10 Top Fall Cruises to Take This Year
This fall brings a number of exciting cruise options worth booking now, including new wine river routes in Europe and a pioneering hybrid-powered ship to Antarctica.
Photo By: Genna Roland
Photo By: AmaWaterways
Photo By: Aqua Expeditions
Photo By: Windstar Cruises
Photo By: Renato Granieri
Photo By: American Queen Steamboat Company
Photo By: G Adventures
Photo By: Oberoi Zahra
Photo By: Cunard
Photo By: Delfin Amazon Cruises
Photo By: Karsten Bidstrup
Sail Away This Fall
Summer and winter might be popular cruise times, but fall offers additional reasons to consider cruising. Yes, there are fall foliage cruises early in the season, but November is an ideal time to sail to Antarctica and along rivers in Egypt, the Amazon, Mekong Delta and more. It's also a good time to take advantage of repositioning cruises, which tend to be a bargain since they spend more time at sea than visiting ports as ships relocate for the winter season. Not least, fall cruises provide a good excuse to avoid Thanksgiving madness, allowing you (and your family) to simply enjoy a peaceful meal together without all of the effort (and cooking and cleaning). Read on for our picks, including new itineraries and ships.
AmaWaterways: European Wine Cruise
AmaWaterways expertly sails Europe’s scenic rivers in style, and fall brings two new wine cruises: the Gems of Southeast Europe and Medieval Treasures. Both are wine focused; the former boards November 3 for a week-long cruise along the less-traveled Lower Danube from Budapest to Romania. Stops explore Hungary’s Szekszárd wine region, established more than two millennium ago, and Croatia’s Ilok area, another ancient wine center that dates back to Roman times. It’s not all wine though — the itinerary visits Belgrade, UNESCO sites, a medieval fortress and more. Meanwhile, Medieval Treasures starts November 7 and cruises the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Nuremberg, Germany. Sip wine in Strasbourg, France, taste Riesling in Rüdesheim, Germany and join a wine festival in Volkach, Germany. Both cruises also offer bike rides, private cellar tours and on-board wine experts. (Future sailings are available too.)
Aqua Expeditions: Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Aqua Expeditions has made a name for its five-star river cruises along the Amazon and Mekong Delta, but Indonesia is a brand-new market on the refurbished Aqua Blu ship. This offering plies three routes in the East Indonesia Archipelago: Bali to Komodo National Park; the Ambon and Spice Islands and Raja Ampat. The inaugural fall 2019 sailings for November are sold out, but there's still room on the week-long cruise to Raja Ampat leaving December 14. The week-long excursion visits a bat cave, a pearl farm in Aljui Bay, dive sites and more. (Wet suits and scuba diving and snorkeling gear are provided.) As for the ship, the 2019 updates unveil 15 minimalist suites, a spa, dining room, library and more.
Windstar Cruises: Repositioning to Caribbean
When you care more about the journey than the ports, consider Windstar Cruises’ two-week repositioning cruise sailing from Lisbon, Portugal to St. Maarten in the Caribbean. A highlight of this option, leaving November 30 on the renovated Wind Surf, is the brand-new Officer’s Suite. The 242-square-foot room is behind the Bridge, and actually located in the officers' quarters. Believed to be the only one of its kind in the cruising world, the suite is large enough to fit a bedroom, living room, dining room and full bath. Decor-wise, charts, sextants and Windstar ship replicas all help to channel your inner captain. Other shipboard enhancements involve a bigger, redesigned spa and lounge. And regardless of whether or not you stay in the Officer's Suite, you'll still enjoy a yacht-like experience — starting at just $999.
Ecoventura: Yoga in the Galapagos Islands
It can be tough deciding which cruise is best for exploring the Galapagos Islands. But look no further than Ecoventura, part of the Relais & Chateaux family, if your ideal trip emphasizes yoga in between wildlife viewing. Yoga instructor Carolina Larrea leads twice daily classes during the eight-day wellness sailing, departing November 3 and November 10, onboard the luxurious 20-passenger ship MV Origin. Beyond class, spend your days snorkeling and kayaking. For non-swimmers, Origin is the only smaller yacht to provide glass-bottomed boats for watching the underwater antics of colorful fish, sea lions and turtles. Of course, guided nature walks are another daily option. Back on board, make the most of downtime with an open bar, Jacuzzi and deck loungers. There’s also a fitness center and restaurant serving multi-course meals. Yogis are sure to appreciate new menu items like coconut water, detox juices and fresh fruit smoothies.
