Some destinations seem like they were specially designed to be a port of call. Exuberant scenery from the sea, ports conveniently located near the city centres, and a range of tourist attractions easily reachable in just one day – these are just some the factors that make a destination an excellent port of call. CruiseAway has selected the 20 best destinations in the world that should be visited while on a cruise.
1 – Barcelona, Spain
The short distance between the port and the old town makes Barcelona one of those perfect destinations to be explored during a cruise stopover. Within a short walking distance from the cruise port, you will be at the beginning of Las Ramblas, the most famous shopping street in the city. If you head to another direction, in less than 10 minutes you can reach Barceloneta Beach, the most popular strip of sand in the Mediterranean. The tour can continue along the Modernisme Route, an itinerary that takes you through the main architectural masterpieces of Gaudí and Muntaner, and culminates with the impressive Sagrada Familia Church.
2 – Philipsburg, St. Maarten
St. Maarten offers all the ingredients for a perfect day in the Caribbean: turquoise waters, duty-free shopping and the friendly hospitality of the Caribbean people. However, this former Dutch colony has an unusual attraction that cannot be found in the neighbouring islands: an airport by the beach. Crowds gather on the sand to get blasted by jet engines as they land and take off only a few meters away from Maho Beach, accessible by short taxi drive from Philipsburg’s cruise terminal. The island still offers another unique opportunity in the Caribbean: visiting 2 different countries at once. Cruisers’ can easily cross the border that separates St. Maarten from St. Martin, the part of the island that still belongs to France.
3 – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Often overshadowed by the greatness of its neighbour Dubai, the city of Abu Dhabi is a gem in the desert of the United Arab Emirates. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is so impressive that it alone would justify a stopover in the city. Completely built with white marble and decorated with crystals, this is one of the few mosques that allow non-Muslims to visit the interior. The tour continues with an afternoon tea in the glittering Emirates Palace, a luxury hotel decorated with gold, where you can indulge the famous Palace Cappuccino, sprinkled with 24 carat gold flakes.
4 – Galápagos, Ecuador
This archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 973 km from the coast of Ecuador, is the expedition cruise destination par excellence. On board of a mid-sized luxury ship, cruises on the Galapagos put passengers in touch with a virtually unexplored nature, where mass tourism has not yet arrived. This hidden treasure still holds the same atmosphere of isolation that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection during his stay in the archipelago in 1835. Cruises to Galapagos explore in detail this paradise of biodiversity, where cruisers come face to face with sea lions, native giant tortoises and unique bird species.
5 – Panama Canal, Panama
One of the largest engineering wonders of the world, the Panama Canal is not only the shortest route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific but also the most interesting one. Being aboard a cruise ship will give you the opportunity to take a closer look at this project that plays a crucial economic role in global integration. After the ship makes its way through the locks of the world’s most famous shortcut, cruisers will have a chance to appreciate the natural surroundings of the canal. 6 – The Amazon, BrazilConsidering that many areas of the Amazon Forest are still sparsely inhabited or tough to be reached by land, a cruise is an excellent alternative to visiting places off the beaten track. River cruises through the Amazon include a variety of activities, such as feeding alligators, playing with pink dolphins, photographic safaris, bird watching, visiting a native indigenous house, and piranha fishing. The highlight of the navigation is one of the most beautiful spectacles of nature: the ‘Meeting of Waters’, a phenomenon observed when the dark waters of Negro River meet the pale-coloured waters of the Solimões.
7 – Mystery Island, Vanuatu
How about spending the day on an inhabited island, with no roads, no electricity, no cell phone network, and most important, no stress? This is a real possibility for cruisers heading to Mystery Island, a piece of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which belongs to the small country of Vanuatu. After spending the day surrounded exclusively by palm trees and crystal clear waters, simply return to your cruise cabin and enjoy the evening on board.
8 – Reykjavik, Iceland
The ultimate destination for adventurers, the capital of Iceland is the starting point for the route known as Golden Circle, a 300 km circuit that takes in the most beautiful natural landscapes of the land of glaciers and volcanoes. The tour, which lasts approximately nine hours, visits the Gullfoss Waterfall, the Haukadalur Geysers and the Thingvellir National Park, where you can see the Silfra Fissure between the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America. Scuba divers can also dive between the plates and touch two continents at the same time – an experience that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
9 – San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Boricua spirit, which defines the Puerto Rican lifestyle, dominates all five senses on the moment the cruisers set foot on the island. It is alive in the vivid colors of the old town of San Juan, in the irresistible aroma of the local dishes with taíno roots, in the warmth of the sun that shines all year round, in salsa beat that echoes through the streets or in the taste of the authentic Piña Colada served in the bar, where the drink was originally created. A walking tour around San Juan offers a taste of the Latin essence that makes Puerto Rico one of the most interesting countries in the Caribbean.
