If you’ve been saving for a splurge on a bucket list cruise in 2018, your timing couldn’t be better. Cruises in 2018 promise maiden journeys of brand new ships with outrageous offerings (think go-kart tracks), a cruise line dedicated exclusively to Millennials, and new river cruises into even more remote parts of the world.
Editor’s Note: For the latest version of this story, see The 10 Best Bucket List Cruises for 2019.
Inspiring 2018 Bucket List Cruises
Here are 10 extraordinary 2018 cruises just waiting to show you the world.
Go Deeper into Antarctica
This year, more ships than ever are visiting Antarctica, says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of SmarterTravel sister site Cruise Critic. Passengers can cruise in 2018 on veteran Antarctica lines including Lindblad, Ponant, or Silversea; or try Scenic, the new kid on the block in 2018. The line’s new 228-passenger ship, Scenic Eclipse, is Antarctica’s first ultra-luxury expedition yacht and the perfect bucket list cruise for adventurous cruisers hoping to discover this wild continent.
Departing Ushuaia, Argentina, Scenic’s 11-day Ultimate Antarctica cruise launches in December in five-star, bucket-list cruise style. The ship’s two onboard helicopters and submarine take you to deeper into remote areas in the white wilderness that few others have seen. Watch penguins play on the ice or drop below the surface in the submarine to spot whales and seals glide by.
Take in Remote Laos by River
Mekong River cruises are becoming more popular cruises in 2018, but most ships visit only Vietnam and Cambodia. “Neighboring Laos is a great option this year for those who have been there, done that when it comes to Southeast Asia,” says McDaniel. “It’s still a remote part of the world, where the best way to see it is by river. Visit this year, before the secret gets out.”
Pandaw cruise line explores the upper Mekong River, putting you in the heart of Laos. Specially designed with a low draft for sailing on the Upper Mekong, Pandaw ships float through the lush jungle and past tiny villages along the river bank in this undiscovered region on cruises in 2018. En route you’ll see waterfalls, stunning limestone cliffs, Buddhist temples, gilded monasteries, and traditional wooden homes.
Explore Iceland’s Geothermal Wonders
Iceland is trendy right now, but it can be expensive to visit by land. When you opt for a 2018 cruise instead, you’ll save money and avoid the crowds in the Land of Fire and Ice. “Hop on small ships with companies like Viking Cruises, which offers luxury and comfort, or Hurtigruten, whose ships are actual working vessels that transport freight and locals in addition to cruise passengers,” says McDaniel. Fans of bigger ships can take a transatlantic cruise to Iceland with companies like Holland America or Celebrity.
The small-ship operator Beyond Cruises by Group IST announced it will debut new cruises in 2018 around Iceland. The line’s Icelandic Saga cruise aboard the 48-passenger, three-masted M/S Panorama sails from Reykjavik to Akureyri this summer. On the seven-day, 2018 cruise, you can soak in the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, hike across geothermal fields, and explore the Langjökull Glacier.
Combine Ocean and River Cruising in Europe
This year, Viking Cruises will merge its European river cruising and ocean cruising on one route to give passengers a combined one-of-a-kind experience. The line’s first-ever river-and-ocean combination cruise, Rhine & Viking Shores & Fjords, is an exciting new 2018 cruise that launches in June.
The 15-day itinerary runs between Basel, Switzerland and Bergen, Norway, exploring six countries and 15 ports. The journey begins on a Viking Longship on the Rhine River, where you’ll see Germany’s Black Forest and Cologne’s iconic cathedral. Once you reach Amsterdam, you transfer to the oceangoing Viking Sun and sail the North Sea, stopping at charming old fishing villages and learning about Viking history as you navigate Norway’s breathtaking fjords.
Race Onboard Go-Karts en Route to Alaska
Norwegian Cruise Line’s new 4,000-passenger ship, Norwegian Bliss, debuts just in time for 2018 cruises, sailing to Alaska from Seattle starting in June. The ship ramps up the fun for families looking for a bucket list cruise with offerings including the first onboard go-kart race track on a North American-based ship. (NCL’s Norwegian Joy sailing in China also has a track.) On both ships, the race track offers a two-story thrill ride where up to 10 drivers at a time can race electric cars around the twisting route.
Star Wars fans will appreciate the outdoor laser tag set that looks like an abandoned space ship. Younger kids can spend hours in the huge waterpark with two waterslides, including one that loops and swings out over the edge of the ship. The ship’s other itineraries include the Eastern Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Pacific Coast, and Panama Canal.
