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The 20 Best Cruises To Take In 2019

Cruising has never been hotter. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 30 million people are expected to sail the high seas in 2019 — that’s up from 17.8 million in 2009. And a whopping 21 ships are launching in 2019, adding to an already crowded marketplace. The good news is that you can find a ship for every personality, whether you’re a woman traveling solo or a multigenerational family on the go with the whole crew. But where to start? I tapped into a handful of women travel experts and influencers and got them to share the cruises they’re most excited about for 2019, from new ship launches to exciting destinations to classic vessels that are worth a second look. Plus, you’ll find perks like Dom Perignon dinners, private-island escapes, F1 simulators and more. It’s going to be a very good year.

A rendering of Royal Caribbean International’s new private island, CocoCay.Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

High-Octane Thrills in the Caribbean: Royal Caribbean

Chosen By: Corina Quinn is an editor at Condé Nast Traveler, where she oversees the city guides and co-leads cruise coverage. She’s worked in travel and lifestyle magazines for more than 10 years — yet her bucket list is never near completion. She loves being on the water, and believes there’s a cruise out there for everyone.

Why: It’s no surprise this aptly named cruise line gets Caribbean cruising right. By offering a wide range of things to do on its ships — think activities like surf simulators, skating rinks and bumper car tracks — Royal Caribbean International makes sailing a fun-for-everyone kind of time. Now, though, the company is turning to its offerings off its ships, as it prepares to unveil its newly refurbished private island in the Bahamas, called Perfect Day at CocoCay. The island re-opens in May, coming out of the gate with new features like a waterpark, zip line, aqua park, freshwater pool and even balloon rides. Which ship should you sail to get there? If you crave a short getaway, Navigator of the Seas — which re-enters the market in February following a $115 million revamp — offers three- and four-night Caribbean cruises from Miami with a new poolscape, two waterslides and the first dry bar at sea (kind of ideal for those of us whose hair wilts in the humidity). She’ll make stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay after it reopens, along with sister ships Mariner of the Seas, which makes short trips from Orlando to the Bahamas year-round, and Enchantment of the Seas, which sails from Galveston. But if it’s some real R&R you crave, you couldn’t do better than Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship that launched late last year. It will hit the island on its seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings. Symphony features a whopping 22 restaurants and grab-and-go spots, a 10-story slide, laser tag and its own boardwalk. It’s possible that even after seven nights you won’t get to it all.

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Luxurious dining on the Mekong Princess with Abercrombie & Kent.Photo courtesy of Laura Grier/Instagram @lauragriertravel

Intimate Luxury on the Mekong: Abercrombie & Kent

Chosen By: Known as “the Indiana Jones of Adventure Travel Photography” Laura Grier has been published in over 25 publications worldwide and is presently the lead photographer for Novica, National Geographic’s Artisan Catalog, training their in-house photographers around the world. She is also the cofounder of Jetset Collective Media. Follow her on Instagram @lauragriertravel.

Why: I love going on smaller, boutique ships. On Abercrombie & Kent’s Cruising the Mekong: Siam, Saigon & Angkor Wat, there’s never more than 24 guests onboard. And with 27 staff members, you get the most luxurious over-the-top service. Everyone knows your name, and they think of what you want before you even want it. Sailing with A&K feels like something out of another era: You’re transported back in time. Another advantage to a small luxury riverboat is that you can access different waterways than larger ships, sailing into little inlets along the Mekong River, visiting jungles and villages and floating markets. While you get to visit the big cities, you also see a side of Cambodia and Vietnam that only locals usually see. A&K also offers a lot of interactive experiences, focusing on new wellness programming to cooking classes with local fruits to visiting a school and helping teach English. For me, one of the highlights was visiting a village and seeing how the locals weave baskets and purses out of water lilies from the Mekong River. It was magical.

An aerial view of the Celebrity Flora, which will be cruising the Galapagos.Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Exploring the Galapagos in Style: Celebrity

Chosen By: Jane Wooldridge, business editor of the Miami Herald, specializes in cruises and adventure travel. She is also president-elect of the Society of American Travel Writers. Follow her on Instagram @janewooldridge and look for her new website launching this year at luxuryinthewild.com.

