Worlds Best Cruise Dstinations

The world really is your oyster when it comes to choosing a cruise destination.

The first big decision is deciding where to go. Cruise ships sail the seven seas to the furthest corners of the earth and small riverboats navigate the waterways of Europe and Asia. You can set sail for the Caribbean to soak up some winter sun or head off on a thrilling expedition to the Arctic or Antarctica. There are yacht-style sailings around the glorious Greek and Croatian islands, and you can embark on a transatlantic crossing or cruise down under to Australia. Here’s a breakdown of the top destinations to help you decide on your next port of call.

1. Antarctica

It’s only been 200 years since the planet’s seventh continent was first sighted, but in that time a lot has changed. Once accessed only by hardy explorers, it’s rapidly becoming a popular cruise destination — yet the sense of awestruck wonder and discovery remains the same. Setting sail from Ushuaia, your luxury cruise ship will cross the infamous Drake Passage, flanked by albatross, petrels and other resilient seabirds. It’s a taste of the remarkable wildlife to follow – expect to find Weddell seals balancing on ice floes, humpback whales fluking in glacier-backed bays, and millions of penguins who never fail to entertain. Activities are split between Zodiac boat rides through sculpted icebergs and shore excursions along the Antarctic Peninsula, where pristine snowscapes create some of the most extreme environments on Earth.

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2. Japan | Asia

An archipelago of almost 7,000 islands, Japan is a joy to navigate by cruise ship, marvelling at coastlines and accessing remote national parks. Pick a voyage visiting the largest main island, Honshu, where capital city Tokyo sits at the mouth of a bay. What started as a fishing village has become a high-tech city, where ancient temples and imperial palaces share a skyline with skyscrapers and neon-lit computer arcades, festooned with cherry blossom in March and April. Take a shore excursion to the snow-capped Mount Fuji, less than 100km away, and discover Ishigaki island, where urbanites swap concrete for sandy beaches and rare blue coral reefs. Other island highlights include mountainous Shikoku, famous for its centuries-old markets, and Okinawa, the birthplace of karate.

Fine gastronomy, grand historical monuments and charming countryside views are part and parcel of a journey along the Rhône, a top choice for a European river cruise. Rising from the Rhone Glacier in Valais, Switzerland, the waterway wends into France, where it meets the Soane river, and many itineraries continue south. Squeeze through the narrow “traboules” passageways of Lyons, stopping to eat at a plethora of Michelin-starred restaurants, admire the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, a city that once inspired Van Gogh, and wander the medieval streets of Avignon, dominated by Gothic powerhouse, the Palace of the Popes. Resplendent lavender fields, magnificent winelands and the plunging limestone cliffs of Pont d’Arc provide eye candy along the way.

4. The Rhine

Coursing through the heart of Europe, a trip along the mighty Rhine is an enduringly popular cruise. Many itineraries operate between Basel and Amsterdam, promising dramatic scenery, medieval villages and romantic turrets plucked from a fairytale book. Most of the epic architecture is concentrated in the middle section: a 65km stretch between Bingen, Rudesheim and Koblenz, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The landscape of volcanic hills, dense evergreen forests and terraced vineyards has inspired numerous writers, including the Brothers Grimm. With almost too many cathedrals and castles to discover in one go, cruise reviews recommend a repeat trip.

Credit: Viking Cruises

5. Norway

At the height of summer in Norway, the sun’s rays barely dip below the horizon, leaving more hours to marvel at the country’s scene-stealing fjords. Sail through steep gorges tumbling with waterfalls, admire reflections of red fishermen’s houses in glassy glacial waters, and glide with eagles on electrifying RIB boat rides. A popular cruise itinerary will include Gerainger Fjord and its Seven Sisters Falls, thundering with such power you can taste the spray. In Stavanger, stroll through Europe’s best-preserved wooden house settlement and take a shore excursion to Pulpit Rock, one of the planet’s most-impressive viewing platforms. Bergen’s colourful Hanseatic wharf, Bryggen, is equally thrilling, along with the town’s 13th-century waterfront fish market.

6. Croatia

Scattered with idyllic islands and fringed by sandy beaches, the coastline of Croatia is perfect for a Mediterranean cruise. A joy to reach by water, the walled city of Dubrovnik could easily rival Venice for romantic grandeur; fans will recognise it as a set from Game of Thrones. Visit the Franciscan Monastery, with its ancient pharmacy and library of 30,000 volumes, or sunbathe on Banje Beach in eye line of the medieval town. Other historical highlights along the Adriatic include Split’s sprawling Roman masterpiece, Diocletian’s Palace, and Pula’s amphitheatre dating back to 27 BC. In between, hop on and off islands – Hvar is famous for its lively bars while sleepy Mljet has an atmospheric 12th-century Benedictine monastery.

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8. The Danube 

A voyage along the Danube is one of the most intriguing European river cruises, taking in no less than four capital cities: Vienna, Bratislava, Belgrade and Budapest. Voyages range from a few days, calling in at Vienna and Budapest, to more than two weeks if you sail the entire navigable stretch of the river, from Passau to the Black Sea, an increasingly popular cruise. Either way, the highlights come thick and fast. Vienna is the home of Strauss waltzes, grand coffee houses, world-class opera, dancing Lipizzaner horses and some of the world’s finest baroque palaces. In Budapest, the old ramparts and the turreted Fishermen’s Bastion gaze down over the Danube from a steep hill. The scenery along the river changes constantly, from the lush vineyards of Austria’s Wachau Valley to the craggy Iron Gates Gorge and, eventually, the vast skies of the steppes.

9. Alaska

Known as “the Last Frontier”, Alaska is America’s least-populated state. Cruises here really give you the opportunity to see what nature is like when it’s let off the leash. The shore excursions in Alaska offer the opportunity to make indelible memories — take a brown bear safari, snap photos of sea lions, go whale watching and attend a salmon bake to dine on salmon that’s minute-fresh from the net. Highlights of itineraries around this largely untamed land include Unesco-listed Glacier Bay National Park with its meringue-like landscape of ice and snow, and College Fjord, which is lined by looming shark fin-shaped mountains and is home to the world’s largest collection of tidewater glaciers.

10. Greece

With more than 6,000 islands laid out like a dot-to-dot puzzle in the Aegean and Ionian seas, Greece is a land made for exploring by ship. Start in Athens and spend your first couple of days exploring the capital before heading to the port of Piraeus to embark. Top cruise destinations include Mykonos, with its waterside cocktail bars and sun-bleached beaches; Rhodes, with its Unesco Old Town and uninterrupted bands of sand; and Santorini, where white house’s cling to the cliffsides of the volcanic caldera like snowdrifts, and the sunsets appear so fierce they look like they could set the sea on fire.

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