Whilst the global suspension of sailings has put a stop to the majority of sailings for this year, this hasn’t discouraged people from looking ahead to 2021.

With many leading cruise lines reporting strong bookings for next year, we look at some of the most popular cruise destinations being booked by passengers so far, from the sun-soaked shores of the Med to the remote wilderness of Alaska.

The Mediterranean

The Med has always been one of the most popular cruise destinations for first-time and seasoned cruisers alike and this doesn’t appear to have changed, as highlighted by the number of people booking Mediterranean cruises for 2021.

“The increase in traffic to our website from Facebook since we launched the virtual cruising programme has increased by over 250 per cent, and naturally includes the destinations we have visited on our virtual cruises, but our Mediterranean cruises for 2021 have been by far the most popular,” comments Fred Olsen.

“Over a third of all searched for cruises in the past month have been in the Med, which shows there is a real desire for people to visit this part of the world again.”

Europe’s largest travel firm and parent company of Marella Cruises, Tui, recently reported that searches for ‘summer 2021 cruises’ have been hotting up on Marella’s website, with Med sailings proving particularly popular among visitors evidently seeking some sun post-lockdown. The cruise line’s Aegean shores sailing from Corfu Town on Marella Discovery 2, which visits Heraklion Crete, Thira Santorini, Kusadasi Turkey, Piraeus for Athens and Zakynthos Town Zante. is currently the best performing itinerary for summer 2021.

Royal Caribbean has also said that there has been good response for its Oasis Class offering in the Mediterranean, as well as Harmony of the Seas’ sailing from Barcelona.

The Baltics  

St Petersburg - Russia

Last year, global cruise association CLIA reported that the Baltics was the most popular cruise holiday choice for Brits, astonishingly beating the Caribbean. What this chilly destination lacks in sun it more than makes up for in cultural attractions and historical sites.

Cruise itineraries through the Baltic sea typically take passengers to the main ports of call, including St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Riga and Gdansk, but some will also visit Oslo, Visby and Skagen.

British cruise line Saga has said that it is already beginning to see “strong levels of demand for sailings” for 2021, which it believes to be a testament to its “loyal customer base who are eager to return to the seas once we are able to resume cruise operations are normal and ensure the safety of our passengers”. Along with the Med, the Baltics is one of the line’s bestselling cruise destinations for next year so far.

European rivers

Danube river Budapest

River cruise lines have been the first to resume cruises following the global suspension of sailings, with the first river cruise having returned to Europe’s Waterways this month aboard Nicko Cruises’ 220-passenger NickoVision.

Scenic River Cruises notes how while the Rhine, Main and Danube have been consistently popular in previous years, 2021 looks to be much more widespread on the rivers, with the second most popular itinerary being the 11-day ‘Unforgettable Douro’ sailing through the vineyards of Portugal, followed closely by its eight-day ‘Gems of the Danube’ itinerary. Bucking the trend of the current climate, bookings on Scenic’s French itineraries are up five per cent year-on-year compared to 2019.

This is a similar case for AmaWaterways, which so far is seeing bookings fairly evenly spread across its river cruise itineraries, with 24 per cent booking the Danube, 22 per cent booking the Rhine, 18 per cent the Douro, 17 per cent Mekong and 11 per cent the Rhone/Soane.

When it comes to Emerald Waterways, first-time cruisers sailing Europe’s rivers in 2021 are opting for the brand’s eight-day ‘Danube Delights’ itinerary, while returning EmeraldExplorer guests are heading to France for the eight-day ‘Sensations of Lyon and Provence’ itinerary and Portugal on the eight-day ‘Secrets of the Douro’ river cruise.

Arctic, Greenland & Iceland

Views of the stunning White Continent

At a recent ‘Travel in the Age of Covid-19’ webinar hosted by Globetrender Magazine, CEO of luxury tour operator Red Savannah, George Morgan-Grenville, argued that there will be an increasing trend for wilderness destinations and remote places that can only be accessed to by boat or by ship.

“People prize privacy. There is definitely a trend towards more wilderness destinations, and a trend towards destinations where you can really gather different types of experiences that you wouldn’t have been able to do 10 years ago,” he commented.

Along with its no-fly cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) has seen impressive sales for its new flagship Amy Johnson, which will be sailing to remote regions including the Arctic, Greenland and Iceland in 2021, along with other destinations.

CMV sales director, Lisa Jacobs, said: “Sales for our new flagship Amy Johnson are well ahead of expectations at almost 50 per cent full. Our Amy Johnson voyages to Arctic Greenland and Iceland; Canada, Greenland, Iceland and the Northern Lights; and the Black Sea & Mediterranean are all very popular. People are clearly looking for more adventurous and natural destinations to explore.”

Alaska

Sustainable cruises: Alaska cruise ship

Continuing with the trend for holidays to remote and wild places, Alaska is also proving to be popular among those booking cruises for 2021.

UK and Ireland managing director for Holland America Line, Lynn Narraway, comments: “We’re seeing a strong number of re-bookings for Alaska next summer, which highlights that guests are still very keen to plan ahead for these special, bucket-list trips. Destinations that feel more ‘remote’, such as Alaska, encompass many experiences guests are looking forward to – being immersed in nature and getting that real sense of outdoor adventure.”

Similarly, Royal Caribbean has reported interest in its Alaska itineraries, as the cruise line has four ships in the region, including two Quantum-class ships, in 2021.