Why: When it comes to stylish cruising, Celebrity Cruises delivers like no other line. Though it is best known for its new Edge-class ships and the 2,900-passenger Solstice, the premium line also runs expedition-type cruises in the Galapagos. This year it welcomes the all-suite Celebrity Flora, specially built to squire 100 passengers through the remote Ecuadorean islands made famous by Charles Darwin. Flora combines Celebrity’s comfortably chic ambiance — including its “infinite verandah” cabins that switch from floor-to-ceiling window to balcony with touch — with active exploration on land and under the sea. Small enough to access snug coves but large enough for open-water sailing, Flora is the ideal size for making new friends without feeling too close. Beginning in May, the ship’s 10- and 11-day itineraries include a visit to Quito; prices include all excursions, drinks and tips. My voyage on predecessor Xpedition wowed me into a marine wildlife lover; don’t miss the chance to cavort with baby sea lions, even if it means climbing into a wet suit.

READ MORE: “Why This Billion-Dollar Cruise Ship Is The Ultimate Ship For Women”

One of the new U by Uniworld ships.Photo courtesy of U by Uniworld

Cool River Cruising in Europe: U by Uniworld

Chosen By: Meagan Drillinger is a freelance travel writer based in New York City. She is also the founder of Vaera Journeys, a company for entrepreneurial women that uses travel as a muse to take women out of their comfort zones and help them network and build upon their individual brands and businesses. Vaera’s next immersive retreat is in Puerto Vallarta in May 2019. Follow her on Instagram @drillinjourneys and @vaerajourneys. (You can also read Drillinger’s tips on the Cheapest Places to Travel in 2019 here.)

Why: Uniword is sailing into the next generation of cruising with the launch of U by Uniworld, a new take on river cruising for the experiential travel generation. While in the past, river cruising has been associated with an older generation or those with a lot of cash to burn, U by Uniworld is a culturally immersive, social and active travel experience — with trips starting at under $1,600. Cruise Germany, Austria, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Hungary with like-minded travelers, immersive shore excursions, festivals, great food and more.

The Oceania Riviera, which will be serving Dom Perignon dinners.Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Dom Perignon Dinners: Oceania

Chosen By: Chris Gray Faust is managing editor of CruiseCritic.com, the web’s largest cruising resource. She is a Lowell Thomas award-winning travel writer, has WSET Level 3 certification in wine and believes that there’s a cruise for every type of traveler.

Why: What we love about cruising is that lines are always looking for new ways to delight current passengers — and draw new ones onboard. Oceania Cruises, already a Cruise Critic winner for its outstanding gourmet dining, has upped the ante in 2019 by developing a partnership with the famed Champagne house Moet & Chandon, featuring its iconic Dom Perignon. On Oceania’s two larger cruise ships, Marina and Riviera, guests can experience a six-course tasting menu centered around three vintage Dom Perignon years. The meal, served in the ship’s special La Reserve dining room, is limited to 26 guests and was specially designed by chefs from both Oceania Cruises and Moet & Chandon. Foodies will die for luxe ingredients such as foie gras, lobster, Wagyu beef and gold leaf (expertly plated atop of black truffle risotto) while oenophiles will be delighted to sample three different Dom vintages from 2006, 2009 and a special 2004 rose. The extra fee of $295 per person (plus gratuity) may seem steep at first, but the generous pours of high-end Champagne that’s hard to find elsewhere (particularly by the glass), plus the decadence of the meal itself, makes it comparable to a special dining experience on land.

The Crystal Esprit.Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Yachting in Europe, the Seychelles and the Caribbean: Crystal

Chosen By: Tara Moss is a globally recognized travel writer, photographer and founder of Ladyhattan, a Manhattan-based travel blog. A graduate of Harvard University and former hotel lawyer, Tara has traveled to over 50 countries and curates engaging travel content through the lens of a lady.

