Best Cruise Itineraries for 2012

Windstar's Wind Surf under sail. Photo by Windstar Cruises
By Matt Hannafin

As the days get shorter, most cruise ships have begun their annual migration to the warm shores of Florida. You could follow them, but it's not your only option.

If you've had your fill of standard-issue tropical cruises, why not break out and see the world a bit? Here are 10 of the more interesting cruises being offered for 2012.

Photo Caption: Windstar's Wind Surf under sail.
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Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE is the third biggest mosque in the world Photo by Anne Ackermann
Where to: The United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman

When: Oct.-Dec. 2011 and Jan.-March 2012

What's So Special: These weeklong itineraries are like a crash course in the Emirates, a federation of seven small monarchies that are among the most progressive states in the Arab world. Cruises visit Abu Dhabi (with overnights at the beginning and end of the cruise), Muscat and Khasab (Oman), Al Fujayrah, and Dubai (with an overnight).

Ship: MSC Lirica (1,586 passengers)

Rates: From $649 per person; MSC is currently running a deal where the second guest gets 50% off (applies to select voyages only).

More Info: www.msccruisesusa.com

Photo Caption: Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE is the third largest mosque in the world.
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Fishermen in Southeast Asia, Seabourn Legend. Photo by Seabourn Cruise Line
Where to: Mumbai to Bali, via the Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia

When: Jan. 3, 2012

What's so Special: This 22-day voyage begins in Mumbai, India's richest and most populous city, and sails a long southeasterly route to Mangalore and Cochin (India), Galle (Sri Lanka), Phuket (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia), Singapore, and the Indonesian ports of Surabaya, Lembar, Semarang and Probolinggo (Java), and Celukan Bawang and Benoa/Denpasar (Bali).

Ship: Seabourn Legend (208 passengers)

Rates:
From $7,999 per person

More Info: www.seabourn.com

Photo Caption: Fishermen in Southeast Asia.
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Rounding Cape Horn in South America. Photo by Frommers.com Community
Where to: San Francisco to Buenos Aires, following the classic and once-perilous route around Cape Horn

When: Dec. 5, 2012

What's so Special: This 30-day cruise is a classic, visiting nine countries on a route that sails south from San Francisco all the way down the western coasts of Mexico, Central America, and South America, then rounds Cape Horn before ending in the Argentine capital. Ports visited include Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco (Mexico), San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Manta (Ecuador, for access to Quito), Lima (Peru, overnight), Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Purto Montt, Punta Arenas, and the Amalia Glacier (Chile), the Falkland Islands, Montevideo (Uruguay), and Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn (Argentina).

Ship: Star Princess (2,600 passengers)

Rates:
From $2,890 per person

More Info:
www.princess.com

Photo Caption: Rounding Cape Horn in South America.
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Silver Explorer at sea. Photo by Silversea Cruises
Where to: Canary Islands to Accra, Ghana, and round-trip from Accra aboard Silversea's one and only expedition ship.

When: Sept. 16 and Oct. 3, 2012 departures

What's so Special: Silversea means luxury, but Silver Explorer (the former World Discoverer of defunct Society Expeditions) means luxury adventure. Enjoy off-vessel sailing by inflatable Zodiac landing boats and included cultural trips, jungle treks, and more. On the 17-day cruise departing Sept. 16, Explorer will sail from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands and explore Africa's Atlantic coast, with port calls in San Sebastian de la Gomera (Spain), Ad Dakhla (Western Sahara), Porto Novo (Cape Verde), Dakar (Senegal), Banjul and Albredia (Gambia), the Bijagos Archipelago (Guinea Bissau), Freetown and Banana Island (Sierra Leone), and Takoradi (Ghana). The 10-day trip departing Accra on Oct. 3 visits Takoradi (Ghana), Santo Antonio (Sao Tome & Principe), Kribi and Limbe (Cameroon), Cotonou (Benin), and Lome (Togo).

Ship: Silver Explorer (132 passengers)

Rates:
From $9,398 per person for the 17-night voyage; from $6,253 for the 10-night voyage

More Info: www.silversea.com

Photo Caption: Silver Explorer at sea.
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QM2 and Queen Elizabeth in Sydney Harbour. Photo by Cunard
Where to: Round-trip from Sydney, Australia, making a complete circumnavigation of the huge country.

When: Feb. 14, 2012

What's so Special: There are a lot of Australia cruises these days, but only a few that make a point of sailing around the entire enormous country 00 and somehow, sailing a British ship around the former British colony seems appropriate. Departing from Sydney, QM2 will visit Fremantle, Adelaide, the Whitsundays, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, and Brisbane, plus a hop north to Bali for a little break from all those Aussies. (Note: This is a segment of QM2's 2012 World Cruise.)

Ship: Queen Mary 2 (2,592 passengers).

