A cruise is no ordinary holiday! With a land based holiday, you can’t explore a different destination each and every day combined with stunning cuisine, fantastic entertainment and much much more. Narrowing down the cruise you want to do can be tricky, especially with the amazing amount of options available these days. If you had to decide though and you had to narrow it down to a list of five must see places on your cruise holiday, what would you pick? Now that’s a hard question, and let’s be honest, there are probably a million and one different answers to it depending on who you are, what you enjoy most about seeing new places and so on. Everyone is different so there is no right or wrong answer to this question, but in the interest of being informative for first time cruisers and for whetting your cruise appetite, here’s our opinion of the top 5 most exciting places to visit on a cruise… believe us when we say, this took some time!!
There’s no doubting that Venice would be included in most people’s bucket list when it comes to choosing exciting destinations. This incredible city is by far one of the most unique and stunning beautiful ports of call you could ever envisage. With new cruise line regulations due to be enforced in November this year, there has actually never been a better time to see Venice on board a cruise. At present passengers have the opportunity of sailing into the Venice Cruise Terminal but due to heavy lagoon traffic and environmental issues, this will soon be reduced for ships of 90,000 gross tonnes or less. Riight now you can sail both in and out of Venice right alongside the Grand Canal with phenomenal views of St. Mark’s Square and the gorgeous city landmarks.
Comprising of meandering canals and famous bridges, Venice is a city where time just seems to stand still. Home to two of the most recognisable and adored structures in the world, cruise passengers visiting here have the pleasure of seeing the Bell Tower of Saint Mark, and the Rialto Bridge, both of which are musts when docking here. Of course another great experience here is to take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal, especially for a romantic time with your significant other. Venice effortlessly exudes romance like no other city in the world and such is the tranquillity of the city and its majestic scenery, you almost feel the weight of the world that was once on your shoulders when at home, just slip away. For the ultimate romantic experience, pass under the Bridge of Sighs.
Whether you wish to see captivating landmarks, immerse yourselves in the enchanting culture or simply roam the walkways and soak up the atmosphere, this city has it all. From delectable cuisine to glamour and sophistication, Venice was always going to be a certainty for our top 5 most exciting destinations.
We’ll stay with Italy for the time being but despite being part of the same country, Rome and Venice are a world away from each other. Legend has it Rome was founded by twin brothers Romulus and Remus but to be honest, whatever the true story be, the city is utterly incredible. Rome had to be in our top 5 simply down to the once in a lifetime experiences that you can do here.
You’ll dock at Civitavecchia, something many people see on an itinerary but don’t quite understand until it’s explained; we’ll cover it to make sure. Civitavecchia is a popular cruise port on the coast in close proximity to the city of Rome and therefore used as the main port for cruise operators. The journey from Civitavecchia to Rome by coach is approximately and hour and a quarter in duration pending traffic situations. Most cruise lines offer amazing excursion opportunities here with choices ranging from the chance to become a gladiator for the day to your own private Ferrari experience. Tours of the city are fabulous and cover all main attractions. Such tours are extremely good value as they often include entry and queue jump passes into main sightseeing magnetisms such as The Colosseum for example and Vatican City. There will be a wide range of tours available to cover your most desired attractions, otherwise opt to explore the city on your own and just arrange drop off and pick up transport services, that way you have complete freedom of choice, plus there’s a hop on- hop off bus service here beginning at the Piazza del Popolo that is excellent for getting around.
Now for the city itself; Rome is fascinating, there’s no other way of putting it. It’s a city that you’ll just want to keep coming back to time and time again. There’s just so much to see and do here it’s almost impossible to fit it all into one trip. If it’s your first time visiting the city then the major attractions are a must. Vatican City is home to St Peter’s Basilica – the largest, and perhaps most important cathedral in the world – and of course the world famous Sistine Chapel, adorned with artwork by Michelangelo and famous for being the official residence of the Pope. St. Peter’s Square has an aura about it that you just cannot put your finger on. The entrance alone when strolling down from the direction of Castel Sant’Angelo is truly invigorating. You’re in the presence of something special and you’ll know it instantly. The atmosphere and vibrant nature of this location in the city is unique and a must for first time cruisers.
Let’s also not forget The Colosseum, a wondrous construction that although a shadow of its former self, still magnificent in stature and historical presence. The Colosseum was constructed during the Roman Empire and the heritage and tradition that surrounds this fabulous creation is breath-taking. Exotic animals were imported from all over the world to fight at the Colosseum, which shows just how far theatre has evolved since the Flavian Dynasty.
There are so many sightseeing opportunities here but we’d also advise just taking the time to slow the pace down a little and enjoy the ambiance of the city. The food here, as you can imagine, is tremendous with plenty of hidden restaurant gems to discover. The bustling city centre and frenetic modern lifestyle here can sometimes consume the otherwise hidden piazzas, palaces and beautiful ruins of antiquity. Be sure to enjoy each moment and just soak up the charisma and charm of the very fabric of Rome. There are so many surprises around every corner that make this city so special.
Baltic cruises are always special and take in a variety of exciting destinations but you can ask anyone in the cruising industry and they will all tell you that no matter how special other destinations are, these cruises always centre around St. Petersburg. It’s certainly no surprise as the city is an incredible place to visit and a must for our top 5 most exciting destinations to visit on a cruise. The reason it’s included is because the majority of cruises here will usually stay overnight, giving passengers more time to experience the city and soak up the evening treasures that St. Petersburg has to offer. The jewel in the Baltic’s crown deserves no less, for here – on the broad banks of the River Neva and amongst the glamorously glistening city’s skyline – you will find Russia at its most dramatic, flamboyant and captivating.
