Every island-lover has a dream destination—a place so alluring or remote it qualifies as the ultimate escape. These islands number in the dozens, but we’ve narrowed down our list to seven, each blessed with natural beauty, steeped in cultural allure or located just far enough away to seem intimidating. No worries, you can easily get there on a cruise. Here are 12 itineraries that visit seven dream islands: Bora Bora, Tasmania, Easter Island, Santorini, Borneo, Bali and the Seychelles.
The islands of French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) are all pretty magical, but Bora Bora is the luminous pearl that most visitors travel thousands of miles to see—its radiant blue lagoon fringed by white-sand motus (islets) and crowned by mystical Mt. Otemanu. Cruises that call on Bora Bora as well as most of Tahiti’s main island group, the Society Islands, are offered by both Windstar Cruises and Paul Gauguin Cruises. Which you choose depends on your cruise style.
For a more casual, breeze-through-your-hair ambiance, there’s the 8-day Dreams of Tahiti itinerary on Windstar’s 148-passenger Wind Spirit. Sailing roundtrip from Papeete (Tahiti’s capital and international gateway) on more than a dozen dates from July-December 2020, this tall-masted-ship offers an exhilarating sailing experience as it visits Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea, Taha’a and Huahine. Fares start at $4,399 per person, including airfare from Los Angeles and one-night pre-cruise hotel accommodations.
The 332-passenger MV Paul Gauguin is also a small ship, but it adds an onboard blend of Tahitian music and dance and French cuisine via a gourmet menu in La Veranda restaurant by Paris chef Jean-Pierre Vigato. In 2020, check out the 7-night Society Islands and Tahiti Iti cruises, which spend two days anchored in Bora Bora lagoon and also visit Huahine, Taha’a and Moorea as well as Tahiti Iti, the smaller landmass connected to Tahiti. Fares start at $4,795 per person, including airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
This isolated island state located off of Australia’s southeast coast offers something for almost everyone: Gorgeous scenery and abundant wildlife (its national parks are inhabited by wallabies, wombats, and yes, Tasmanian Devils), boutique wineries and cheese-makers, and historic sites such as Hobart harbor and the former penal colony at Port Arthur. Two cruise lines offering itineraries that include two port calls in Tasmania are Holland America and Princess.
Holland America’s 13- 14-, or 15-day New Zealand and Australia itineraries on the mid-sized Noordam, Marsdam or Oosterdam are scheduled throughout 2020 (in February, March, October, November and December) and are a great value. Most of these cruises, which in addition to visiting Tasmania, also explore the North and South Islands of New Zealand and coastal Australia, call spend a full day each in the charming capital of Hobart and Port Arthur. Fares start at $1,187 per person.
Princess Cruises has an 8-night Tasmania Cruise roundtrip from Sydney (Feb. 4-12, 2020) on its 3,560-passenger Majestic Princess, which debuted in 2017. The ship spends a full day at Port Arthur, overnights in Hobart, does a day of scenic cruising along the Freycinet Peninsula and also calls on Melbourne. Fares start at $699 per person.
It may be just a tiny speck in the South Pacific, but Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) is on a whole lot of bucket lists—and for good reason. Ranked among the world’s most remote islands, it’s home to about 900 giant stone moai statues carved by Polynesian settlers 600-1,000 years ago. Book a cruise to see the quarry where they were created and learn how they were transported and posed in groups all around this 63-square-mile island, now governed by Chile. You can get there in 2020 aboard cruises by Regent Seven Seas and Princess.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers an 18-night Papeete, Tahiti to Lima, Peru itinerary aboard luxurious 490-passenger Sevens Seas Navigator (April 7-25, 2020) that mixes all-inclusive pampering and adventure—and checks off both Easter Island and Bora Bora in the process. The cruise embarks in Tahiti and in addition to Bora Bora visits four other islands in French Polynesia, and then navigates east across the South Pacific to call on Easter Island for two days before reaching Lima. Fares start at $13,199 per person, including airfare, shore excursions, open bar and gratuities.
