Alaska continues to be one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations. This vast, scenic American state has continued to attract endless numbers of passengers on year-round cruises. Although cruises used to cater to seniors, a greater number of younger travelers are choosing to explore this remarkable North American destination.
Travelers can witness breathtaking scenery that includes massive fjords and icebergs, watch for an abundant variety of wildlife such as humpback whales, grizzly bears, sea lions, puffins or mountain goats or take unique sled-dog, glacier or gold mine tours.
Popular Ports of Call: Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Nome, Misty Fjords, Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Prince William Sound, Whittier, Seward and Valdez. Most Alaska cruise ships depart from Vancouver, British Columbia or Seattle, Washington, although other cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco in California are also options.
European cruises present an enjoyable and affordable way to explore some of the continent’s most scenic waterways while exploring exciting ports of call. These cruises are actually quite cost-effective when you factor in the high price of most European hotels, meals, sightseeing options and transportation.
Western Mediterranean: These cruises often sail from Rome, London, Barcelona or Lisbon, and they enable passengers to explore the best of Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and some of the Balenaric Islands. Some of the popular ports of call include Paris, France, Dublin, Ireland, the south of France and Barcelona, Spain.
Northern European: These cruises usually feature the Scandinavian peninsula, Russia, the Baltic states and the Netherlands with stops in Oslo in Norway, Tallinn in Estonia and Helsinki in Finland. Most cruise ships depart from cities such as Amsterdam, London, Stockholm or Copenhagen.
You can choose to visit only one region of Europe or a longer cruise that makes multiple stops in many different European countries. Unique tours options include beautiful winery tours or breathtaking hot air balloon rides and nothing beats the view of the French Riviera from a European cruise ship.
Popular Ports of Call: Some of the most popular unique European cities for cruise lines include Athens, Corfu, Mykonos and Santorini in Greece, Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice in Italy, Cannes, Nice and Marseille in France, Barcelona in Spain, Ephesus in Turkey, Lisbon in Portugal, Dubrovnik in Croatia, Dover in the United Kingdom, Oslo in Norway Casablanca in Morocco.
Gorgeous sandy white beaches, a warm year-round climate, exciting water activities and remarkable shopping continue to attract cruise passengers of all ages.
Eastern Caribbean: You can choose from a relaxing Eastern Caribbean cruise where you can enjoy the duty-free shopping El Yunque Rain Forest of Puerto Rico or the and private beaches and incredible snorkeling of St. Thomas or sailing in St. Maarten. The slower pace and fewer number of ports make it a great choice for first-time cruisers.
Popular Ports of Call: Nassau in the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Maarten, the British Virgin Islands – Tortola and Virgin Gorda, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. Most Eastern Caribbean cruise lines depart from Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale or Miami, although some are available as far east as New York.
Southern Caribbean: If you want a little less time at sea and more time visiting exciting ports of call, you can opt for a Southern Caribbean cruise. This is often the preferred cruise for island hoppers and vacationers seeking to see the greatest number of sights. You can relax on a black sand beach on Martinique, explore some of the world’s largest limestone caves in Barbados, swim beneath a refreshing waterfall on the island of Dominica or take a cycling tour of Aruba.
Popular Ports of Call: St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Barts, Caracas and Isla Margarita. The majority of Southern Caribbean cruises depart from San Juan in Puerto Rico, although you can also sail from Barbados, Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
Western Caribbean: One of the most popular and affordable Caribbean cruises, many visitors choose to visit the Western Caribbean aboard a comfortable, luxury cruise liner. You can find some of the most unspoiled beaches and the world’s top scuba diving and snorkeling areas during your vacation. Spend the day climbing Jamaica’s Dunn’s River Falls, hiking the scenic Mayan city of Tulum, Mexico or snorkeling with stingrays in the Grand Cayman islands.
Popular Ports of Call: Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Key West in Florida, Cozumel, Cancun and Costa Maya in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Roatan and Labadee in Haiti. Another reason for the popularity of Western Caribbean cruises is the large number of departure ports, which include cities such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Barbados, Galveston, New Orleans, Houston, Tampa, Miami and Port Canaveral.
Antarctica – despite the very short travel season, expense and cold temperatures, this remote area of the world is becoming an increasingly popular cruise destination for travelers. Adventurous individuals can visit the South Pole, watch huge groups of frolicking penguins, whales or seals or witness massive icebergs breaking off into the frigid sea. Many travelers include an excursion to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands or South America’s remote Patagonia region during their Antarctica cruise.
