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17 Bucket List Cruise Itineraries

Take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to world-class destinations around the globe.

U.S. News & World Report

17 Bucket List Cruise Itineraries

Halong Bay, Vietnam
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Soak up unforgettable scenery and experiences on an epic voyage.

The world seems boundless when you imagine exploring it by ship. With the vast seven seas and countless inner waterways around the globe, it's easy to fantasize about sailing to exotic ports of call and visiting far-off destinations or staying close to home to explore underrated gems in your own country. No matter where you dream of going, there's a ship to take you there. With some help from cruise veterans and industry executives, we've pinpointed dreamy itineraries to cross off your list.
Cruise itineraries
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Sail from Paris to Normandy, France.

With world-class museums, shops and dining, Paris is enchanting year-round. After enjoying a few days in the City of Light, set sail for a weeklong cruise on the Seine River with views of the Eiffel Tower as you cast away. Stop in picturesque Giverny and admire Impressionist artist Claude Monet's house and gardens in full bloom. Afterward, visit the Normandy beaches where Allied soldiers landed on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Avalon Waterways offers eight-day cruises for this itinerary on several dates, all of which offer stunning river views, historical ports and endless French wine and cheese. Viking Cruises offers a similar itinerary as well.
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Soak up unforgettable scenery and experiences on an epic voyage.

The world seems boundless when you imagine exploring it by ship. With the vast seven seas and countless inner waterways around the globe, it's easy to fantasize about sailing to exotic ports of call and visiting far-off destinations or staying close to home to explore underrated gems in your own country. No matter where you dream of going, there's a ship to take you there. With some help from cruise veterans and industry executives, we've pinpointed dreamy itineraries to cross off your list.

Sail from Paris to Normandy, France.

With world-class museums, shops and dining, Paris is enchanting year-round. After enjoying a few days in the City of Light, set sail for a weeklong cruise on the Seine River with views of the Eiffel Tower as you cast away. Stop in picturesque Giverny and admire Impressionist artist Claude Monet's house and gardens in full bloom. Afterward, visit the Normandy beaches where Allied soldiers landed on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Avalon Waterways offers eight-day cruises for this itinerary on several dates, all of which offer stunning river views, historical ports and endless French wine and cheese. Viking Cruises offers a similar itinerary as well.

Embark on a voyage across Africa.

For an unforgettable journey, carve out a few days in Cape Town, South Africa, then fly inland to Kasane, Botswana, where you'll embark on the Zambezi Queen for a cruise along the Chobe River. This intimate, 28-passenger AmaWaterways ship features open views of the river and landscape through every window. Take a safari into Chobe National Park, which touts the largest population of wildlife in Africa. After admiring elephants, lions, zebra and gazelles, you'll end your adventure at Victoria Falls. If a bigger ship is more your style, journey through six South African and Namibian ports over 12 days with Norwegian Cruise Line.

Admire tulips and windmills in Holland and Belgium.

This region's annual springtime spectacle takes place from mid-March to mid-May, with the tulips usually at their peak in mid-April. That's the best time to hop on a river cruise and travel the canals of Amsterdam and Bruges to see these beautiful European cities and quintessential windmills in the scenic countryside. Cruisers can soak in endless displays of the colorful famed flower of the Netherlands, particularly at Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse. Sail with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection for its 10-day, all-inclusive Tulip and Windmill Cruise from Amsterdam to Antwerp, Belgium. Or, opt for a luxury Crystal Cruises river boat for a weeklong Blooming Tulip voyage, roundtrip from Amsterdam.

Explore Alsace, France.

Arranged by private charter only, the exclusive Belmond Lilas barge holds just eight guests. Book in advance to explore the inviting region of Alsace, which boasts extraordinary surroundings both on and off the ship. The six-night itinerary from St. Leger Sur Dheune to Pontallier, France, has everything to make your cruise a glamorous and memorable one. Sip Champagne on the deck while watching the French countryside pass by, enjoy gourmet dining and wine tastings in Chagny and take private tours of 12th-century medieval fortresses in the quaint village of Rully. Larger cruise lines like Holland America Line also offer sailings to dreamy French locales.

