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The 10 Most Thrilling Cities and Places to Sail Into in the World

Author: Olivia Sharpe

Published on:

Updated on:

From amazing cities to hidden ports of call, here's our pick of the best places to sail into in the world

Travelling by ship may be the most convenient (and comfortable) way to travel between incredible destinations. However, there are many port cities and natural wonders that can also be seen in the most advantageous way from the open decks of a cruise ship.

Whether you are arriving somewhere in style or spending a day marvelling at the spectacular scenery, you can be sure that your captain has chosen the best way to see the sights! Here are a few of our top cruise destinations to sail into.

1. Istanbul, Turkey

First you cruise the Dardanelles, the 37-mile-long narrow strait dividing the continents of Europe and Asia, for millennia a strategic gateway for both the shipping trade and military campaigns to Istanbul and the Black Sea region. As you transit, your Holland America Line onboard experts will tell you about the brutal Gallipoli Campaign, fought for eight months in 1915, from which the legend of the Anzac (New Zealand) spirit of courage, loyalty and friendship was born.

Arriving in Istanbul on board a ship is an unforgettable experience. The Bosphorus, dividing Europe and Asia, welcomes passengers with ocean breezes, soaring seagulls and, if you are lucky, playful dolphins that frolic en-route to the port. On deck is where the views of Istanbul’s best attractions await. The shores of Asia to the east, the first Bosphorus Bridge to the north, and the “old Istanbul” peninsula in the south - home to Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia - give a glimpse of what’s to come on your two-day visit.

Get on board

  • 12-night 'Mediterranean Empires' cruise aboard Westerdam, departing 13 June 2022, from £2,069,

2. Santorini, Greece

Santorini, the jewel in the crown of Greece's Cyclades, is best known as the island with the giant volcanic caldera at its heart. All but the largest ships can anchor here in this stunningly scenic bay, with stunning views of the village of Thira, perched high on the lip of the crater. On a full-day visit with Holland America Line, you may immerse yourself in the art, food and legendary wines of this island, or. On Santorini you can do as Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, would do and sample the island's play Indiana Jones and explore the archaeological treasures of ancient Thera. One fascinating tour is to the famous antiquities at Akrotiri, a town destroyed by the eruption of the volcano of Thira around 1650 BC. See the remnants of buildings, city squares, shops and working areas. Some very famous Greek frescoes can be found in what is left of the once-prominent homes. Speculation is rife that perhaps Akrotiri is really the lost city of Atlantis.

Get on board

  • 7-night 'Greek Enchantment' cruise aboard Westerdam, departing 25 June 2022, from £1,249,

3. Sydney, Australia

Cruising into Sydney is the best way to see the famed harbour, home to twin icons the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and stepping-off point for some of the city's best cultural attractions and sightseeing. In one day you can sail around the harbour, get a behind-the-scenes tour of the opera house and climb the bridge, with time to spare for people-watching over a flat white at a waterfront café.

Get on board

  • 15-night 'Australia & New Zealand' cruise aboard Noordam, departing 27 January 2023, from £2,349,

4. Norway

From a cruise ship, you have possibly the best view of Norway’s spectacular fjords and pretty towns and villages. Your ship can take you close up to stunning cliffs and waterfalls, and in most cases will dock you straight in town, meaning it’s easy to explore places like Oslo, Bergen, Eidfjord and Alesund on your own. For example, Hardangerfjord (on a scenic cruising day) is, (at 100 miles long) the fourth-longest in the world and plunges down almost a half-mile at its deepest point. Take in the best of the landscape from the unique vantage point provided by the fjord as you sail inland toward the ever-more-imposing mountains of the Hardangervidda National Park. Waterfalls, islands and shoreline villages dot the journey. Dangling more than 2,000 feet above Lake Ringedalsvatnet is the Troll’s Tongue, a unique rock formation and one of Norway’s most famous photo opportunities.

Top tip: In Norway, the cost of hotels and dining can be very expensive, so visiting by cruise ship will mean all your meals are already included!

Get on board

  • 7-night 'Norse Legends' cruise aboard Rotterdam, departing 1 May 2022, from £1,249,

5. Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Whatever time of year you visit, the journey through the archipelago to reach Stockholm—which is itself composed of 14 interconnected islands—is always spectacular, and helps you understand why Stockholm’s residents are so proud and protective of this area of outstanding natural beauty.

Your captain will carefully navigate the narrow channels of the Archipelago—channels densely dotted with around 30,000 islands. Many of these are little more than granite outcrops inhabited only by seabirds. Some have thriving communities year-round, but many more see their populations rocket in the warmer months when ferry service from the city resumes and Stockholmers escape to spend time at their summer homes and on their boats. The larger islands have distinct personalities: Sandhamn, for instance, becomes a major sailing hub, its harbour packed with yachts, while Grinda has a famous värdshus—an old-fashioned inn—where people come for dinner and to spend the night.

