Cruising 101: Deciding on an Ocean Cruise Destination
Photo courtesy of Stéphan Poulin/Tourisme Montréal
In a series of cruise travel basic articles, we’ve already looked at how to best select a cruise line and choose a specific cruise ship. The next step is to determine just where it is you want to sail to, and deciding on a destination is dependent on a few more factors than you might initially be aware of.
If you selected a cruise line with a massive fleet of ships like Carnival Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean International, chances are it will be easy to head for any mainstream cruise destination and find a vessel that sails there. However, if you’re keen to cruise on the newest ships from any such company, they will frequently be deployed to the most popular areas in the world. More often than not, new vessels built in Europe start out in the Mediterranean and Baltic but soon end up in the Caribbean.
If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen a small-scale line like Azamara Club Cruises, for example, you will be limited to traveling only where its two ships are going at any given time.
READ MORE: Cruising 101: Choosing an Ocean Cruise Line
Then you also have to consider seasonality. The Caribbean and Europe have ships deployed to the region year-round, but others like Alaska and the Baltic have cruise ships visiting only during certain months during ideal weather conditions. Then again, regions that can be frigid during the winter like Norway still have lines like Hurtigruten visiting year-round, making Northern Lights viewing an option for the heartiest travelers in wintertime.
Seasonal destinations will also not feature every class of ship that cruise lines offer sent there. With some exceptions, niche Canada and New England, for instance, generally receives smaller older vessels whereas Alaska is more popular and has newer larger vessels deployed there. Many mainstream lines participate annually in these area, but ones with smaller fleets tend to skip for several years.
For those wanting to see the best of every destination, world cruises are the way to go, but like seasonal destinations, lines are likely to deploy one of their mid-sized or smaller vessels of an earlier vintage on such extended itineraries. Breaking that rule, however, will be Viking Ocean Cruises when it sends one of its brand-new ships on the route.
READ MORE: Cruising 101: Selecting an Ocean Cruise Ship
If you’ve been there, done that; plenty of more obscure destinations are reachable by expedition ships that extend well beyond the usual likes of, say, the Mediterranean. Silversea Expeditions, for instance, goes to the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic.
Alternatively, if you have a very specific destination or port in mind, in may be better to reverse engineer your overall cruise choice. Rather than starting by selecting a cruise line and then a destination, you may have to book from a shorter list of ships that actually call there.
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