Mention where you’re going on your next Caribbean cruise to a group of travelers and their responses are bound to be as diverse as the cruise ports themselves. Whether Caribbean, Alaska, Europe or Pacific, it may seem that cruise ships revisit the same itineraries year after year. And it’s true, many do!
A closer look at a worn-out itinerary often reveals a new port sandwiched in-between the usual suspects. An over-visited destination suddenly offers new and exciting experiences. Here are ten such cruise ports to visit, that upon closer inspection, offer much to both seasoned and newbie cruisers.
Alaska’s oldest city dates back 10,000 years, settled by the Tlingit. In 1804, Russia laid claim to what they named Russian America, under the rule of Tzar Paul I. Russian aristocrats flocked to Sitka eventually giving it the nickname, Paris of the Pacific. Russian and Tlinglit cultures exist side by side in this unique island city.
If hiking is your preference, Sikta’s National Historical Park extends from sea to mountains, sporting a trail dotted with totem poles. In town, visitors can experience Tlingit folkloric performances, Alaskan art and native artifacts. A walk through town should include a visit to the Russian Bishop’s House, built 1842.
Yes, Nassau. Tell some friends that your cruise includes a day in Nassau, Bahamas, and you’re likely to cause a few eyeballs to roll.That’s a good indication they never ventured far from the cruise port, If you look closely, you’ll find that Nassau offers a trove of pirate history and crumbling forts, a craft brewery and distilleries, plus a colonial mansion-turned 4-star hotel and restaurant. Instead of a repeat visit to the straw market and a day at the beach, try a rum and food tour, lunch at the Graycliff Hotel or sign up for the Graycliff Chocolatier tour. Nassau has much to offer, when you look beyond the port.
A seemingly sleepy little island in the Turks and Caicos, Grand Turk offers a private beach getaway for several major cruise lines. You can fritter the day away at the sprawling Grand Turk Cruise Center and their soft-sand private beach. Or look for the exhibit that celebrates astronaut John Glenn’s return from orbit in 1962. Grand Turk was the location where Glenn and his tiny capsule, Friendship 7, were brought after touchdown in the ocean. Sign up for a private tour of the Turks and Caicos National Museum or Botanical Gardens. Take a walk from the Cruise Center for an extended lunch at popular Jack’s Shack. What might seem like another ho-hum day in port, Grand Turk won’t disappoint.
This is the port to reach Florence and Pisa, Italy. If you’re not up for an hour motor coach ride, tired of cruise crowds or you’ve been to Florence a few times, Livorno is perfect for a day ashore. Truly an underrated port and the second largest city in Tuscany, it’s known for some of the best seafood on the coast. After lunch, stroll the Art Deco designed Terrazza Mascagni promenade for a beautiful view of the sea. There’s the old Medici district with Venice-style canals and bridges, built in the 1600s. A visit to the Natural History Museum and Aquarium lends insight into life in Tuscany hundreds of years ago.
Whether you choose a seven-night Hawai’ian Islands cruise or a longer cruise from California or Canada, one day in Honolulu is hardly enough to take in all the history, culture and breathtaking scenery this bustling metropolis. Be on ship’s deck at sunrise for the first glimpse of Diamond Head Crater on the misty horizon. A visit to Pearl Harbor should be on everyone’s list as well as a 1960’s throwback Luau Dinner Show. From grand Iolani Palace (the only royal palace in the USA), to the Hawai’ian Cultural Center and a walk on famous Waikiki Beach, Honolulu is one of those underrated iconic cruise ports that you’ll always remember.
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath… stop for a meal and a glass of wine along the way.