At the end of my Black Sea cruise a couple of weeks ago, I was up at dawn for the cruise along the rather misty Bosphorus. As we docked, the sun was just breaking through the clouds to light up the minarets of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, up on their hill, overlooking the Golden Horn, and it occurred to me that Istanbul is one of those places that you really have to see from the water to appreciate fully.
So it’s high on my personal list of places where you can’t beat arriving by ship. I’d add to that San Francisco, Hong Kong, Santorini, Monte Carlo and, of course, Venice, which is probably the most exciting sail-in of all.
At Cruise Critic, we’ve come up with a separate list, this time of entire regions best explored by ship. Here are five of our favourites:
Australia. Cruise all the way from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney Harbour and on to Melbourne, cutting out long road trips and costly internal flights but still seeing the best parts.
Vietnam/Cambodia Beautiful scenery and vibrant cultures but complex to explore overland if you’re new to Asia. Luckily, cruises along the Mekong River are the hot ticket for 2011.
Middle East For a first visit, at least, a cruise can take in four or five contrasting locations, like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and one of the lesser-known Emirates, so you get beach, city, desert and culture all rolled into one week.
Alaska So many reasons for this one! The views from the water are spectacular and you can spot whales and dolphins all day. The stretches at sea in between the ports are deeply relaxing, as the scenery is so beautiful, yet you can go mad in port with ziplining, kayaking, hiking and even husky sledging, should you want to.
British Isles How else are you likely to visit the Channel Islands, Dublin and the Orkneys in the space of a week? Round-Britain cruises are on the increase for good reason – no traffic, no over-priced accommodation to deal with and an entirely new perspective on your own country.
What would you add to the list? Which ports have the ultimate approach from the sea? And which cruise areas just beat all other forms of travel hands down?