1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Cruise Industry Trends
  4. 9 Hottest Cruise Destinations for 2019

9 Hottest Cruise Destinations for 2019

  • If you're looking to cruise to the places that are generating buzz, or want to be among the first to sail to cutting-edge destinations, we've got your wish list. The hottest cruise destinations for 2019 span the planet, from a Caribbean port you might think you know to a remote coral atoll in the South Pacific that we bet you do not. Asia is having a definite moment, but you might be surprised by a few of our top picks.

    In no particular order, Cruise Critic presents some of the best places to cruise this year.

    1. The Mekong
    2. Egypt
    3. The Great Lakes
    4. Conflict Islands (Papua New Guinea)
    5. St. Maarten/St. Martin
    6. Baltics
    7. Turkey
    8. Norway
    9. Singapore

    Photo: Noppasin Wongchum/Shutterstock

  • 1

    The Mekong

    More cruise lines than ever are sailing the Mekong, which makes it a great time to experience the sensory circus that is Vietnam, from the chaotic capital of Hanoi to dreamy Halong Bay. Most sailings on this itinerary also call on Cambodia, so you get a few shades of Southeast Asia in one trip. Avalon Waterways debuted a new ship on the river late in 2018 -- Avalon Saigon, which sails from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap. Emerald Waterway's Emerald Harmony launches on the river in 2019.

    The Upper Mekong, which runs from Laos and Myanmar (Burma) to China, also continues to increase in popularity with river cruisers. Pandaw remains the only line that sail this stretch; experience a voyage aboard Champa Pandaw. The entirety of Southeast Asia has been named Destination of the Year by Conde Nast Traveler, and for good reason: The whole region is experiencing a surge in tourism due to relatively low pricing and abundant culture.

    Photo: Pushish Images/Shutterstock.com

  • 2

    Egypt

    The draw of the pyramids, the ancient allure of Egypt, is too much to keep tourists away for long, and we're happy to report the overdue comeback of Nile River cruising. Reports from river cruise lines heading into 2018 were that bookings had exponentially increased -- up to fivefold -- into Egypt. Viking Ra debuted here in 2018, Celestyal will also sail in 2019 and Uniworld has announced a dedicated ship for 2020.

    The Arab Spring uprising, which began around 2011, rippled the region's tourism significantly. But safety concerns have dramatically tapered off in recent years, as we report from a recent Sanctuary Retreats cruise on the Nile. If that's not enough to convince you, a pristine 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest was just uncovered -- Egypt might be old, but it knows how to keep it interesting.

    Photo: Certe/Shutterstock.com

  • 3

    The Great Lakes

    The Great Lakes are the next frontier of U.S. cruising. Cruise lines are beginning to recognize these itineraries as relatively unchartered territory, and cruisers want to explore their own backyard. You can travel throughout the five Great Lakes, the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world, on voyages so diverse that they might begin in Detroit and end in Halifax.

    See Niagara Falls and Montreal in the same trip, or Milwaukee and the Mackinac Islands of Michigan on another. Discovering the small towns of America is a treasure that many cruisers have yet to unlock. Plus, these voyages are unique in the sense that they traverse both rivers and the open ocean, navigating the scenic St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic coast.

    Small-ship cruise lines that sail here include Pearl Seas Cruises (owned by American Cruise Lines) and Victory Cruise Lines (recently purchased by competitor American Queen Steamboat Company).

    Photo: Ginger Dingus

  • 4

    Conflict Islands (Papua New Guinea)

    Some might argue that the world is running out of "pristine" or undiscovered destinations. Carnival Corporation is answering that challenge with the introduction of the Conflict Islands, a privately owned coral atoll off the coast of Papua New Guinea. In 2018, cruisers were invited to discover this exotic port of call aboard a P&O Australia cruise.

    Luckily, if you're looking to go off the grid in 2019, you can manage to do it on a mainstream U.S. line: Holland America Line is sailing to Australia and Melanesia throughout the year as part of its EXC In-Depth Voyages program. Select itineraries aboard Maasdam are scheduled to visit the Conflict Islands -- a haven for snorkelers, scuba divers and anyone who appreciates white sand and a cerulean sea. Cunard will join the Carnival brands making this exotic call in 2020.

  • 5

    St. Maarten/St. Martin

    If you've cruised to Dutch and French St. Maarten/Martin in the past, the island is not what you'll remember, but that's OK. In the short time the highly trafficked port was closed after Hurricane Irma, improvements were made, adding shopping, dining and even landscaping to the terminal facilities. The shore excursion program in port is robust, featuring the world's steepest zipline in a new eco-park called Rainforest Adventures that was developed in conjunction with a historic estate.

    Positioned as a great jump-off point to other islands, the Port of St. Maarten is moving forward with its homeport facility in 2019, hosting lines like Seabourn, Windstar and Star Clippers. While generations of islanders won't forget the impact of September 2017's hurricanes, the recovery and resilience of the Eastern Caribbean tourism sectors prove their unwavering determination to give visitors the best possible welcome.

  • 6

    Baltics

    To be fair, Baltic cruises have been "hot" for a while as cruisers tick off visits to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg or the Nobel Museum of Stockholm from their bucket lists. But Baltic capitals are giving cruisers new reasons to visit or revisit in 2019.

