Inspiring destinations, no restrictions, cruising is better than ever
Tropical islands, lush rainforests, glorious ancient cities, cruise ships are heading to all points in 2023. While 2022 was still somewhat of a year of recovery for the industry, in 2023 the major cruise lines have all their ships in the water and most of the popular ports and tours are back in play. Let’s explore what’s new in cruising in 2023.
Mexico, Alaska, Hawai’i, the Caribbean, Europe, a trip down the Nile, a voyage to the ends of the earth — if there’s a place you have a hankering to go, chances are there’s a cruise ship bound for that port and a tour to inspire your wanderlust.
So, whether you’re single, have young kids, are recently retired, or are a traveler with limited mobility, whether you want to explore new hobbies or dine daily on the fine cuisine prepared by a celebrity chef, hit a sandy beach, go ziplining in a rain forest, take a ride in a submarine, or you’re looking to poke around the ruins of ancient towns (how about all of the above?), there’s going to be a cruise for you.
With very few exceptions, you will also find no more COVID-related on-board restrictions or when disembarking on a tour (though it is a good idea to learn more about a country’s visitor policies from a travel agent before you go).
Back to the Future
How do we know the cruise business has returned to pre-pandemic norms? Some major cruise lines have announced their itineraries a full two years in advance (to spring 2025) and some new ships will soon be debuting. Cruise lines are confident that people will return to the ships in big numbers.
And judging by the crowds that have been attending AAA Washington’s regional cruise shows, people locally are eager to get onboard.
“There have been over 400 people at each one,” said Lisa Anciaux, director of travel products for AAA Washington. “So, the interest is back, and what that means is that cruise ships will be filling fast.”
Book 2023 Travel Early
So, what can you expect when you book a cruise? It’s still possible to find great deals on cruises, including perks for booking early and free upgrades, especially if you are OK with booking a cruise that’s outside its peak season. (Like heading to Alaska in late August or early September instead of July).
Anciaux has two recommendations for people planning a cruise in 2023. First, given the high interest this year, try to book as far in advance as you can to make sure you get your preferred cabin and cruise.
Don’t Forget to Call AAA Travel First
But before you book, Anciaux says, it is important to call a AAA travel advisor. With a cruise, it is not enough to know where you want to go. Two different cruise ships headed to identical places can offer vastly different experiences. One is not necessarily better than the other.
Some cruises are great for older adults, others for families with kids. Some cater to people who crave vigorous activities and exotic adventure, some for people who want luxurious pampering, some for those with specialized interests, like art tours or quilting. That is why it is so important that you book a cruise that’s right for you.
“If you go on one that is not your type of vacation, you are going to say cruising is horrible,” Anciaux said, “but if we pick one that hits all those sweet spots, you’re going to say why didn’t I do this 30 years ago?”
What’s new in cruising in 2023? New Ships
A return to normalcy in the cruise industry also means that cruise lines will be rolling out new ships over the next few years. For example, Princess Cruises plans to launch new ships in 2024 and 2025. The first, the 21-deck, 175,500-ton The Sun Princess (named after the original Sun Princess where the pilot for the 70s and 80s show “The Love Boat” was filmed) is scheduled to debut with cruises in the Mediterranean in early 2024 and then in the Caribbean in the fall of 2024. A sister ship will be added in 2025.
Meanwhile, Viking added to its fleet of smaller ocean ships with the Viking Mars and Viking Neptune, in 2022, and is scheduled to add a third ocean ship, Viking Saturn in early 2023. It is special treat to go on a cruise ship’s maiden voyage, so don’t forget to ask your AAA agent what new ships will be making their debuts.
4 Cruises and 1 Land Tour Option for 2023
What’s new in cruising in 2023? Here are five ideas to jumpstart your travel planning. (And if these don’t strike your fancy, many more can be found here.)
