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7 Cruise Trends You’ll Be Seeing Everywhere in 2020

They're getting exotic, they're paying attention to the environment, and they're heading into colder destinations. Check out the latest cruise trends.

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Cruising into the new decade

Even seasoned cruisers will be surprised when they hop on a ship this year, as the game is changing. Cruises are taking passengers into cold-weather destinations never considered cruise-worthy in the past; they’re staying overnight in ports, and they’re exploring spots super close to home and far-flung. “In 2020, cruisers are choosing itineraries based on destinations—and the more unusual and far away, the better,” says Beth Bultzlaff, vice president of cruise sales at Virtuoso in a statement. Here are the 2020 cruising trends identified by Virtuoso, which has a cruise portfolio of 33 ocean, river, yacht, and expedition partners. When you’re ready to go—here’s what to pack for a cruise—and what not to bring.

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The trend: Go far, far away

It’s the number one trend: travelers want to explore their world, and they want to explore distant, exotic destinations (the more, the merrier). Sure, the Caribbean is beautiful and relaxing, but experienced cruisers want more out of their sailing, so cruise lines are taking them as far away as Muscat, Oman, and Rarotonga. The benefit of taking a cruise is that you can tick off many destinations at once, so this is the way to explore all those lesser-known spots around the world. If you like the sound of this, you’ll love learning about these 15 little-known ports of call.

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Book the far away cruise

Starts at $10,500 per person

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Go for gold and see the world. The MSC Cruises 81-night World Cruise takes you through South America to the Pitcairn Islands, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Sydney, New Caledonia, Bali, Singapore, Mumbai, Egypt, and more. It’s time to take that year off and see the world luxuriously. Here’s what it’s like to be on a 40-day long cruise.

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The trend: Explore the port

If your cruising pet-peeve is racing around the port to get your excursion done in six hours before the ship sails for the next spot, then your annoyances will float away with this trend. Cruises are providing more destination immersion, according to Virtuoso. For example, Azamara is offering late-night stays, overnight stays, and even complimentary evening performances in-port. Seaborne is also putting more effort into their experiences during the shore excursions. Find out the 10 best cruise lines in the world.

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Book the cruise and explore the port

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On Azamara’s Northern Delights eight-port cruise, you’ll enjoy five late nights and two overnights in the port. You’ll travel from Southampton to Bruges to Rotterdam before an overnight in Amsterdam. The next day, you’ll go to the resort town of Warnemunde before an overnight in Copenhagen. Finally, you’ll have a day at sea and then you’ll conclude your voyage in Stockholm. These are 15 views you can only get on a Mediterranean cruise.

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The trend: Go for cold

Cruising used to be all about the beach and the pool. But times have changed, and passengers are now looking for the ultra-cool destinations—as in Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, and Norway’s fjords. The ships won’t simply take you there: they’ll also provide experiences. For example, Silversea will take you on a private jet to the South Pole marker, while Quark Expeditions plans on featuring heli-skating in Antarctica next year. These are 14 cruises you should only take in the winter.

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Book the cold cruise

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Viking Jupiter offers a 17-night Arctic cruise taking you from Argentina to Uruguay to the Falkland Islands Malvina to the Amalia Glacier. Watch out for icebergs! These colder trips are still offered less frequently than their warmer cousins—so book well in advance because they tend to sell out—especially if you want to see Antarctica, which severely limits the number of tourists. But it’s worth the trouble. This is one bucket list cruise you’ll remember forever.

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The trend: Eco-friendly travel

We first noticed this trend on a recent cruise when our barista proudly explained to us that we wouldn’t be receiving any straws because #savetheturtles. But now, Virtuoso is confirming the trend, explaining that by 2030, the cruise industry committed to reducing its fleet-wide rate of Co2 emissions by 40 percent, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Those leading the way: Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Aqua Expeditions, and Royal Caribbean International.

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Book the eco-friendly cruise

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Take a seven-night Royal Caribbean cruise to Bermuda from Baltimore. Royal Caribbean made a commitment to being eco-friendly and has retrofitted its older ships with green technology. The newer ships are designed to already be energy efficient. There are LED lights, advanced emission purification systems, and other innovations that are helping these cruises be greener.

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The trend: Mini-cruises

Sometimes, you need a mini-break and you want that mini-break to be on a cruise. In the past, cruises had four to five-day minimums, and most were week-long stays. Now, they’re finally recognizing that we don’t always have time for a long getaway. So lines like Norwegian, Celebrity, and Virgin are offering two to five-night cruises with multiple departure ports, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, New Orleans, and Galveston. Finally.

Book a mini-cruise

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Take a four-night Carnival Caribbean cruise leaving from Miami and setting sail to Key West and Cozumel before heading back to Miami. It’s just the perfect amount of time for you to relax and rewind before returning to life. Before you go, learn these behind-the-scene secrets of the Carnival Cruise Line.

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The trend: explore your backyard

Perhaps not so literally, but cruisers are sailing around America, exploring the Queen’s Mississippi River, the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia, and more. Yes, some of those on board these ships aren’t Americans (the United States cruises are very popular for Australians), but Americans are requesting these destinations as well. One exciting way to see America is via a river cruise, which is smaller than your traditional ship. Bonus: the flight to get you to port will be relatively inexpensive.

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Take an American cruise

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Holland America does a lovely 11-night Canada/ New England cruise starting in Fort Lauderdale, heading up to Boston and ending in Canada. Our favorite time to take this cruise is in the fall when the leaves change and the scenery is just stunning. These are more of our favorite scenic small-ship and river cruises.

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The trend: Suite cruising

Want a suite? You’ll have to bide your time. According to Virtuoso, some people will only cruise via a suite—but since the suite inventory is relatively low, they need to book far in advance. As a result, some cruise lines have opened their itineraries well into the future—even two years out. So if you want a suite, you better start planning your vacation time. Find out the top all-inclusive cruises for the best vacations ever.

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Take a cruise via a suite

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Your best bet is to book a cruise on one of the largest ships: Either Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas. These Royal Caribbean ships carry nearly 6,300 passengers each, so they’re packed with suites. Oasis of the Seas makes a seven-night Caribbean cruise departing from Miami and hitting hot spots including Haiti, Jamaica, and Cozumel before heading back again. Can’t envision a cruise this massive? Here’s what the inside of the world’s largest cruise ship looks like.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.