The Best Cruise Destinations

by Fran Golden

The Best Cruise Destinations

by Fran Golden

You can take a cruise almost anywhere in the world, but some regions just lend themselves to this kind of vacation. These spots fall into three categories: those parts of the world where civilizations developed on the water, resulting in a volume of iconic locations, or places where cruises can cut out a lot of the hassle (and expense) of island hopping. Also making the list? Places that can only be seen by cruise. Read on for our picks for the best cruise destinations on the planet. 1.

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Monte Carlo / iStock / OSTILL
Gentoo penguins in Antarctica
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4. Antarctica 

What you’ll find on a cruise to the “Great White Continent” is magnificent white and blue icebergs, spectacular glaciers, orca and sperm whales, penguins the size of a child, and elephant seals.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: What you won’t find here are hotels and airports — or many other humans, for that matter. A cruise ship makes it possible to explore the stark, frozen scene.

Our Advice: Sure, the itineraries are long and the price tags can be steep, but it’s worth saving up both vacation time and travel budget to experience it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cross a major item off your bucket list.

What you’ll find on a cruise to the “Great White Continent” is magnificent white and blue icebergs, spectacular glaciers, orca and sperm whales, penguins the size of a child, and elephant seals.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: What you won’t find here are hotels and airports — or many other humans, for that matter. A cruise ship makes it possible to explore the stark, frozen scene.

Our Advice: Sure, the itineraries are long and the price tags can be steep, but it’s worth saving up both vacation time and travel budget to experience it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cross a major item off your bucket list.

Symi, Greece
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5. The Eastern Mediterranean

You’ll want to see Athens and the ancient Acropolis, of course. And then the whitewashed villages of Mykonos, the historic sights of Rhodes, and Santorini with its cliffside beauty.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: Sure, you can deal with ferries or local flights to get you from island to island to island (and so on). If you really want to explore Greece’s greatest hits in one trip, though, the best way is by cruise ship.

Our Advice: Choose a smaller ship that goes beyond the most popular islands to explore even further afield in the blue Aegean Sea, or pick an itinerary that includes Venice or Dubrovnik for more cultural diversity. 

You’ll want to see Athens and the ancient Acropolis, of course. And then the whitewashed villages of Mykonos, the historic sights of Rhodes, and Santorini with its cliffside beauty.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: Sure, you can deal with ferries or local flights to get you from island to island to island (and so on). If you really want to explore Greece’s greatest hits in one trip, though, the best way is by cruise ship.

Our Advice: Choose a smaller ship that goes beyond the most popular islands to explore even further afield in the blue Aegean Sea, or pick an itinerary that includes Venice or Dubrovnik for more cultural diversity. 

Moorea, French Polynesia
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6. French Polynesia

You might think that all of the islands of French Polynesia are the same, with their pristine beaches and clear blue seas, but don’t be satisfied with Bora Bora alone.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: These cruises take you to multiple tropical islands, each with its own twist. The mountains and greenery of Moorea, for instance, are just breathtaking.

Our Advice: The biggest allure of these isles is the lagoons, which are so clear you can watch the colorful tropical fish swim around your arms and between your legs and you don’t need to snorkel to see the giant rays that make their home here. 

You might think that all of the islands of French Polynesia are the same, with their pristine beaches and clear blue seas, but don’t be satisfied with Bora Bora alone.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: These cruises take you to multiple tropical islands, each with its own twist. The mountains and greenery of Moorea, for instance, are just breathtaking.

Our Advice: The biggest allure of these isles is the lagoons, which are so clear you can watch the colorful tropical fish swim around your arms and between your legs and you don’t need to snorkel to see the giant rays that make their home here. 

Sea turtle in a Galapagos lagoon
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7. Galápagos Islands

These islands, located some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are mostly uninhabited by humans. But they are famously filled with hundreds of species — many found nowhere else on earth.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: On a cruise you’ll visit several islands and have the opportunity to get within easy sight of sea lions, giant iguanas, and tortoises, plus birds in many forms, including Darwin’s finches and those famed blue-footed boobies.

Our Advice: Ships are staffed with naturalists who accompany excursions on Zodiacs to get even closer to the local fauna; this is one trip where you don’t want to rely on the camera in your phone to document the experience. 

These islands, located some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are mostly uninhabited by humans. But they are famously filled with hundreds of species — many found nowhere else on earth.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: On a cruise you’ll visit several islands and have the opportunity to get within easy sight of sea lions, giant iguanas, and tortoises, plus birds in many forms, including Darwin’s finches and those famed blue-footed boobies.

Our Advice: Ships are staffed with naturalists who accompany excursions on Zodiacs to get even closer to the local fauna; this is one trip where you don’t want to rely on the camera in your phone to document the experience. 

Plantation and gardens on St. Kitts
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8. Southern Caribbean

The Caribbean’s largest islands are well covered by mega ships ... which is why the Southern Caribbean should be on your radar.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: The smaller ships that sail this itinerary call on less crowded ports, including posh (read: pricey) islands like St. Barts, Nevis, and the British Virgin Islands. 

Our Advice: Some ships stay in port overnight to give you more time on the island, making a cruise an even more appealing alternative to booking a room in an expensive resort. All the same gorgeous sand by day and hot nightlife ... at a lower price? Sign us up!

The Caribbean’s largest islands are well covered by mega ships ... which is why the Southern Caribbean should be on your radar.

Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: The smaller ships that sail this itinerary call on less crowded ports, including posh (read: pricey) islands like St. Barts, Nevis, and the British Virgin Islands. 

Our Advice: Some ships stay in port overnight to give you more time on the island, making a cruise an even more appealing alternative to booking a room in an expensive resort. All the same gorgeous sand by day and hot nightlife ... at a lower price? Sign us up!

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