As the summer sun starts to blossom and days grow long and languid, Australians have traditionally turned their thoughts to cruising. Yet while there might be no life on an ocean wave for us this season, anchors have already been hauled up on ships overseas, and the stiff pace of bookings indicates that passengers haven't lost their love for cruise holidays. With a more hopeful 2022 in prospect, here are six itineraries that showcase a variety of cruise styles and destinations. It's time to re-float our travel dreams and imagine sailing out of harbours to the tinkle of ice cubes, the screech of gulls and the glories of passing port scenery.
Ponant's Mysteries of Melanesia
It's a shame our near Pacific neighbours aren't better known, but if you've been put off by a lack of top-notch accommodation and poor transport connectivity then suave French luxury expedition company Ponant provides the solution. This 11-night journey on elegant Le Soléal takes you to highlights in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia without having to sacrifice comfort, a good bottle of red, or a plump pillow.
Zodiac excursions are accompanied by a National Geographic expert and photographer, with ample opportunity to hike volcanoes, drift through coral reefs and encounter the vivid life of isolated islands.
From $11,300pp, departing November 11, 2022; au.ponant.com.
Viking Cruises' Passage to India
This is an itinerary for those who enjoy archaeological adventure interspersed with leisurely days at sea on which to enjoy the low-key, education-focused charms that characterise Viking ships, which are devoid of kids, casinos and brash entertainments. The 21-day passage from Athens to Mumbai on new ship Viking Mars (which launches in early 2022) has considerable cultural kudos, with opportunities to visit Jerusalem, Cairo, Luxor, Petra and
the gnarly, time-worn magnificence of ancient Omani port cities Salalah and Muscat. During the transit of the Suez Canal, you'll want to be floating in the infinity pool cantilevered off the ship's stern as you squint at the desert.
From $9695pp, departing October 25, 2022; vikingcruises.com.au.
Royal Caribbean's Okinawa and Ishigaki
Crave shipboard entertainment as much as destination? Then hop aboard megaship Wonder of the Seas, which launches in March 2022 and has 18 decks of restaurants, theatres, swimming pools, kids' clubs, water slides and zip lines. This five-night dalliance, from Hong Kong to Japan's southernmost islands and back, provides an enticing mix of castles, World War II sites and Shinto shrines, and showcases an alternative side to frenetic urban Japan in its laid-back subtropics. Stretch your sea legs with a hoof up Mount Otomo for forested coastal views. Scuba diving and snorkelling – or an excursion by glass-bottomed boat – reveal superb reefs and a kaleidoscope of fish.
From $1241pp, departing December 13, 2022; royalcaribbean.com/aus.
Scenic's Baja and Costa Rica Discovery
Anyone hankering after a more unusual cruise destination will be satisfied with this new 14-day voyage from San Diego, which loops down Mexico's Baja Peninsula and calls at Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Marine life and national parks are the focus, but Antigua is a cultural highlight, its
blue and banana-yellow Spanish-era architecture flamboyant beneath lipstick-pink bougainvillea and emerald volcanoes. Travel is aboard
the all-suite Scenic Eclipse – a vessel
so James Bond in conception it comes with its own helicopters and six-seater submarine – plus that modern luxury cruising must-have, a yoga studio.
From $15,386pp, departing September 28, 2022; scenic.com.au.
Oceania's Barcelona to Venice
If classic Europe is what you've been missing, hurry aboard Riviera for a stylish 12-day voyage through Mediterranean highlights that include Cannes, Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, Naples and Dubrovnik. You'll also get a taste of more modest ports such as Koper in Slovenia, whose Venetian-era old town is jumbled with Gothic architecture and cobbled laneways, and Kotor in Montenegro. The latter is approached down a long, fjord-like sunken valley that will have you glued to the ship's railings. Oceania has perhaps the best shipboard food of any fleet, emphasises destination, and is posh without pretension, the Goldilocks of the cruise world.
From $3990pp, departing April 25, 2022; oceaniacruises.com.
Princess Cruises' Queensland
If you don't care to stray too far, this seven-day jaunt round-trip from Brisbane aboard the Coral Princess brings idle pleasures, including two zone-out days at sea and stops in the sun-soaked playgrounds of Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas. The only problem with the wide range of excursion options is making a choice. All the standards are covered (Barrier Reef, crocodile cruises, Indigenous heritage); more esoteric options include drift-snorkelling in the Daintree River and horse riding through mangrove wetlands. After which it's time to unwind poolside with a frozen margarita and watch the sunset unfurl.
From $1228pp, departing November 10, 2022; princess.com.