Rates: From $5,648 per person

More Info:
www.cunard.com

Photo Caption: QM2 and Queen Elizabeth in Sydney Harbour.
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Windstar's Wind Spirit at sea. Photo by Windstar Cruises
Where to: Round-trip from Rome, visiting islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea (off Italy's western coast, bounded by Corsica and Sardinia to the west and Sicily to the south.

When: April 21, 28; Oct. 6, 2012 departures

What's so Special: Most Italy cruises involve big ships visiting the big cities -- not that there's anything wrong with that. However, there is more to Italy, and these small-ship cruises take you to some of the overlooked highlights. You'll visit Ischia, the largest island in the bay of Naples; explore the ruins of Pompeii during a visit to Sorrento; visit archeological sites, castles, and beaches in Lipari; hit chic caf├ęs and boutiques in Porto Cervo; take one little detour into Frenchness at Porto Vecchio, Corsica; and sail by Stromboli, a small island that's home to one of Italy's three active volcanoes.

Ship: April 21 aboard Wind Spirit (148 passengers), April 28; Oct. 6 aboard Wind Surf (312 passengers)

Rates: From $2,496 per person

More Info: www.windstarcruises.com

Photo Caption: Windstar's Wind Spirit at sea.
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Moai sculptures on Easter Island. Photo by <a href="http://www.frommers.com/community/user_gallery_detail.html?plckPhotoID=35dbd882-53b2-4d98-b5ea-0f1a188569e5&plckGalleryID=c0482941-0d2d-4cca-b8c4-809ee9e20c72" target="_blank">Dick Saale/Frommers.com Community</a> Photo by Frommers.com Community
Where to: Valparaiso (Chile) to Papeete (Tahiti), hop-scotching among the islands of the South Pacific

When: Dec. 27, 2012

What's so Special: Ever see Mutiny on the Bounty? This is where it happened. Sailing from Valparaiso, Marina sails nearly straight west, visiting Robinson Crusoe Island (a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve), Hanga Roa (on Easter Island, famous for its 887 monumental stone heads), the Pitcairn Islands (home to descendants of some Bounty mutaineers), and the Polynesian islands of Fakarava, Bora Bora, Moorea, and Tahiti.

Ship: Marina (1,258 passengers)

Rates:
From $4,699 per person

More Info: www.oceaniacruises.com

Photo Caption: Moai sculptures on Easter Island. Photo by Dick Saale/Frommers.com Community
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The Gierangerfjord, Norway. Photo by Celebrity Cruises
Where to: Round-trip from Southampton, UK, visiting ports in Iceland and sailing the fjord-indented coast of Norway

When: July 7; Aug. 4, 2012

What's so Special: On these two 14-night cruises to Iceland, you also get a Norwegian fjords cruise. Departing Southampton, Celebrity Eclipse visits the Icelandic ports of Akureyri and Reykjavik (the latter for an overnight), stops at Klaksvik (Faroe Islands), then explores the Norwegian coast, stopping at Geiranger, Olden, Flam, and Bergen. Click here for the July 7 itinerary and here for the Aug. 4 itinerary.

Ship: Celebrity Eclipse (2,850 passengers)

Rates:
From $2,749 per person
More Info: www.celebritycruises.com

Photo Caption: The Gierangerfjord, Norway.
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American Queen sailing the Mississippi River. Photo by Great American Steamship Company
Where to: Sailing the Mississippi River system from New Orleans, Memphis, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburg, Louisville, Vicksburg, and St. Paul

When: Departures beginning April 13, 2012

What's so Special: There have been no regularly scheduled cruises on America's greatest river system since Majestic America Line went belly-up in 2008, but all that's about to change. Beginning on April 13, 2012, a new line called the Great American Steamboat Company will begin offering weeklong cruises on the Mississippi aboard the former Majestic America and Delta Queen Steamboat Co. vessel American Queen. It's been a long time coming.

Ship: American Queen (436 passengers)

Rates:
From $1,995 per person

More Info: www.greatamericansteamboat.com

Photo Caption: American Queen sailing the Mississippi River
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Mickey Mouse announces Disney's 2012 New York cruises. Photo by Disney Cruise Line
Where to: From New York north to New England/Canada and south to Florida and the Bahamas.

When: May-Sept. 2012

What's so Special: Disney Cruise Line spent the first decade or so of its corporate life sailing solely from one port (Port Canaveral, FL) and visiting the same parts of the Caribbean and Bahamas, over and over again. They've recently begun to branch out, and in Summer 2012, they'll head to the northeast for the first time. Choose among nine 5-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada (visiting Halifax and St. John) and eight 8-night Florida and Bahamas cruises (visiting Nassau, Disney's Castaway Cay private island, and Port Canaveral, for access to Disney World). The routes themselves are nothing special, but they're Disney -- and for some folks, that's reason enough to sign on.

Ship: Disney Magic (1,754 passengers)

Rates: New England/Canada from $715 per person, Florida/Bahamas from $1,240 per person

More Info: http://disneycruise.disney.go.com

Photo Caption: Mickey Mouse announces Disney's 2012 New York cruises.
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