View from a Viking River Cruise in southern Germany

European river cruises like this one along the Moselle River at Cochem in southern Germany, are now the third most popular international destinations.

Caribbean cruises retained the top spot in a ranking of international vacation destinations for 2018, according to a new survey of travel professionals.

Travel Leaders Group polled 1,355 of its North American-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline agents for its authoritative 2018 Travel Trends Survey.

The top two international destinations are unchanged from 2017 — a cruise to the Caribbean and Cancun, Mexico.

They were followed by European river cruises and Mediterranean cruises.

Rounding out the top five was Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic.

Interest in the Caribbean remains strong among U.S. travelers. Of the agents who handle travel to the region, 45 percent said that their 2018 bookings are about even with last year, while 13 percent said that they are higher. And when it comes to Caribbean cruises, nearly 72 percent said their bookings are either higher than or equal to last year.

Of course, the Caribbean covers a wide area and Travel Leaders agents can explore all the options. Eastern Caribbean islands, for example, are relatively close together, offering a chance to stop at a new destination every day.

The western Caribbean islands are a little farther apart, but the area offers a lot of opportunities for outdoor adventure and relaxing days at sea. Many southern Caribbean islands have a European flavor, whether it’s British, Dutch or French.

Cancun’s range of accommodations and its proximity make it a popular destination for travelers who want a sunny getaway. There are direct flights from many U.S. cities that will get you into Cancun International Airport in four hours or less.

Whether you’re looking for a luxury resort, a budget hotel or something in between, you’ll find it in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, a 17-mile stretch of pristine beach along the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

European river cruises continue to grow in popularity. This year, they climbed to third place in the Travel Leaders survey, up one spot from 2017.

Using smaller ships that can get closer to port, they offer a leisurely way to visit historic cities along some of Europe’s most scenic waterways, like the Danube, which flows through more than a half-dozen countries including Germany Austria and Hungary.

Mediterranean cruises jumped to fourth place from eighth in 2017. They are a great option for travelers who want the charms of Europe, and a sunny climate, but would prefer to be on a larger ship with more onboard activities.

A cruise along the Mediterranean coastlines of Italy, France, Monaco and Spain offers a chance to experience the region’s history, culture and nightlife.

Punta Cana, on the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic, moved up a notch in 2018, from sixth to fifth place. The region is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear water.

There’s a wide range of resorts that cater to everyone from singles to honeymooners to families. And Punta Cana offers lots of opportunities for recreation, whether it’s on the water or on the golf course.

For more information, contact Travel Leaders /Fly Away Travel at 541-672-5701.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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