Amazing cruise experiences to try in 2018

Andy Stevens / 27 April 2017

Looking for something a bit out of the ordinary - or, better still, extraordinary - on your next cruise holiday? Well, look no further than these 16 inspirational and unforgettable cruise experiences for 2018.

Barcelona by supercar

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Think hiring a car on holiday is all a bit vanilla, and something of a tiresome rigmarole? Time to think again. 

There's nothing vanilla, average or humdrum about the business of car hire when you hit Barcelona on Saga's Iberian Adventure cruise. Well, saying that, the vehicles at your disposal for a high-octane spin around the Catalan capital have plenty of hum, lots of vroom - and then some.

Barcelona is renowned for its singular embrace of the stylish and the spectacular. It's no surprise, then, that the city is a bit of a, well, hub (excuse the pun) for supercars. 

And on this trip you'll have the chance to see the city's amazing sights from the driving seat of some seriously swanky wheels.

A daunting prospect, petrolheads? It needn't be. Under expert guidance, you will be able to explore Barca's magic independently by road, in supercar style. 

You'll never look at that airport saloon car hire concession in quite the same light again.

Moor overnight in Barcelona and discover its incredible architecture, with the chance to explore in a supercar on an amazing cruise to Spain. Find out more here

Seville April Fair

Horses during the Seville festival

Seville, that incomparable Andalusian crucible of the exotic and the hot-blooded, knows how to party. 

Every April, the sultry city's zest for good times blooms in grand style with its spring 'feria', bringing local Sevillanos and visitors alike out into the streets, plazas and parks, restaurants and bars for a spectacular series of celebrations.

The fair pulls together the culture and traditions of Seville in full, customarily intoxicating effect. 

You'll be wowed by the sights and sounds of the Sevillana flamenco, plus magnificent horses, locals resplendent in traditional costumes, moreish local Manzanilla sherry and the finest authentic tapas, sizzling live music events and a jaw-dropping fireworks display to round off the proceedings.

As is the Spanish way, this colourful celebration of the end of Lent goes on long and late, every day and night. And like all the best parties, it lasts for a whole week.

Join in with Seville’s fiesta on a Springtime voyage around Spain and Portugal. Find out more here

Hardanger Music Festival

Hardangerfjord in Norway

For stirring settings which encapsulate the last word in high drama and geological majesty, Norway's fjords are in a league of their own. 

Add live music concerts into the visual mix, and you've got your own real-time cinematic experience before your very eyes.

The Hardanger Music Festival makes full use of Norway's dramatic fjordside scenes by moving its classical chamber and folk music concerts each year to a different fjord. 

There are plenty to choose from. Hardangerfjord itself, with its fascinating nearby nature centre, is among the best.

Musical inspiration in the form of Norway's most celebrated classical composer, Edvard Grieg, is very much the essence of this unforgettable festival, with the man himself having taken the cues for his greatest compositions from the spectacular mountains, waterfalls and fells of his magical homeland.

Embark on an amazing voyage and experience mesmerising performances in a magical setting at the Hardanger Music Festival. Find out more here

Isle of Man TT Road Race

Motorcycles during the Isle of Man TT race

With an adrenaline rush for the humble spectator without the gruelling leg work, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) Road Race takes some beating.

Standing roadside at the legendary motorcycle race event, to witness racers whizzing by at speeds up to 120mph is certainly a thrilling experience guaranteed to blow any trace of cobwebs away.

The TT riders burn up the island's roads for two weeks every year at the end of May and early June, with qualifying heats in the first week leading up to week two's blistering main events.

Thrilling, too, is the sheer variety of motorbikes which make an annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Man; marvel at classic and modern machines as they all take their chance to shine throughout the TT's exciting catalogue of events.

Drop anchor off the beautiful Isle of Man when the TT races are in full swing on this wonderful cruise around the UK. Find out more here

Round the Island Race

Yachts in the Round the Islands Regatta Race

Hosted in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the undisputed home of British yachting, the annual Round the Island Race is one of the most scintillating sights off our island's shores.

A competitive flotilla of around 1,500 yachts small and large, fast and not so fast, take to sea in the 50 nautical miles-long race in a westerly direction around the Isle of Wight's effortlessly dramatic coastline.

