So many ports, so little time. It’s a big ol’ world, and cruise lines are constantly finding new places to explore. But what are the little treasures out there that you may not have considered visiting before? During the recent CruiseOne/Cruises Inc. conference onboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, you couldn’t lob a wiffle ball without hitting a cruise agent, so I took the opportunity to ask a few where they send their clients who want to go somewhere special.
Yes, some old reliables popped up in the discussions, but that’s only because familiarity doesn’t always mean “boring.” It can also mean “Don’t just go once.”
Here are seven spots you may want to consider visiting — or return to:
Samana, Dominican Republic: Agent Alan Rosenbaum, from Alpharetta, Georgia, has found a new love in the Caribbean. “It still is relatively undeveloped from a tourist point of view. That is, there isn’t a Diamonds International on every corner,” he says. “But what impressed me most, other than the lack of tourist traps, was how beautiful the area is. If there was no building on a spot, that spot was green. To date it is the most beautiful and laidback place I’ve visited in the region.”
Bermuda: This speck in the Atlantic with pink-sand beaches and a British accent isn’t exactly off the beaten path, but there’s something about it that begs repeat visits. “I’ve been there 12 times and there’s always something new,” said Mara Hargarther, an agent from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Jost Van Dyke: Few cruise lines (Windstar and SeaDream Yacht Club among them) visit this eastern Caribbean cubbyhole in the British Virgin Islands, but Hargarther says it’s worth the effort — mainly because it’s “so remote.” Her must-see pick: The island’s Soggy Dollar Bar, so named because you can only get there by boat, and your money will get wet if you leave it in your pocket when you wade to shore.
Roatan, Honduras: It’s a little rough around the edges to be sure, but that’s just what Ohio agent Becky Piper loves about the place. “People don’t realize how wonderful this island is,” she said, adding, “I like that it’s an under-developed port.” Translation: You get a real feel for the culture and the people.
Messina, Sicily: Piper isn’t such a booster of the city itself, but . . . well, just wait to you venture out. In particular, she urges anyone who’ll listen to head to Taormina, an ancient cliff-top town packed with bars and restaurants on the island’s east coast. Gushes Piper: “Oh my gosh, I want to live there.”
Homer, Alaska: Fewer ships means more charm, insists agent Debby Hughes of Big Bear City, California — hence the appeal of this nook southwest of Anchorage. “Not a lot of ships go there,” she notes, “so there’s still a small-town feel.” (Interested? Holland America is among the lines that drop anchor there.)
Anywhere on a European river: No doubt about it, river cruising is on an upswing, and almost everyone I talked to said you just must visit these inland treasures scattered about the Continent. But if you think journeys aboard the compact, more leisurely vessels are best for mature travelers, it’s time to adjust that point of view. Hughes said she took her 17-year-old daughter, a self-described Francophile, on a French river jaunt and “she just adored it.” Agent Kathy Freer of Cocoa Village, Florida, is a fan as well: “Whatever you do, don’t give up on Europe.”
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