10 perfect ports of call
With modern cruise ships equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and entertainment options, it’s sometimes hard to remember that one of the most exciting things about a cruise is discovering the cities that you dock at.
A wide variety of sailings stop at unique, exciting ports and we’ve rounded up a selection of the perfect ports to spend time in before weighing anchor for the next destination. Whilst destinations such as Cape Town, Istanbul and Venice are immediately iconic, we’ve selected a handful that are perhaps less well known but equally deserving of your attention.
Corsica’s west coast city stands at the head of a deep curling bay backed by jagged mountains. A spectacular gateway to the rest of the island, the city is a microcosm of what you’ll discover elsewhere, boasting a Mediterranean French attitude twinned with Italian flair, café culture and mountain escapes. For a flavour of daily life though visit the daily outdoor market close to the port.
The historic port of Alesund was rebuilt in an art nouveau style in the early part of last century after a devastating fire. The quintessential Scandinavian seaport is scattered across several North Sea islands and is backed by mountains. Climb to the top of one of these, Aksla, for panoramic views of the city, surrounding fjords and the nearby Sunnmøre Alps before strolling the cobblestone streets and seeking out a snack at one of the cafés by the waters edge.
Sydney may be Australia’s iconic port but often cruise ships are too tall to fit under the dramatic Harbour bridge so must dock downtown. Hobart, on Tasmania however, is a tranquil, out-of-the-way harbour. Bohemian and outdoor-orientated, it combines a wonderful food and wine scene, seaside cafés and the chance for something more active. Take to the surrounding hills to work up a thirst then relax by the waterside.
With the opening of Hong Kong’s smart new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Kowloon, the city has restated its importance as an Asian hub. Once you’re back on dry land wander the fishing villages close by and select fresh-off-the-boat food or explore the streets and shopping malls that lie nearby. Amble down the waterfront promenade at sunset to watch the skyscraper lights come on before dining on delicious Chinese dishes.
Rio de Janeiro
The scenic harbour, overlooked by Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), is just a short hop from fabled beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana. Ride the cable cars to the top of the mountain and gaze out over the coast from a viewpoint alongside the statue of Cristo Redentor then retreat to the bars and restaurants that back the beaches and watch the stylish and beautiful people at play.
Arriving in Santorini, ships drop anchor in an enormous caldera before ferrying passengers ashore to the tiny port of Skala Fira. The sheer volcanic walls of the crater dominate the port; on top of these stands the capital Fira, with pretty whitewashed houses contrasting with the dark lava all around. Take a cable car trip to the top and walk around the rim for breathtaking views of the surrounding archipelago.
The Russian town of Sochi combines a laidback, beach atmosphere with traditional Russian extravagance. Relatively unknown, the coastal resort is set to be catapulted into the limelight as it’s hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. Despite this, it’s actually surprisingly warm and people swim in the Black Sea well into the autumn. From the town climb into the surrounding Caucasus Mountains or search out Stalin’s dacha, which is a short journey from the downtown area.
This bijou Baltic port combines cobbled old streets with a contemporary scene of performing arts. Gothic spires stand over labyrinthine streets that are best explored on foot, whilst the city’s medieval walls offer an elevated walkway. Drop back down to street level and seek out one of the many open-air events that regularly take place here.
Discover that there’s more to Malta than meets the eye at this historic, deep-water port at the southernmost tip of the Maltese archipelago. The Knights of St John built the heavily fortified Grand Harbour in 1565 and the city retains much of its Baroque splendour, boasting treasures such as an ornate cathedral and a couple of exquisite Caravaggio paintings. Drift along the northeast coast, stopping to dive off Gozo and dine on local delicacies including rabbit and fresh seafood.
Dubrovnik may grab the headlines as far as Croatia is concerned but Zadar, on the northern Dalmatian coast, lies at the helm of the archipelago of islands here. Less visited and calmer than its big sister down the coast, Zadar has absorbed a variety of influences, visible in its architectural styles and public monuments. Jump ship and catch a ferry to the outlying islands where you can bask on a beach, dive or simply indulge in the delicious regional food and drink available.