The 10 Most Gorgeous Ports in the World

by Donna Heiderstadt

The 10 Most Gorgeous Ports in the World

by Donna Heiderstadt

Sailing into a stunning port can be the most exciting moment of your cruise. Whether the view is of spectacular natural setting, legendary landmarks, or iconic architecture, you'll get a unique perspective from the deck of a ship as the scenery comes into view in the morning light. Our advice? Be sure to set an alarm the night before you arrive in one of these harbors as each of these ports are worth waking up early to see, ideally from your balcony with a room service coffee, in the comfort of your robe and slippers. Best of all, exploring the port itself feels that much more satisfying after you've let the anticipation build from your perch onboard.

10
Santorini / iStock / marchello74
Venice
1 of 10
1. Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal is, as the Italians say, magnifico. From the deck of your ship you’ll get splendid views from high above as you glide past the pink-and-white Venetian Gothic Doge’s Palace and the red-brick Campanile at the edge of Piazza San Marco before navigating left at the massive 17th-century white-marble church of Santa Maria della Salute into the ship-friendly Giudecca Canal.

The Grand Canal is, as the Italians say, magnifico. From the deck of your ship you’ll get splendid views from high above as you glide past the pink-and-white Venetian Gothic Doge’s Palace and the red-brick Campanile at the edge of Piazza San Marco before navigating left at the massive 17th-century white-marble church of Santa Maria della Salute into the ship-friendly Giudecca Canal.

Bora Bora
2 of 10
2. Bora Bora

As your ship clears Teavanui Pass and glides into Bora Bora’s dazzling blue lagoon, keep an eye on Mount Otemanu. The craggy volcanic peak dominates the island, and its shape seems to shift depending your angle — from a finger-like spire to a flat wall of stone. The island's coast is also dotted with thatched-roof overwater bungalows and sandy beaches, creating the perfect French Polynesian scene as you glide through the technicolor water.

As your ship clears Teavanui Pass and glides into Bora Bora’s dazzling blue lagoon, keep an eye on Mount Otemanu. The craggy volcanic peak dominates the island, and its shape seems to shift depending your angle — from a finger-like spire to a flat wall of stone. The island's coast is also dotted with thatched-roof overwater bungalows and sandy beaches, creating the perfect French Polynesian scene as you glide through the technicolor water.

Santorini
3 of 10
3. Santorini, Greece

As if sailing into the caldera of an extinct volcano isn’t cool enough, this Greek Island also greets you with a panorama of whitewashed villages perched atop dark lava cliffs. From a distance they resemble a light dusting of snow, until you get closer and the geometric genius of Cycladic architecture — box-like houses and churches topped with round domes painted a shade that's bluer than the sky — comes into focus.

As if sailing into the caldera of an extinct volcano isn’t cool enough, this Greek Island also greets you with a panorama of whitewashed villages perched atop dark lava cliffs. From a distance they resemble a light dusting of snow, until you get closer and the geometric genius of Cycladic architecture — box-like houses and churches topped with round domes painted a shade that's bluer than the sky — comes into focus.

Half Moon Island
4 of 10
4. Half Moon Island, Antarctica

Two things are on your must-see list when you cruise to Antarctica: penguins and icebergs. You’ll have an enviable view of both as you approach and then land on this small uninhabited patch of pebbles, rock, and ice that’s part of the archipelago’s South Shetland Islands. There are penguins by the hundreds here, and you can watch them swim by like mini torpedoes as you Zodiac ashore, surrounded by cool blue icebergs.

Two things are on your must-see list when you cruise to Antarctica: penguins and icebergs. You’ll have an enviable view of both as you approach and then land on this small uninhabited patch of pebbles, rock, and ice that’s part of the archipelago’s South Shetland Islands. There are penguins by the hundreds here, and you can watch them swim by like mini torpedoes as you Zodiac ashore, surrounded by cool blue icebergs.

