2024 Cruise Destinations and Unique Shore Excursions You Won’t Want to Miss

by Tia

One of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism, cruising offers the opportunity to wake up in a new location every day while only having to unpack once.

But with an overwhelming array of cruise lines, destinations, and shore excursions (empowering you to immerse yourself in your chosen destination’s culture, cuisine, and history) on offer, how do you decide what type of cruise is right for you?

Kevin Bubolz, Vice President & Managing Director Continental Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) at Norwegian Cruise Line, weighs in with the leading 2024 cruise destinations and shore excursions to inspire your next voyage.

Why cruise here?

Famous for its beaches and Buddhist temples, Thailand is a treat for every type of traveller. It’s a great choice both if you’re keen to ‘fly and flop’ (or, in this case, ‘sail and suntan’) or get to know a brand-new culture. There’s no shortage of colourful festivals for the social butterflies, and the foodies can eat their fill of Thai cuisine, celebrated for its perfectly balanced flavours. Deliciously authentic Thai green curry with homemade curry paste and freshly pressed coconut milk, anyone?

Unique shore excursion to look forward to:

Join an environmental conservation project! According to Bubolz, there are many ways to give back or go green when stopping in Thailand. “NCL connects cruisers with The Bank Crab project in Phuket, in particular. They can help conserve the local crab population and lend a hand planting seagrass to re-establish dugong habitats or create a micro-organism ball that can purify wastewater, depending on the tide level.”  

Why cruise here?
Barcelona is bursting with incredible attractions, including the historic Gothic Quarter (a must-see for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts) and Gaudí’s architectural marvels, standing tall amidst bustling markets that generously waft Catalonia’s mouthwatering flavours through the pulsating city’s streets.

“Barcelona is an anticipated port city and final destination in NCL’s Namibia, Cape Verde, Angola & Ivory Coast cruise, setting sail in March 2024. The cruise departs from Cape Town and spans 21 days, promising a mix of special shore excursions and plenty of excitement aboard Norwegian Dawn,” comments Bubolz.

Unique excursion to look forward to:

Treat the foodie in you to a chocolate and cava experience. Chocolate and sparkling wine are a match made in heaven – imagine sampling Barcelona’s best at a renowned chocolate factory and winery, with delicious delights fresh off the production line, followed by some time spent soaking up the beauty of the Catalan countryside. Bliss!

Southern Caribbean
Why cruise here?
There’s a reason why the Caribbean tops the ‘most sought-after’ cruise lists every year. Think palm-fringed beaches, warm weather all year round, water sports galore, colourful carnivals, rum tastings, and more. It’s possible to cruise the Southern, Eastern, and Western stretches of the Caribbean, each with its own unique appeal – and it’s impossible to go wrong. That said, Bubolz advises cruisers who’d prefer to avoid crowds to opt for Southern Caribbean cruises.

“Cruises in the Southern Caribbean may have more extensive itineraries, often including lesser-known islands and less crowded ports. These itineraries are popular amongst travellers seeking a quieter and more off-the-beaten-path experience,” he says.

Unique excursion to look forward to:

Embark on an underwater adventure to Aruba’s iconic shipwreck, Antilla. This German cargo ship sunk during WWII and remains one of the island’s most spectacular dive sites, especially for snorkellers since it’s located in shallower waters.

Why cruise here?
A trendy port city in many Asian cruise itineraries, Vietnam offers stunning scenery, from rice terraces in Sapa to dramatic limestone karsts in Halong Bay. Other exciting attractions include visiting a floating market, where vendors sell their goods from boats on the waterways, and sampling a cup of classic Viennese coffee (finished off with a splash of condensed milk) from a streetside stall.

Unique excursion to look forward to: Explore Nha Trang’s landmarks via pedicab and take in the most notable sights along the downtown streets. Most pedicab tours, including a NCL shore excursion, conclude at the city’s beloved Dam Market – a fantastic spot for souvenir shopping and getting to know the locals.

Why cruise here?
Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime cruise destination for South Africans and a nature-packed wonderland. Cruise through icy fjords, where glaciers carve into the ocean and humpback whales breach the surface. Visit the rugged Denali National Park or witness the northern lights in Fairbanks. From the indigenous cultures of the Tlingit and Haida tribes to the gold rush tales of Skagway, there’ll never be a dull moment when visiting The Last Frontier.

“Alaska cruises are an especially great fit for families, especially from a wildlife perspective. The kids will never forget spotting bears, orcas, and wolves in their natural habitats,” says Bubolz.

“The peak season for Alaska cruises is from May to September, with most cruise ships departing from Seattle, Vancouver, Seward, and Anchorage. With one-stop flights available on various respected airlines, air accessibility for South Africans heading to Vancouver is fantastic. However, when investigating cruise and flight logistics, anyone travelling on a South African passport must note that a cruise to Alaska requires two visas.

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