Short of donning your waterproofs and taking part yourself, the best views of the race can happily be had from the deck of our very own super-duper non-competing vessel, the cruise ship Saga Sapphire. 

She will anchor off the Isle of Wight during the event and give you an unparalleled vantage point of the great race.

Experience the thrill of the Round the Island Yacht Race from the comfort of a cruise. Find out more here

Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Set your sights on the night skies of Norway and Iceland on a trip to see the spellbinding Northern Lights.

A good starting point from which you have a great chance of witnessing the mysterious lights is when you sail at night from the Norwegian city of Alesund, itself something of a magical marvel with a surprising wealth of sumptuous art nouveau buildings, the like of which you'll see nowhere else in Scandinavia.

Your seabound quest for the lights will also take you to another place of near picture-perfection, the delightful small east Icelandic town of Seydisfjordur, with its beautifully preserved array of old timber buildings.

Entering this jewel of a town by cruise ship along its eponymous 10-mile long fjord is a trip of spectacular scale and proportion in itself. And to heighten the drama even further, Seydisfjordur sits pretty between two 3,000 feet mountains, Strandartindur and Bolfur.

Go in search of the famous Northern Lights on a Norway and Iceland exploration cruise. Find out more here

Midnight Sun

The North Cape globe

To immerse yourself in the other-worldly experience of the midnight sun, likely to flummox even the most metronomic of body clocks, you must venture north. Really north. Proper north. As north as it gets.

The traditional gateway to the Arctic, and first staging post for those on the quest for that strangest of ethereal suns, is the Norwegian city of Tromso. From here, early Arctic explorers habitually took their first steps out into the uncharted white vastness.

Claim to the title of the world's northernmost town resides with Hammerfest, home to many of the enduring traditions of the indigenous Sami people and culture. 

However, on you can go to even more remote Honningsvag, capital of Norway's North Cape. Honningsvag is a mere 21 miles from the most northerly extremity of Europe, and the place to be for the full sensory-sharpening experience of an Arctic summer.

Witness the endless twilight of the midnight sun on an adventure to the North Cape. Find out more here

Bordeaux Wine Cellars

Glass of Muscadet

What did the Romans ever do for the French? In the case of the great grape city of Bordeaux, they gave them wine. Listen hard, and you can still hear expressions of deep and heartfelt thanks echoing down the centuries in western France.

Bordeaux is wine, and wine is Bordeaux. But the elegant city, now bestowed world heritage status, also boasts wonderful museums, a glorious 11th century cathedral and a terrific museum of contemporary art. 

But back to all things wine; Bordeaux's waterfront is replete with wine warehouses for you to experience, and in the countryside not far beyond the city the globally-feted wine regions of Medoc, Margaux and more are calling.

Sip Muscadet at the Château de Chasseloir on a cruise perfect for any wine lover. Find out more here

2018 Puccini Festival

Statue of Puccini in Italy

The great opera composer Giacomo Puccini harboured lifelong ambitions of staging his operatic works, such as Tosca and La Boheme, in the environs of his bucolic home at Torre del Lago, alongside Lake Massaciuccoli in Tuscany.

Sadly, Puccini's dream remained unfulfilled during his lifetime. But modern-day opera lovers are much luckier. 

For more than 50 years, a 4,000-seat, open-air theatre beside the lake has delighted Puccini fans with performances of his enduring musical masterpieces in a Tuscan setting that couldn't get any more inspirational if it tried. 

It is simply one of the greatest global spectacles for those who appreciate classical music.

Immerse yourself in art and culture on a Mediterranean cruise that takes you to Gaudi’s Barcelona and Puccini’s Torre del Lago in Italy. Find out more here

Grand Cru Chateaux

Grand cru vineyard in Alsace

It would need to be a full-time occupation - and indeed one with impressive dedication to a noble cause - to visit each of the greater Bordeaux region's wine estates. 

There are around 3,000 of you get the picture.

If you're prepared to be selective, however, among the best experiences of all for lovers of great wine in this heartland centres on the Margaux region. 

Margaux is home to a string of the world's most esteemed wine estates, including Chateau Rauzan-Gassies and Chateau Kirwan for Grand Cru Classe.

Select chateaux offer talks for visitors on the art of wine making. And, crucially, wine and cheese tastings in these cathedrals of high-end viticulture are an essential part of the experience.

