During winter, many of us dream about booking a holiday to give us something to look forward to. But with a world of incredible destinations to choose from, deciding where to go can be tricky. If you long to explore new locations but don’t fancy the long flights or jet-lag, why not consider a cruise?
They say that travel’s about the journey, not just the destination – and with cruising, all you need to do is step aboard, enjoy the journey, and hop off for unforgettable experiences on shore.
Cruises may have previously had a reputation for being a bit dull and predictable, but now with over 2,000 ports located across the world and a huge number of amenities offered on board – cruises are quickly becoming a more popular way to travel.
So whether you want to soak up some tropical sun, explore a country you’ve never seen, or simply try a new mode of travel, there’s a cruise out there for every season.
With that said, here are 10 inspiring cruise destinations to consider putting on your bucket list.
With sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons, and lush mountains dripping with waterfalls, the Caribbean island of Jamaica is a paradise. And, paired with the country’s vibrant culture, you won’t be short of things to do.
Cruises to Jamaica often stop on both the north and south coast, giving you the chance to cover all the highlights. The beautiful uninhabited sandy island, Lime Cay, near Port Royal, and the country’s show-stopping beaches – such as the white sand stretches of classy Montego Bay – are ideal places to relax.
Inland, you’ll find some of Jamaica’s unique swimming spots, such as the breathtaking blue hole near Ochos Rios (pictured above). Surrounded by waterfalls and jungle-scenery, these areas look like something out of a travel magazine.
Celebrated for its delicious food, lashings of rum, and connections to reggae music, there are also plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Jamaica’s rich culture.
You can marvel at the impressive art housed at Jamaica’s National Gallery, tickle your taste buds with a rum tasting experience, or learn more about the legendary King of Reggae at the Bob Marley museum.
Explore vibrant Jamaica
From skyscrapers and Art Deco architecture, to dazzling beaches and diverse neighbourhoods, the bold city of Miami on Florida’s east coast is a feast for the senses.
Miami is known as the cruise capital of the world and its port has eight passenger terminals serving 23 cruise lines and 55 berthing ships, so it’s a state that’s well equipped to be explored by boat. The Port of Miami is situated between Downtown Miami and South Beach, so cruises arrive into the heart of all the action.
Miami has a 20-mile stretch of white sand beaches – and when you’re not relaxing on these, you can soak up the sun on a stroll down its palm-fringed boulevard, which is dotted with alfresco restaurants. At South Beach, by day, you can marvel at the world’s greatest collection of art deco buildings, in pretty pastel shades; and by night you can take your pick from a range of glamorous bars and restaurants.
For a taste of Miami’s Cuban heritage, why not head down to Little Havana, where you can visit coffee houses, sample rum, or even go salsa dancing?
Or, if you’re more interested in the city’s modern connections, a boat trip across Biscayne Bay – where you can spot lavish homes owned by A-list celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Estefan – might be more up your street.
Experience the diversity of Miami
With ancient ruins, beautifully diverse scenery, and tasty food, Mexico makes a fascinating cruise destination.
A main draw is the country’s diverse wildlife, deep canyons, and dense rainforest, which make for a great off-the-beaten-track adventure. Or if you’d prefer to relax, you can do so at one of Mexico’s popular seaside resorts.
Cruises dock at Cozumel, where you’ll find spotless beaches lined with tropical palm trees. With the largest coral reef system in the Americas, the sea teems with tropical fish here, which makes it a magical place to snorkel.
To immerse yourself in Mexico’s heritage, a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula, once the centre of the Mayan world, is a must. Here you can visit the impressive pyramid at Chichén Itzá – one of the largest and best-preserved archaeological sites on the planet.
Experience the magic of Mexico
Home to tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, and mountains, India’s landscape is diverse – and it’s got a rich cultural heritage to match.
This vast country has so many highlights, that a cruise which stops in two or three places, is the fastest way to see them all.
A trip to some of India’s many forts, palaces, and temples – most notably the Taj Mahal in Agra and the religious city of Varanasi – are sure to leave you feeling inspired. And for a glimpse into India’s multilayered history and culture, you can spend the day wandering through some of the country’s towns and cities.
In Mumbai you’ll find the university clock tower, which is modelled on Big Ben. And, in Old Goa, the 17th-century churches reflect the Portuguese influence on the country.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, why not join a tour in Bandhavgarh National Park and head out to spot tigers? Or hop on a thatched houseboat, traditionally used to transport rice, along Kerala’s fascinating waterways?
Wherever you go in India, it’s likely to be an experience you’ll never forget.
Cruise to incredible India
This narrow strip of a country, which connects Central and South America and rivals Costa Rica, is a paradise for nature lovers. Panama has rainforests, mountains, lakes, beaches, islands, and even a volcano.
Panama’s 80-km-long canal is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and definitely one to tick off the bucket-list. A cruise can give you the option to travel on the stretch from Panama City to the city of Colón, where the ship docks. Here, you’ll be able to experience the famous lock system, which lifts ships 85ft up into the air, to the main elevation of the canal, and down again.
In Colón, you can immerse yourself in Panama’s spectacular scenery with a hike in the rainforest, a rafting trip along the Chagres River, or a visit to Soberania National Park – where toucans, three-toed sloths, and capybaras are often spotted.