American Queen Steamboat Company: Lower Mississippi River
November and December are still warm enough for American Queen Steamboat Company cruises, particularly in the South. Among the fall options are nine-day trips along the Lower Mississippi River that focus on either Jewels of the Lower Mississippi or A Taste of the True South between New Orleans and Memphis. The former visits Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana, considered the biggest antebellum mansion still standing; Natchez, Mississippi, whose historical homes and charm have been well preserved; and Helena, Arkansas for its impact on writers and musicians. The latter voyage makes similar stops, but spends a day in Tunica, Mississippi instead of Helena, Arkansas. Trips also spend an extra day in the city of origin, which can be either Memphis or New Orleans. The American Queen and American Duchess are the main boat options; the first is billed as the largest steamboat ever built, while the second recreates an authentic paddlewheel ship that makes the perfect vehicle for experiencing the antebellum South.
G Adventures: Mekong Delta
G Adventures specializes in small group river cruises, and fall is the perfect time to sail along the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The rainy season ends around November, making it conducive to travel via local boats, tuk tuks and bikes to really experience the culture during this eight-day journey with just 28 passengers. Trip highlights involve visiting a floating market, Buddhist monasteries, small villages and more. Life onboard is comfortable, but don’t expect the same level of luxury found on other small ships. Rest assured that there is a dining area, common spaces for lounging and in-cabin bathrooms. Plus, the ship’s traditional look contributes to an immersive experience.
Oberoi Zahra: Nile River
Now that Egyptian tourism is rebounding, November is the perfect time for cruising as the weather is cooler and peak season doesn’t start until December. The Oberoi Zahra is a high-end Nile River cruise option, offering 27 well-appointed cabins large enough to fit a king-size bed. Choose from five- or seven-night sailings between Aswan and Luxor (and vice versa), with multiple departure options. Along the way experience famous temples, including a sound and light show at Philae Temple, and travel by felucca to Aswan Botanical Garden. Cultural performances are also part of the journey, while life on board provides a sophisticated restaurant, cigar lounge, full-service spa, temperature-controlled pool and fitness center.
Cunard Queen Mary 2: Round-Trip Transatlantic Crossing to Caribbean
If days at sea and the Caribbean are two of your favorite parts about cruising, then Cunard’s 26-night Caribbean transatlantic voyage, leaving November 19 from Southampton, England, on the legendary Queen Mary 2, should do the trick. Take your time at meals, including a daily afternoon tea, spend hours reading in the library, learn about the galaxy in the planetarium and watch nightly performances, ranging from aerialists to standup comics. All of this is included in the price, although some offerings, like wine tastings and a cocktail lounge, cost extra. After a week crossing the Atlantic the ship stops in New York City for a day, then spends Thanksgiving at sea (perfect for those wishing to escape holiday headaches). The itinerary then heads to Tortola, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Kitts, with another stop in Manhattan before sailing back into Southampton on December 15.
Delfin Amazon Cruises: Peru's Amazon River
Delfin Amazon Cruises, Relais & Châteaux's first cruise line, runs three- and four-night itineraries along Peru’s Amazon River. (Note that the cruises are unaffected by the devastating fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.) Fall is an ideal time to consider travel thanks to low-water season, which lasts through November. This means the Amazon is less buggy, jungle trails aren’t flooded and there are higher odds of catching (and releasing) fish, from the Amazon catfish to piranhas. Fun fact: More than one third of the world’s species are found in the Amazon, and it’s the only place to spot the famed pink river dolphins. Activities take full advantage of spotting wildlife, such as a guided walk in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, kayaking and canopy walks. There’s even a night safari opportunity to search for nocturnal bats and frogs. Three different ships with varying degrees of luxury and activities are available.
Hurtigruten: Antarctica on First Hybrid-Powered Ship
Antarctica’s summer season begins in November, and this fall you can sail the world’s first hybrid-powered cruise ship there on Hurtigruten. The new expedition ship MS Roald Amundsen will cut fuel use and emissions by 20 percent, and three cruises are available on the ship this fall. Or sail into winter on it during the two-week White Christmas Adventure cruise departing December 13. The journey starts in the Chilean fjords, navigates the infamous Drake Passage, and spends about a week in Antarctica before celebrating Christmas at sea on the way back. Plus, the new ship provides enough diversions to prevent sea day boredom: There’s a photography center for lectures, science center with microscopes, hands-on learning exhibits and daily programming, and a sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows so you don’t miss a minute of views.