Take a trans-Atlantic crossing.

Step back in time and embrace the grandeur of a trans-Atlantic crossing aboard the luxurious Queen Mary 2. This flagship of the savvy British Cunard Line carries roughly 2,700 guests and maintains a strict dress code, with several formal nights during the sailing. You can savor decadent cocktails and enjoy nightly entertainment, educational lectures and fine dining on board as you sail to destinations across Europe, Asia and Australia. You can even bring your pup along, thanks to the line's at-sea kennel – the only cruise ship pet facility of its kind.

Explore the best of Northern Europe.

A highlight of the Viking Homelands itinerary offered by Viking Ocean Cruises is that it includes stops in eight scenic countries, including Sweden, Norway and Denmark. "Scandinavia is Viking territory, and the Viking Homelands itinerary brings guests along the original trade routes of the Viking explorers. [While] sailing … guests have opportunities to see the great cities of the Baltic Sea, along with Norwegian fjords, rural historical sites and ancient Viking settlements that provide a glimpse at how the original Vikings lived," says Torstein Hagen, Viking Cruises' founder and chairman. "One of our signature itineraries, I'm pleased to offer it for guests to experience my home country of Norway and the homelands of the original Viking explorers," he adds.

Take a glamorous voyage to Monaco.

Monaco provides an interesting mix of culture and scenery for cruisers – especially those interested in racing. Hop aboard a Windstar Cruises yacht for an intimate seven-day voyage; you'll enjoy stops in ports like Rome and Portofino, plus exclusive access to special Grand Prix events and Formula One races in Monte Carlo. If you'd like to explore Monaco without the racing theme (or on a bigger vessel) consider a Mediterranean voyage on Oceania Cruises, many of which include a stop in this picturesque region.

Cruise through the Cyclades islands.

The Cyclades, southeast of mainland Greece, are some of the most beautiful islands in the world, including Delos, known as the birthplace of Apollo. The Cycladic isles of Santorini and Mykonos are no strangers to major lines like Silversea Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, but booking a private yacht may promise an even more memorable experience. "Between the geographical makeup of the Cyclades Islands and the mythic nature and narrative behind each stop, the exquisite and traditional m/s Erato yacht is the ideal vessel to tour the Aegean Sea," says Kathy Stewart, the regional director of Western Europe for tour operator Butterfield & Robinson. "This private excursion has it all: an enviable mix of biking and hiking adventures, authentic Greek culinary experiences both on ship and on land and ancient history woven throughout."

Experience the South Pacific.

When asked about his bucket list destinations, Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, says this: "The South Pacific is so picturesque. It's no wonder so many people yearn to visit – and I'm definitely one of them. There's no better way to experience the island of Tahiti and the surrounding South Pacific than on a Regent Seven Seas Cruises' ship. From a ship, you can really appreciate the dramatic topography of the volcanic islands of French Polynesia." Spend 10-plus nights cruising through the pristine water surrounding Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and other islands aboard the Seven Seas Navigator.

Discover Southeast Asia.

Explore this wondrous part of the world on a cruise of your choosing. From Ho Chi Minh City and the 1,000-year-old capital of Hanoi in Vietnam to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a cruise through Southeast Asia affords the opportunity to experience the region's culture, sights and cuisine in a single trip. Several river cruise lines offer itineraries to these legendary destinations along the Mekong River, including Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways and AmaWaterways. You'll also find Southeast Asia sailings to destinations like Singapore and Bangkok with larger cruise lines like Princess Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line.

Explore Seychelles, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Navin Sawhney, CEO of the Americas for Ponant Yacht Cruises and Expeditions, highlights a cruise to these three Indian Ocean destinations as bucket list-worthy. Prepare for adventure on a Ponant Explorers ship, each named after a French explorer. Designed with the privacy of a yacht and just 92 guest rooms each, these vessels offer cruises through stunning tropical waters and excursions for scuba diving, water sports and wildlife viewing. For a bigger ship experience, look to cruise lines like Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises, all of which sail to these exotic destinations as well.

