Hot Spots of 2012

Cruise Passenger takes a look at the emerging hot spots for 2012.

If there is one thing you can be certain of in life it’s that things never stay the same and this is just as much the case in cruising as anything else. The world is a smorgasboard of cultural, geographical and natural delights and in 2012 changes in passenger demand, political stabilisation and cruise-line initiatives are opening up a number of new areas for cruise passengers to taste and enjoy.

Cuba, West Africa, and the river systems of the Mississippi and Asia are predicted to be the year’s hot spots. Established cruise lines are offering first-time ventures, there is a greater variety of ocean and river itineraries available, and thus more accessibility for the Australian cruise public.

When Fidel Castro ceded control of Cuba to Raul Castro in 2008, Fidel’s decidedly negative attitude to cruising gave way to the more open-armed approach of his brother. Since 2009, Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines, Compagnie du Ponant, Aida Cruises and Tropicana Cruises have been offering port stays in Cuba on Caribbean itineraries, and the gathering of Cuban cruise market momentum combined with a recent relaxation of US regulations, looks likely to make 2012 a big year.

Australians in particular can benefit from the new offerings of Variety Cruises; its recently announced Cuban itineraries for 2012-13 marketed to Aussies with selected cabins at 20 per cent off if booked before June 20, 2012.

The nations of West Africa have for a long time been plagued by political and corporate corruption, violent guerilla warfare, famine and depressed economies. While circumstances are now by no means rosy, the relative political stability of the region has attracted the interest of expedition cruisers seeking to explore this once dangerous territory.

Zegrahm Expeditions is offering a number of West African itineraries, including ‘Tracing the West Coast of Africa’ in which, cruising from Cameroon to Senegal, passengers will explore such places as Ghana, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Variety Cruises will also take passengers on week-long explorations of the rivers of The Gambia and Senegal, and Silversea is offering three West Africa itineraries on the 132-guest, luxury expedition cruise vessel Silver Explorer.

River cruising will continue its rapid growth, with experts expecting the river systems of Asia, now plied by deluxe river vessels, to attract experienced river cruisers seeking to venture beyond the familiar hills, valleys and cities of Europe. And the inaugural season of The Great American Steamboat Company will no doubt feature prominently as, come April, guests on the luxurious traditional steamboat American Queen drift through the history, culture and beauty of America’s Deep South.