Why: If the negative stigma of big-ship cruising has kept you away from the waters, then 2019 is the year to reconsider and set sail to a whole new experience. How about yachting? Crystal Cruises indulges luxury travel seekers through customized and intimate yachting journeys that shatter prior misconceptions about what is possible on the water. The all-suite Crystal Esprit mesmerizes guests by sailing to destinations that are difficult to reach and often accessible only by private yacht. From the Dalmatian Coast and Greek Isles to the Seychelles and West Indies, each itinerary is thoughtfully planned to ensure vacation time is best spent exploring cultural delights. On the West Indies Yachting Explorer itinerary, you will garner front-row access to indulgent islands like St. Barts, Saba and Nevis, places where large cruise ships are typically precluded from docking due to size. Crystal Yacht Expeditions boast 6-star service with 90 staff catering to just 62 guests in 31 butler-serviced suites. The intimate size facilitates an experience of luxury yachting versus mainstream cruising. (Imagine jumping off the ship into ocean water and jet skiing to the sunset, sipping signature cocktails and savoring Michelin-star quality meals served by a crew who always know your name.) With Crystal, you can capitalize on the convenience of exploring exclusive destinations without sacrificing luxury amenities and intimate surroundings. There is no better time to test out the waters.

Viking Ocean Cruises will soon be launching the new Viking Jupiter.Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

Nordic Pampering in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe: Viking

Chosen By: Rona Berg is editor in chief of Organic Spa Media, and cited by the Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, USA Today and others as an expert on spa and wellness practices around the world. Rona has been editorial director of ELLE, Deputy style director at The New York Times Magazine, advisory board member of Shape and contributed to hundreds of publications.

Why: I never saw myself as a cruiser, i.e., somehow who loves cruises. In fact, I studiously avoided them. But my experience on the Norwegian-owned Viking completely changed my mind. My journey up the coast of Norway on the Viking Sky was luxurious and comfortable, full of hygge, the Nordic concept that translates, loosely, into “enjoying life’s simple pleasures.” Floor-to-ceiling windows in the ship’s public areas bring the outside in and make you feel close to nature. But most of all, I loved the spacious Liv Nordic spa, which featured traditional Scandinavian treatments, and a Nordic Bathing Ritual, where you can hop from the steam room to the snow grotto into the tranquil pool. That feeling of stillness and tranquility is what I look forward to experiencing again on what will hopefully be my next Viking cruise. The line is debuting the Viking Jupiter, the sixth ship in the fleet, this month, sailing the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, which is where I hope to be: following the Viking Shores & Fjords itinerary, or the new In Search of the Nordic Lights. I love the north, and Viking is the only cruise line to offer a winter itinerary north of the Arctic Circle to search for the Aurora Borealis. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but my bucket list includes Antarctica, too. Now that I’ve experienced the romance of spending a holiday at sea, I don’t want to stop.

A rendering of the new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas.Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

Endless Activities in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and U.S.: MSC

Chosen By: CruiseTipsTV’s Sheri Griffiths and her family are California-based content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Griffiths and her family as they travel the world by ship, visiting destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska and the Caribbean. Griffiths was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s “10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation.”

Why: With the delivery of two new ships, a major repositioning and a private island under development, MSC Cruises is raising the bar in 2019. The much-anticipated private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, has everyone talking. Guests will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of a Bahamian paradise with seven beaches and have easy access to activities like paddle boarding, snorkeling and kayaking. They can also shop, splurge on spa services in cabanas and even get married in a wedding pavilion. For travelers looking to cruise the Mediterranean, the line’s brand new flagship, MSC Bellissima, will feature some of the most innovative technology at sea with the introduction of the world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant, ZOE. A voice-enabled artificial intelligence device available in seven languages, ZOE will allow guests to get answers to the most commonly asked cruise questions right from their stateroom. In addition to the new HOLA! Tapas Bar by Ramón Freixa, the entertainment is sure to shine, with two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea performances. In October, MSC Cruises is repositioning its elegant MSC Meraviglia to the East Coast of the United States for Canada/New England and Caribbean sailings. Cruisers who have enjoyed MSC Meraviglia in the Mediterranean rave about the Galleria Meraviglia, a two-deck “inside promenade” with a 262-foot long LED dome. Families love the outdoor waterpark and endless onboard activities, like the F1 simulator and an outdoor ropes course. Later in the year, MSC is going even bigger with the launch of MSC Grandiosa, which will feature a Mediterranean-style promenade and a dazzling LED Sky screen.


