Nearly 30 million travelers will take a cruise this year. Cruising isn’t a new method of travel, in fact, it’s been around longer than airlines. Who can forget Love Boat, or even the Titanic! However, trends in cruising change each year as passengers look for more unique experiences, and as cruise lines attempt to garner more of the travel market with offerings for all budgets and age ranges. If you haven’t yet experienced a cruise for yourself, this list of top cruise destinations around the world just might convince you to relax on a cruise holiday!
The Caribbean is an extremely popular destination for cruise ships. With over two dozen nations, and thousands of islands, a cruise is the best way to see the Caribbean! You can wake up to a new tropical island every day. The Bahamas are so close to Florida, you can take a day cruise over, or a shorter cruise. The Southern Caribbean is a popular, and exotic itinerary, with islands like the Martinique, St Bart’s, St. Lucia, Aruba and Curacao, to name a few. Western Caribbean stops include Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. Some cruise lines even have their own islands in the Caribbean. They may lack any cultural interest, but are packed with entertainment for your day on shore. Look for activities like zip-lining, paddle-boarding or snorkeling.
Another excellent cruise ship destination is the Mediterranean Sea. A Mediterranean cruise allows you to experience multiple European port cities, without changing hotels every day, and spending all your time on planes or trains. Cities like Barcelona, Marseilles, Monte Carlo, Tuscany, Naples, Corfu, Venice and Dubrovnik are all popular stops on a Mediterranean cruise. Imagine going to sleep after a day of exploring Dubrovnik, only to wake up in Venice for a full day in a new country!
European River Cruises
European river cruises have been around for several years, but have very much been targeted at the senior demographic. It’s only recently that have they started courting younger travelers, and river cruises are now very popular with all ages of travelers. Much like a Mediterranean cruise, travelers on a European River cruise can go to sleep in one city and wake up fresh in a new city. Popular itineraries include the Danube River through Germany, Austria and Hungary. The Rhine river passes through Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. Christmas market cruises are also becoming very popular in the months of November and December.
China is one of the largest countries in the world, and seeing even a fraction of it in one vacation is nearly impossible. For travelers accustomed to covering a lot of ground on their travels, a Yangtze River cruise takes you from Shanghai to the heart of China. The full river takes up to 11 days, but shorter itineraries are available. It’s also common to combine other Asia destinations such as Hong Kong, Tokyo or Singapore on a cruise originating or ending in China.
Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific
Another massive area that tourists try to cover in a short time is Australia, New Zealand the South Pacific. Distances are deceiving on these islands, and a lot of time can be spent in transit between destinations. Sydney is a popular cruise ship port, and cruises are from two to ten nights, taking you to destinations like Tasmania or Queensland. Much like the Caribbean, the South Pacific has dozens of islands. If renting an overwater bungalow and lounging for a week on the same island isn’t your style, you might prefer a South Pacific cruise where you can sample a new island each day.
In recent years, a spate of reality TV shows have thrust Alaska into the spotlight and travelers can’t get enough of the 49th state of the U.S. From rugged peaks to deep fjords and incredible wildlife, Alaska has something for everyone. The state is massive and much of it is not served by roads, so an Alaskan cruise is an excellent way to see the highlights of this state. Many cruises leave from Seattle or Vancouver, both excellent cities to explore. Make sure you add a land package to your cruise so you can see Denali National Park, too!
Similar to Alaska, Norway has miles of dramatic coastline framed by mountains dropping steeply into deep fjords. Small, colorful coastal towns dot the world’s second longest coastline, and nearly three dozen ports await the passengers of a cruise through Norway. Some Norwegian itineraries may also include Iceland and Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean.
Another popular European cruise destination is the Baltic Sea. Baltic cruise itineraries typically include Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn and even St Petersburg, Russia. For a small taste of several Scandinavian countries in one trip, a Baltic Sea cruise is an excellent choice. An added bonus is the cruise ship loophole in the Russia visa process, which allows cruise ship passengers to spend up to 72 hours in St Petersburg without the lengthy visa application process. Baltic cruise lines are definitely taking advantage of this with expertly crafted itineraries.
While not the tropical cruise you might envision, Antarctica cruises continue to grow in popularity as travelers want to check off every continent in their passport. The majority of Antarctica cruises will depart from South America, sail through the famous Drake Passage, and explore several areas of the Antarctic. An alternative itinerary is available from New Zealand, although this is a much longer cruise and you’ll have fewer cruise lines and itineraries to choose from.
Rounding out the list is another cruise departing from South America; the Galapagos Islands. Located about 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador, there are 21 islands in the Galapagos. With limited tourist services and transportation between islands, a cruise is the best way to see the Galapagos. Itineraries typically cover either the Southern islands or the Northern islands, but always include spectacular wildlife sightings and adventure opportunities. Snorkeling, diving, kayaking and hiking are all plentiful on any Galapagos Islands cruise.
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