The 4 cruise trends we're excited about in 2023

From luxury newcomers to once-in-a-lifetime expeditions through Asia and sails to the Arctic, here's what to look out for
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Chase Teron

Cruising is back. Like, all the way back. And what repeat guests are remembering – and newcomers are learning – is that there's no better way to travel. And as the industry is gearing up for its biggest year ever, there have been some major advancements, exciting new itineraries, innovative and fresh shore excursions, and more. Here, we share the latest trends as well as some tips and tricks to keep you in the know.

Amanda Giuffre, Noun New York

Voyages are going farther

With more than two years of missed travel opportunities, the rise of remote work, and a collective human desire to make our moments count more than ever, it's no surprise that grand voyages – sailings longer than 21 days – are growing in popularity. “COVID-19 saw a massive reevaluation of life quality, so a great experience is critical,” says Tom Baker of the travel agency CruiseCenter. When Holland America Line launched its 73-day grand Africa voyage this year, it sold out so fast that the company created another one for 2023, which will take passengers from the beaches of Zanzibar to historic Petra. This month, Oceania Cruises kicked off an epic 218-day voyage from Miami. Seabourn's multi-continent grand voyage in 2023 will become two 80-day adventures in 2024. And Silversea will operate five times as many itineraries of 21 days or longer next year than it did in 2019. Even river cruises, traditionally a week-long, are offering longer sailings: After its inaugural 2023 Seven River Journey Through Europe trips sold out almost instantly, AmaWaterways created two more of its 46-night itineraries and two 49-night itineraries, and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will launch its nine-country, 47-day Rivers of the World offering next year. “Think experiencing the Pyramids of Giza one day, and then the Moulin Rouge,” says Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld's president and CEO. As lines invest in enhanced digital connectivity via SpaceX's Starlink, the trend will continue to grow. “Smart lines will discount this to attract young affluent cruisers,” says Cruises By Linda's Linda Allen-Speer. The one hook stronger than fast internet? Having to unpack just once. – Janice Wald Henderson

Amanda Giuffre, Noun New York

Getting more when you step on shore

With passengers craving more meaningful ways to explore, cruise lines are sharpening their partnerships and extending the time guests spend on land. “It's now about how to make your travel experience exclusive, unique, and ‘local,’” says Jill Jergel of the agency Frontiers Travel. This year, river-cruising giant Uniworld began bundling ship and train experiences with boutique rail-tour company Golden Eagle Luxury Trains on its Danube sailings. Guests ride the train inland through Central Europe for five days before hopping on the ship in Vienna; Uniworld has added two more departures for 2023. Next year, Ponant and Smithsonian Journeys will offer co-branded sailings through Panama, where Smithsonian experts like climate specialist Steve Paton will guide passengers through hard-to-reach areas like the San Blas archipelago. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which has been seeking ways to extend the guest experience before and after sailings, plans several free add-ons for 2023, including three days with exclusive access to boutique wine estates around Cape Town for passengers on cruises originating in South Africa. There is also great news for those wanting to spend more time in their departure ports. Many lines now include a hotel room the night before a sailing in their rate. It's a perk that lets passengers explore a little more –  and an insurance policy against the continued volatility of the airline industry. – Erin Florio

Amanda Giuffre, Noun New York

Luxury is at a new level

Many lines – Ponant, Silversea – have a reputation for offering a champagne-and-caviar experience on board. But two new players are upping the game for luxury at sea. Think all suites, more time in port, and food packed with Michelin-style pizzazz. Hotel titan The Ritz-Carlton has long been in the sailing space with its Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, but this October, it added the high-touch sophistication of the 298-passenger Evrima. Imagine the 624-foot vessel as a floating Ritz-Carlton resort sailing the Caribbean, the Americas, and the Med with a personal concierge assigned to every suite and a splurge-worthy tasting menu created by chef Sven Elverfeld of Germany's three-Michelin-starred Aqua. Next May, Explora Journeys, a new cruise concept from the Aponte family, founders of MSC Cruises, will launch the Explora 1, which will offer oceanfront suites and private terraces to all 900 passengers. A major focus will be guest well-being, a response to new needs emerging from the pandemic and other societal changes. “We are creating more immersive experiences in destination and the people you meet,” says CEO Michael Ungerer. For example, Explora 1 might spend up to three days in ports of call, like Istanbul, rather than blowing through. No itinerary will ever be repeated. “With Explora 1, it is all about the pace, and we know more time in port is what matters,” says Anne Scully, a travel adviser with Embark Beyond. The ship has four pools, ten lounges, and nine restaurants, so days at sea will never risk feeling like idle time. — Fran Golden

Amanda Giuffre, Noun New York

Return to Asia

“With travel spending up and two years of pent-up demand, Asia, which is a longer haul and a bigger investment, is on the front burner,” says Condé Nast Traveller specialist Angela Turen, of Churchill & Turen. The continent began reopening to international cruises in July 2022, when Royal Caribbean arrived in Malaysia, and the big lines have been moving in or expanding there since. Japan has been especially popular; in addition to the new Ponant sailings in the Seto Inland Sea launching in May 2023, Regent and Silversea are both offering new itineraries that circumnavigate the island nation, and Holland America Line will redeploy its Westerdam to Japan after it sailed out COVID-19 in Australia. Singapore expects to hit its pre-COVID passenger numbers in 2023, thanks in part to new itineraries like Viking's 15-day Bali-to-Singapore voyage, while RC's Spectrum of the Seas added two new 12-night itineraries for next year that visit countries like Vietnam and Thailand. “When will China reopen?” remains the big question, but most observers expect it to happen sometime next year. — E.F.

A version of this article originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveler. When you book something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.