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Viennese balls & Grand Prix glam: Best cruises for world-class events in 2023 & 2024

Cruises are doing more and more to attract vacationers these days, including voyages that tie in with famous events across the globe – here are some of the best.

Words by Jeannine Williamson

Want to move your cruise up a gear and live life in the fast lane? Or maybe you want to let your hair down in some of the world’s top party capitals. An increasing number of cruise lines are creating itineraries that dovetail with cool events worldwide.

Offering a package that’s more cost-effective than sorting it all out yourself, they’ll take you there and back (and to plenty of other great places in between), sort out your tickets and you don’t have to worry about where to stay or getting a cab back. It’s a win-win situation.

We’ve rounded up some of the best taking place this year and next across a plethora of major cruise lines, so whether you’re a sports enthusiast or a keen astrologist there’s something for you.

msc cruises F1

Full throttle thrills

MSC Cruises recently extended its global partnership deal with Formula 1 to the end of the 2026 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

The high-octane collaboration will see MSC offering ‘track to ship’ hospitality and providing race fans with accommodation, tickets and exclusive insider access for selected grand prix weekends.

The next is from November 23 to 27, 2023, when MSC Virtuosa will be docked in Abu Dhabi and, in addition to race day packages, organize free transfers to and from the nearby track. Back onboard you can put your own driving skills to the test on the ship’s F1 simulator.

A right royal party

Amsterdam is party central in the Netherlands, especially on King’s Day. The annual holiday celebrating the monarch’s birthday is a bash like no other.

Thousands of orange-clad revelers take to the streets to dance, drink, listen to DJs and live music stages and browse pop-up flea markets, while decorated boats packed with partygoers line the canals.

To start your river cruise with a bang, Emerald Cruises’ 14-night Splendours of Europe itinerary leaves Amsterdam on 27 April 2024, which is King’s Day.

The ship provides an ideal vantage point to watch the festivities or take part. The sailing along the Rhine and Danube ends with an overnight in Budapest where you can hang out at some of the city’s grungy ruin bars in abandoned buildings.


Grand Prix glamour

The most glitzy event on the Formula 1 circuit is the Monaco Grand Prix where cars hurtle round hairpin bends in the tiny principality on the French Riviera. It’s attended by royalty, celebrities and the jet set, and for drivers it’s the race they all want to win.

You can see it in style on a suitably swanky cruise with Silversea where all suites come with butler service. The Rome to Nice sailing departing on May 16, 2024, includes grandstand tickets in the heart of the action with a clear view of the track and pit boxes.

After winners spray bottles of Champagne, back onboard you can celebrate with a few glasses of fizz as all drinks are included in the fare.

Wickets and waves

Tall ship sailing line Star Clippers has put together three new packages for cricket fans ahead of England’s Caribbean tour of the West Indies.

Combine a cruise on the magnificent five-masted sailing ship Royal Clipper with a stay in a luxury hotel in Antigua or Barbados for the England v West Indies matches. There are departures on November 18 and December 2 and 5, 2023, with itineraries of 11 and 16-nights.

Fares include premium match tickets and the November date also includes welcome drinks with former England cricket captain Mike Gatting and the December 2 trip includes a post-match brunch hosted by Gatting to celebrate or commiserate over the result of the previous day’s cricket.


Catch a solar spectacle

Princess Cruises has altered a Mexican Riviera sailing so passengers will have the bragging rights to be one of the few to experience a complete solar eclipse at sea.

On April 8, 2024, an eclipse lasting more than four minutes will be visible as the moon’s shadow is cast across parts of North America. Princess has adjusted the course of its 14-night Panama Canal trip, leaving Los Angeles on April 5, so the ship will be in the best position to catch the phenomena.

Guests will get special glasses to safely watch the eclipse and specially-themed drinks and bites will add to the experience.

Viennese whirl

Austria’s refined and cultural capital loosens up on New Year’s Eve. On the stroke of midnight the giant Pummerin bell (the largest in Austria) at St Stephen’s Cathedral rings in the New Year and as the last chimes fade fireworks light up the city and – waltz alert – people dance in the streets to the omnipresent Blue Danube.

They also tuck into marzipan pigs to bring good luck. Riviera Travel’s five-night New Year on The Danube cruise does what it says on the tin with an overnight in Vienna and time to join locals in traditional New Year’s Day walks around the grand boulevards.

Luckily, Vienna is famous for its coffee houses if any restorative caffeine is needed the morning after the night before.


Water and wine

Say cheers multiple times as you sip wine on a leisurely hotel barge cruise through France. Each summer Bordeaux hosts a festival celebrating its world-famous tipple and a 2km wine route lines the banks of the Garonne with tasting booths, workshops, entertainment and all things wine.

European Waterways has trips that dovetail with the festival running from June 27 to 30 in 2024. If you can’t make it, there are themed wine cruises in France at other times of the year.

With some barges carrying as few as eight passengers and also available for exclusive charter, these posh booze cruises are great for groups of wine-loving friends.

Time for tee

There’ll be plenty to talk about back home at the golf club after you’ve played on the world’s most northerly 18-hole course in Tromso and the remote Lofoten Links.

They’re among the four golf courses featured on this special Norwegian coastal and fjords sailing with Azamara in partnership with golf holiday specialist Perry Golf.

Departing on July 13, 2024, the 17-night itinerary has also been designed to take in the long daylight hours in the Land of the Midnight Sun. All golf equipment is supplied and there are plenty of excursions on offer for any golf widows (or widowers) traveling with golfers.

golf clubs

Scottish spectacle

The stirring pomp and pageantry of the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo is a highlight in the Scottish calendar, attracting an international audience in excess of 220,000.

After the precision drills of the massed bands and exuberant Scottish dance displays at Edinburgh Castle, the finale includes fireworks and a lone piper floodlit on the battlements.

Princess Cruises’ 11-night British Isles sailing coincides with the tattoo. As part of the overnight stop in Greenock on August 18 and 19, 2023, a variety of shore excursions are on offer to watch the tattoo, including VIP seats with a Champagne reception.

Published 07.20.23