Top Ten Ports to Cruise Into
Our consultant, Meriel Lowe, compiles her Top Ten Ports to cruise into - do you agree? Can you suggest any others?
Leaving the Pacific, you sail westwards into Sydney's vast harbour passing through The Heads. Gradually the city looms ahead as the ship avoids zigzagging watercraft, sailing flotillas, Manly ferries and countless pleasure craft, and cruises along the picturesque indented shoreline with bays fringed by palatial waterside residences, marinas, parks and beaches showing Sydney's vibrant life at its best. As Central Sydney's skyscrapers and Tower get closer, be sure to have your cameras at the ready for two of Australia's most famous icons, the stunning sail-like Opera House and the 'coat-hanger' Harbour Bridge.
New York, USA
Whilst the famous New York skyscraper skyline slowly appears in the haze on the horizon, the first thrill is sailing under the magnificent Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. From afar you feel the energy of the city that never sleeps. As you sail up the Hudson river, admire Lower Manhattan's stunning cityscape, dominated by the new One World Trade Center. To the portside see the Statue of Liberty, welcoming you as she did for generations of hopeful immigrants before, followed by Ellis Island, the processing centre for those hopefuls. Marvel at the Big Apple's endless highrise buildings above which the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings shoot up even higher into the sky.
After passing through the narrow entrance from the Adriatic to the Venice Lagoon, sail smoothly along the San Marco Canal, mesmerised at the enticing architecture of this most unique of cities; old palazzi, majestic churches, grand houses the facades of which crumble almost romantically, and exquisite bridges galore. To port, pass tiny San Giorgio island with its beautiful San Giorgio Maggiore church and belltower, whilst to starboard the ornate Doges Palace approaches, preceded by the Bridge of Sighs linking it to its neighbouring former prison. Next are two marble columns marking the seaward entrance to St Mark's Square; glimpse the domes of St. Mark's Basilica as the ship passes by. The opulent buildings and architecture in hues of pink and ochre continue as you slip further along the Giudecca Canal towards your berth, passing the imposing Church of Santa Maria Della Salute to starboard. There is a constant stream of vaporetti water buses, speeding Riva water taxis and gliding gondolas on Venice's 'roads'. If you are on a very large ship, you will have an enhanced bird's eye view as your ship is higher than Venice's rooftops!
Before arriving in Hong Kong's Victoria harbour to dock at the famous Ocean Terminal, your ship will navigate through innumerable offshore islands. Hong Kong harbour has a wonderful natural setting but the urban development is mind-blowing with neon-lit high rise skyscrapers crawling up the surrounding mountains and with Hong Kong's highest point, Victoria Peak, peeping over the top. This busy harbour is constantly buzzing with ferries, junks, endless watercraft and is the perfect blend of Asia old and new.
The Stockholm archipelago comprises around 30,000 islands, rocks and skerries and the cruise from the sea up to Sweden's magical capital encompasses a 40 mile long journey passing idyllic islands covered by fir-trees and adorned with summer cottages, boathouses, little beaches, small marinas, with private pleasure craft and old-fashioned small wooden ferries running back and forth between them. At times the route feels like a Formula One chicane as your captain steers the ship between all the tiny islands before reaching the city of Stockholm, almost fairy-tale like with its soaring spires and medieval buildings lining the Old Town's medieval waterfront.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Possessing one of the most spectacular settings in the world, the panorama as you sail into Guanabara Bay is dominated by soaring Corcovado Mountain with Christ the Redeemer's outstretched arms welcoming you into this glorious port. As you catch sight of the long sandy beaches of Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema, the melodies of the songs bearing these names echo in your head. And then as you cruise past the huge granite peaks of famous Sugar Loaf Mountain, be captivated at its size and watch the cable cars swinging their way towards the summit nearly 400m high.
Having left the Dardanelles behind you, your ship approaches Istanbul's Golden Horn, topped with the minarets of the Haghia Sophia and Blue Mosques and the domes of the Topkapi Palace, former home of the Ottoman Sultans. The world's only city situated on two continents boasts Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine heritage. Continuing eastwards towards the Black Sea you pass exquisite landmarks such as the Dolmabahce Palace and Ciragan Palace Hotel and sail under the magnificent suspension bridges striding the Bosphorus and linking Europe and Asia, East and West.
As you steer towards Vancouver port the picturesque snow-capped (depending on the time of year) North Shore mountains dominate your vista, whilst nearing you to starboard is densely-forested Stanley Park, covered in pine trees and with its long seawall frequented by joggers, walkers and the occasional seal basking on its rocks. Sail under Lions Gate Bridge and cosmopolitan Vancouver's high-rise cityscape comes into view along with the white sails of Canada Place where you will dock for your stay. Often you'll also witness floatplanes taking off or landing in this tranquil stretch of water.
The pilot boards your ship just off Estoril at the mouth of the wide Tagus estuary and the start of your approach to Portugal's pastel-coloured historic capital. You sail past the 16th century Belem Tower on the port side, built for defence but subsequently used as a lighthouse, followed shortly by the waterfront Monument to the Discoverers, dedicated to the Portuguese Explorers who discovered the New World. Your ship then glides under the 25th of April Suspension Bridge – be sure to look up as its floor is made of a steel mesh and thus from below you can watch the vehicles driving over it directly above you. Over to your right, observing your arrival from the clifftop is Christ the King, his outstretched arms embracing the city. Lisbon's busy heart draws nearer, and you spy St George's Castle perched atop one of its seven hills, the spires of Se Cathedral, pass the Praca do Comercio square and tie up a few minutes’ walk from the city.
For ship lovers, the port of Miami is of immense excitement. Apart from the fascinating arrival of sailing into Biscayne Bay through Government Cut with jaw-dropping South Beach condo blocks on the starboard side and exclusive and expensive Fisher Island to the portside, as you then continue up the Main Channel the low level Star, Palm and Hibiscus islands with their stupendous celebrity and billionaires mansions become visible. Downtown Miami's skyscrapers dominate the view ahead as you continue up the channel to take your berth on Dodge Island, where, particularly if it's a weekend, you could have up to 8 mega ships to feast your eyes on.
If you have any favourite ports to cruise into - or indeed out of, then let us know below!