10 – Cairns, Australia
Located on our Eastern Coast, the town of Cairns is the starting point for tours along the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Getting to see this impressive living organism should be on everyone’s bucket-list, especially divers’. However, even without a diving certificate, you can admire the great biodiversity of the Barrier Reef, either by joining a snorkel tour, taking a scenic flight or riding on a glass bottom boat.
11 – Cinque Terre, Italy
The five picturesque villages of Cinque Terre are among the most remarkable postcards of Italy. This colourful region offers a scenic landscape from sea perspective. Undoubtedly, the deck of a cruise is the best place to enjoy this gem of the Italian Riviera. Passengers willing to explore the villages on foot will have the chance to do so when the ship arrives in the port of La Spezia, the starting point of a trail that lasts about 5 hours and takes visitors along the charming alleys of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
12 – Cape Town, South Africa
Surrounded by majestic mountains, lush green vineyards and a dramatic sea, it is no surprise that Cape Town is considered one of the most breathtaking destinations in the world. During a stopover in this vibrant city, visit the iconic Table Mountain, marvel at the Cape of Good Hope landscape, come face to face with the friendly penguins of Boulders Beach, learn about the history of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and taste the best wines of South Africa.
13 – Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, the most beautiful city among the Baltic capitals, has 3 cruise ports connected to the city centre via an excellent public transport network. Start the day with a guided tour around Freetown Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood within the Danish capital where the hippie dream of an alternative society remains alive. Afterwards, head to the other side of the city and visit the cheerful Tivoli Gardens, the colourful port of Nyhavn and the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
14 – Kauai, Hawaii
Only 3% of Kauai’s territory is developed, which makes unspoilt nature the greatest attraction on the island. Known as the “green island” of Hawaii, Kauai is the landscape behind more than 50 Hollywood movies, such as Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones. The best way to witness the astonishing views of Kauai’s white sandy beaches, canyons, rainforests and waterfalls is taking a 6-hour guided car tour or booking a helicopter ride around the island.
15 – Santorini, Greece
There is a reason why Santorini is the most cliché destination on any list that involves the best places in the world. And the reason is pretty simple: you cannot run away from the fact that this Greek island is truly one of the most picturesque destinations on the planet. The first stop for cruisers arriving in Santorini is the charming village of Fira, which features a maze of narrow alleys and stone sidewalks full of shops and restaurants with views of the Caldera. At Fira’s bus station, hop on a bus heading towards the north of the island, where the island’s true jewel is hidden. The village of Oia is unbeatable when it comes to breathtaking views of the white houses and blue domes typical of the Cycladic architecture. Get ready to see the most incredible sunset of your life with this magical backdrop before returning to the ship.
16 – Budapest, Hungary
A river cruise along the Danube River offers the possibility of touring several European cities that inspire romance and culture. The capital of Hungary is a feast for the eyes, concentrating museums, galleries, charming cafes and impressive architecture. Start your tour visiting the Neo-Gothic Parliament building, cross the Chain Bridge and head to the splendid Castle of Buda, the Church of St. Matias and the Fishermen’s Bastion. To relax after the intense hike, the majestic Széchenyi thermal complex offers the unique opportunity to swim in the middle of a baroque palace.
17 – Casablanca, Morocco
The city that captured the world’s imagination during the golden years of the French colony has turned into a bustling, cosmopolitan city that revolves around its enormous port, the biggest one in North Africa. Casablanca offers attractions ranging from the fabulous Hassan II Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world, to chaotic souks located within the Medina and the Arab Quarter, just a few minutes from the cruise port.
18 – Yangon, Myanmar
In Myanmar’s most dynamic city, the golden domes of Buddhist temples are side by side with charming buildings of British colonial architecture. The country’s political and economic isolation until recently has allowed its traditions to remain intact, with virtually no influence from the Western culture. To have a glimpse of the city in only one day, get on the circular train that takes you for a 3-hour loop ride and costs less than one Euro. Don’t forget to hop-off at the Shwedagon Pagoda, an impressive Buddhist monument that gathers thousands of pilgrims all year round.
19 – Ushuaia, Argentina
It is no wonder that Ushuaia is often referred to as “the end of the world”: there is no access by train and there is only one highway that leads to this region, known as Tierra del Fuego. Therefore, travelling aboard an expedition cruise is the best way to explore the glaciers and mesmerise at the snow-capped mountains of Patagonia. Chances are you will be spending a lot of time with penguins, native birds, whales and sea lions.
20 – Bridgetown, Barbados
This Caribbean island offers endless possibilities for all types of cruisers, making it easy to find the perfect activity during a stopover. To get an overview of Bridgetown, join a catamaran tour, which takes cruisers to the best snorkelling spots and white-sand beaches packed with friendly turtles. In the afternoon, learn how the world’s finest rum is made at the Mount Gay distillery and discover the secrets of Barbados national beverage.