The Best Cruise Destinationsby Fran Golden | July 05, 2016
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. Western Mediterranean
A Western Mediterranean cruise lets you check off a lot of major cities (think Barcelona, Rome, Florence) for one price, on one unforgettable trip, without having to navigate foreign roads or deal with train timetables.
Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: These itineraries are also a great introduction to the high culture of Western Europe — including the iconic museums, designer shops, and architectural wonders. And that's not even mentioning the cuisine — Spanish tapas one day, fresh pasta and pastries in Italy the next. It’s not just major cities, though. Depending on your itinerary, you’ll also hit other gorgeous spots, including Monte Carlo, Nice, and Marseilles.
Our Advice: These itineraries vary widely, from those that focus on one or two countries to those that hit the highlights of four. For example, you might find ports in Portugal and Morocco mixed in with Spain and Italy, or stops on islands such as Corsica and Sardinia. Do your research to make sure you see the full scope of itinerary options before you commit to a cruise.
2. Alaska’s Inside Passage
If you want the once-in-a-lifetime sight of a startlingly blue, house-sized chunk of glacier thunderously calving into the sea, you will need to get on the water.
Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: Cruise ships, in small and large varieties, are a practical way to see and experience Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage — including Juneau, the only U.S. capital city not accessible by car. Wildlife is also a big draw with these cruises, including humpback whales, brown bears, and bald eagles. Don't forget to pack binoculars.
Our Advice: There are plenty of amazing opportunities for nature lovers and animal lovers to get a thrill on Inside Passage cruises, but adrenaline seekers should also consider splurging on some of the exciting opportunities to get your pulse racing, such as glacier trekking, flightseeing, and husky dogsledding.
On a Hawaii cruise you’ll visit all the main islands — Oahu, Kauai, Maui, the Big Island — experiencing one stunning tropical vista after another while sunning on the white sand beaches, hiking the rainforests, learning to surf, and attending luaus.
Why it's one of the best cruise destinations: Try to do the itinerary on your own — arranging inter-island flights, multiple hotels, and lots of ground transportation — and you’ll find it both costly and much more difficult to plan.
Our Advice: These cruises are best for those who have never visited the Hawaiian islands before — they’re a perfect introduction, a pu pu platter, if you will, that will help you determine which isle you want to come back to and explore in more depth.
Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.