Hot Cruise Ports: 2008 and Beyond

While familiar ports of call remain favorites with cruise clients, some not-yet-fully-tapped ports are coming to the forefront and giving lines more options in fashioning their itineraries. Travel Agent spoke with cruise lines and travel agents alike to gauge which are the new hot destinations and why they're gaining such traction. No doubt you have heard of many of the ports (not even cruise lines can create cities--though they can create their own islands), but you may not know why they are exploding on the scene. Here is what we found, so you can be prepared when your clients walk through the door and ask "Where's the next go-to destination?"

To some, St. Petersburg in Russia conjures images of a cold, communist holdover where the sun doesn't shine and winters are relentless. While they are right about the winter (temperatures are frosty), the summer months are quite pleasant. Today, St. Petersburg is one of the hottest European destinations, and figures into most Baltic itineraries. The city pops with excitement and travel agents are seeing demand rise.

Carnival Cruise Lines will operate its first northern Europe itineraries with the debut of Carnival Splendor, set to begin operations in July. They're already selling out. "Advance bookings are great," says Terry Thornton, Carnival's vice president marketing planning, "for 2008 and beyond."

Fifteen years ago, you'd be hard pressed to sell Dubai as any type of vacation. Fast-forward: Dubai is red hot, attracting everything from hotel development to golf course construction to entertainment parks. Cruising, too. Costa Cruises' Romantica currently homeports in Dubai, and Costa's Jodi Rein, vice president of sales development, North America, says demand has prompted the line to add another ship in the region--it will commit Costa Europa for the winter season.

From the Middle East, we travel back westward toward the continent of South America, which has become a much-ballyhooed cruising destination over the last year, and both cruise lines and travel agents say it will remain popular next year and beyond. One of the places there garnering more cruising attention is the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago just off Ecuador.

Like the Galapagos, Antarctica is drawing a lot of cruise attention as an area for exploration. Why not? It's not like you can frolic on the ice with penguins everywhere, right?

Both these spots are not your typical sun-drenched cruise destinations and, most likely, are for more seasoned cruisers or those travelers who are interested in learning and nature, not just sun and fun. Your best bet is to look at lines such as Lindblad Expeditions, Norwegian Coastal Voyage, Hapag-Lloyd and Holland America.

As for Asia as a cruising destination, one of the best ways to discover it is by riverboat. Such lines as Uniworld, Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises operate itineraries on the Yangtze River in China.

Maybe the last place you would think cruising would catch on is Africa, but according to some cruise lines, it's making its way toward the top of the heap. Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius, all located in the Indian Ocean off the mainland of Africa, are three destinations becoming as hot as the sub-Saharan climate. Costa began its inaugural season in the region this November on Costa Marina. (DE)

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