Yet some itineraries go way beyond the typical coastal boundaries assumed to be the limits of an ocean cruise, venturing along some extraordinary rivers and offering a fuller, more intricate picture of some fantastic destinations...
An easy one to overlook is London. Although London is a common inclusion on many an itinerary, cruise lines often employ a rather creative interpretation of British geography. Dover, Portsmouth, Southampton and Tilbury are all frequently referred to as 'London' for the benefit of our friends over the pond, but smaller ships are able to sail up the Thames to Greenwich, and even to pass under Tower Bridge into the heart of the City of London. Edging past the Thames Barrier, you can see beautiful Greenwich Park and the Old Royal Naval College, its most handsome aspect revealed to those on the water.
This extraordinary experience is made all the more surreal as you are surrounded by the normality of people going about their everyday lives, with tourists and commuters on Boris Bikes, runners along the Thames Path and diners enjoying the sunshine. Silversea use this most central of ports as the start and end point for a number of itineraries in both 2020 and 2021 on their smaller ships Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, exploring destinations including Iceland, Norway and the British Isles.
Seville's charm is boundless. The city's diverse architecture, from Roman ruins to grand Baroque edifices with Moorish flourishes, combines to make this call extra special. Here you can enjoy delicious tapas in bustling bars where seating spills onto the street, and the smell of orange blossom and the heart-tugging sounds of flamenco are carried on the warm evening breeze. Sailing the narrow Guadalquivir river into the heart of the city is only possible for the smallest of ships, our favourite of which is the 112-guest SeaDream I, which offers a Marseille to Seville voyage on 19th June 2021 before travelling on from Seville to Bordeaux on 26th June.
Set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, Montréal has a distinctive blend of old style European charm and bold modernity. The French-infused city's architectural highlights include the beautiful Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montréal, and a huge botanical garden plays host to the most outlandish floral displays. This is an excellent start or finish point to view the fall colours, and a journey along the river will also visit cosmopolitan Québec City, before a wilderness experience of forest-clad islands and towering cliffs. You might even spot a whale or two! Montréal is a regular port of call for many of our favourite ships, including the smallest of the Regent fleet, Seven Seas Navigator, which accommodates a maximum of just 490 guests and visits the city during September and October in both 2020 and 2021.
4. The Amazon
Flowing through the expansive rainforests of South America, the mighty Amazon and its tributaries are part of the planet's most extraordinary river system. Long used as a vital trade route, many towns and cities have grown on its banks, the largest of which, Manaus, sits at the meeting point of the Rio Negro and the Amazon, over 900 miles from the Atlantic. However, it is possible to travel even further on board Seabourn's expedition ship Seabourn Venture, launching in June 2021 and travelling all the way to the Peruvian city of Iquitos in March and April 2022, an astonishing 2,200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. If you don't want to wait that long, Hapag-Lloyd's expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration will also be making the journey in March and April this year.