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Beyond the water’s edge: Places you can’t go on a cruise

Cruise Advice

Yes, I know what you're thinking. You can't really go anywhere on a cruise right now.

But humour me, dear reader, for I am holed up in my home office, socially distant, wondering what on earth to write about. In normal times, we probably wouldn't be talking about places that you can't visit by ship, but it struck me as an interesting angle from which to examine the world of cruising.

You might think it would be easy to name a place you can't cruise to; just pick somewhere without a coastline, any of the world's 49 landlocked countries. But there you would be mistaken, because there are plenty of landlocked countries you can visit on a river cruise. In Europe, a Danube cruise will take you through no fewer than four landlocked countries - Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia - with the possibility of a shore excursion across the border into a fifth, the Czech Republic. Or how about a wildlife-packed cruise along the Chobe river, in landlocked Botswana?

Salzburg, Austria, one of the highlights of a Danube cruise

So that theory's out the window. How about those places so far off the beaten track that no ports exist, no towns, no hotels, no airstrips - places like Antarctica, or the North Pole, or the depths of the Amazon jungle? Wrong again! This is where expedition cruising comes into its own, with an incredible array of intrepid voyages on board small, specialist vessels, usually with an ice-class hull and always with an expert team of naturalists, lecturers and guides on board.

Scenic Eclipse at Brown Bluff, Antarctica

If you want to find a place that you can't visit by cruise, your best bet is to check the countries on the Foreign Office's 'do not travel' list. Back in normal times, before the coronavirus locked down most of the world's borders (it still feels surreal typing that!), the countries to avoid would be those with ongoing conflicts or civil unrest, such as Syria, Libya or Venezuela. But while it would be correct to state that you can't currently book a cruise to those places, it was perfectly possible to visit Syria and Libya by ship ten years ago; in the case of Venezuela, French cruise line Ponant was operating voyages into the Orinoco Delta as recently as last year.

Indeed, Ponant is a cruise line that is constantly looking for new and exciting destinations to add to their programme; browse their itineraries and you'll see countries like Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon and Suriname amongst the more familiar ports of call. Another trailblazer is Silversea, which was the first cruise line to visit Bangladesh in 2017, and will be calling at the Saudi port of Jeddah as part of their 2022 'Tale of Tales' World Cruise.

Old city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

However, we must concede, there are some countries that are safe to visit, yet inaccessible by ship. One such is Uzbekistan - not just landlocked, but double landlocked, surrounded on all sides by other landlocked countries. (The only other country on earth in the same situation is little Liechtenstein). While Uzbekistan has rivers, including the legendary Oxus, crossed three times by Alexander the Great, you will not find any Uzbek river cruises on the Mundy Cruising website.

This really is a country that you have to travel through overland, and in fact I did this myself in 2015. It's a fascinating place, home to the spectacular Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, and with a unique blend of Middle Eastern, Asian and Soviet influences. But the truth is, even a trip to Uzbekistan is not out of the question with Mundy Cruising; we've sent clients there before, on a rail holiday with no cruising involved. It's not something we actively advertise, but if our clients want to book a land-based holiday with us, we will always do our best to make it happen!

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

And, of course, there are many more destinations that can't be visited by cruise ship, but dovetail perfectly with a cruise. A few years ago, Edwina and Matthew combined a Brahmaputra river cruise with a trip to the enigmatic Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. More recently, Silversea experimented with some unusual land extensions with their Couture Collection, which featured tours to destinations including Tibet, Mongolia and Bolivia.

At Mundy, we'll always try and accommodate your most unusual requests. If you were feeling adventurous, it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility to combine a Russian river cruise with a trip to Belarus, or a Nile cruise with a tour of Sudan. Who knows - one day, it might even be possible to take a cruise to North Korea!

Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

The point I am making, in a rather laboured way, is that a cruise is one of the most versatile types of holiday that there is. Once this crisis has passed, the travel possibilities will once again be almost limitless. And that, surely, is something to look forward to.

Meet the author

Tom is a former Marketing Manager at Mundy Cruising

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