20 Bucket-List Cruises Worth Saving For

Bora Bora aerial drone image of travel vacation paradise and overwater bungalows


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Cruise of a Lifetime

There's more to cruising than the Caribbean, crowded buffets, fruity drinks, and over-the-top onboard amenities. Today's cruise companies have itineraries for nearly everyone — even the most-jaded cruise skeptics — that travel to some of the remotest parts of the world. Whether you aspire to relax on a yacht in the Mediterranean, visit penguins in Antarctica, or explore ancient tombs along the Nile, there's no shortage of cruises that are bucket-list material.

Related: 50 Affordable Vacations to Add to Your Bucket List

Jewels of the Baltic and Viking Passage, Holland America Zuiderdam

Atlantic Sunsets and British Isles

Ship: Holland America Zuiderdam
Length and price: 30 days from $3,299

Cruise for a month with Holland America for an expansive journey across the Atlantic, with stops in the Azores islands, Ireland, Paris, Brussels, England, Scotland, and the Netherlands. You'll see unspoiled glens, mountains, and rivers, cosmopolitan cities, beautiful beaches, and more, with chances to kiss the Blarney Stone in County Cork, sample apple brandy at Chateau du Breuil, a family-owned French distillery, and check out prehistoric wonders in Torquay. Spend at-sea days at B.B. King's Blues Club or rocking out with Billboard Onboard, kicking back at the casino, or relaxing at the spa.

Related: 15 Drinking Pilgrimages You Need to Make

The Amazing Aerial View of the Paradise Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia
Zhao Liu/istockphoto

French Polynesia In Depth

Ship: MS Paul Gauguin
Length and price: 10 nights from $5,250

This leisurely 10-day cruise through French Polynesia allows you to explore three remote, pristine island chains: the Marquesas, Tuamotus, and Society Islands. One of the highlights is a day on Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin's own private island, where you can enjoy the white-sand beaches and a drink served in a coconut from the floating lagoon bar. Feeling more active? There are endless opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, and diving — especially because the ship has an onboard marina.

Christmas on the Danube, Uniworld S.S. Beatrice

Christmas on the Danube

Ship: Uniworld SS Beatrice
Length and price: 8 days from $3,499

A cruise along the Danube through Germany and Austria sounds magical enough, but this elegant cruise allows you to explore the region during the holidays, enjoying the Christmas markets, snowy cobblestone streets, twinkling lights, and perhaps even attending a Mass in one of the historic churches along the way. Notable ports include Nuremberg and Regensburg, Germany, and Linz and Vienna, Austria. On-board amenities include a spa and fitness center.

A Taste of the Peruvian Amazon, Delfin I

A Taste of the Peruvian Amazon

Ship: Delfin I
Length and price: 3-4 days from $4,450

See one of the world's mightiest rivers in style aboard the Delfin I, which gives new meaning to the word intimate: It hosts just four large suites, all with their own huge terraces, and two even have their own whirlpools. Activities along the way include trekking through the jungle, swimming with river dolphins, kayaking, and visiting Amazonian villages. On board, you'll enjoy Peruvian cuisine in the dining room and unparalleled views from the top-deck bar and lounge.

Arctic Polar Bear Expedition, Le Boreal

Arctic Polar Bear Expedition

Ship: L’Austral
Length and price: 15 days from $16,995

Who says you need to cruise somewhere warm? For a real taste of adventure, explore the frigid Arctic on this Abercrombie & Kent expedition that visits the remote Svalbard Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. Spy polar bears, walruses, whales, seals, and sea birds; enjoy expert lectures on wildlife and other aspects of the region; visit tiny, remote local villages; and more. You'll be accompanied by a fleet of experts, including a historian, geologist, marine biologist, field naturalists, and even a photography coach.

Grand Spice Route Quest, Regent Seven Seas Explorer
R.M. Nunes/istockphoto

Grand Spice Route Quest

Ship: Regent Seven Seas Explorer
Length and price: 73 nights from $53,499

Traverse the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Java Sea and more on this ambitious cruise spanning 10 weeks and more than 40 ports from Istanbul to Auckland, New Zealand. Along the way, the possibilities are almost endless: You can see King Tut's tomb in Egypt, explore ultramodern architecture in Dubai, visit spice farms in India, meditate at temples in Bali, and spy koalas in Australia. On board, enjoy a full spa and fitness center, jogging track and sports area, pool deck, casino, theater, and several options for dining and toasting another packed day of exploration.