Try the First River Cruise Line for Millennials
The popular river cruise line Uniworld introduces a new brand in 2018 geared exclusively to 21 to 45 year olds: U by Uniworld. The U brand launches sailings this April with two renovated 120-passenger ships that will cruise Europe’s Rhine, Danube, Main, and Seine rivers.
U itineraries are built around Millennial preferences. Longer stays in destinations allow passengers to stay up late and take in the local nightlife, allowing younger cruisers to blend a bucket list cruise with more in-depth urban explorations. Even if you sleep in, you won’t miss the excursions (think bungee jumping and rooftop tours) deliberately scheduled later in the day. Onboard Millennial favorites include international DJs, wine and paint classes, communal dining tables, and a street food-inspired culinary program.
Preview a New IMAX Film Location on Canada’s West Coast
This spring, Maple Leaf Adventures’ new 22-passenger expedition catamaran embarks on its inaugural voyage into British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, a stunning coastal reserve that is the focus of a new IMAX film set for release in 2019. The Cascadia’s eight-day 2018 cruise itineraries follow the routes of the filmmakers through the rainforest’s narrow channels and beneath steep fjords where waterfalls drop hundreds of feet before splashing into the ocean. It’s the ultimate luxurious eco-expedition in some of BC’s most rugged, untouched coastal terrain.
Local guides, the aboriginals who live here, lead hikes in estuaries where grizzlies, black bears, and the elusive white Kermode “spirit” bear feast on spawning salmon every fall. The 138-foot ship is small enough to give passengers close-to-the-water views of dolphins playing in the wake and humpback whales surfacing nearby, offering a true bucket list cruise experience.
Help Support the Economy in the Caribbean
Last fall, hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma ravaged St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and several other popular Caribbean ports. “The good news for travelers is that the Caribbean is open,” says McDaniel. “Add a Caribbean 2018 cruise to your bucket list and you’ll be helping to support the region and local economies that took a hit in 2017.”
MSC was one cruise line that helped the region rebound by shipping in water, food, mattresses, medical supplies, and even a large semi-permanent building used as a school. In December, MSC debuted one of the most talked-about new ships cruising the Caribbean in 2018. The chic new Italian-designed MSC Seaside includes a massive two-story waterpark, ziplines, and smart wristbands that work as a room key, activity planner, and credit card.
Go Temple and Beach Hopping in Malaysia
One of the UK’s largest cruise lines, Thomson Cruises, rebranded to Marella Cruises in October and is rolling out several new 2018 cruises in Asia this year. Be the first to sail on Marella’s maiden voyages to Bangkok and Sri Lanka. Onboard the Marella Discovery, you’ll find outdoor movie nights, a rock climbing wall, and mini golf.
On the 14-night Enchanting Far East itinerary, you’ll sail from Langkawi, Malaysia, with stops in Laem Chabang, Singapore, Phu My (Ho Chi Minh), and Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur). Ride cable cars and explore traditional villages. On this bucket list cruise, you can also see one of the world’s largest reclining Buddha statues, tour orchid gardens, or spend entire days soaking in Koh Samui’s beaches and spiritual sites.
Splurge on Mega Yachting in the Greek Isles
If this summer’s new Mamma Mia movie release leaves you dreaming of tiny Greek islands and warm turquoise waters, then consider Abercrombie & Kent’s 2018 cruise to Greece. The luxury expedition brand is chartering the new all-balcony Le Laperouse mega yacht for its seven-day Cruising the Greek Isles itinerary. On this bucket list cruise, you’ll discover the archaeological wonders of Crete, beach parties of Mykonos, and volcanic landscapes of Santorini.
Launching new 2018 cruises in spring, the 150-passenger ship includes an underwater lounge, butler service in every suite, and onboard concierge service for private shore excursions. With the concierge service, the crew will arrange customized experiences depending on your interests, whether a private soak in Nea Kameni’s hot springs or a personalized tour showing you how the Greek aristocracy lived.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The Ultimate Cruise Packing Guide
- 9 Secluded Destinations You Can Have All to Yourself
- 6 Incredible Train Journeys That Won’t Break Your Budget
Jamie Moore is excited for her next bucket list cruise. She is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel. Her articles have appeared on USA Today, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, and WestJet.