Sailing and Gastronomy in French Polynesia: Windstar

Chosen By: Patricia Stone founded Global Adventuress and grew up in Tahiti. She has traveled to 166 countries and seeks out unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations for solo, girlfriends, couples and family travel. Her award-winning site has been featured in Forbes, the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and USA Today. Follow her on Instagram @global_adventuress. (You can also read Stone’s tips on the Cheapest Places to Travel in 2019 here.)

Why: Tahiti welcomes its visitors with a warm “Ia Ora Na,” gentle smiles and tiare flowers. There are 118 islands in French Polynesia, and Windstar Cruises is the best way to visit some of the most stunning islands in the world. (Windstar also offers excellent deals on luxury trips.) A bonus: Windstar has a new partnership with the James Beard Foundation, so guests may savor a culinary-themed cruise presented by expert chefs and sommeliers. Choose the seven-day Tahiti cruise with stops at Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora and Moorea, or the 11-day voyage where you can visit seven islands including the coral atolls Fakarava and Rangiroa in the Tuamotus. Windstar’s ship, Wind Spirit, is small enough to navigate tight passageways and anchor near deserted islands, motus and shallow lagoons. You’ll find slices of paradise at every turn — black-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, white sandbanks, waterfalls, lush rainforest, coral gardens, majestic valleys and massive mountains. Active cruisers will love the watersports platform on the ship, for snorkeling, swimming and kayaking. Some activities not to miss: Learn the Tahitian dance, the Ori Tahiti. Buy a flower lei and a pareu (a Tahitian fabric sarong) at a local market. Harvest your own black pearls. And take a helicopter flight from Tahiti to Moorea to get a bird’s eye view of the rugged beauty of these islands.

Hurtigruten in Antarctica’s Fortuna Bay.Photo courtesy of Marsel van Oosten

Bucket-List Antarctica: Hurtigruten

Chosen By: Veronica Stoddart is the former travel editor of USA Today and an award-winning editor, writer and content consultant with more than three decades in travel publishing. A high-profile expert in travel and tourism, she has visited more than 100 countries, reporting from many of them. She believes that travel can be a force for good in the world.

Why: Calling all Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen wannabes. Get ready for the trip of a lifetime to the White Continent, the coldest, driest and windiest place on the planet. It’s also one of the most dazzling landscapes on earth — filled with soaring sculpted glaciers, surreal icebergs in startling shades of blue and a wonderland of endless snow and ice. Not to mention plenty of penguins and seals and whales, oh my! Cruises to Antarctica are all the rage these days for bucket listers, with choices from ultra deluxe to barebones. I found it especially appropriate to sail with Hurtigruten, a storied 125-year-old Norwegian line with roots in Norway’s seafaring heritage going back to the ancient Vikings. Indeed, this was very much an expedition cruise, with the emphasis on expedition — which seems only fitting for a continent that remains largely unexplored. The Midnatsol (Midnight Sun) offered thrilling land and sea excursions, illuminating scientific lectures — and one of the most memorable experiences of my life, a tented overnight on the Antarctic snow. Who knew that I had to go to the bottom of the earth to feel on top of the world!

Cunard’s QM2.Photo courtesy of Cunard

A Classic Transatlantic Crossing: Cunard

Chosen By: Kathy Witt is an author and travel and lifestyle writer who pens the monthly “Travel Trending with Kathy Witt” column for Tribune News Service. Her fifth book, Secret Cincinnati – A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure, was published by Reedy Press in fall 2018. Kathy’s books and magazine and newspaper articles have won numerous Mark Twain Travel Writing awards and two Lily Scholarships. She is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and the Authors Guild.