    Port cities that might have once been viewed as itinerary fillers are becoming full-fledged cultural centers. Namely, you'll want to make sure Tallinn, Estonia, is a stop on your cruise. A beguiling blend of history (its Old Town was untouched by war) and modernity (Skype was born here), Tallinn is unexpected and easy to explore. Cultural festivals like World Music Days (celebrating its 40th anniversary) line the calendar, while cheap beer can still be found throughout the Estonian pub scene.

    Meanwhile, Lonely Planet has named Copenhagen its top city in the world to visit in 2019, citing the completion of its city metro line slated for summer 2019 and an emerging street-food scene that has turned an old shipyard into a food and craft market called Reffen.

     Photo: De Visu/Shutterstock

  • 7

    Turkey

    In 2019, cruise lines will return to Turkey, home of Ephesus and Istanbul, in earnest. After an attempted military coup in the summer of 2016, it's been slow sailing for the country's cruise ports. But following consultation with top security experts, lines like Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Windstar, Azamara, Oceania and Star Clippers will once again call on Turkish cities rich with bustling markets and incredible ruins. We visited on a Celestyal cruise this past July and found Kusadasi to be as welcoming as ever.

    Istanbul is gearing up for an expansion of its cruise terminal, expected to make progress by late 2019.

    Photo: OPIS Zagreb/Shutterstock

  • 8

    Norway

    More accessible than Greenland but less saturated (and able to accommodate the influx of tourists better) than Iceland, Norway is a happy medium for cruisers seeking the northern lights. Omnipresent in our social feeds, but elusive depending on time and place, the northern lights have been seeing a lot of love lately.

    During the lush summer months, the Norwegian fjords come alive, and cruising is the best way to experience the landscape. However, cold-weather sailing in the region has increased. Local expert Hurtigruten sail during the dark and cold winter months (prime for viewing), as does Viking Ocean Cruises in 2019, from January through March, and from London to Bergen (or reverse) on an itinerary aptly named "In Search of the Northern Lights."

    Photo: CoolKengzz/Shutterstock

  • 9

    Singapore

    Asian metropolises are seeing an uptick in luxury travelers, which means these days Singapore is as popular as Paris or London. The city-state south of Malaysia is already well-known by Asian cruisers and the jet-set crowd, but the popularity of the book and film "Crazy Rich Asians" has millennials everywhere looking to exchange armchair travel for a plane ticket.

    Consider a cruise fare in 2019; lines including Royal Caribbean, Princess, Seabourn and Silversea depart Singapore on a rich abundance of itineraries, allowing visitors to spend time exploring -- and shopping -- before their sailing.

Find a Cruise
Email me when prices drop

Popular on Cruise Critic

Booking a Cruise Onboard: How to Score Extras and Discounts
If you're like us -- hesitant to miss out on even a minute of precious cruise vacation fun -- you've inevitably breezed past your cruise ship's onboard sales office, ignoring the colorful brochures and promises of booking incentives. The thing is, if you're going to go on another cruise someday -- and, face it, we all know you are! -- you really do want to check in at the sales desk to see the kinds of deals featured. That's because your cruise line is likely to be offering onboard credit, reduced deposits or an attractive discount when you book a future cruise onboard your current sailing. Many also let you change your cruise dates or ship or even cancel by a certain date with no penalty or fees. In most cases, you have nothing to lose if your travel plans change and everything to gain if you're going to take another cruise with that line. Here's a look at some of the key benefits the major lines offer when you book a future cruise while aboard a sailing on their ships.
7 Best Cruise Lines for Solo Travelers
How often are you able to make your our own vacation choices… to wander the world and contemplate life on your own terms? The liberation of a solo cruise -- of not having to be responsible for anyone's pleasure but your own -- allows you to appreciate the experience on an entirely different level than when you're with a friend, spouse or family member. However, in this coupled-up world, a solo traveler can find it difficult to cruise alone. Mega-ships don't make it easy to meet people and run into them again onboard, and harried crew members don't always have the time to dote on lone cruisers. Open-seating dining and reservations-only restaurants are not always friendly to singles who do not wish to dine alone. Then there's the issue of cost: A solo can expect to pay between 125 and 200 percent of the published cruise fare to cover the cost of the "missing" passenger. Some cruise lines do make an effort to cater to solos. Some will greatly reduce or even waive single supplements in an effort to fill berths, or offer meet-and-greets or group dining for single cruisers. Additionally, several lines now offer dedicated solo cabins, touting priced-for-one fares that generally run higher than the per-person cost for a double occupancy cabin, but lower than assuming the cost of the single supplement on a standard cabin. (See The Truth About Solo Cabins for more info on how fares for solo-dedicated cabins stack up.) All that said, here is a look at the seven best lines for those who like their "alone time."
Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise: 5 Reasons You Should Never Try It
Sneaking alcohol on a cruise has always been a popular pastime for those who are willing to break the rules to avoid paying for drinks onboard. Mainstream cruise lines prohibit passengers from bringing their own liquor, beer and other alcohol (with the exception of wine or Champagne) on ships. Why spend more money than you have to, when you can try to pull a fast one on security staff? While the worst that likely will happen is a trip to the naughty room and having your prized bottle of Caribbean rum confiscated, we can think of five reasons why you shouldn't sneak alcohol on a cruise. Don't worry, rule-breakers: You can still enjoy a carefree vacation by cutting in line at the buffet and hogging as many deck chairs as your heart desires.