Dreaming of a vacation at sea? Whether you’re in the mood for immersive culture, adrenaline-boosting adventure, or well-deserved relaxation in the sun, the world awaits. To help inspire you, here are some of the best places to cruise to across the globe. All you have to do is choose your itinerary—and start counting down the days.
Australia and New Zealand
The graceful Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge, and the surf scene on Bondi Beach are all top attractions for first-time visitors Down Under—but there’s far more to cruising Australia’s 22,000 miles of coastline.
In and around Melbourne, you’ll discover street art, edgy shopping, and the beauty of the Mornington Peninsula, as well as the Twelve Apostles, towering limestone stacks along the Great Ocean Road. Arty Adelaide is the jumping-off point for the glorious Barossa Valley and its world-class wines.
Port Douglas, Queensland is the gateway to dense rainforest; why not take a cruise on the Daintree River and see if you can spot lurking crocs? Or for the ultimate snorkel trip, join a Great Barrier Reef cruise and drift over the rainbow-colored corals, observing the intricacies of life on the reef.
For an even more immersive experience, choose a cruise that includes the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, as early Polynesian settlers called New Zealand. You’ll find an intriguing blend of Maori and British culture set against a backdrop of saw-toothed mountains, spouting geysers, aquamarine lakes, and deep fjords.
North Island highlights include the vibrant cities of Auckland and Wellington. The Bay of Islands comprises 150 rocky islands scattered across a turquoise sea, while Hawke’s Bay is famed for its art deco architecture and its outstanding food, from fresh berries to local honey, handmade chocolate and, this being New Zealand, world-class coffee.
The South Island is all drama, from the snowy Southern Alps to the sublime scenery of Fiordland. Here, Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds offer jaw-dropping vistas of sheer-sided granite mountains plunging into the glassy water, foaming waterfalls tumbling from dizzying heights.
The alluring Caribbean is one of the best places to go on a cruise for so many reasons—the gentle rhythms of the tropics, a perfectly spiced rum punch, palm-shaded beaches, and swashbuckling history. Travel doesn’t come more laid back than this; all you have to do is relax on deck with a sundowner as your captain sets a course to the next gorgeous, sun-drenched island.
New adventures unfold every day. In St. Lucia, take a cruise past the spiky Piton mountains to capture the perfect Instagram shot. If your ship calls at Virgin Gorda, head for The Baths, a mass of giant, tumbled granite boulders among azure lagoons. In St. Maarten, enthusiasts gather for the admittedly bizarre rush of standing in the warm sea under an Airbus on its final approach.
From Grand Cayman, stingrays, not airplanes, will attract your attention at Stingray City as they tickle your feet, waiting to be fed. The wildlife in Puerto Rico may be more elusive; you’ll be the envy of birdwatchers worldwide if you spot the Puerto Rican parrot in the El Yunque rainforest, as it’s one of the rarest birds in the world.
The southern Caribbean’s ABC Islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, are characterized by their dazzlingly white sand and impossibly turquoise seas, as well as distinctive Dutch influences. The best architecture is along the waterfront in Willemstad, the atmospheric capital of Curacao, lined with gabled houses in bright gelato shades.
As one of the best places to cruise to, Alaska’s pristine beauty inspires adventure, from kayaking and hiking to zip-lining, dog-sledding, sizzling salmon cook-outs, and flightseeing over creaking glaciers and ice-cloaked peaks. Whales, dolphins, seals, sea otters, bears, and bald eagles are all likely sightings—a good reason to pack binoculars, as the ship itself is the perfect viewing platform.
Each day on an Alaska cruise reveals more extraordinary beauty as your ship glides through the glassy waters of the Inside Passage or Endicott Arm. The power of nature here is simply awe-inspiring. The blue-white Hubbard Glacier is more than six miles wide where it meets the ocean.
Juneau, the tiny state capital, is hemmed in by mountains and water, a short journey from the Mendenhall Glacier, where chunks of ice wash up on the rocky lakeshore. Pretty Ketchikan, on the edge of the Tongass National Forest, is famed for its salmon and for the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Skagway was once the gateway to the gold of the Yukon, and it’s from here that you can ride the historic White Pass and Yukon Railroad for a glimpse back to those heady days of the Gold Rush.
Cruises to Alaska present a great opportunity to extend your stay with an Alaska cruisetour into the vast Denali National Park. Here, you’ll have jaw-dropping views of the icy peaks of Mount Denali, as well as a chance to spot moose, grizzly bear, caribou, and even wolves.
