If you’re an avid cruiser, you already know the truth: for a spot on the best cruises, with the wildest itineraries, you’ll need to plan ahead before all of the good rooms (or all of the rooms, period) are snatched up. So while most landlubbers are planning their fall vacations for 2019, we’re looking ahead to the cruises of 2020. From a three-day Bahamian getaway to an polar bear-focused Arctic exploration, there’s something for everyone. So find a few friends—or go solo, since cruise lines are making it easier and more affordable than ever to go your own way—and book your next adventure.
An itinerary we don’t see often, Ponant’s 14-day Indian Ocean cruise hits up La Digue in the Seychelles, lemur colonies on Madagascar, and the beachy Réunion island. Start planning now for this cruise by getting PADI-certified in scuba diving—then, you’ll be able to swim with manta rays, gray reef sharks, and more at almost every port. It would make a great honeymoon adventure too, thanks to Le Lyrial’s small size (just 122 suites) (If you’re dying to do the route on your own, wait until 2021 when the single supplement is waived on this itinerary.)
April 9 to 2, from $9,010 per person, us.ponant.com
The cruise line’s Orion ship is one of our favorites (our readers ranked it among the very best, too). Its Scandinavian touches reach from the furniture and design—think blond woods and Eames chairs—to the food, which of course includes lots of salmon and smørrebrød. We’d sail a lot of routes on this ship, but the itinerary that goes between Bangkok and Hong Kong is of particular interest. With overnight stays in five ports, you’ll actually get a chance to get a sense of place. Plus, you’ll visit the area’s mainstays over the 15-day trip, from Ho Chi Minh to Ha Long Bay.
April 17 to May 1 and Sept. 30 to Oct. 14, from $5,999 per person, vikingcruises.com
Avalon Waterway’s “A Taste of the Danube” Cruise
With the largest suites of any river cruise line and floor-to-ceiling windows for the great cruising views, Avalon Waterways gives us a lot to love. But it’s the fact that they’re waiving the single supplement fee on some of their four-day Danube itineraries next year that has the solo travelers among us really excited. The itinerary picks up in Budapest and ends in Vienna makes stops in Bratislava, Melk, and Dürnstein for a brief tour of the Austria’s Wachau Valley. It’s a easy book for a long weekend or kick-off to a larger European adventure—and it’s on Avalon’s newest ship, added to the fleet in 2019.
Various dates in May, July, September, October, and November, from $749 per person, avalonwaterways.com
Avalon’s Danube cruise stops in Bratislava.
Abercrombie Kent’s “In Search of the Polar Bear” Cruise
Even though this 15-day, all-inclusive cruise takes place mid-summer, you’ll want to pack some serious layers: you’re heading to the Arctic. (Pack a sleep mask too: the timing lends itself to midnight sun throughout the voyage.) But the extra baggage will be worth it, as you’ll be joined on this voyage on Le Boreal by a historian, geologist, ornithologist, botanist, and marine biologist to help you learn the most from your stops in Norway’s Svalbard islands, Iceland, and Greenland. If you’re worried your photos of polar bears won’t live up to the real thing, this cruise also comes with a photo coach, there to help you snag the best shot of the vulnerable giants.
July 31 to August 14, from $15,995 per person, abercrombiekent.com
Regent Seven Seas’ “Grecian Wonders” Cruise
One of the best small ship cruise lines, according to our Readers’ Choice Awards, Regent Seven Seas is offering the island-hopping itinerary of our dreams through the Mediterranean. Plus, it’s on the Seven Seas Splendor, the line’s newest all-balcony ship debuting in 2020. Stopping at seven Greek isles after embarking from Athens, the ship ends its 10-day route in Istanbul. The best part? The cruise is all-inclusive, which means you’ll get unlimited shore excursions to explore Rhodes, Crete, and more; unlimited food and drinks (and yes, that includes wine); and free transfers to the airport.
October 4 to 14, from $10,599 per person, rssc.com
We’ve mentioned it before: when you want to just get away and don’t have the mental energy to plan your own trip, a three-day cruise to the Bahamas, with a stop on a private island, is everything you could ask for. Royal Caribbean runs quickie trips on Enchantment of the Seas, which embark Fridays at 4 p.m. from Miami and return back to port by 7 a.m. Monday morning. The ship spends a full day at the line’s private isle, Coco Cay, and another in Nassau, so you’ll have time to explore. (Or, you could settle into the ship, checking out the rock-climbing walls and a trio of pools on board.)
Weekly from $387 per person for a balcony stateroom, royalcaribbean.com