Just when you thought you’d got to grips with the world of cruise, along comes a new year with more vessels, innovations and trends.

Experience rules

CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer says there are several trends agents need to be aware of as we enter 2020, including demand for more adventurous and luxurious voyages and solo travel.

“Travellers are shifting away from personal possessions and instead investing in experiences,” he says.

“Bookings to polar regions such as Antarctica are set to increase and a growing number of travellers are expected to take both ocean and river cruises in far-flung destinations, particularly in Asia.”

Harmer advises agents with clients seeking adventure holidays to talk about the destination and the experiences. For solo travellers, he recommends agents make them aware of the number of cruise lines waiving single supplements and the dual attraction of having your own space and opportunities for social interaction.

For luxury travellers, understanding each client’s ‘passions and requirements’ is vital if they are to help them choose the right cruise, he says. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines confirms there is a new adventurous streak amongst its passengers, with a growing number of them choosing fly-cruises to some of the world’s most exotic, far-flung destinations.

In response it is designing excursions to deliver more authentic experiences, such as a Geisha dance and tea ceremony on Boudicca’s Authentic Japan fly-cruise from Tokyo in January 2021.

Fred Olsen Sales and Marketing Director Jackie Martin says: “We are committed to tailoring and improving our shore tours, and also coming up with more connecting excursions that support the concepts that underpin each cruise.” Australia, Japan, the Galapagos Islands and Turkey (the latter now back on the cruise map as fears of terrorism have dwindled) are all in demand as cruisers get more adventurous.

But while it is tempting to think that everyone is looking to go somewhere exotic, agents should not ignore traditional favourites. Crystal Cruises’ UK Marketing Director Elaine Gillard says: “Our 2020 Mediterranean cruises are flying off the shelves and our shorter Getaway sailings are selling really well.”

On the rivers, activity and wellness are the buzzwords for 2020, while hot destinations include the Nile in Egypt, the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia and the Lower Danube through Eastern Europe, and France.

Viking Cruises is launching four new river ships on the Seine this year (scaled-down versions of its Longships, the vessels each hold 168 passengers), while in 2021, AmaWaterways is moving the AmaLyra to the Seine and the AmaKristina and AmaCello to the Rhone as demand for France grows.

AmaWaterways Sales, Marketing and Digital Director Jamie Loizou says: “We saw an uplift in sales for our Paris and Normandy itinerary for the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings and the interest is continuing for 2020. “January can be incredibly busy, but agents need to remain focused. Sell on value rather than price and talk about choice and what is included within the fare,” he advises.

What’s new

Carnival Cruise Line makes its Greek Islands debut in 2021 with two 10-day sailings round-trip from Civitavecchia (Rome) that visit Mykonos, Santorini and Katakolon. From £770pp cruise-only departing September 5, 2021.

New Year fireworks in Singapore await on a 28-night Fred Olsen Cruise Lines voyage from the Seychelles to Tokyo on Boudicca in December. The cruise calls into the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines and Japan. It is priced from £5,499pp, including flights.

Holland America Line is returning to Istanbul for the first time in four years with a 12-day Mediterranean Empires cruise, round-trip from Venice. The lead-in price is £1,599pp, departing May 15 2020.

Hurtigruten makes its Alaska debut with new ship Roald Amundsen, the world’s first hybrid ship. Cruises take passengers through the Inside Passage and close to glaciers. Deals start from £3,751pp, cruise-only, for 14 nights. It departs June 11 2020.

Variety Cruises is launching island-hopping voyages in French Polynesia from Tahiti on the yacht Panorama II in December. Seven or 11-night itineraries from £1,773pp and £2,500pp cruise-only.

Crystal Cruises’ 200-passenger polar expedition yacht Crystal Endeavor, launching August, will explore New Zealand on a 12-night journey from Auckland to Christchurch in December 2020. Prices from £10,531pp, cruise-only, including drinks and tips.

