There are plenty of off-the-radar world cruises to embark on in 2020 says JENNA BERNDT. While sun-splashed Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises are top sellers, travellers are increasingly looking outside of these popular favourites. There’s a vast range of exciting itineraries featuring ports you’ve never heard of or dreamt of visiting on a cruise. Here is Flight Centre’s pick of cruise destinations that will float your boat in 2020.

Halong Bay Vietnam cruise
Halong Bay Vietnam cruise

The magic of the Middle East

Do you still think of the Middle East as deserts and dry land? Think again. The Middle East has become a favourite stop for cruise ships laden with passengers eager to explore this historic corner of the world. Popular stops include:

Dubai 

In a glittering city clad with skyscrapers, a ski resort, seven-star hotels and over-the-top shopping malls, the best advice is to decide what to see and do before disembarking. Don’t cram your time ashore too full of experiences. Whether shopping, theme parks, spicy souks or museums get your heart beating, you can find it all and more in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi

The capital of the United Arab Emirates has emerged from the shadows of its famous neighbour Dubai. It has its own modern marvels and glorious architecture. Although development has been rapid, locals are fiercely proud of Abu Dhabi’s heritage and are happy to show visitors its many highlights.

Take a city tour to see the startling Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for a real dose of culture and history. It’s a must!

Abu Dhabi is also considered a playground for families, with amusement parks and other attractions galore. The Yas Marina Circuit is fun for the whole family.

Doha

Many Middle East cruises will include a stop in Doha, Qatar. Travellers may want to book excursions into the interior to embark on a desert safari or dune bashing trip. For cruise passengers with only a few hours in port, strolling the palm-tree fringed Corniche, a seven-kilometre-long seafront promenade, is a beautiful way to soak up the sunshine. Souq Waqif is also popular. Sample traditional cuisine, pop into a shisha lounge or browse for souvenirs.

Oman

Muscat is Oman’s port capital and an ideal stop for cruise-goers. Mountains and desert surround the city. Once a frankincense-trading centre, Oman has preserved its unique identity and a strong sense of culture. Visitors can explore 16th-century Portuguese forts and the aptly-named marble-clad Grand Mosque.

Sail there with MSC Cruises MSC Bellissima

“Fly-stay-cruise packages are the best way for travellers to bundle their essentials into one value for money, rand-saving package,” says Sara Park, Marketing Campaign Manager at Cruiseabout, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group. “A seven-night cruise package on board the MSC Bellissima includes all onboard meals, entertainment and gratuities, return flights and pre-and post-hotel accommodation. The itinerary visits Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Muscat and Khasab.”

Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Singapore

Singapore is a popular stop-over destination for South Africans headed to Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia. However, it’s also gaining momentum as a competitive international cruise destination.

“The inclusive nature of cruising presents good value of money for South African travellers,” adds Park. “Cruising is a good option for more exotic locations, such as Singapore, as  travellers can explore so many different areas and only unpack once.”

When in port in Singapore, passengers can opt for a city tour. Marvel at the diverse architecture, visit the Botanic Gardens and stop for lunch at a traditional food centre or market. In the late afternoon, take in the views from the SkyWalk at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

Malaysia

Most Malaysia itineraries feature two stops – Malacca and the Port of Kelang in Kuala Lumpur. Malacca is an off-the-radar gem with colourful historical buildings. Visit the A’Famosa Fort, built by Portuguese settlers, and the Melaka Sultanate Palace for a glimpse back to the 15th century. Jonker Street is every Instagram lover’s dream, with antique shops, trendy cafés, night markets and a bustling atmosphere.

In Kuala Lumpur, cruise passengers can explore the relatively young city (it’s only 150 years old). Visit the Observation Deck of the Petronas Twin Towers or climb the Batu Caves. Shopping and dining are more affordable here than in some other parts of Asia, which makes it even more appealing to South Africans travelling on the rand.

Sail there with Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas

This seven-night itinerary includes stops in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia, Phuket in Thailand and Singapore.

The Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Jade facilitates a Hong Kong cruise
The Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Jade facilitates a Hong Kong cruise

Vietnam

Island hopping and hiring a motorcycle is not the only way to explore trendy Vietnam in 2020. There are cruise lines that visit major coastal cities, enabling passengers to get to popular towns and sights with ease.

Feel the rush of the motorcycle thronged streets of Hanoi, and take in bustling Ho Chi Minh City and the romance of Hanoi, which is lit up with thousands of colourful lanterns at dusk.

Sail there with: Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Jade

The Norwegian Jade operates a seven-night cruise to some of Southeast Asia’s highlights, including Hong Kong, Hanoi, Hue, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore.

For South African travellers keen on a hassle-free, value-for-money holiday in 2020, cruising is the answer. The next time you consider a holiday, think beyond borders and hit the high sea instead.

What: Trendy 2020 cruise destinations
WS