If your budget is more modest, opt for 2,200-passenger Island Princess. Book quickly and you can still nab an inside or ocean-view stateroom for the 25-night Andes & South America itinerary, departing Fort Lauderdale on January 9, 2020 and arriving in Santiago Chile on February 3, 2020. It spends one day on Easter Island, transits the Panama Canal (another bucket-list experience) and visits 8 ports in five South American countries. Fares from $2,599 per person.
The Greek Isles are full of mystique but few of them captivate as fully as Santorini, where whitewashed villages cling to black volcanic cliffs encircling an ancient caldera now filled with sapphire-hued seawater. Yes, it’s photogenic, but local wines, authentic Greek cuisine and sublime sunsets also add to the island’s allure. Many cruise lines offer itineraries that call on Santorini, including Celebrity and Oceania.
Celebrity’s 10-night Venice, Turkey & Greek Isles itinerary aboard 2,170-passenger Celebrity Constellation, which is scheduled for a complete refurbishment in May 2020, is offered in June, July and August 2020 and spends a generous 12 hours in Santorini. The cruise begins and ends in Venice and includes calls on Corfu, Crete and Mykonos as well as Athens and Kusadasi, Turkey. Fares start at $1,729 per person.
Oceania has 17 itineraries that call on Santorini in 2020, including the 11-night Legacies & Legends aboard 1,250-passenger Oceania Riviera from Rome to Athens (May 9-May 20, 2020). This cruise packs in nine ports in Italy, Greece, Croatia and Turkey, with 10 hours to explore Santorini. Fares start at $4,499 per person.
What makes Borneo a dream island? Well, at 287,000 square miles, it’s the world’s third largest—divided three ways between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei—but it’s also home to 11,000 species of flowering plants and 700 species of trees. Above all, it’s one of of only two places in the world where orangutans can be found in the wild, inhabiting the forests in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Azamaraoffers a pre- or post-cruise land excursion to see these magnificent creatures.
Better still, with one particular itinerary you can experience not only Borneo but also Bali and Tasmania. Azamara’s 18-night Australia & Bali Voyage aboard 694-passenger Azamara Journey overnights in Bali, but since it embarks on March 24, 2020 in Sydney, guests can arrive a few days early to fly to Tasmania and explore. Then, after the cruise ends in Singapore, they can book Azamara’s 4-night post-cruise land program, In Search of Orangutans in Borneo. Cruise fares start at $3,025 per person and the land program at $2,759 per person.
Cruisers who enjoy local culture–music, dance, arts & crafts and religious traditions—will love the rhythms, colors and rituals of this Indian Ocean island. While the island is part of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, most Balinese are Hindu, a religion known for its abundant gods and goddesses, mystical temples and daily offerings. Add in talented artisans, pampering spas, verdant rice paddies and even a sacred monkey forest and Bali has its own special allure. Many cruise lines call on Bali, but these two itineraries from Viking and Seabourn are standouts.
With Viking’s 12-night Bangkok, Bali & Beyond on 930-passenger Viking Orion (April 5-17, 2020), guests can arrive several days early to explore Bali on their own—or add on one of Viking’s 2-4-night pre-cruise extensions—before boarding and sailing to several ports on Java followed by Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Fares start at $4,599 per person.
Seabourn’s 10-night Gems of the Java Sea aboard 600-passenger Seabourn Encore (April 7-17, 2020) from Bali to Singapore offers an overnight in Bali to start plus a call on a second Balinese port, Celukan Bawang. There are also two port calls on the Indonesian island of Java and one on Surabaya, as well as another bucket-list spot: Komodo Island, home to the Komodo dragon. Fares start at $3,999 per person.
With their white-sand beaches, distinctive rock formations, and unique flora and fauna—from the sensual coco de mer palm to the lumbering Alhambra tortoise—the Seychelles islands are ideal for travelers looking to unwind amid some of nature’s most spectacular scenery. A great option for exploring this Indian Ocean paradise is offered by Crystal Cruises.
Enjoy a relaxing, all-inclusive yacht experience aboard 62-passenger Crystal Esprit on one of six 7-night Mahe/Eden Island Marina Roundtrip itineraries (available January-March, 2020) that sail from the main island, Mahe, and visit six other Seychelles islands. Fares start at $3,749 per person.