Popular Ports of Call: Deception Island, McMurdo Station, Mt. Erebus, Macquarie Island, the Ross Ice Shelf, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands and South Pole. Most Antarctica cruises depart from Chile or Argentina, although some cruise lines also sail from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
If you want to enjoy some of the world’s most unspoiled tropical beaches and picturesque tropical islands, be sure to take a South Pacific cruise. You can visit a black pearl farm in Tahiti, snorkel with dolphins at Moorea, go whale watching in Tonga, or enjoy a deep sea fishing excursion in Fiji.
Popular Ports of Call: Nadi and Vanuatu in Fiji, Bora Bora, Papeete and Raiatea near Tahiti, Huahine, Moorea and Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, Apia and Pago Pago in Samoa, Tonga and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Most cruise ships depart from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti or Hawaii, Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, British Columbia.
Shore Excursions - Shore excursions used to play only a minor part for cruise passengers, but that has since changed. Many travelers now choose specific cruise lines or destinations specifically for the available land tours available. In addition to enjoying all of the first-class amenities, food and activities on a luxury cruise liner, passengers can also explore a wide variety of sightseeing options. Visiting exciting worldwide ports of call plays an important part of your entire cruise experience. You get the opportunity to explore the food, people, culture and history of many exotic locations, with the added bonus of luxurious accommodations awaiting you at the end of each excursion.
You can visit local attractions such as historical towns, cultural museums, zoos, gardens and scenic national parks, hit the hiking trails, scuba dive with tropical marine life, go horseback riding, sailing or enjoy a round of golf. River rafting, kayaking and boating excursions are also popular land package choices for the more active traveler. For travelers with enough money, physical stamina and adventurous spirit, you can even book private trekking expeditions to remote locations such as Antarctica. If you book with a reputable tour company, experienced professional guides will ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Land Tours – If you want to truly experience the culture, wildlife, scenery and people of any given area, you should consider a land tour. You can choose from guided city tours, historical tours, wildlife tours, flight tours, hiking tours, boat tours, bicycle tours, railway tours or fishing tours. Seeing the sights from a helicopter, railway car, trolley or inflatable Kodiak enables you to enjoy a very different perspective for interesting ports of call around the world. Some tours will allow you to explore exciting marine life from a submarine or glass-bottom boat. Younger cruisers may enjoy lively party tours where you can enjoy everything from beach barbeques and dinner cruises to pub crawls and theme parties.
Many areas even include unique tour options such as gold mine tours, glacier tours or even sled dog kennel tours. Explore the Forbidden City or Great Wall of China, Alaska’s El Dorado Gold Mine and Mt. McKinley or Antarctica’s majestic Ross Ice Shelf or world’s most southern active volcano, Mt. Erebus.
Advantages of Pre-Booking
We recommend consulting with a professional travel company to pre-book your shore excursions. You will often pay much less than overpriced excursions sold by the ship, and you can save time and hassle by avoiding long line-ups to purchase tickets during your actual cruise. Pre-booking is a more convenient, stress-free experience that can enable you to fully enjoy your cruise. More importantly, you won’t risk missing out on popular trips that quickly sell out!
Before you book a land tour or shore excursion, you need to consider your budget, time frame and physical fitness level.
Do you prefer a leisurely stroll around the city or a challenging hike up a steep mountain?
Are you able to keep up in a large fast-paced walking group or do you prefer to travel with only a few other individuals by car or boat?
Do you have enough time to explore an entire city while onshore or only a few hours before your cruise leaves?
Are you looking for an affordable self-guided tour or can you justify the cost of the ultimate luxury excursion?
Questions such as these are important to ask yourself before choosing your shore excursion or land tour. Spending a few minutes to do so will ensure you experience the trip of a lifetime on and off your cruise ship!
Many cruise companies also offer affordable hotel packages so you can continue your luxury vacation on land, as well as sea. We recommend pre-booking at least your first and last night in a hotel. This will prevent you from having to rush around frantically trying to find a suitable accommodation at the beginning or end of your trip. You don’t want to risk missing your return flight home, paying much more than necessary for a substandard hotel or starting your cruise vacation frustrated and exhausted.
Cruise and tour companies also have access to a vast resource of reliable hotels. They will often find you a much better deal on hotels that they know are clean, safe and comfortable. You will most likely save money, time, stress and frustration by arranging your pre-post stays with a reliable company. This means you can start and end your cruise off right – refreshed and relaxed!