Visit Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

As a cruise industry veteran and general manager at Viking Cruises, Sujith Mohan has crisscrossed the world visiting numerous fascinating destinations by ship. Antarctica tops his list of memorable journeys. A number of expedition lines offer itineraries to this remote part of the world that can span anywhere from eight days to four weeks, including National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions and Quark Expeditions. Major cruise lines like Viking Cruises and Celebrity Cruises also travel to this region. Whichever cruise line you choose, prepare to get close to seals, whales and various species of penguins by kayak or Zodiac boat and marvel at the snowcapped icebergs on an adventure to remember.

Embark on an around-the-world cruise.

Sailing around the globe offers an epic way to explore the world in a single trip. On a roughly four-month journey with Viking Ocean Cruises, travelers can visit more than two dozen countries across six continents, with stops at around 50 ports of call. Plus, food, beverages, airfare, excursions and more are included. Some of the destination stops on this voyage include Sydney, Singapore, Rome, Barcelona and stops across the Caribbean and South America. Other lines also offer cruises around the world, including Silversea Cruises, Cunard Line, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Princess Cruises. Just keep in mind: Cruises around the world do not come cheap. Prices can range from $15,000 to almost $200,000 per traveler, depending on the cruise line.

Sail through the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal is a must-see for many travelers. A number of lines offer the 40-mile journey linking the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Consider UnCruise Adventures' Costa Rica and Panama itineraries, which typically run in the winter months. Tim Jacox, president and chief operating officer of the line, says this cruise includes a full Panama Canal crossing. "Panama is not just the canal by any means. We exclusively tie in adventurous exploration on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the canal with native culture. Kayaking, hiking, snorkeling and paddleboarding lead into uplifting visits with Embera native villagers in the Darien jungle and Guna Yala natives in the former San Blas Islands," he adds. Larger cruise lines that traverse the Panama Canal include Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and more.

Cruise from New York to Montreal in the fall.

Stunning scenery along the St. Lawrence River and panoramic views of eastern Canada's rugged coastline set to autumn's changing colors are reason enough to bookmark this itinerary. Travelers can visit Prince Edward Island to sample its renowned seafood, or make stops in vibrant cultural and culinary cities such as Montreal, Quebec City, Boston and New York City. But with a short window in October to witness the height of the fall foliage, be sure to secure your plans at least a few months in advance. Oceania Cruises and Silversea Cruises are among the lines that offer this itinerary.

Embrace the Last Frontier.

Chris Owen, a travel writer who specializes in cruising, has seen a variety of iconic ports of call come into focus from the balcony of a cruise ship stateroom. One of his top recommendations for the cruise of a lifetime is Alaska, especially for multigenerational groups. He says it's worthwhile for every American to visit this special place in the northern territory. While Holland America Line and Princess Cruises dominate the market, other large lines offer itineraries to Alaska as well, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. What's more, deals on Alaska cruises are available throughout the sailing season, which spans from May to September.

Explore America's heartland.

If you want to experience America's heartland and the Deep South, consider rolling along the Mighty Mississippi onboard the world's largest river steamboat, the American Queen. Itineraries travel to small storybook towns that are filled with American history and reminiscent of days gone by. Stop in big cities such as St. Louis and Memphis, Tennessee, for barbecue and blues before heading into the Mississippi Delta and the South to learn about its rich and complicated history. Experience the best of Americana while leisurely sailing on this iconic American waterway before disembarking in the always lively New Orleans.

Bucket List Cruise Itineraries

  • Paris to Normandy, France
  • Africa
  • Tulip season: Holland and Belgium
  • Alsace, France
  • Trans-Atlantic crossing
  • Northern Europe
  • Monaco
  • Cyclades islands, Greece
  • South Pacific
  • Southeast Asia
  • Seychelles, Maldives, Sri Lanka
  • Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands
  • Around-the-world cruise
  • Panama Canal
  • Autumn: New York to Montreal
  • Alaska
  • America's heartland
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Updated on Nov. 24, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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