The 6 best 2023 cruise itineraries to book right now

How does a cruise to Arabia sound? Or what about the longest US river cruise ever to set sail? With ships traveling all over the globe, it can be difficult to choose the destination that’s right for you, especially when there are so many bucket list-worthy options.

That’s why I’ve rounded up some of 2023’s most exciting itineraries. From interesting new routes to tried-and-true ones that now have new ships, this list will prime your sense of wanderlust for both far-flung destinations and places close to home as we head into the new year. Prepare to be inspired.

Note: All prices listed are per person, based on double occupancy, unless otherwise noted. Fares do not include taxes and fees.

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Japan on Ponant’s Le Soleal

Cherry blossoms in Osaka, Japan. YOSHIYUKI KANEKO/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

After nearly three years of shutdowns and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan finally reopened to travelers in November 2022. That includes cruise passengers, and several lines — including Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises (which is offering special “Spice Route” trips that include Japan) — are returning.

However, the most exciting Japan itineraries I’ve spotted for 2023 are a couple of routes offered by Ponant’s Le Soleal. Not only is the line the first expedition ship to take passengers to Japan’s southern islands, but its itineraries are also Japan-focused routes that don’t include other countries like the ones offered by Holland America and Celebrity.

Details: The first route is an eight-day voyage, March 24-31, 2023, offering visits to traditional villages of the Okinawa archipelago and the Ryukyu Islands, as well as Ishigaki and Kume. Prices start at $6,000 per person for an ocean-view cabin.

The second route is an eight-day sailing from Osaka to Fukuoka, May 15-22, 2023, taking passengers to stops in the Seto Inland Sea, the oldest sea route in Japan. Fares start from $7,310 per person for an ocean-view room. More information on Ponant’s Asia voyages can be found on the line’s website.

West Africa on Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen

Deserted beach on the island of Orango, Guinea-Bissau. TIAGO_FERNANDEZ/GETTY IMAGES

In a first for Hurtigruten, the line is offering a selection of sailings around the west coast of Africa, including the islands of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau’s Bissagos Islands, which are made up of more than 80 beachy islands and islets, only about 20 of which are populated year-round.

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Cape Verde voyages are rare, making this ideal for anyone wishing to check the country off their bucket list. Plus, with Hurtigruten’s rapid expansion beyond its traditional Norway offerings and into expedition cruising, you can be one of the first to try out this first-for-the-line itinerary, which will be available four times in late 2023 (and into early 2024 ), departing from Dakar, Senegal.

Details: These 13-day sailings on Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen depart from Dakar in November and December 2023 and January 2024. Prices start at $5,974 per person for an inside cabin. More information can be found on Hurtigruten Expeditions’ website.

Ohio and Mississippi Rivers on American Queen Voyages’ American Countess

American Countess. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

It’s no secret that American Queen Voyages has been sailing US rivers for years. But what makes this particular itinerary special is that it will be the line’s longest ever. The 23-day cruises, which include travel on both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, will be offered on the line’s newest ship, the 245-passenger American Countess.

The vessel will feature stops in some of America’s most notable small towns, including La Crosse, Wisconsin; Dubuque, Bettendorf and Burlington, Iowa; Hannibal, St. Louis, Kimmswick and Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Paducah, Henderson, Owensboro, Brandenburg, Louisville and Maysville, Kentucky; Madison, Indiana; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; and Cincinnati and Marietta, Ohio.

Details: The first voyage is set to begin in Red Wing, Minnesota (near Minneapolis), on July 24, 2023, and end in Pittsburgh on Aug. 15, 2023. The reverse itinerary will begin on Aug. 15, 2023, when the ship reaches Pittsburgh. Prices start from $10,599 per person for an inside cabin. You can find more details on the line’s website.

The Middle East on Windstar’s Star Legend

Dubai, United Arab Emirates. JORG GREUEL/GETTY IMAGES

If you’re looking for a cruise destination that’s a bit more far-flung, Windstar Cruises is offering Red Sea and Persian Gulf sailings in the Middle East — a first for the line, which will sail its newly stretched Star Legend in the region, beginning in fall 2023.

The line will offer four different itineraries, but my favorite is the 10-day Persian Gulf option from Dubai to Muscat, Oman, which includes calls on places like Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates and Khasab, Oman. The ship will also visit the UAE’s island of Sir Bani Yas, which is known for nature and wildlife conservation. The sailings include overnights in Doha and Abu Dhabi, too.

Details: This itinerary is offered 11 times, beginning in November 2023 and running into early 2024. Fares start from $3,499 per person for ocean-view accommodations.

Caribbean and Bahamas on MSC Meraviglia and Carnival Venezia from NYC

A view of three of Half Moon Cay’s five exclusive Beach Villas from the water. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Although Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries aren’t a new thing from New York, two cruise lines will have a new presence there starting in 2023: Carnival Cruise Line with Carnival Venezia, which will begin sailing from Manhattan in June, and MSC Cruises with MSC Meraviglia , which will be based at Brooklyn’s Red Hook terminal beginning in April.

The itineraries are fairly standard at first glance, but what’s key here is that, for the first time, the lines’ private islands — in this case, Carnival’s Half Moon Cay and MSC’s Ocean Cay Marine Reserve — will be accessible via sailings traveling round- trip from New York.

Details: Between April and December 2023, MSC Meraviglia is offering 11 seven-night sailings calling on Port Canaveral (near Orlando), and Nassau and Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, both in the Bahamas. Prices start from $399 per person for an inside cabin. More info can be found on the MSC Cruises website.

From June through December, Carnival Venezia will sail one eight-day Bahamas voyage that includes Nassau, Freeport and Half Moon Cay, with prices starting from $484 per person for an inside cabin. During that time, the vessel is also scheduled to run five eight-day Eastern Caribbean cruises calling on Amber Cove, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, with fares starting at $684 per person for an inside cabin. For additional details, visit the Carnival website.

Australia/New Zealand on Disney Wonder and Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady

Cityscape image of Sydney, Australia, with Harbor Bridge and Sydney skyline. PRASIT PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

With Australia and New Zealand finally picking up steam again post-shutdown, it’s not surprising that some cruise lines are sending ships to the region for the first time in 2023. Beginning in November, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder will sail 14 two- to six -night voyages from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne — calling on places like Hobart and Eden in Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; and Noumea, New Caledonia — through the end of the year, offering Disney fans another option in terms of destination.

Plus, starting in December 2023, Virgin Voyages’ brand-new Resilient Lady will offer five two- to 14-night sailings from Melbourne, providing locals with a more modern ship. (It’s rare for the Australian market to see brand-new vessels.) Voyages include stops in Hobart, Burnie or both Tasmanian ports. On the two-week sailing, ports also include Sydney, as well as Picton, Napier, Tauranga and Auckland in New Zealand.

Details: Disney Wonder’s per-person fares for inside cabins start at $946 for two nights, $1,604 for three nights, $2,000 for four nights, $2,118 for five nights and $4,078 for six nights. For more information, visit the Disney Cruise Line website.

Virgin Voyages’ per-person prices for interior accommodations start from $245 for two nights, $613 for five nights, $753 for six nights and $2,240 for 14 nights. Check out the Virgin Voyages website for more details on these cruises.

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