Cuba has experienced a visitor boom since it reopened to tourism for U.S. travelers in 2015. Restrictions are still in place — you can still only visit on a People-to-People cultural exchange visa — but that didn’t stop 619,000 U.S. travelers from visiting the country in 2017. One of the easiest and most popular ways to visit is on a cruise — Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, and Silversea will all add new Cuba-centric itineraries in 2019. And come 2020, Richard Branson’s hip new Virgin Voyages cruise line will make Cuba one of its inaugural ports of call.
2 Galapagos Islands
Darwin’s playground is home to some of the world’s most pristine wilderness — plus tortoises, iguanas, 22 endemic species of land birds, and more. Several outfitters lead nature-centric expeditions to the archipelago — some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador — including Celebrity Cruises, which will debut a new 100-passenger ship purpose-built for the Galápagos this year. The Celebrity Flora takes
3 Ischia, Italy
Italian author Elena Ferrante’s four-book series, the Neapolitan Novels, tells the story of Lenù and Lila, who grew up in Naples and spent summers on Ischia, a volcanic island in the Bay of Naples known for its thermal spas and laid-back lifestyle. The books have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, and HBO adapted them into a miniseries, My Brilliant Friend, which premiered in November 2018 — further sparking readers’ desires to see the story’s real-life setting. At the Hotel Regina Isabella, a new three-night package includes a tour to the locations described in the books, plus a creative-writing workshop with a local literature professor.
4 Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Golfers should book it to this quaint island off Charleston’s coast: It’s home to the No. 1 golf course in South Carolina, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which is gearing up to host the PGA Championship in 2021. As a result, the resort is in the midst of a $200-million redevelopment that will add a new 150-room hotel and a state-of-the-art conference space by the end of 2020. And just around the corner, the Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences opened in October 2018 with 21 beachfront vacation homes perfect for a family vacation.
Happy birthday, Madeira! The four-island archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal located off of Africa’s northwest coast, celebrates its 600th anniversary in 2019. Milestone events will take place across the main, mountainous island of Madeira throughout the year (be sure to toast the island with a glass of its eponymous wine); and hotels debuting in the New Year include the Savoy Palace in the capital city of Funchal, and the Pestana Churchill Bay, which opens in the sleepy fishing village of Câmara de Lobos this spring. (Yes, the Churchill is a nod to Winston the Prime Minister, who frequented the island in the 1900s.)