Get on board

  • 14-night 'Jewels of the Baltic' cruise aboard Rotterdam, departing 8 May 2022, from £2,309,

6. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

On your cruise to Glacier Bay, close your eyes and take in the sounds—the creaks and groans of “living” ice, the shrill cries of gulls and soaring eagles, the splash of a breaching humpback whale. Frosted peaks towering over mossy forests, wide tidewater glaciers (there are seven in the park), and marine wildlife are givens on Glacier Bay cruises, but every experience in this changing biosphere is unique.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is best explored on an Alaska cruise, where the ship’s open decks provide the ideal place to view nature’s spectacular sights, as you sip hot chocolate or Dutch Pea Soup with Holland America Line and listen to fascinating talks by the Park Rangers who come on board that day. There are glaciers, fjords, inlets, rivers, streams and wildlife galore on Glacier Bay cruises, so bring those binoculars.

Get on board

  • 7-night 'Alaskan Inside Passage' cruise aboard Koningsdam, departing 7 May 2022, from £889,

7. Antarctica

After a day and a half crossing the Drake Passage, which separates South America from Antarctica, your Holland America ship will arrive at the White Continent. You’ll begin your Antarctic Expedition sailing through the bays and islands of the Palmer Archipelago, off the northern tip of the long Antarctic Peninsula, which reaches out toward South America. Encircled in a landscape of snow and ice in every direction, your ship will slowly navigate the iceberg-dotted waters. The surroundings are hauntingly quiet as well, an aspect of the continent that comes as a surprise to many first-time visitors. Along the way, the ship's naturalists will point out the birds—terns, petrels, and gulls—found on the coast and on small islets at stops like Dallmann Bay. As you pass dark, rocky Cuverville Island, you’ll see some of the 6,500 pairs of gentoo penguins that make their home there, the largest known colony in the world. Continuing on to Paradise Harbor, you'll have a chance to observe not only gentoo and chinstrap penguins but possibly humans as well: Both Argentina and Chile have manned research stations here.

Get on board

  • 22-night 'Christmas Antarctica & South America' cruise aboard Oosterdam, departing 20 December 2022, from £4,159,

8. Half Moon Cay, Caribbean

All Bahamian Islands are full of tropical palms and sun-kissed beaches but Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas, is an absolute stunner. Half Moon Cay is the highest-rated Bahamas private island. It has won Porthole Cruise Magazine’s Best Private Island award consecutively for 20 years. Anchored offshore, you can see this slice of paradise from the decks of your ship. When you feel the sugar-white sand on your toes or see its brilliant blue lagoon, you’ll understand why cruise travellers love Half Moon Cay. True bucket-list excursions, secluded cabanas, and stunning beaches make it ideal for any type of holiday

Get on board

  • 10-night 'Southern Caribbean Seafarer' cruise aboard Rotterdam, departing 30 October 2022, from £1,099,

9. Valletta, Malta

The ancient city of Valletta is teeming with historic monuments, churches and gardens – and one of the best things about calling into Malta is the fact that it’s so easy to get to and explore the city by foot on a two-day mid-cruise stay. Given Malta's strategic location and succession of rulers including the Romans, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, it’s somewhat surprising to see Valletta so well preserved. The city dates back to the 16th century and has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1980. Extensive restorations of historic buildings are underway, including the rebuilding of the city entrance to mark Valletta's recognition as the European Capital of Culture in 2018. Decades of British rule mean that English remains an official language, along with the local Maltese language, plus a curious mix of Italian vocabulary and Semitic roots. As Malta lies just 50 miles south of Sicily, Italian influences dominate the cuisine and culture.

Get on board

  • 12-night 'Adriatic Dream' cruise aboard Westerdam, departing 16 July 2022, from £2,069,

10. Singapore

City-states are rare in the present day—and none are quite like Singapore. In the 20th century, the Southeast Asian nation hurtled itself into the modern world, and it continues to expand its state-of-the-art transportation system and build its edgy skyline. Yet Singapore's urban plan wisely maintained its intimate neighborhoods, many with streets lined with colourful shophouses (a type of building unique to parts of Asia, with businesses located on their ground floors and residences above). Add the city’s mix of ethnic groups—mainly Malays, Chinese and Indians—and you get a vibrant cultural scene that attracts a cosmopolitan, international community.

Singapore's food scene—which is arguably the world's most dynamic and runs the gamut from beloved street hawkers to Michelin-starred venues—would merit a trip alone, as would its never-ending shopping options. But the city is also packed with world-class museums, many designed by celebrated architects, and it hosts many major international events, such as the Formula One Grand Prix. Yet only about half of the 278-square-mile island is developed, which leaves plenty of room for parks and open spaces such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where an old-growth forest still thrives.

Get on board

  • 14-night 'Philippines, Malaysia & Thailand' cruise aboard Westerdam, departing 2 January 2023, from £1,709,

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