Galapagos Wildlife Adventure, Yacht La Pinta

Galapagos Wildlife Adventure

Ship: Yacht La Pinta
Length and price: 9 days from $9,495

Don't like the cattle-call feel of a large cruise? Hop aboard a luxury yacht for a tour of the dazzling Galapagos, and you'll really get to know fellow passengers — the limit is just 18 guests. During twice-daily shore excursions, you'll enjoy in-depth naturalist-led walks and see rare animals like giant tortoises, land iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. You can also swim, kayak, snorkel, or even enjoy an astronomy lecture on a crystal-clear night in the Pacific. On board, kick back at the open-air bar, enjoy the jacuzzi, work out in the small gym, and dig in to meals served al fresco on the top deck.

Royal and Ancient Old Course St. Andrews

British Isles Golf Cruise

Ship: Sea Cloud Spirit
Length and price: 11 days from $16,175

Love the links? Then this two-week yacht voyage off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland is the bucket-list cruise for you. You'll have the chance to play nearly a dozen storied golf courses, including some of the top-ranked in the world, like The Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal County Down, Royal Dornoch, Royal Portrush and Carnoustie. The itinerary also allows for visits to castles and other points of interest like Northern Ireland's remarkable Giant's Causeway, plus tours of Edinburgh, Belfast, and Dublin. The Sea Cloud Spirit, reminiscent of an old tall ship, is appointed with marble bathrooms and an elegant dining room that turns out gourmet meals night after night.

Easter Island, Chile

Around the World in Style

Ship: Silversea Silver Shadow
Length and price: 140 days from $82,500

This might be the bucket-list cruise to end all bucket-list cruises: A near five-month journey beginning in Sydney and ending in Florida that circumnavigates the globe, stopping at a whopping 66 ports in 32 countries along the way. Highlights include exploring unihabited Mystery Island, taking in a Baining fire ceremony on Papua New Guinea, discovering Vietnam's Dragon Bridge as it comes alive at night, visiting magnificent temples, monuments, and pagodas in Myanmar, and going deep into the Amazon. The ship also boasts a spa, casino, fitness center, and four restaurants for those long days at sea.

Chilean Fjords and Cape Horn, Scenic Eclipse

Chilean Fjords and Cape Horn

Ship: Scenic Eclipse
Length and price: 14-15 days from $12,013

Norway may be better known for its fjords, but Chile's are just as breathtaking. Explore a long stretch of South America's Pacific coast on this lengthy cruise, stopping to spy glaciers, sea lions, and penguins; the colorful alleys of Valparaiso; and the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego.

Smithsonian Cruise of Japan, Ponant Le Soléal

Historic Japanese Shipping Route

Ship: Ponant Le Soléal
Length and price: 12 days from $11,480

Japan may not be the first destination to spring to mind for cruisers, but the Land of the Rising Sun has much to offer on this intriguing itinerary that follows the historic Kitamae, an 18th-century shipping route. You'll get to explore wild moors and quiet beaches on Sado Island, visit Toyama, gateway to the Japanese alps, check out the quaint fishing village of Ine, and cross the Korea Strait to Busan, South Korea, to see astonishing tombs, pagodas, palace ruins, and more. An expert on Asian art, culture, and history accompanies cruisers; on board, there are lectures, cultural performances, a sun deck and pool, a salon and spa, and more.

Alaska Adventure By Tugboat, MV Swell

Alaska Adventure By Tugboat

Ship: MV Swell
Length and price: 10 nights from $9,150

Trade that luxury ship for a rugged six-cabin tug boat on this small-group trip of a lifetime that gives new meaning to the term Alaskan cruise. Get up close and personal with whales, sea lions, brown bears, and other wildlife, trek through the Alaskan rainforest, explore a glacier, raft along the coast, spy waterfalls, and much more. Pepper an onboard expert from the Royal Canadian Geographic Society with all your questions and relax in the hot tub after a long day of exploration.

Panoramic view of Hong Kong

Hong Kong, Manila, and Tokyo

Ship: Queen Elizabeth
Length and price: 16 nights from $2,399

This soul-stirring Southeast Asia itinerary guides cruisers from bustling Singapore through the South and East China seas to destinations that promise adventure and scenic beauty. Stops include the Vietnamese port of Chan May, providing access to the cities of Hue and Da Nang that feature a wealth of sites to see, including ancient emperor tombs and an elaborate cave labrynth in the Marble Mountains. Ports of call in Hong Kong, Manila, and Tokyo promise to add cosmopolitan flair, while charming Hualien, Taiwan, has a laid-back, small-town vibe surrounded by natural beauty. Onboard amenities include evening performances and live music, traditional afternoon tea, and fitness classes and sporting activities.