There’s so much to explore in the Mediterranean, from ancient history to gourmet food and gorgeous beaches. It’s this great diversity that makes the region one of the world’s best places to cruise to.
On Santorini’s precipitous crater rim, wander the narrow alleys of Oia, the starkly whitewashed cube houses and brilliant blue domes contrasting with the cobalt Aegean Sea hundreds of feet below.
From Livorno, you won’t want to miss Pisa’s curious Leaning Tower, but don’t overlook the lovely old town of Lucca, encircled by medieval walls. Rome, of course, is always a busy sightseeing day, taking in 2,000-year-old Colosseum, Vatican City, and the breathtakingly vast and ornate St Peter’s Basilica. You’ll need those cooling refreshment stops for decadent scoops of homemade gelato in flavors of pistachio, lemon, and peach.
Venice is special. This is a city where you simply want to lose yourself, wandering the narrow alleys and sunlit piazzas, watching life on the green-blue canals. Of course, a gondola ride is essential for serial romantics, and you’ll find that the sights, scents and sounds of the city are completely different from the water.
Read: Best Cruises for Couples
Barcelona is one of the Mediterranean’s most popular cruise ports, with everything from toes-in-the-sand tapas at Barceloneta to superb contemporary art and, of course, that famous architecture. You can admire the late Antoni Gaudi’s eccentrically curvy buildings along the ritzy Passeig de Gracia, but if you do one tour, make it the Sagrada Familia, his jaw-droppingly intricate, and as yet unfinished cathedral.
A cruise around northern Europe offers everything from mist-shrouded mountain ranges and glassy fjords to iconic capital cities. You could find yourself drifting along the canals of Amsterdam one day and gazing down on the elegant sprawl of Paris from the top platform of the Eiffel Tower the next.
From Southampton, the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is an easy day trip, its vast monoliths guarding secrets dating back 5,000 years. The drive from the port passes through the bucolic English countryside and the New Forest, famed for its wild horses.
Britain’s landscape becomes wild and brooding as your itinerary takes you north to Scotland. Here, Inverness is the jumping-off point for the 15th-century Cawdor Castle, inspiration for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the gleaming sliver of Loch Ness, framed by mountains and concealing, some believe, the elusive monster, ‘Nessie’.
The Norwegian fjords, too, have a serene beauty, ribbons of waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet over sheer cliff faces. Paddle a kayak here, soaking in the silence and watching out for seals bobbing in the water and eagles wheeling overhead.
Iceland, meanwhile, is like nowhere else on earth, a land of ice and fire, stark, lunar landscapes, steaming geysers, and blue-white glaciers. Learn about the aurora borealis at Reykjavik’s Northern Lights Centre and after dark, scan the skies for the rippling lights of this celestial marvel.
Asia is a mesmerizing combination of intricate temples and centuries-old tradition overlaid with futuristic skylines, designer shopping malls, and ultra-modern restaurants. After sensation-packed days ashore, you’ll love relaxing into the soothing luxury of your ship.
Every port of call is packed with sights. In Thailand, for example, you could visit the temples and monasteries of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former capital of Siam. Or take an overnight tour from your cruise to Cambodia to gaze at the magnificent 12th-century temple of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, surrounded by dense rainforest.
Vietnam’s Halong Bay is a breathtaking spectacle, where hundreds of jungle-topped limestone pillars tower over the aquamarine water, while Boracay island in the Philippines has some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia, where the white sand has the softness of powdered sugar. There’s more of nature’s art at Jeju Island, South Korea, all dormant volcanoes, misty waterfalls, and wave-sculpted cliffs, not to mention exquisite seafood dishes to try.
From the top of Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak, you can gaze across the entire metropolis before riding the iconic green-and-white Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to explore incense-scented temples and bustling seafood markets. You’ll need a head for heights in Tokyo, too, as you zoom up the Tokyo Tower to the viewing platform 492 feet above the neon lights of the Japanese capital.
There are moments of serenity. In Shanghai, the ornate Yuyuan Garden is a green oasis in the heart of the city, while a stroll through Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay takes you on a journey through a cloud forest to tropical blooms, across narrow walkways suspended between the futuristic, 150-foot tall Supertrees.
From its tropical north coasts to the icy extremities of the curled southern tip, where vast glaciers flow into narrow fjords and winds whip across the expanse of the Beagle Channel, South America assaults the senses. In a single voyage, you could sail through several climate zones and numerous dynamic, exciting cultures, making this intriguing continent one of the best places to go on a cruise.