Saga Cruises is following the July 2019 launch of the 999-passenger Spirit of Discovery with sister ship Spirit of Adventure in August. The vessel has single cabins, Italian and Nepalese Restaurants and no charges for food or tips.

DJs, musicians, dancers and comedians are among the cast joining a week-long festival at sea on P&O Cruises’ Iona. The 5,200-passenger ship enters service in May; the festival sets sail on July 4, after the ship’s official naming ceremony. Prices start from £1,299pp, cruise-only.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is pairing the old and new world on a 15-night sailing from Barcelona to Montreal in September on Seven Seas Navigator. It will visit Malaga, the Azores and Bermuda, with prices from £4,589pp including flights, meals, drinks, excursions and tips.

Virgin Voyages’ first ship, Scarlet Lady, launches in March with rock star suites, a record shop and steakhouse dining. It is sailing mainly four- and five-night cruises from Miami to the Bahamas, Key West and Mexico. Deal start from £935pp, cruise-only, for four nights in June, with wifi and tips. Cruise and Maritime has acquired two new ships, which will launch in 2021.

The Mississippi is calling as American Queen Steamboat Company launches American Countess on the ‘Big Muddy’.

Prices start from £3,095pp in May for two nights in the Big Easy followed by a seven-night cruise from New Orleans to Memphis, including flights, drinks with meals, hop-on, hop-off tours.

Trips to Verona, Cremona and Parma are on offer on CroisiEurope’s new cruises along Italy’s Canal Bianco, from Venice to Mantua and vice-versa, starting from March. The cruises, aboard MS Michelangelo, are from £1,214pp cruise-only for an April 14 sailing.

Uniworld is pairing an Amazon river cruise on the all-suite Aria Amazon with Lima and Machu Picchu on a selection of 11- and 15-night holidays. Prices start from £11,799pp for 11 nights, departing September 23, including flights.

A top-deck sun pool and speciality restaurant called Indochine await on APT’s new AmaMekong, which sails one-week cruises on the Mekong River starting October. From £5,095pp for a 15-day Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights cruise-tour departing November 5 2020, including flights.

The River Cruise Line is offering sailings on the Rhine and Danube on newly-chartered river ship Arena. From £499pp for five days sailing the Dutch waterways in April including coach and ferry travel.

Top cruises for 2020

The Lower Danube with Fred Olsen River Cruises: A 14-day voyage into the Danube Delta is from £2,899pp in May, including flights. Highlights include a bird-watching safari in the Delta, St Sava Orthodox Church in Belgrade and a paprika tasting in Kalocsa.

The St Lawrence with CroisiEurope: A 10-night cruise round-trip from Montréal is from £4,694pp cruise-only in June. Highlights along this vast river include a day in Québec City, a trip back to the ice age in the Garden of Glaciers in Baie Comeau and the French-owned islands of St Pierre and Miquelon.

Europe’s northern cities with Celebrity Cruises: A 10-night cruise round-trip from Southampton on new ship Celebrity Apex, the second in its Edge class series, is from £1,639pp in April. Highlights include an overnight in Oslo and options to visit Berlin and Paris from Warnemunde and Le Havre respectively.

The Adriatic with Celestyal Cruises: A seven-night voyage round-trip from Venice is from £699pp cruise-only in December. Highlights include port calls in Kotor in Montenegro and Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia. Price includes drinks, three shore excursions and tips.

Rhine and Moselle with Avalon Waterways: A 13-day cruise from Amsterdam to Basel (or vice-versa) is from £4,392pp in August including flights. Highlights include Luxembourg City, the ancient Roman town of Trier and France’s Maginot Line fortification. The price includes wine or beer with lunch and dinner, excursions and tips.

Where to book it

Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas is in Southampton this summer for a series of cruises to Europe, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. From £1,021pp on August 30 for a seven-night cruise through France and Spain.

Titan offers a 16-day Grand Voyage through Europe is from £2,899pp and encompasses three of Europe’s most famous waterways - the Danube, Main and Rhine.