Visit a Margaux’s Classified Grand Cru Châteaux on a cruise to Western France and Spain. Find out more here

Bristol Balloon Fiesta

Balloons over Bristol during the Bristol balloon festival

There's something about a sky filled with colourful hot air balloons gently, silently, rising which stops people in their tracks. It's a magical sight which recaptures a childlike sense of wonder in all of us.

Hot air balloons at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta exert this very same impact on the rubbernecking balloon viewers down on terra firma - and on a grand scale.

For four days every August, the West Country port city hosts this joyous - and joyously free - family four-day entertainment event, with more than 150 hot air balloons from all over the world going up, up and away as they reach for the skies.

Watch the balloons at the Bristol Balloon Festival on a cruise around the British Isles. Find out more here

Edinburgh Arts Festival

Fireworks in Edinburgh during the fringe festival

Scotland's magnificent capital city is always a fabulous place to visit. But no more so than in the summer months, when the whole place is abuzz with all the activities of the world-famous Edinburgh Festival, the biggest arts festival in the world.

You can also time your visit to coincide with an excursion to the final night of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, that most spectacular of military events combining pomp and ceremony, plus a spectacular light show and fireworks.

And while in Edinburgh, the Old Town, Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith are must-sees on any visit.

Enjoy diverse performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on a 5-night mini cruise from Dover to Scotland. Find out more here

Helsinki by speedboat

Helsinki from above

Finland's elegant capital Helsinki is a haven of calm, style and grace, with notable architectural gems and a vibrant cultural life. So what better way to explore the city than by - you've guessed it - speedboat?

You can take in the scenic delights of Helsinki's scattered archipelago - such as the Presidential Palace, and even seals lolloping in the Baltic if you're lucky - from a watery perspective in a state-of-the-art RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), with a professional helmsman steering the high-speed, big-thrills show.

Experience Helsinki by speedboat on a 17-night cruise to the Baltic. Find out more here

Autumnal Colours of Canada

Fall at the Algonquin Provincial park, Ontario, Canada

Autumn shakes the leaves off the trees along Canada's coast to herald its annual ‘fall’, dusting the landscape with spectacular shades of russet, reds and browns.

It’s a truly awe-inspiring sight, and autumn is the best time of year to appreciate the picture-postcard scenes of old lighthouses, clapboard dwellings and wild scenery such as Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Plus, you can also marvel at the unforgettable rugged coastline and fishing villages of Nova Scotia, including the world's second largest natural harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia's capital city.

A cruise will propel you to surprising places where you can experience the natural splendour and warm autumnal colours of Canada, such as the forests, rivers and mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula, and the delights of the lesser-visited Nova Scotia.

And you also discover for yourself how the identities of Quebec City, on Cap Diamant overlooking the mighty St Lawrence River, and cosmopolitan, French-speaking Montreal were forged by the toil and traditions of their founding fathers.

See Canada in the Fall on an amazing cruise across the Atlantic. Find out more here

Ruins of Pompeii

Ruins of Pompeii in Italy

It's the scale of the great ruined city of Pompeii which always grabs first time visitors. 

The sense that what you're witnessing aren't simply the results of an extensive archaeological dig, but that this was - until 79AD - a living, breathing, functioning city in its own right, with all the life and human aspirations of its people buried therein, beneath the volcanic anger of ever-brooding, looming Mount Vesuvius nearby.

Experience Pompeii once, and you'll want to return again and again to immerse yourself more in its haunting, abruptly-halted history, forever frozen in time.

Visit the ruins of Pompeii on a cruise to Italy and the Med. Find out more here

Surprise surprise!

Compass and map

Well what can we say without giving the game away? 

This - ssshh! - secret cruise is the ultimate experience for those of you who like a bit of mystery, while relishing the excitement of waking up on your cruise ship in the morning wondering what port of call the captain has in store for you today.

Saga's Secret Cruise's itinerary is only revealed day by day, prolonging the excitement as you sail from mystery port to mystery port, with an excursion ashore at each one.

Saga Sapphire will take you from Southampton to your destinations unknown. See you on board!

Can you stand the suspense of not knowing where you will stop next? Enjoy a mystery voyage with Saga. Find out more here

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.