Panama is also home to fascinating indigenous tribes, such as the Emberá and the Guna Indians. A visit to one of these communities can teach us a lot about their beliefs and you may even get the opportunity to share a traditional meal.
Explore the paradise of Panama
Cruises typically make four stops in Malaysia, Port Klang (a gateway to Kuala Lumpur), Penang, Malacca, and Lankawi, allowing you to explore places off the beaten track, so it’s the fastest way to see the country’s highlights.
Malaysia’s west coast is the most developed, and is home to the sprawling capital, Kuala Lump where you’ll find the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin buildings in the world). In contrast, Malacca is a quaint city, known for its rich heritage and unique Nyonya culture (Chinese and Malay).
Meanwhile, Georgetown, on Penang Island, is full of fascinating architecture from the British colonial era. It’s also dubbed the ‘food capital of Malaysia’ – be sure to sample the local laksa (spicy noodle dish cooked in coconut milk) here.
And, if you’re looking to kick back and relax, Langkawi is a good option. This scenic collection of 99 islands has beaches, rainforest, mountains, and mangrove where you can hang out on the waterfront.
Take a trip to marvellous Malaysia
7. The Bahamas
The Bahamas means ‘clear waters’ and the gin-clear seas around this archipelago of 700 islands off the coast of Florida, are a paradise for swimming and snorkelling.
From the peaceful, deserted coves on the island of Eleuthera, to the pink sand beaches of car-free Harbour Island, it’s no surprise that the Bahamas regularly makes it on to many people’s bucket lists.
Cruises dock in its modern capital, Nassau (which was founded by pirates), where a boat trip can take you to the unspoiled Exuma islands, to watch manta rays and sharks at feeding time.
Ships also tend to make a stop at Freeport on Grand Bahama island, home to the lovely secluded Gold Rock Beach in Lucayan National Park, which featured in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Experience the beauty of the Bahamas
With rugged mountains and fjords, medieval villages, and breathtaking bays, small but mighty Montenegro makes a magnificent cruise destination. Less crowded than its popular neighbour, Croatia, yet with more sandy beaches, this Balkan nation is starting to get noticed.
A popular place for cruises to dock is in the mountain-fringed Bay of Kotor (pictured), which resembles a spectacular Norwegian fjord. In the fortified town of Kotor, you can wander along cobbled streets past terracotta-roofed houses, Venetian palaces, and ancient churches.
Cruises also dock at Bar further south; an area that’s perfect for off-the-beaten-track exploring. This is the gateway to the remote cliffside ruins of Stari Bar, which has an evocative 11th century fortress set among its olive groves.
Away from the coast, Montenegro has many untamed regions, which promise adventure. Bears and wolves roam the breathtaking Durmitor National Park and the Tara River Canyon – the deepest gorge in Europe – is great for rock climbing and hiking.
Be inspired by Montenegro
9. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth. With 30 national parks and protected jungle areas that house thousands of animal species, it’s a haven for animal lovers.
Near the cruise port of Limon, you can take a popular boat trip through the thick rainforest at The Tortuguero National Park, which is home to green turtles and 250 bird species. And, if you want to see the creatures that Costa Rica is famed for (such as howler monkeys, humpback whales, quetzal birds, scarlet macaws, and of course – sloths), the nearby Sloth sanctuary is worth a visit too.
As well as being a hub for wildlife, Costa Rica is also a great place to unwind, enjoy good food, and get to know the locals. The trendy capital of San José is fast becoming a favourite with foodies, and the country’s endless beaches that stretch along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts are the perfect place to kick back and relax.
Visit the wildlife wonderland of Costa Rica
10. Puerto Rico
Birthplace of the beloved pina colada, and home to tropical rainforests and a rich port capital, far-flung Puerto Rico is waiting to be discovered. It’s now a state of America, but it still has a Caribbean soul.
Colourful, lavishly-restored Spanish colonial houses line the cobbled streets of Puerto Rico’s sophisticated harbourside capital, San Juan, which is full of gastro restaurants and hot salsa bars. The San Juan Cruise Port is also ranked among the top 20 ports in the world because of its easy access to local culture, sightseeing, dining, and more.
Those with a taste for adventure might be tempted by a hike in the El Yunque National Rainforest, which is just an hour’s drive from the capital. Remember to listen out for the famous mating call of the island’s unique singing frog, the coqui.
The Camuy caves, one of the largest underground networks in the world, are also accessible from San Juan; and activities like horse riding and surfing are available to do on the west coast near Rincon, where pelicans dive for their catch.
Explore picture-perfect Puerto Rico
There are lots of unique benefits to cruising, including the chance to have off-the-beaten track adventures, see multiple destinations, and only unpack once. And with an ever-growing number of ports and constantly developing ships, cruises are quickly becoming a highly in-demand choice of holiday.
From Costa Rica and Panama, to Mexico and Montenegro, whatever’s on your travel bucket-list, chances are, there’ll be a cruise to take you there. And, as you can visit multiple destinations on a single journey, you might even be able to tick a few dream locations off the list.
For more inspiration about where to plan your next holiday, head over to the travel section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from European travel experiences to tips for travelling on a budget.
What appeals to you most about cruising? Which of these destinations are you most tempted by? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.