When you arrive, you’ll probably have a list of sights you are desperate to see but whatever is on it, put the Hermitage Museum at the top. Here you’ll see an outstandingly beautiful array of buildings and palaces that boast the world’s most comprehensive collection of art and sculpture, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Gaugin, Rembrandt and Matisse.
Cruise line excursion option here are always superb and if you book an excursion, the cruise line will also take care of your Russian visa, something that requires self-sufficiently organising if you are preferring to travel ashore independently.
Other glorious highlights of St. Petersburg include the magnificent Yusupov Palace, the location of Rasputin’s murder in 1916, not forgetting Catherine the Great’s palace famous for its breath-taking 978 foot white, gold and blue façade. The Church of Spilled Blood is an amazing sight to behold with its onion spire and another fascinating opportunity is the battleship Aurora, the ship renowned for commencing the Russian Revolution with the firing of its guns.
When enjoying an overnight stay here, the evening is also a time for glamorous enjoyment. Select cruise lines offer an evening of ballet that continues to be immensely popular. You’ll head for the Aurora Theatre, found in the heart of the city and a wonderful example of 1980’s soviet architecture. A cruise here provides the opportunity to experience an evening performance of Tchaikovsky’s famous Swan Lake accompanied by the State Governor’s Symphony Orchestra.
Tromsø is an incredible cruise destination, not just for its sightseeing opportunities but also for its stunning landscapes, dramatic scenery and of course, the highly likely chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Considered one of the best locations in the world to see the elusive ‘Aurora Borealis’, Tromsø is the wholesome capital of northern Norway and the furthest north you can travel aboard the majority of cruise itineraries. Often referred to as ‘the Paris of the North’, this beautiful destination is located in extremely close proximity to the Arctic Circle, lying just a few hundred kilometres away. As such the location of Tromsø is perfect for catching a once in a lifetime glimpse of this stunningly striking natural phenomenon, the product of solar particles reacting with the earth’s magnetic field. We also included Tromsø in our top 5 as NASA predicted the Northern Lights to be the most magnificent spectacle for over 50 years throughout 2013 and 2014. One thing we must stress is that the opportunity to see lights will be there but the certainty of actually seeing them is never guaranteed. Ideally, perfect conditions include clear skies and as little light pollution as possible, hence why Tromsø is such a popular place to visit for seeing this fascinating natural wonder.
Aside from the Northern Lights, Tromsø is also a great place to visit in itself. Norway’s most northerly city and cruise port boasts Mount Storsteinen, which cruise passengers can experience the top of via a 480 metre cable car journey, affording amazing views over the city and its dramatic surrounding mountainous scenery.
The aforementioned close proximity to the Arctic Circle (just 400 miles north) means that Tromsø is the ideal point of origin for Polar expeditions and a perfect launch-pad point. Visitors to the city can learn more about the world of snow and ice at the Polaria Science Museum. Here you’ll love the opportunities to experience an Arctic snowstorm, meet local wildlife at the outstanding aquarium and even take a trek through the virtual wilderness where you will encounter polar bears. A visit here does guarantee the chance to see the Northern Lights, via virtual reality of course but nevertheless! The Northern Norway Science Centre is truly amazing with seven months of winter skywatching, thousands of photographs and hundreds of hours of video footage (mostly shot in the Tromsø region), have been condensed into the world’s first all dome 360 degree, high resolution movie of this fascinating phenomenon.
The Arctic Cathedral is another must see when visiting here with its interior architecture just as impressive, boasting stained glass window paying homage to the Return of Christ.
The Northern Lights are not the only natural phenomenon to witness here, however. Norway boasts the land of the midnight sun, which in itself is almost unbelievable. Never will the sun go down during the summer months so be sure to time your visit right for what you want to see the most.
We’ve covered exciting cityscapes, natural beauty and inspirational architecture but it’s time we put the spotlight on a paradise island, cue Barbados.
Think of the Caribbean and our minds instantly imagine crystal clear waters basking under the shimmering light of the sun, warm climates and of course blissful relaxation. This is exactly what Barbados brings.
Many cruise lines love this destination so much they even use it as a point of turnaround. Cruise ships dock here for embarkation and disembarkation for passengers, as they airport is accessible for direct flights for passengers from the UK from a wide choice of airports, including regional options.
There is nothing quite like watching the waves lapse up against this richly diverse island. Barbados boasts two styles in a way. The east coast epitomises tranquillity, you’ll find minimal disturbances, just the Atlantic Ocean sliding along the coastline. You’re more likely to hear the sounds of church music here than anything else. To the west however, things are a little different. Here lies a vast array of gorgeous beach settings that just typify the purity of the Caribbean. The beaches are complimented by a wide range of bars, cafés, restaurants and clubs creating a vibrant 24/7 lifestyle.
The major cruise port is Bridgetown, where you will discover signs of the islands British colonial past. Architecture here and culture influence is extremely diverse but full of life and color that makes it so aesthetically pleasing.
Excursions here are brilliant. You might think of a Caribbean Island just revolving around sunshine and lazing the day away but think again. If you want to relax and just simply enjoy the glistening sunshine then there are plenty of locations and opportunities to do so but Barbados offers much more than just this. Cruise line excursions here are fantastic. Experience the Aerial Trek Zipline Adventure at the Walkes Spring Plantation. This thrill ride will whisk you across 8 different platforms on a course over 1,000 feet long. The highest point of the course is 100 feet high some of the most striking views on the island. Alternatively experience the Atlantis Submarine and take in the underwater treasures of the island from 50 to 150 feet providing a wonderful exposure to the a fascinating array of marine life.
From turtle snorkelling and exclusive catamaran sunset adventures to rum tasting and designer shopping; Barbados has it all. Enjoy some time exploring the island, stop off for a bite to eat in one of the many fantastic restaurants then finish the day off at beach soaking up the sun, perfect!