1. Concierge: 2023 Fall Panama Canal Cruise
For many, the highlight of this trip to Central America will be the 50-mile sail through the Panama Canal, one of the world’s great engineering marvels (with onboard historians at hand explaining why it’s so unique) — but this adventure also passes through many wonderful and exotic places. Go snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. Try to spot monkeys and tropical birds from the deck of the ship. Discover ancient Mayan cities and Spanish colonial-era churches and squares. See the volcano-studded landscape of Guatemala. Try Nicaragua’s traditional dish vigorón, heaped with pork, boiled yuca and cabbage salad. Your tour ends in Ft. Lauderdale, known at the Venice of America for its canals and riverways.
When? Oct. 7–28
About the ship: Holland America’s Eurodam has a maximum capacity of 2,104 passengers. Features several pools and spas, 11 restaurants, a casino, two nightclubs with live entertainment.
2. Concierge: Newfoundland & New England Discovery Cruise
Discover magnificent cathedrals, tiny fishing villages, limestone monoliths, historic lighthouses, on this tour of the Canadian province of Québec, the Maritimes and New England. Your first stop is in French-speaking Québec City, a city steeped in history on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Visit a manmade glacier in Baie-Comeau. See tiny fishing villages and Viking ruins in Newfoundland and explore the vibrant cultural centers of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and picturesque Bar Harbor, Maine and Boston. (This cruise is popular and usually sells out, so it is good idea to book as early as possible.)
When: Sept. 3–13
About the ship: Holland America’s Zaandam has a maximum capacity of 1,432 guests, with five restaurants and 24-hour room service, a fitness center, a casino, live stage and dance company.
3. Concierge Cruise: 2023 Godmother Cruise Danube Waltz River Cruise
If you love history, art, architecture, cobblestone streets, baroque cathedrals and Renaissance castles, this Eastern Europe excursion is for you.
Your tour starts with a three-night stay in Prague, with ample time to explore Prague Castle, the 14th century Charles Bridge and its 30 baroque statues, as well as sample goulash and Czech beer. You embark on a trim cruise ship in Passau, Germany. Walk in the steps of Mozart in Linz, take an exclusive tour of a working 900-year-old Austrian monastery, and explore magnificent Vienna with its world-famous Opera House and Schönbrunn Palace known as the “Versailles of Vienna.” Your tour ends in Budapest, known as the “Paris of the East.”
Bonus: Lisa Anciaux, AAA Washington’s director of travel products is hosting this cruise.
When? May 21-31
About the ship: The ship seats just 190 guests served by a crew of 50, with a restaurant, sun deck, lounge and library.
4. 2023 Premium Iceland Adventure
This land tour offers a deep dive into Iceland’s culture and a closeup of the rugged countryside. You will circumnavigate the coast of Iceland in a minivan, taking in the full view of this rugged country. See Iceland’s many waterfalls, and the famed Blue Lagoon. Soak in a natural hot spring, walk along blustery cliffs with waves crashing below. Go whale-watching on board a silent, eco-friendly sailing boat. Stay in Iceland’s oldest hotel and have plenty of time to explore the sights in Iceland’s quirky capital, Reykjavik.
When? Three dates are available: June 10-18, July 20-29, Sept. 9-17.
About the tour: You will be primarily traveling in a 12-person capacity minibus to points around the coast of Iceland, with seven nights stay in a comfortable hotel, plus one night in a specialty hotel.
5. Celebrity Cruise to Alaska
This is an all-inclusive, affordable cruise for those who want to experience the beauty of Alaska. Sail up the Endicott Arm fjord to the spectacular Dawes Glacier, a bluish wall of ice that you can watch from the deck crashing into the sea. See majestic bald eagles and bears in the wild in Ketchikan, and the gold-rush-era buildings of Skagway. Your tour also stops in Alaska’s pretty capital of Juneau and Victoria, B.C., the capital of British Columbia.
When? June 23-30
About the ship: Solstice has a capacity for 2,850 passengers, with several restaurants and cafes, a theater, art gallery, pools and spas.
—Written by AAA Washington staff
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