Everyone has a unique vacation style. Maybe your ideal trip consists of lounging on the beach, visiting a famous museum, learning to prepare a local dish or hiking on a glacier. Whether you're new to cruising or looking to get inspired for your 100th sailing, it's good to know that most favorite cruise destinations have at least one of several things in common: interesting history, culture and activities; tasty local cuisine; and gorgeous views. Although it's not a comprehensive list, below we break down some fan-favorite places to go on a cruise, no matter what your interests.
Alaska, the Last Frontier, tops many a cruiser's bucket list, offering vast, untamed mountain landscapes; towering, ice-blue glaciers; barren tundra; frigid alpine lakes; and air so fresh your lungs will smile. This region is also replete with wildlife that ranges from moose and bears to bald eagles and whales. Pre- and post-cruise land tours often venture into Canada's Yukon Territory, which feels a bit like something out of the Wild West. If you're interested in gold rush history, you'll find it there in spades.
Active travelers will love Alaska for its variety of physical pursuits, including ziplining, glacier hiking and alpine lake snorkeling. However, wildlife preserve bus tours and dog-sledding excursions mean animal lovers and less active cruisers won't be disappointed, either.
Photo: Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock.com
For a quick getaway to a beachy destination, many cruisers prefer the Bahamas. Its welcoming, laidback atmosphere is great for those who wish to relax; conversely, it's also bustling, with its straw market and plethora of water sports activities, so anyone who has trouble sitting still will also find it a pleasant place to escape. The Bahamas is where you'll find most of the cruise lines' dedicated private islands, which offer exclusive experiences to visitors.
This region is ideal for anyone who's short on time, as many short, inexpensive Bahamas sailings are offered. First-timers who are unsure if they'll like cruising will also find these sailings appealing, due to the minimal investment required.
Photo: Dmitrijs Mihejevs/Shutterstock.com
Nothing beats the Caribbean for quintessential fun in the sun. Whether you grab a fruity drink and plant your toes firmly in the sand or strap on your snorkel gear for a peek at the breathtaking underwater flora and fauna, be sure to pack your sunscreen. The islands in this area also comprise an impressive number of cultures, cuisines and local customs, about which friendly locals are eager to teach visitors.
Beach bums, sun-worshippers and bargain-hunters will adore this region for its myriad relaxing beaches and duty-free shopping opportunities, including everything from jewelry, alcohol and cigarettes to electronics.
Landmarks, like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Coliseum in Rome, are highlights on the Mediterranean's resume of stunning architectural masterpieces. History lies around every turn, and you can venture to this region many times without visiting the same ports twice. The Med is one of the best places to cruise if you're hoping to expose yourself to different cultures, languages and delicious meals that highlight fresh local fare.
Cruises to this section of Europe are ideal for foodies, history buffs and architecture aficionados.
Photo: Marius Pirvu/Shutterstock.com
Perhaps one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous locations in all of cruising is the Baltic region and Northern Europe. Countries in this part of Europe -- particularly those in Scandinavia -- are some of the most expensive to visit on land, and making your way between them can be an extremely pricey undertaking. Visiting by ship cuts down on costs and allows someone else to plan the otherwise complicated logistics for you. A special shout-out goes to Norwegian fjords itineraries, which feature trips to out-of-the-way inlets carved between mountains and often cross the Arctic Circle, as well. Fjords voyages incorporate local folklore, often involving trolls, and showcase some of the most spectacularly beautiful photo opportunities we've seen.
Photo enthusiasts, seafood-lovers, those who appreciate folklore and anyone who doesn't mind cold weather will do well on these types of voyages.
Photo: Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock.com
Panama Canal/Central America
The Panama Canal is nothing short of an engineering marvel. Recently widened to accommodate larger ships, the waterway utilizes a system of hydraulic locks to allow for direct passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, eliminating the need for vessels to take the more time-consuming route around the coast of South America. During these sailings, many cruise lines offer expert onboard commentary as the ship transits the canal -- a process that takes several hours. Some itineraries do full transits, while others offer only partials, but either type of voyage is a great way to see a bit of Central America.
Engineers, technology geeks, history-lovers and anyone who wants bragging rights will love a Panama Canal sailing. We'll also add early-risers to this list, as many transits begin before the sun rises (often before 5 a.m.).
Photo: Zigzag Mountain Art/Shutterstock.com
Warm and exotic, the islands of the South Pacific are a less-traveled way to savor some beach time and enjoy water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving without visiting the same sun-and-sand destinations over and over. Local Polynesian and Melanesian people are known for their hospitality, often teaching visitors their traditional songs and dances. Cruisers with an affinity for animals likely won't be disappointed, either, with native species including sea turtles, several types of bats and even blue starfish.
Offering a more upscale experience than traditional warm-weather locales, this region is perfect for wildlife and water sports enthusiasts, as well as anyone who appreciates fragrant flowers or has a desire to embrace new cultures.
Photo: Marcelo Alex/Shutterstock.com
Popular on Cruise Critic
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
We've all been there: almost getting your Romanian spouse forcibly debarked -- and expatriated; sprinting through the St. Thomas jungle to catch your departing ship; eating three of Guy Fieri's 1,000-calorie burgers in one sitting. Perhaps not, but as Bram Stoker wrote in Dracula, "We learn from failure, not from success!" What has failure taught Cruise Critic's editors and contributors when it comes to cruising? Do your homework on visa requirements, and triple check that you know how to get where you're embarking. Be careful what you eat and what you book. Read our seven mini-stories of supreme stupidity, have a laugh at our expense, and vow never to make the same mistakes.
Getting a deal on a cruise sailing that's not selling well requires some effort -- and usually a lot of flexibility. To take advantage of the opportunity empty cruise cabins present, you must understand how cruise lines go about filling them.
Thank you for your interest in Royal Seas Cruises on Ticketmaster. You will soon be receiving a call to book your free Bahamas cruise. Can't wait? This seemingly simple sales pitch began a yearlong journey of phone calls, complete with lightning-fast decisions, scheduling and hand-wringing, as I attempted to determine whether the free cruise offer was a scam, legit or something in between.