Everyone has a unique vacation style. Maybe your ideal trip consists of lounging on the beach, visiting a famous museum, learning to prepare a local dish or hiking on a glacier. Whether you're new to cruising or looking to get inspired for your 100th sailing, it's good to know that most favorite cruise destinations have at least one of several things in common: interesting history, culture and activities; tasty local cuisine; and gorgeous views. Although it's not a comprehensive list, below we break down some fan-favorite places to go on a cruise, no matter what your interests.
Alaska, the Last Frontier, tops many a cruiser's bucket list, offering vast, untamed mountain landscapes; towering, ice-blue glaciers; barren tundra; frigid alpine lakes; and air so fresh your lungs will smile. This region is also replete with wildlife that ranges from moose and bears to bald eagles and whales. Pre- and post-cruise land tours often venture into Canada's Yukon Territory, which feels a bit like something out of the Wild West. If you're interested in gold rush history, you'll find it there in spades.
Active travelers will love Alaska for its variety of physical pursuits, including ziplining, glacier hiking and alpine lake snorkeling. However, wildlife preserve bus tours and dog-sledding excursions mean animal lovers and less active cruisers won't be disappointed, either.
For a quick getaway to a beachy destination, many cruisers prefer the Bahamas. Its welcoming, laidback atmosphere is great for those who wish to relax; conversely, it's also bustling, with its straw market and plethora of water sports activities, so anyone who has trouble sitting still will also find it a pleasant place to escape. The Bahamas is where you'll find most of the cruise lines' dedicated private islands, which offer exclusive experiences to visitors.
This region is ideal for anyone who's short on time, as many short, inexpensive Bahamas sailings are offered. First-timers who are unsure if they'll like cruising will also find these sailings appealing, due to the minimal investment required.
Nothing beats the Caribbean for quintessential fun in the sun. Whether you grab a fruity drink and plant your toes firmly in the sand or strap on your snorkel gear for a peek at the breathtaking underwater flora and fauna, be sure to pack your sunscreen. The islands in this area also comprise an impressive number of cultures, cuisines and local customs, about which friendly locals are eager to teach visitors.
Beach bums, sun-worshippers and bargain-hunters will adore this region for its myriad relaxing beaches and duty-free shopping opportunities, including everything from jewelry, alcohol and cigarettes to electronics.
Landmarks, like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Coliseum in Rome, are highlights on the Mediterranean's resume of stunning architectural masterpieces. History lies around every turn, and you can venture to this region many times without visiting the same ports twice. The Med is one of the best places to cruise if you're hoping to expose yourself to different cultures, languages and delicious meals that highlight fresh local fare.
Cruises to this section of Europe are ideal for foodies, history buffs and architecture aficionados.
Perhaps one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous locations in all of cruising is the Baltic region and Northern Europe. Countries in this part of Europe -- particularly those in Scandinavia -- are some of the most expensive to visit on land, and making your way between them can be an extremely pricey undertaking. Visiting by ship cuts down on costs and allows someone else to plan the otherwise complicated logistics for you. A special shout-out goes to Norwegian fjords itineraries, which feature trips to out-of-the-way inlets carved between mountains and often cross the Arctic Circle, as well. Fjords voyages incorporate local folklore, often involving trolls, and showcase some of the most spectacularly beautiful photo opportunities we've seen.
Photo enthusiasts, seafood-lovers, those who appreciate folklore and anyone who doesn't mind cold weather will do well on these types of voyages.
Panama Canal/Central America
The Panama Canal is nothing short of an engineering marvel. Recently widened to accommodate larger ships, the waterway utilizes a system of hydraulic locks to allow for direct passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, eliminating the need for vessels to take the more time-consuming route around the coast of South America. During these sailings, many cruise lines offer expert onboard commentary as the ship transits the canal -- a process that takes several hours. Some itineraries do full transits, while others offer only partials, but either type of voyage is a great way to see a bit of Central America.
Engineers, technology geeks, history-lovers and anyone who wants bragging rights will love a Panama Canal sailing. We'll also add early-risers to this list, as many transits begin before the sun rises (often before 5 a.m.).
Warm and exotic, the islands of the South Pacific are a less-traveled way to savor some beach time and enjoy water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving without visiting the same sun-and-sand destinations over and over. Local Polynesian and Melanesian people are known for their hospitality, often teaching visitors their traditional songs and dances. Cruisers with an affinity for animals likely won't be disappointed, either, with native species including sea turtles, several types of bats and even blue starfish.
Offering a more upscale experience than traditional warm-weather locales, this region is perfect for wildlife and water sports enthusiasts, as well as anyone who appreciates fragrant flowers or has a desire to embrace new cultures.