So many great holiday memories revolve around the ocean and there’s no better way to see it in all its glory, then on a cruise. Whether you’re looking for whale watching in the Antarctic, a sunny resort-style family cruise or something a little more relaxed, our list of essential cruise destinations has you covered and will help you find and plan your perfect holiday.
Perhaps the most iconic of all cruises, most Caribbean voyages start from Miami or Fort Lauderdale in Florida. They operate year-round and you’re pretty much guaranteed sunshine whenever you choose to depart. Jamaica and the Bahamas are old favourites but the Cayman Islands are also emerging as a new favourite for cruise holidays. The Lesser Antilles are perfect for couples looking to get away and offer romantic destinations like St Lucia along with its famous twin peaks, Martinique and the spice islands of Grenada and Antigua.
Many cruise lines combine a visit to the South Pacific with New Zealand or Australia or offer Hawaii with a stopover in Los Angeles or the much prettier San Diego.
Tahiti is the main island in French Polynesia and has beautiful mountain walks and waterfalls. Bora Bora, nestling under dramatic mountain peaks and fringed by coral reef with a superb lagoon for snorkelling, is another poplar choice.
Scandinavia and the Baltic
The Norwegian coast offers spectacular fjords and is also studded with tiny islands. The route through the Baltic usually takes in Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and ends up in St Petersburg, with its famous Winter Palace.
Some cruises also stop at the medieval Estonian city of Tallinn, the major city of Riga with its art nouveau architecture and lovely parks, and Lubeck in Germany.
One of the last great wilderness areas, it’s taken over where the African safari left off and is certainly less crowded.
Most cruises start over the Canadian border in Vancouver, and may combine shipboard sightseeing with inland trips by floatplane, rail or coach to see some of the national parkland at Denali (home of caribou, bears and moose). From the deck, humpback whales are a relatively common sight.
Bermuda, and the east coast of the United States
Bermuda is a group of some 150 islands, but Grand Bermuda, is where cruise ships make landfall. The beaches are excellent and the clear turquoise waters great for swimming or snorkelling.
New England is the most popular part of the eastern US seaboard for cruising, and they invariably start at Boston. Many cruises continue north to Canada’s maritime provinces of Prince Edward island, Halifax in Nova Scotia onto Montreal.
Majorca is a popular place to start a cruise taking in the South of France and the Italian coast. Sailing in or out of Venice is particularly stunning. The Canary Islands are a jumping off point for cruising to Spain and North Africa.
The eastern side of the Med offers a more exotic feel and fascinating glimpses of the ancient world. Many cruises start at Istanbul with its fabulous Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
Cruises to this outstandingly beautiful and untouched part of the world usually take in part of South America, perhaps flying into and out of Buenos Aires in Argentina or Santiago in Chile. The Antarctic is simply stunning – miles of incredible icebergs and snow-capped mountains plus wonderful wildlife, from comical penguins to seals, whales and many kinds of seabirds.
Small inflatable craft will take you ashore for a closer look.
Africa and the Indian Ocean
Without enough ports for daily stops, this is an ideal choice for those wanting a more relaxed itinerary. The most popular routes are down through the Suez Canal with excursions to Cairo and Luxor.
From the Jordanian port of Aquaba there are excursions to the famous ‘pink city’ of Petra. Then it’s a long sail down through the Red Sea to Dijoubti before emerging into the Indian Ocean and heading down the coast to Mombasa.
Australia, New Zealand
Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world. Sydney has one of the most beautiful harbours in the world to sail into with its famous bridge and graceful Opera House – have that camera ready.
New Zealand’s highlights include South Island’s Milford Sound with its fantastic glacial fjords.
South East Asia
Options in this area include Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines. Some cruises concentrate on the capital cities, and other typical combinations might include Bangkok, Singapore, Bali, Manila and Hong Kong.
Increasingly popular are cruises that take in Vietnam, one of the most culturally rich and scenic countries in Asia. In Ho Chi Minh City visit the National Museum.