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Seabourn cruises has shared their top 10 UNESCO World Heritage to visit by cruise. Credit: Shutterstock

Seabourn cruises: Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage sights to visit by cruise

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Cruise holidays are undeniably a brilliant way to explore the world with travellers able to visit some of the world's 'must-see' destinations and sights by ship.

Ultra-luxury Seabourn for example whisks travellers off to some truly awe-inspiring places all over the world, and is the official cruise partner of UNESCO, with the aim of promoting sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites around the world.

Immersive tours with expert guides ensure visitors get the most from their visit, and with more than 470 curated UNESCO tour options developed in more than 70 countries, guests cruising with Seabourn have some incredible choices. On some tours, Seabourn guests get access to people and places that may be difficult to access otherwise but are enabled as a result of this partnership. A small portion of the price of each tour includes a donation to UNESCO World Heritage.

What's more, the experience can be enhanced by lectures and talks onboard the ship by archaeologists, historians, geologists, photography and wildlife experts.

Here are Seabourn's top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit by cruise.

1. Ephesus, Turkey

What to See:

Ephesus is a stunning stand out among the ancient ruins that remain in the world today.

Excavations have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre.

Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Since the 5th century, the nearby House of the Virgin Mary, a domed cruciform chapel, has been a major place of Christian pilgrimage.

How to see it:

Best of Ephesus, A UNESCO Partner Tour

Tour the site with a UNESCO guide visiting the impressive amphitheatre where St Paul preached to the Ephesians; the great Library of Celsus, and the terrace houses opposite Hadrian’s Temple, a newly excavated ancient residential area.

As part of this tour, visitors will have exclusive access to the Domitian Galleries (named after Emperor Domitian); a passageway located behind a temple used as a gallery for more than 150 inscriptions, mostly carved on marble and dating between 750 BC and AD 600.

The tour also includes the Basilica of St John at Seljuk, The House of the Virgin Mary at Mt Pagus and a lunch.


Seabourn offers a unique (and complimentary) evening ‘Classical Concert at Ephesus’ for all guests.

Get on board:

Seven-night Classic Greek Isles & Ephesus – Seabourn Encore – April 17, 2022

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2. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

What to See:

Glacier Bay has two major arms, East and West, and over fifty named glaciers, some of which push forward at three to six feet per day.

Combined with Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Canada’s Kluane National Park and Alsek-Tatshenshini Park, Glacier Bay encompasses the largest protected wilderness area on earth, a place of awe-inspiring beauty and an icon of wild Alaska.

How to see it:

The best way to appreciate Glacier Bay is on a cruise ship. Find a place on deck to enjoy a day of incredible scenic cruising around the bay, watching the shores for black and brown bears, wolves, moose, the skies for eagles and raven, and the seas for harbour seals and whales.

To help you get the most out of the experience, experts will be on hand to tell fascinating stories about glaciers, birds and wildlife along with opportunities to view up-close through Swarovski binoculars.


All guests cruising Alaska with Seabourn will receive a complimentary logoed All-weather jacket. Perfect for a day of glacier viewing on deck!

Get on board:

14-night Glacier Bay, Fjords & Inside Passage – Seabourn Odyssey – May 17, 2022

Seabourn experts will be on hand to tell fascinating stories

3) Angkor Wat, Cambodia

What to See:

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia, extending over 400 square kilometres and consisting of scores of stunning excavated (and unexcavated) temples, basins, dykes, reservoirs, canals as well as communication routes.

Founded in the 12th century, for many years Angkor was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom until its fall in the 15th century.

Huge stone-carved faces peer out in all directions, extensive and intricate bas-reliefs line the walls and doorways, and crumbling passageways and steep stone stairs call out for exploration.

How to see it:

Angkor Wat Mid-Cruise journey – A three-Day UNESCO Partner Tour

Includes flights from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap and return to Ho Chi Minh City, hotel and all meals.

Tour will include the Citadel of Women with its intricate carvings; the Ta Phrom Temple, famous for its forest atmosphere and enormous fig trees; the Angkor Thom complex to see the Terrace of Elephants, the Leper King and the Bayon, featuring giant stone faces that have become one of the most recognisable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture.

Then, visit the magnificent temple at Angkor Wat, a unique and stunning blend of spirituality and symmetry, an enduring example of man's devotion to his gods and reputedly the largest religious structure in the world.