New York
5 of 10
5. New York City

No other skyline is as famous as Manhattan's, and passengers cruising into New York Harbor have one of the best vantage points for eyeing top landmarks: The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge. The Big Apple is especially photogenic at dusk as sunlight reflecting off of its glass skyscrapers transitions to millions of sparkling lights.

No other skyline is as famous as Manhattan's, and passengers cruising into New York Harbor have one of the best vantage points for eyeing top landmarks: The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge. The Big Apple is especially photogenic at dusk as sunlight reflecting off of its glass skyscrapers transitions to millions of sparkling lights.

Cape Town
6 of 10
6. Cape Town, South Africa

With its flat top and broad shoulders, Table Mountain provides a photogenic backdrop to Cape Town’s charming Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The 3,558-foot peak is a dramatic site, looming above the city as well as the wind-swept, wave-washed beaches that line the coast.

With its flat top and broad shoulders, Table Mountain provides a photogenic backdrop to Cape Town’s charming Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The 3,558-foot peak is a dramatic site, looming above the city as well as the wind-swept, wave-washed beaches that line the coast.

Rio de Janeiro
7 of 10
7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You'll be able to spot Rio's most iconic sights — the 1,300-foot-tall Sugarloaf Mountain and the art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer perched atop Corcovado — while your ship is still miles away. Even if you aren't blessed with a sunny day on your approach, these landmarks play peek-a-boo among the clouds, an effect that is as intoxicating as a caipirinha. 

You'll be able to spot Rio's most iconic sights — the 1,300-foot-tall Sugarloaf Mountain and the art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer perched atop Corcovado — while your ship is still miles away. Even if you aren't blessed with a sunny day on your approach, these landmarks play peek-a-boo among the clouds, an effect that is as intoxicating as a caipirinha. 

Sydney
8 of 10
8. Sydney, Australia

You’ll know you’ve entered Oz when the gleaming, sail-like curves of the Sydney Opera House come into view. Be sure to have your camera ready as you cruise beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, its towering steel arches topped by harnessed climbers eager to wave g’day to you and your shipmates as you sail into the city.

You’ll know you’ve entered Oz when the gleaming, sail-like curves of the Sydney Opera House come into view. Be sure to have your camera ready as you cruise beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, its towering steel arches topped by harnessed climbers eager to wave g’day to you and your shipmates as you sail into the city.

Stockholm
9 of 10
9. Stockholm, Sweden

The distinctive buildings of Stockholm's archipelago are set on 14 islands that are connected by 57 bridges — a site to see as you enjoy the crisp air of morning. And as you sail the 40-mile route from the Baltic into Sweden's capital, the natural beauty of tree-covered islands edged by rocky shorelines dotted with snug weekend homes give way to the city's sophisticated neighborhoods — and a sense of excitement about the day to come. 

The distinctive buildings of Stockholm's archipelago are set on 14 islands that are connected by 57 bridges — a site to see as you enjoy the crisp air of morning. And as you sail the 40-mile route from the Baltic into Sweden's capital, the natural beauty of tree-covered islands edged by rocky shorelines dotted with snug weekend homes give way to the city's sophisticated neighborhoods — and a sense of excitement about the day to come. 

Dubrovnik
10 of 10
10. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Approaching this city on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, vivid aquamarine water splashes the rocky coastline as Dubrovnik’s historic red-roofed center — encircled by a dramatic 14th-century wall — draws you in with its subtle golden glow. There’s something magical about anchoring in the harbor and tendering in, as your gaze shifts from medieval watch tower to bell-topped church steeple to café-lined harbor.

Approaching this city on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, vivid aquamarine water splashes the rocky coastline as Dubrovnik’s historic red-roofed center — encircled by a dramatic 14th-century wall — draws you in with its subtle golden glow. There’s something magical about anchoring in the harbor and tendering in, as your gaze shifts from medieval watch tower to bell-topped church steeple to café-lined harbor.

Up next...

10 Best Ports for Fun Fall Activities

Koblenz, Germany
Go Back
Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices