Manila has a storied past of incredible resilience, and you’ll discover the heart and history of the Philippines during a stop here on a cruise to Southeast Asia. After being nearly destroyed during World War II, Manila has since regained its footing as a city known for its urban cool, dozens of museums, historic sites, and fine dining in many global styles of cuisine. Manila was once called “the pearl of the Orient,” and today the city is slowly revitalizing itself as more visitors flock here each year.
On your Manila cruise, tour Fort Santiago, a historic guard tower that once carefully guarded the city. Art lovers will find plenty of ambitious contemporary art in the city’s sculpture gardens and plentiful museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Manila or the Pinto Art Museum. When you’re ready for a rest, enjoy a leisurely walk along Rizal Park. There’s plenty to do here during your stop, particularly if cool artisan goods and quality shopping appeal to you.
Fort Santiago looms over the Pasig River, watchfully guarding Manila as part of the walled city called the “Intramuros”. Built in the 16th century to mark Spanish occupation of the area, today Fort Santiago is a lasting monument to Old Manila. You can take a walking tour through the fort, admire the life-size sculptures, and enjoy river views from the fort’s bastions.
Take a stroll in Rizal Park, also called Luneta Park or Luneta, which is considered Manila’s Central Park. Admire monuments erected to honor Filipino heroes from the Spanish colonial era to the modern day, or stop in the visitor’s center to discover events and attractions nearby.
A guided tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila is a must-see for art lovers, where you’ll find impressive pieces by local artists. Watch the waters ebb in Manila Bay from the museum’s waterfront location after marveling at centuries of Filipino art.
As one of Manila’s most enduring monuments, San Augustin Church is a must-see during your Manila cruise. After the devastation of World War II, most of Manila was in shambles, though San Augustin Church remained intact. This relic of 16th-century Spanish colonialism in the city serves as a reminder of the Old Manila that once was.
At the Pinto Art Museum, you’ll find work by indigenous artists displayed in its galleries, outdoor sculpture gardens, and well-kept landscape. Stop in the Rizal Cafe for a coffee after taking in the art. See some of the best views of the city below from the museum, which is located in the hillsides east of the city.
You may hear it referred to as the Museum of Anthropology as well, but the core element here is that this museum is a must-see for those who want a full understanding of Filipino history, culture, and artifacts.
After you disembark in the South Harbor, you can explore Manila Bay on foot. Stop in the oldest hotel in the city, the Manila Hotel, to grab a drink and enjoy bayside views.
Buffet-style meals are popular in Manila, where fusions of Malaysian, Spanish, and Chinese cuisine offer an elevated take on all three cultural influences. Dine at the courtyard of Ilustrado for a plate of paella in a historic, old-world ambiance. If you’re willing to make a reservation ahead of time, call Purple Yam in nearby Malate, which offers a delicious five-course fine dining experience. For quality java, visit Coffee Empire to watch the talented baristas make expert brews.
Various groups have settled in Manila for thousands of years, and it wasn’t until the 16th century that Spanish settlement came to the area. Manila’s old nickname was “the Pearl of the Orient,” for its incredible growth, arts, and culture during the 16th to the 18th centuries. However, World War II largely destroyed the city during the 1945 Battle of Manila, which was a month-long conflict between the Japanese and American forces. The city has worked tirelessly to recover and grow in the decades since then. Today, Manila is one of the Philippines’ biggest cities, and careful efforts to grow tourism to the city attract thousands of new visitors each year.
You’ll disembark in the South Harbor, which is primarily a commercial port. The cruise industry is growing in the Philippines, and a new Manila cruise port dedicated to passenger travel is planned to encourage more tourism in the future.
The cargo port where you’ll disembark is within walking distance to some attractions in town. If you want to travel by car, it’s best to take a taxi rather than rent a car yourself. A light-rail train system, known as the LRT, operates throughout the city. When you book a shore excursion, your transportation will come included.
On a cruise to Manila, head into town for higher-end shopping. There are some souvenir sellers at the port, but it’s best to take a quick peek and then continue on with your exploration via taxi or on foot. Head into the expansive Mall of Asia to explore its hundreds of shops or just cool down in the A.C.
The Philippine peso (P) is the official currency of Manila and the rest of the Philippines. ATMs are available throughout the city, and credit cards are accepted at major establishments like hotels, fine dining restaurants, and museums. While visiting on a Manila cruise, tipping isn’t generally a requirement, but tipping your taxi driver and tour guide 10% is considered polite.