Today’s cruise ships access some really unique places. These six exceptional destinations all offer an extraordinary cruising experience, while one House of Travel's top cruise gurus, Annie Mellor, offers some her insight.
1 | ALASKA ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Alaska is a beautiful adventure. Wild and untamed, get within metres of enormous blue glaciers and equally huge whales, all viewable from your window. The active-inclined can try anything from dog sledding to bear-viewing, as well as fishing and kayaking, and return for dinners of sublime Alaskan seafood. Several cruise lines access the USA state between the summer months of mid-May to mid-September, with most cruises departing almost exclusively from San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, making it easy to combine a few additional weeks exploring the US.
ANNIE'S INSIGHT: "A morning fishing expedition in Ketchikan is like being on your own Deadliest Catch TV show. Watch hefty king crabs brought aboard as you're entertained by fisherman’s ‘tall tales’ and local sea lore."
2 | SOUTH PACIFIC UTOPIA ON YOUR DOORSTEP
If you’ve never drank Kava with a Fijian village Chief, or snorkelled in waters brimming with exotic fish, tick off all the island must-dos with a South Pacific cruise. We are fortunate to have some of the world’s most lusted-after destinations in our backyard, and luckily for us finding paradise couldn’t be easier. Discover multiple desert islands with a Pacific Island cruise. Better yet, many island-bound cruises depart from Auckland, so you’ll remove all the hassle of international flights, airports and transfers. Simply head to the port and jump aboard.
ANNIE'S INSIGHT: "Enjoy a fabulous day out from Suva with a gentle longboat heading towards the highlands. From stunning waterfalls to rainforest, stop to view an authentic Fijian village and after lunch, take a crazy ride downstream on inflated rubber tubes."
3 | ASIA AN IMMENSE TERRAIN MADE EASY
Is there anywhere more diverse than Asia? Cruises offer just as much choice as this continent offers cultural variety. Over 30 cruise lines visit 200 ports across 17 Asian countries, with vessels ranging from mega ships to small river boats carrying just 36 passengers. You can choose to sail with a huge crowd or very few. Cruises are also easy for the first-time Asia visitor, removing all the intimidation of foreign terrain, your ship provides a safe and familiar haven to return to.
ANNIE'S INSIGHT: "One of my favourites experiences in Malaysia was a day trip from Penang to a local fishing village. The local restaurants serve chilli crab fresh off the boat. While there, try the deep fried banana, Pisang Goreng, from a street stall."
4 | AUSTRALIA FUSS-FREE EXPLORATION
Because Australia is so vast, it might feel daunting to tackle it by road, or too fussy to navigate by flights. The simple answer is to cruise. Australia encapsulates so many diverse regions all in the one country, so whether you want fine dining in South Australia, or to knock off every key city in one fell swoop, cruising’s your answer. Some ships offer itineraries visiting unheard-of ports, whereas others forge a route through the populous Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. By cruising, you can effortlessly cover a lot of “ground."
ANNIE'S INSIGHT: "The Great Barrier Reef was brought to life by the Marine Biologist on-board our ship, but the Hinchinbrook Passage captivated me the most. Surrounded by rainforest, we felt like explorers in this remote protected channel, named Bolan Milbirmi by the Aborigines."
5 | NEW ZEALAND WE LIVE IN PARADISE
You know what they say, you never explore what’s outside your front door. And yet when the doorstep’s teeming with impressive scenery, dramatic vistas and wildlife, it’s worth making the effort. New Zealand really is home to the ABC of must-see beauty. From lofty mountains to waterfalls, craggy coastline and soaring snow-capped peaks, its residents include penguins, fur seals, fleeting orcas and dolphins. There are multiple reasons why tourists flock in their droves to experience Aotearoa. We should follow suit, and for us, it’s as easy as driving to port and walking across a gangway.
ANNIE'S INSIGHT: "Cruising in our own Hauraki Gulf brought a pleasant surprise. A pod of dolphins played around the bow and a little later three orcas skimmed along the rocks, then a blue penguin was sunning itself on a gentle swell. New Zealand truly is nature's trump card!"
6 | EUROPE RICH IN DESTINATIONS
The Mediterranean has always attracted cruise-goers. Sun-soaked and defined by the Mediterranean diet, days are spent exploring achingly beautiful coastal towns and picking at antipasto. The Baltics have also become popular, notably for history and preserved medieval townships. Distances between ports are short so multiple explorations can be packed into a very small amount of time. Better yet, the summer’s so-called 'white nights' mean the evenings stay light well into the night. Perfect for longer sightseeing, as well as glorious alfresco dining - glasses clinking into the wee hours.
ANNIE'S INSIGHT: "When cruising The Mediterranean take a day out from sightseeing and travel to Mijas and Ronda. These whitewashed villages near Malaga (Spain) are well worth a visit for their lively central plazas and tapas."