Get on board:

14-night Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand – Seabourn Encore – January 8, 2023

Easter Island: The ancestors of the the Rapa Nui peoplecarved the huge human effigies called moai. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Easter Island

What to See:

Tiny Easter Island in the South Pacific is one of the most remote places on earth. A large slice of the island is Chile’s Rapa Nui National Park, preserving the sculptural heritage of the Rapa Nui people, whose ancestors carved the huge human effigies called moai that give the island its renown and earned it UNESCO status.

These stylised sculptures, carved between the 13th and 16th centuries stand on the slopes of the island, gazing implacably out to sea, often on stone platforms called ahu.

How to see it:

Easter Island Mystical Moai Statues & Highlights: A UNESCO Partner Tour

From the port of Hanga Piko, visit the ceremonial site of Tahai in the village of Hanga Roa to see three restored platforms and the only Moai statue with its eyes re-inserted.

At Rano Raraku follow your guide on foot through the quarry that yielded stone for all the Moai statues, including 397 statues in varying states of completion on the slopes of the extinct volcano.

Several minutes' drive away is the restored 656-foot platform of Tongariki, with fifteen re-erected statues. Finally at Anakena Beach enjoy the famous pink sand and its two restored platforms Ahu Nau Nau and Ahu Ature Huke.


Seabourn stays overnight at Easter Island giving visitors more time to explore independently.

Get on board:

31-night Paths to the Pacific – Seabourn Sojourn – January 6, 2023

5. Petra, Jordan

What to see:

A dramatic, narrow rock gorge allows entrance to the ancient city of Petra, a stone city with dwellings hewn into sandstone walls.

This ancient capital city of the Nabataeans, located at an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria has roots that trace back to as early as the 4th or 5th century BC.

Lost to all but nomadic Bedouins until 1812, it has been referred to as "the rose city" due to the colour of the rock. Petra is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.

How to see it:

Petra, Hidden Treasure of the Ancient World: A UNESCO Partner Tour.

Upon arrival at this amazing site, visitors will proceed on foot to the mile-long siq - a narrow gorge, the steeply rising sides of which all but obliterate the sun, providing a dramatic contrast for the magic to come.

Reaching the end of the canyon walls they will catch a first glimpse of the immense and iconic Treasury building with its towering columns and intricate carvings.

The Petra basin boasts more than 800 individual monuments, including buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, and colonnaded streets, that were carved from the brilliantly-coloured sandstone by the technical and artistic genius of its inhabitants.

Get on board:

18-night Arabian Gems & Holy Land – Seabourn Encore – March 30, 2022

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6. The Acropolis and Parthenon Temples, Athens

What to see:

Towering over the city of Athens from the top of a craggy rock, the Acropolis stands as a proud monument to Ancient Greece.

Dating from between the 5th and 4th century BC and dominating the site, the Parthenon is the largest and most recognisable structure from this period and symbolises the extensive history of this country.

Other principal buildings include the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechteion.

How to see it:

Virtual Reality Acropolis: A UNESCO Partner Tour

This fascinating visit to the Acropolis with an expert guide is aided and enhanced by the use of Virtual Reality goggles. Visitors will simply put on a pair of VR goggles to immerse themselves in a different world by viewing the surrounding architecture as it stood thousands of years ago, when it was newly built. This is a truly remarkable experience and no description can fully do it justice.

Get on board:

14-night Golden Horn to the Grand Canal – Seabourn Encore – July 3, 2022

7. Borobudur, Java, Indonesia

What to see:

Borobudur is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world and certainly one of Indonesia's most famous landmarks. Set in lush, tropical surroundings, with mountains and volcanoes rising in the distance, the site is visually stunning and soothingly peaceful.

This massive temple complex was constructed in the 700s, laid out in the design of a lotus flower, and ten terraces of statues, stupas and elaborate relief panels depicting Buddha's life and path to enlightenment.

Two to three hundred years later, the site was abandoned, possibly due to volcanic eruptions in the area, and went relatively undisturbed for centuries. The site was uncovered in the 1800s by the British and later restored. Today, it is one of the most important tourist attractions in Indonesia.

How to see it:

Borobudur, Mystical Stone Temple: A UNESCO Partner Tour

The visit will be taken in small groups, each with an expert guide. Borobudur has arguably the finest examples of Buddhist reliefs in the world, with each of the ten terraces symbolising the path to Nirvana. At the top is the Great Stupa, which towers above the other 72 stupas and statues and boasts a beautiful view from the top.

