There’s no better introduction to an exotic new place than arrival by sea. Not only that, but you can tailor your journey to suit your own idea of what a vacation should be. Whether you’re into spa treatments, whale-watching or sampling every cuisine on earth before you die, there’s a cruise ship sailing to somewhere that can accommodate you.
Check out these thrilling and diverse destinations that everyone should visit at least once.
Nature lovers could hardly do better than the great state of Alaska. The clean air, stunning scenery and wide variety of wildlife make it an ideal cruise destination for outdoor adventurers. Although the mountain peaks are usually capped in snow, Alaska isn’t always as cold as you might think. Daytime temperatures can climb into the 70s or 80s during summer months.
Hike mountain trails that wind above crystal-clear lakes. Observe bears and caribou herds on the frozen tundra. Take a spin on a sled pulled by a team of huskies. Go salmon fishing. Photograph wildflowers.
Here are some more ideas for rounding out your Alaskan experience:
- See the glaciers, particularly the Mendenhall, in Glacier Bay National Park.
- If you visit in March, check in on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
- Be transported by majestic Denali. Formerly named Mount McKinley, it’s the tallest peak on the continent.
- Sail through a 30-mile fjord called Tracy Arm.
- Learn about native culture at Totem Bight State Historical Park.
- Don’t miss a traditional outdoor crab feast or salmon bake.
- Hop on a small plane for high-flying adventures.
Europe attracts people of all interests and walks of life. Whether you’re into history, art, theater, music, science, religion, cuisine or wine-making, there are just thousands of avenues to explore. There are more museums in the big cities than one can possibly visit during a single trip.
Depending on which region you sail to, you may experience the best of Spain, France, Italy or Greece. There may be detours to exotic ports of call like Lisbon, Casablanca and Monte Carlo. If you like beaches, a Mediterranean cruise offers some of the finest on earth. If a pulsing night life is important to you, there’s no shortage of nightclubs and casinos. If you want to return home in chic new clothes made by the hottest designers, you’ll be in the right place.
Let these possibilities spark your imagination:
- Tour the Greek Isles. Visit the Acropolis of Athens, and brush up on Greek mythology later while basking on the beach.
- Tour the sacred sites of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land. Visit the magnificent mosques of Istanbul.
- Admire Michelangelo’s handiwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
- Find romance on a gondola ride through Venice’s Grand Canal.
- Spot glamorous celebrities on the French Riviera.
- Whatever you choose to do, make sure you eat. Many consider Mediterranean food the best tasting and healthiest in the world. If you’re tempted to misbehave, eat pizza in Naples. That’s where it is said to have originated, and it’s delicious.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
There’s no shortage of panoramic scenery, sexy samba music and outdoor revelry in this South American playground.
If you don’t mind the crowds, Carnival is an especially interesting time to visit. The festival takes place in late February or early March to usher in the Christian liturgical season of Lent. Masqueraders dance and revel in street parades and balls, and spirits flow freely. Carnival in Rio makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans look tame.
If partying in costume doesn’t appeal to you, there are countless other attractions:
- The 98-foot Christ the Redeemer, created in 1931, stands atop Corcovado Mountain. The cultural icon is one of the most renowned statues in the world. Visitors can take a train to its base and enjoy breathtaking views.
- Sugarloaf Mountain, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, is the place to spot rare, exotic birds and other wildlife. Your cruise ship may coordinate helicopter excursions for dizzying aerial views.
- The Parque Nacional da Tijuca is heavily forested and threaded with hiking trails for nature lovers.
- Mosteiro de Sao Bento, a monastery dating back to the 16th century, sits high on a hilltop as a classic example of Brazilian baroque architecture.
- Around 6,500 species of plants grace the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden in the Zona Sul district.
- Somewhere, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.
If it’s beauty, mystery and uniqueness that you’re after, you’d do well to book a cruise to the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Norway boasts pristine fjords, dramatic waterfalls, unusual wildlife and decidedly funky foods that you can’t get back home. Aside from Oslo and Bergen, there are a number of small, interesting Norwegian villages from which to launch a day of sightseeing. Most towns can be navigated on foot or a bicycle, but public transportation is another option. There are numerous history museums and art galleries.
Voyages run from May to September when temperatures are mostly mild, but Norway’s wildly unpredictable weather is part of the fun. Here are some ways to get the full Nordic effect:
- Cross the Arctic Circle and see the never-setting midnight sun.
- Spend some time in Oslo. In addition to the Nobel Peace Center, there are maritime museums for exploring the Vikings and art venues featuring the works of Norway’s own Edvard Munch.
- Be awed by the splendid waterfalls of Geirangerfjord, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
- Visit the wharf area of Bergen, and don’t miss the fish market in the heart of the city.
- Browse the shops for locally made woolen goods.
- Follow the coastline north in a kayak to get a peek at the polar bears.
The possibilities for a cruise vacation are endless. The Far East, Australia and the Caribbean also await you. Let this be the year that your ship comes in.