is an unusual stop on a new One Ocean Expeditions voyage aboard Resolute, which will also penetrate deep into the spectacular wilderness of the Torres del Paine National Park. A 13-night Chilean Fjord Adventure sailing from Ushuaia to Valparaiso and departing March 31, 2019, costs from S$5,695/£4,489pp excluding flights (00 35 1 962 721 836; oneoceanexpeditions.com).
13. Lysekil, Sweden
If the attractive coastline of western Sweden has not already engaged your attention – painted wooden buildings perched on rocks – then the sight of Lysekil Church certainly will. Passengers on Regent Seven Seas’ all-inclusive Explorer will see its soaring, slender spire before they dock in this charming town. Ashore, there’s a clutch of things to do, including shoreside walks and bike rides and a boat safari to spot seals. Many of the critters that live in the crystal waters can be seen at the town’s aquarium. Then you can try eating some of them – the region is revered for its crayfish and crab. An 18-night Copenhagen to Reykjavik cruise departs July 17, 2020, from £12,349 per person (02380 682280; rssc.com)