Guests will then enjoy a tasty Javanese buffet lunch and a visit to a traditional Javanese handicrafts centre, including a brief demonstration of a Wayang shadow puppet show.

Get on board:

Seven-night Gems of the Java Sea – Seabourn Ovation – 28 Nov 2021

8. Gaudi’s Barcelona, Spain

What to see:

Barcelona is a city of many incredible sights and museums, and, for those already familiar with the beauty of the city, or for first-time visitors interested in the history of the architecture, Gaudí In Depth offers an intriguing perspective on this Catalán treasure.

How to see it:

Gaudi in Depth: A UNESCO Partner Tour

This tour focuses on two UNESCO-inscribed works at opposite ends of the spectrum of Catalonia's home-grown Art-Nouveau (Modernist) movement.

Despite their differences, they have both reinvented the notion of form over function, handily meeting the challenge of a practical structure doubling as art.

The first is the Hospital de Sant Pau i de la Santa Creu by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which deftly demonstrates use of natural light and soaring space within the parameters of a public building.

The second is Antonio Gaudi's 1986-inscribed, legendary Palau Güell. The luxurious Güell is the pinnacle of private luxury, demonstrating that a penniless artist-architect such as Gaudí could weave fantasies of wealth and splendour into a perfectly workable neo-Gothic townhouse mansion.

Get on board:

14-night Iberian Enchantment – Seabourn Ovation – 4 Jun 2022

The turquoise waters and limestone islands of Halong Bay, Vietnam

9. Halong Bay, Vietnam

What to see:

Just off the coast of Vietnam, a myriad of karstic islands are clustered in this picturesque setting. Looming out of the sea, undercut by erosions into fantastic shapes, they reminded the Vietnamese of the looping back of a swimming dragon.

Scattered among the islands, whole communities of fishing families live most of their lives on sampans (flat-bottomed wooden boats), trading among themselves and periodically going into nearby towns such as Haiphong to sell their catch and buy supplies.

How to see it:

Magnificent Halong Bay by Junk: A UNESCO Partner Tour‘

Board a Chinese junk for a gentle two-hour cruise offering beautiful views of this breathtaking scenery. Enjoy the spectacular surroundings and photo opportunities as you pass rock arches, sheer cliffs, white sand beaches and tranquil coves.

Get on board:

14-night Thailand, Vietnam & Cambodia – Seabourn Encore – 22 Jan 2023

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10. Luxor, Egypt

What to see:

Luxor has often been called the world's greatest open-air museum, and the number and preservation of the monuments in the area are unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

The ancient Egyptians called Luxor "The City" and Homer called it the "City of a Thousand Gates." The troops of Napoleon, coming upon its grandeur, broke into spontaneous applause. The pharaoh's tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the colossal temples of Luxor and Karnak capture the imagination with splendours that have survived the centuries.

How to see it:

The Treasures of Luxor: A UNESCO Partner Tour

Travel from Safaga along the desert road Luxor in the Valley of the Kings, while a guide explains the world of Egypt's New Kingdom during a tour of the necropolis on the west bank of the Nile.

Explore the interiors of some of the tombs and marvel at their elaborate wall paintings and sheer size. Then stop at the Colossi of Memnon, 64-foot twin statues of Amenhotep III are all that remain of a once-great temple.

Explore Queen Hatshepsut's exquisite terraced mortuary Temple, set at the foot of a limestone mountain dating from the 15th century BC.

After a visit to the city of the dead, it is time to visit the Karnak Temple. Stroll along the Avenue of Ram-Headed Sphinxes leading to the temple entrance and the Hypostyle Hall—a colonnade featuring 134 immense and richly decorated columns. The Karnak complex also boasts the Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut, the Temple of Amen-Re, and the Sacred Lake.

Next, explore the mysteries of the Great Temple of Luxor, begun by Amenhotep in the 16th-century BC and expanded by other Pharaohs, including Ramses II. The Temple of Luxor boasts its own Avenue of Human-Headed Sphinxes and was once linked to the Temple of Karnak.


Seabourn stays overnight at Safaga offering more time to explore Egypt’s treasures.

Get on board:

18-night Arabian Gems, Egypt & Holy Land – Seabourn Ovation – 8 Apr 2022

For more information visit or call 0344 338 8615

Luxor has often been called the world's greatest open-air museum. Credit: Shutterstock

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