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Ocean Cruising Travel Guide

Ocean Cruising by Destination:

Follow the coast or conquer the oceans, enter enormous fjords or hop from island to island. Sailing the world’s oceans has evolved from voyaging into the unknown to a leisurely way to set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Cruise lines offer diverse and exciting itineraries that range in length from quick, three-night sailings to 100-plus day world cruises. Whether sailing Norway’s glacially carved coast in search of the Northern Lights or visiting the haunts of Paul Gauguin in the tranquil islands of French Polynesia, the world is yours to explore. The ocean is your highway to discovery as you fulfill your dream of transiting the Panama Canal, seek temples hidden in dense jungles, test the acoustics of ancient stone theaters and more.

Transatlantic Voyages

There’s no better way to cross the Atlantic than aboard an ocean liner, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. These leisurely voyages — with six or seven days at sea — offer insight into the past with the modern-day amenities we know and love. Embrace the culture of the United States and England with time in New York City and London on either end of the voyages on themed sailings aboard the elegant Queen Mary 2. As the world’s only true ocean liner in service today, Queen Mary 2 is in a league of its own in speed, strength and smoothness.

Mediterranean Cruises

Mediterranean cruises evoke a romantic getaway, gliding across sapphire waters and discovering relics of ancient civilizations and powerful empires. Ships of all sizes navigate these legendary waters and are able to visit new ports every day, creating an immersive, well-rounded Mediterranean experience. Popular departure ports include Barcelona, Rome, Venice and Athens, with cruises being broken up between the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean.

  • Debuting in 2020, Road Scholar’s first-ever floating campus — the Aegean Odyssey — will focus on ports across the Mediterranean. Sail among the ancient islands of the Aegean or discover the cultural treasures of the French Riviera on these unique itineraries.
  • Popular seven-day Eastern Mediterranean cruises frequent eastern Italy, the Aegean Isles, Croatia and the Adriatic coast. History comes alive as many ports were founded or influenced by the regions’ many empires — Greek, Roman, Venetian and Ottoman.
  • Western European cruises often visit southern Spain, the French Riviera, western Italy and Sicily. The cliff-lined villages of the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast, charm of the French Riviera and Gaudi’s artistic stylings in Barcelona are but some of the treats this region has in store.
  • Longer sailings offer a wider range of ports and may also transit the Strait of Gibraltar or the Suez Canal, depending on the length and itinerary of the cruise.

See ocean cruises in the Mediterranean Sea →

Pacific Ocean Cruises

When Ferdinand Magellan named the world’s largest ocean Mar Pacífico for its favorable winds, he perfectly captured the idyllic lands emerging from the horizon. Follow in Magellan’s wake to island chains home to indigenous cultures, unfettered rainforests and endless beaches that give way to a kaleidoscope of marine life lingering beneath the surface.

  • Experience the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands as cruise ships easily connect the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and smaller islands in a single voyage without the stress of multi-leg flights. Or, set sail from Los Angeles for a mix of days in port and time at sea to decompress.
  • Tahiti is the gateway to French Polynesia — described by European explorers as “heaven on Earth” — as South Pacific cruises sail to the coral reef-lined atolls of Moorea and Bora Bora.
  • On the other side of the Pacific, cruises offer an easy exploration of New Zealand and Western Australia. Circumnavigate one or both islands of New Zealand and avoid the flight to Australia with a leisurely day or two at sea when sailing between these two countries.

See ocean cruises in the Pacific Ocean →

Caribbean Cruises

Hundreds of islands and dozens of countries dot the Caribbean, offering a taste of something for travelers of every interest. Indigenous influences and colonial history, vibrant colors and natural beauty combine for a feeling of tropical bliss. Caribbean cruises sail from ports everywhere between Galveston, Texas and Boston, Massachusetts and are welcomed by pastel promenades and palm tree-lined beaches. With so many ports of call within a day’s sailing, cruises are divided into the Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean, Cuba and transiting the Panama Canal.

  • The Eastern Caribbean is an easy getaway from the East Coast, with cruises visiting laid-back islands including Key West, the Bahamas, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Cruises range from short three-day itineraries from Miami to longer itineraries visiting more destinations, or allot more time at sea to sail from farther ports such as New York City.
  • Western Caribbean cruises sail from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico and offer a wide variety of destinations. Itineraries frequent Mexico and Central America, where Maya ruins rise from dense rainforests home to stunning biodiversity. Cozumel (Mexico), Belize City (Belize), Roatán (Honduras), the Cayman Islands (British Overseas Territory) and Kingston (Jamaica) are among the traditional ports with plenty to offer.
  • Sailing to the Southern Caribbean offers beaches, rainforests and volcanic mountains of the Lesser Antilles. Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao — also known as the Dutch ABC islands — Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia capture visitors’ imaginations with their natural beauty and European influences. Traditional week-long cruises sail most often from Barbados or Puerto Rico, with longer itineraries departing from Florida.
  • Thanks to improved relations and fewer restrictions, Americans have been increasingly able to travel to Cuba. Cruises sailing to Key West and Havana offer an introduction to Cuban history and culture, while longer itineraries departing from Miami or Havana visit more ports and create a more immersive experience. More and more cruises are adding Havana or Cienfuegos as a port on traditional Caribbean itineraries so you can sample Cuba while also stopping at popular ports including Cozumel, the Cayman Islands and Nassau.
  • Combining the east and west coast of the Americas, complete one of the most fascinating experiences when crossing one of mankind’s greatest architectural marvels — the Panama Canal. Navigate between Colón and Panama City and sail the Atlantic and Caribbean waters in the same day. Expedition sailings delve into the jungle, reefs and wildlife of Costa Rica and Panama while longer sailings navigate the Pacific Coast and farther into the Caribbean.