National Geographic and the Nile, Sanctuary Sun Boat III

National Geographic and the Nile

Ship: MS Farah
Length and price: 11 days from $7,995

Though this tour includes only four nights cruising, the extra time gives travelers more opportunity to see some of Egypt's most stunning attractions, including the pyramids at Giza, the Valley of the Kings, and the massive temples of Abu Simbel. Cruise stops include Luxor temple and the unfinished obelisk of Aswan. The intimate Sanctuary Sun Boat III has a stunning oasis-like rooftop pool that takes its cues from the surrounding landscape, and a National Geographic expert will be along for the ride.

Italy and France Wine Voyage, SeaDream II

Western Mediterranean Wine Voyage

Ship: SeaDream II
Length and price: 8 days from $5,699

Cruises and wine are a match made in heaven, but a cruise designed around wine? Even better. Oenophiles will savor this relaxing yacht journey from Rome to Barcelona with the chance to savor complimentary wine tastings; enjoy a special Winemaker's Dinner with specially paired food and wine; and explore wineries and vineyards while ashore. The intimate ship includes a pool, spa, bars and lounges, and several places to simply kick back and enjoy the view.

Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, National Geographic Endurance
Bruce Wilson Photography/istockphoto

Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands

Ship: National Geographic Endurance
Length and price: 22 days from $30,840

If your bucket-list cruise doesn't involve sipping umbrella drinks but could easily include zipping between glaciers in a kayak or visiting massive penguin colonies, this National Geographic expedition cruise could be for you. Highlights include sailing through the remote Drake Passage, exploring the Antarctic coast on a rugged inflatable Zodiac boat, hiking and wildlife spotting on South Georgia Island, and visiting an albatross colony on the Falkland Islands. The surprisingly elegant ship boasts a spa, sauna, gym, and yoga studio; infinity-style hot tubs; lounge and bar; and expansive observation deck.

Passage to Ancient Treasures, Viking Sun

Explore the Vikings’ Route West

Ship: Viking Saturn
Length and price: 29 days from $13,598

This epic cruise traces the path of Vikings through the Nordic countries of Norway, Iceland, and Greenland before making its way to Canada and concluding in New York. Along the way you'll see majestic snowcapped mountaintops and fjords, visit quaint fishing villages and take in magnificent vistas. Highlights include stops at seven ports in Iceland as you circumnavigate the island nation, to sample local cuisine, take a stroll on black sand beaches, and discover different species of birds. The Viking Saturn is the cruise line's newest ship, featuring 465 staterooms, a spa, eight dining choices, a Wintergarden that hosts afternoon tea service, and a show-stopping infinity pool that seems to hang off the back of the ship.

Caribbean Mosaic Cruise, Oceania Riviera

Caribbean Mosaic Cruise

Ship: Oceania Riviera
Length and price: 66 days from $14,649

Most Caribbean cruises just scratch the surface, but this two-month voyage gives passengers a truly in-depth look at the region. Explore the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, Aruba and the ABC islands, the Florida Keys, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and the azure seas in between. Enjoy colorful colonial architecture, white-sand beaches, big-city fun in Miami, hikes to ancient Mayan ruins, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, and much more. Of course, the ship offers its own diversions including a casino, culinary center, full spa and salon, plenty of fitness activities, and even a putting green.

Gondolas and the Grand Prix, Windstar Wind Surf

Tales of Italy, Croatia, and Greece

Ship: Windstar Wind Surf
Length and price: 17 days from $5,299

The dazzling coasts of Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece beckon on this extraordinary Mediterranean yacht cruise that traces prosperous ancient world sea routes. Starting in scenic Rome with its many historic treasures, this journey winds around the Italian peninsula to numerous ports of call in the Adriatic Sea, including the ancient Croatian cities of Dubrovnik, Split, and Rovinj. Other highlights include exploring Sicily's Mount Etna, taking in Corfu's delightful countryside, and being wowed by the remains of ancient Athens. Aboard the 310-passenger ship, there's a watersports platform, plenty of areas for dining and lounging, and even an open bridge where you can pepper the crew with questions.

Related: 25 Craziest Cruise Ship Amenities

Routes of the Great Explorers Cruise, Seabourn Sojourn

Routes of the Great Explorers Cruise

Ship: Seabourn Sojourn
Length and price: 81 days from $35,999

Get an in-depth look at Australia, Indonesia, and Africa during this ambitious cruise that takes passengers from Sydney to Barcelona, Spain, sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way, wade into the sea of humanity at the Makola Market in Accra, speed through the Namib Desert in an ATV, explore cosmopolitan Cape Town, and visit a spice plantation in Zanzibar. Stops elsewhere include Sumatra, Indonesia; Seychelles; Namibia; and Morocco. Onboard amenities include a casino, nightclub, spa and salon, putting green, fitness center, and an observation bar with floor-to-ceiling sea views.

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