Exuberant Brazil is all about beach life and music, from pristine stretches of white sand around Buzios, backed by emerald forest, to the glamorous beaches of Rio de Janeiro, not least the legendary Copacabana. If you take one tour in this wildly exotic city, ride the cogwheel train up Corcovado Mountain to the statue of Christ the Redeemer for sweeping vistas over the metropolis and beaches below.
A voyage along the west coast of the continent takes you to Callao, the port for Lima, from where there’s the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, an overnight trip to visit Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, high in the Andes.
Further south, a cruise along the coast of long, skinny Chile winds through the narrow channels of the Lake District, all conical volcanoes and lakes of an intense blue. From Puerto Montt, try a hike to the jade-green cascade of the Petrohue Falls, in the shadow of the snow-capped Osorno Volcano.
If your voyage departs from Buenos Aires, take in the sultry spectacle of a tango show and build in a day trip to Iguazu Falls, where the broad Iguazu River forces its way through a narrow channel to thunder 640 feet over a ridge in more than 300 separate cascades.
Much further south, with the next stop Antarctica, Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, has a thrilling, frontier feel about it. A day sailing the Beagle Channel is a chance to spot sea lions, cormorants, and Magellanic penguins, as well as learn about the great adventurers who explored this very tip of the Americas.
New England and Canada
Late summer onwards is the best time to cruise from patrician Boston along the coast of New England as leaves begin to take on the brilliant golds, scarlets, and ochres of fall.
Take in the vistas of the Acadia National Park, all rolling surf, rocky beaches, and sheer cliffs, or drive the rugged coast of Maine to admire the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park and the grand homes, art galleries, and designer boutiques of Kennebunkport. Don’t miss the chance to lunch on succulent lobster rolls.
Across the border in Canada, drive from Halifax along the coast to rugged Peggy’s Cove, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. From Saint John, you could join a tour along the glorious Fundy Trail Parkway and admire its sweeping beaches and red sandstone cliffs. In historic Vieux-Québec, you’ll stroll past cobbled lanes, 17th-century stone houses, and chic cafes, discovering why Quebec is known for its fascinating culture.
West Coast and Hawaii
The West Coast packs in Hollywood glamor, majestic coastal scenery, and culinary adventures. A cruise here will whisk you from the cool fashion scene and artisan cafes of San Diego to a gossip-fueled tour of the opulent stars’ homes in Los Angeles.
Further north, ride the rollercoaster hills of San Francisco, taking in the Embarcadero, Ghiradelli Square, Golden Gate Park, and graceful vermillion sweep of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or head for the vineyards on a tour of Napa Valley to sample some of California’s best wines.
Hawaii is perfectly suited if you’re planning to go on a luxury cruise around the world, as your voyage between each island is seamless. From Maui, snorkel over the pristine corals of the Molokini crater, a marine sanctuary, or walk up 10,023 feet to the summit of Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano, to watch the sun set in a blaze of scarlet, mauve, and gold only found in this heavenly archipelago.
Fly by helicopter or zipline over landscapes shaped by fire and cloud-draped forests. From Hilo, take in the Rainbow Falls, where shimmering rainbows form over the mist of the cascade. On a cruise to Hawaii, remember to try the local produce, like sweet and juicy pineapples, world-class coffee from Kona, and local chocolate packed with crunchy macadamia nuts.
Fish hook-shaped Bermuda is an enchanting slice of Britain in the cobalt Sargasso Sea, fringed by teeming reefs and guarded by imposing forts. On this characterful island, the policemen wear shorts, villages are named after rural English parishes, and the sand is pink.
You’ll discover the island’s history at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Hamilton, the swish little capital, and see first-hand the solid defenses at Fort St. Catherine, Fort Scaur, and Alexandra Battery. Some of the most unique things to do in Bermuda include exploring the underwater world with mask and snorkel and joining a sunset cruise over a 19th-century wreck by glass-bottomed boat—which is a chance to sample a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a fearsome concoction of rum and ginger ale.
Admire the verdant countryside on a hike along the historic Railway Trail, or stroll the pathways of Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, looking out for the turquoise flash of a diving kingfisher. Or simply relax, basking on the half-moon sweep of Horseshoe Bay Beach, running your fingers through that famous pink sand.
Ready to set sail on your next adventure? Browse our cruise itineraries online and book a luxury cruise vacation today.