See ocean cruises in the Caribbean Sea →

Sail Around the World

In 1873, Jules Verne captured the world with his adventure novel “Around the World in Eighty Days.” While you may not win the wager, you can still sail around the world with the leisure of an ocean cruise. Enjoy all the amenities you know and love on ocean-going ships while visiting dozens of ports and countries in a single voyage. These world cruises are often between 90 and 120 days and can be broken into shorter segments that visit specific regions of the world. Chase the sunset with leisurely days at sea while enjoying spectacular arrays of world cuisine and diverse amenities onboard. Each step of the way, world cities and cultural hubs will ensure one incredible voyage of a lifetime.

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Alaska Cruises

From Seattle and Vancouver in the south to Anchorage far to the northwest, the coastal waters of Alaska are truly a magical experience. Temperate rainforests lining mountainous islands open to calving glaciers and whales breaching within the narrow waterways. The Inside Passage and many glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park are the focal point of an Alaskan cruise. Along the way, growing communities of indigenous peoples have retained their traditions while villages dotting the coasts are reminiscent of the Gold Rush era and the wild adventures that Alaska and the Pacific Northwest once represented. The narrow routes through the Inside Passage serve as protection from the open ocean and are a good choice for passengers more prone to sea sickness.

  • There are many ways to reach the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, but the most common is to sail round trip from Seattle or Vancouver. These cruises typically last for seven nights and make port in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Sitka in addition to the ice-lined fjords in Glacier Bay. Expedition cruises offer plenty of hiking and kayaking in the calmer waters with the hopes of getting up close to wildlife.
  • Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Whittier and Seward are the gateway ports for Anchorage — Alaska’s largest city — and are already surrounded by snowcapped peaks and weaving fjords. One-way cruises navigate the Gulf of Alaska, Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage en route to Seattle and Vancouver. Anchorage is a perfectly located city to launch land-based explorations of Kenai Fjords National Park or heading farther inland towards Denali National Park and so much more.

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North Atlantic and Scandinavia Cruises

Endless sun in the summer and the Aurora Borealis in the winter; what could be better than that? Small, colorful villages dot the fjord-lined coasts and immense glaciers merge with the cool waters as the northerly landscapes remain unchanged since the early Viking explorers sailed into the unknown more than 1,000 years ago. Between the Inuit communities of Newfoundland and Labrador and Svalbard’s polar bear paradise, Greenland and Iceland have confounded and amazed visitors for centuries. Cruises across the North Atlantic connect these fascinating locales and offer a variety of itineraries ranging from regional samplings to in-depth adventure itineraries circumnavigating Iceland and journeying far into the Arctic Circle.

  • Eastern Canada is often overlooked as a cruising destination but is home to quaint fishing villages, rugged coastlines, iconic lighthouses and mouthwatering cuisine. Halifax and St. John’s are the major departure points for cruises sailing to the Canadian Maritimes — the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — headed into the St. Lawrence River towards French Canada, returning south towards New England or adventuring along the dramatic coast of Newfoundland and Labrador towards the infamous Northwestern Passage and Greenland.
  • Iceland and Greenland are northerly neighbors that are waiting to be explored. Iceland — colloquially known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” — is easily reached through its capital, Reykjavik and the port of origin for most cruises in the region. Cruises sailing from Reykjavik combine a land portion with can’t-miss sites like the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle. Cruises to Greenland often depart from Iceland and navigate around the southern tip towards Nuuk and the massive Eqip Glacier before returning to Iceland or continuing south to Canada.
  • Norway’s charm lies within deep fjords and quaint towns that blend seamlessly into the pristine natural beauty. Cruises depart from Bergen and navigate the entire Norwegian coastline as far as Kirkenes, on the Russian border, before returning south. Typical ports of call include Ålesund, Tondheim, the Lofoten Islands and Tromsø. Far above the Arctic Circle, the remote archipelago of Svalbard is full of expansive glaciers and a haven for polar bears and reindeer. To reach Svalbard, the most efficient way is to fly to Longyearbyen and step directly into an Arctic wonderland. Once in Longyearbyen, cruises navigate the coves and fjords of Spitsbergen — the archipelago’s largest island — to glaciers and national parks on Arctic safaris.

See ocean cruises in the North Atlantic and Scandinavia →

Road Scholar Ocean Voyages

“If you enjoy cruising and expert-led lectures on the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands, this is a fabulous program. During your days at sea, you'll be introduced to an amazing historical culture of island peoples with whom most of us on the mainland were not familiar. Unpack your suitcase just once and let the beauty of the sea and the islands welcome you.”

— Hildy, Road Scholar Class of 1998, from Santa Barbara, Calif. —