Why: Boarding the world’s only ocean liner to experience a transatlantic crossing between New York and Southampton, London is a once-in-a-lifetime experience many repeat with a classic that never goes out of style: Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. For a pre-sunrise peek at the Statue of Liberty glowing softly in the harbor, make the iconic crossing west. From its very beginnings in 1939, Cunard has been an innovator in offering a true luxury experience, chalking up lots of firsts, including a lounge for women and hot and cold water in every cabin. The QM2 carries on the tradition, with the first planetarium, Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar at sea and the largest ballroom and library at sea — shelved with an astonishing 10,000 volumes. Hundreds of hours of programming and activities go into each crossing, including the special treat of theatrical productions staged by London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, plus any genre of music your heart desires, wines to please the palate and lectures that intrigue. QM2 definitely retains that air of Old World formality and tradition, with white glove afternoon tea and three formal nights, but it isn’t all sparkles and ballgowns: a cocktail dress for ladies and a nice, dark suit for men suffice. You can also skip out on formal night, opting for the more casual King’s Court or lazy-night room service. The catwalk heads to sea for Transatlantic Fashion Week, July 28-Aug. 4, 2019, adding even more excitement to a crossing and bringing aboard the hottest looks and heaviest hitters of the industry.

The race track on the soon-to-debut Norwegian Encore.Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Action-Packed Caribbean, Bermuda and New York: Norwegian

Chosen By: Heidi Bucolo is the co-editor of EatSleepCruise.com, a top-rated cruise blog that focuses on providing travelers with the latest cruise tips, cruise reviews and travel planning advice. She and her husband took their first cruise together back in 2007, and they have been hooked ever since. Through their website and social media, they help travelers “sea the world, one port at a time.”

Why: Norwegian Cruise Line’s final Breakaway Plus-class ship, Norwegian Encore, hits the ocean this fall. Pushing the boundaries when it comes to onboard experiences and entertainment, Norwegian Encore will definitely be one of the hottest cruise ships of 2019. She’s set to debut even bigger and better family-friendly attractions than her sister ship, Norwegian Bliss, featuring a digitally enhanced laser tag arena that is unlike anything on land, nevermind at sea. The ship will feature the largest racetrack at sea including turns that extend up to 13 feet over the side of the ship. (I feel the need for speed, do you?) If that’s not enough, she’s home to the Galaxy Pavilion, an interactive and technologically advanced virtual reality experience that’s sure to bring out the kid in all of us. Encore will also feature the Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place (an oceanfront boardwalk lined with shops, restaurants and bars), as well as the Observation Lounge, a space with amazing panoramic views of the ocean and ports of call. When she sets sail this fall from Miami, Norwegian Encore will be visiting the revitalized Eastern Caribbean, stopping at San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Tortola, B.V.I. This ship will then transition to New York for the summer to visit the pink-sand beaches of Bermuda.

The new Carnival Panorama.Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Fun on the West Coast: Carnival 

Chosen By: Fran Golden is the chief contributor to Porthole Cruise Magazine and a frequent contributor to Bloomberg and Conde Nast Traveler, who has sailed on more than 150 ships.

Why: Carnival Cruise Line is everyone’s affordable cruise line and the emphasis is on having a good time — and that includes for kids and adults. This is the first time in 20 years the line will be basing a new ship on the West Coast, and I think a lot of people will be surprised by the updated, contemporary look of the 4,008-passenger Carnival Panorama. As one of Carnival’s largest, she will have plenty of space for cool things — including a first-at-sea indoor trampoline park. One of my favorites, introduced on sister ships Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, is the onboard brewery. In addition to imbibing craft beer, you can book a tour with the shipboard brewmaster to see the beer-making operation. I’m also a fan of the SkyRide, where you bike around a track while dangling over the ship and sea — a brag-worthy experience. Carnival food always surprises me, in a good way. For those not watching calories, Food Network star Guy Fieri’s complimentary burgers and “real deal” BBQ are a decadent delight. For those not into the lively scene at the main pool and the waterslides at the waterpark, there’s an adults-only sun area with hot tubs. You get what you pay for in terms of accommodations, but the Havana section has some impressive suites with lanais and includes daytime access to a private pool area. The oversized Family Harbor staterooms include access to a special family lounge with snacks and other amusements. I think a lot of people will be impressed.


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