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Pictures of the 22 Most Beautiful Cruise Destinations

Gina Kramer

Last updated
Oct 24, 2023

Read time
7 min read

 (Photo: Drop of Light/Shutterstock)

One of the beauties of cruising is the opportunity it affords to visit the world's most scenic cities and islands, sometimes several of them in a single trip.

In the spirit of wanderlust, we've compiled a list of the 22 most beautiful cruise destinations offered on oceangoing ships' itineraries. See how many you've visited, and click the links for more info -- including which ships sail there and the best times to go.

Disclaimer: Viewing these photos might result in an unplanned cruise booking.

On This Page

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro (Photo: Oleg P/Shutterstock)

One of the best parts of cruising to Kotor is getting there. The Bay of Kotor, oft referred to as a fjord (although it's not), surrounds you with towering mountains all the way to the Old City. Once you set foot on its stone streets, you can gallivant past churches, squares and other buildings dating back to the Middle Ages -- or soak up the view from above, with a 90-minute hike up to the fortress.

Learn more about cruises to Kotor.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora (Photo: wilar/Shutterstock)

White-sand beaches, azure waters and thatched-roof overwater bungalows render this paradise perfect. It's no wonder American author James A. Michener described Bora Bora as the world's most beautiful island.

Learn more about cruises to Bora Bora.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Isle of Skye, Scotland (Photo: Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock)

Scotland's Hebrides Islands are proof that fairytales do exist. Perhaps none capture the islands' magical aura and rugged beauty more than Skye. The largest and northernmost of the archipelago's inner isles (closer to the mainland), Skye is full of rolling green hills, medieval castles and charming fishing villages such as Portree, shown.

Learn more about cruises to the British Isles.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo: mikolajn/Shutterstock)

Unlike many port cities, in which you need to trek at least a few miles outside the terminal to get a true taste of its beauty and culture, San Juan hits you as soon as you get off the ship. Colorful Colonial-style buildings, alfresco cafes and lively little plazas are steps away, making it easy to make the most of a few hours' visit.

Learn more about cruises to San Juan.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa (Photo: Photo Africa SA/Shutterstock)

Nature meets sophistication in South Africa's thriving capital. Mountains don't just serve as a backdrop; the city is built around them, while the peninsula on which it resides is surrounded by crashing Atlantic Ocean waves.

Learn more about cruises to Cape Town.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal (Photo: Vaclav Mach/Shutterstock)

With architectural styles that include Romanesque, Byzantine and Moorish, Lisbon is sure to captivate you. The city's eclectic neighborhoods each have something unique to offer, whether it's a picture-perfect pastry shop, castle, or sweeping views of the Tagus River.

Learn more about cruises to Lisbon.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia (Photo: Leelakajonkij/Shutterstock)

Sailing into Sydney, you'll immediately find yourself in the heart of the city. The iconic harbor, known as Circular Quay, is an exhilarating scene framed by the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The city is also home to an array of beaches (such as Bondi and Manly) and a stone's throw from national parks that offer a taste of Sydney's beautiful outdoors scene.

Learn more about cruises to Sydney.

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy (Photo: Mariia Golovianko/Shutterstock)

If any city feels like a dream come true, it's Venice. Shimmering canals dotted with gondolas and bridges meander through the city in lieu of roadways, while picturesque maze-like streets lead you to a cluster of major sites such as Saint Mark's Basilica, Piazza San Marco and the Doge's Palace. It's easy to get lost, but that's the best way to experience Venice.

Learn more about cruises to Venice.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey (Photo: OPIS Zagreb/Shutterstock)

The city where East meets West is full of majestic places to explore and play around with your camera lenses. Istanbul spellbinds visitors with famous landmarks such as its church-turned-mosque (Hagia Sofia) and Grand Bazaar -- and its culture-rich streets are just as alluring.

Learn more about cruises to Istanbul.

Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska (Photo: Rocky Grimes/Shutterstock)

Take a step back in time to the Gold Rush days. Skagway is an easily walkable, historic village with roots that have been preserved for more than 100 years. While the downtown area itself, which is backed by white-capped mountains, offers plenty of fun photo ops, many visitors take advantage of a train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad for unbeatable views.

Learn more about cruises to Skagway.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii (Photo: Pierre Leclerc/Shutterstock)

Take one look at Kauai's dramatic scenery, and you'll know why it has appeared as the backdrop to a number of movies like "Jurassic Park" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." The oldest Hawaiian island is a natural wonder all on its own, with lush rainforests, majestic mountains and abundant white-sand beaches. For the ultimate viewpoint, consider a helicopter ride over the Na Pali coast or hike through Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park.

Learn more about cruises to Kauai.

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece (Photo: Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock)

Praised more for its natural beauty than beaches, Santorini is full of whitewashed buildings, multi-hued cliffs and charming bougainvillea-lined streets. It also has some of the best views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Learn more about cruises to Santorini.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia (Photo: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock)

Although a small island, Bali is a feast for the eyes -- no matter where you are. Secluded beaches, holy temples (such as Pura Besakih, shown) and rice paddies carved into hillsides only trace the surface of what this Southeast Asian country has to offer. If you have time, head to the small, spiritual village of Ubud and follow the footsteps of "Eat, Pray, Love."

Learn more about cruises to Bali.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo: dmitry_islentev/Shutterstock)

Aerial views of Rio de Janeiro have been made famous by Christ the Redeemer, a massive statue of Jesus Christ that overlooks the city. The statue, as well as the city's mountainous surroundings and Miami Beach-style shoreline, can be enjoyed from below or above from a cable car or the base of the statue itself.

Learn more about cruises to Rio de Janeiro.

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France (Photo: Sergey Dzyuba/Shutterstock)

Villefranche-sur-Mer epitomizes the French Riviera's glamourous aura and striking landscape -- only it's significantly smaller than its neighbors Nice and Cannes, which makes it even easier to soak in the scenery. Sip Provencal wines while overlooking the harbor and get lost in Villefranche's colorful old town.  You'll see why this port city has been used as a filming location for various movies.

Learn more about cruises to Villefranche.

Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa, New Zealand (Photo: MJ Prototype/Shutterstock)

From afar, Akaroa could pass for an oil painting. Graced by rolling green hills and a shimmering bay, the Colonial village is like a little piece of France that's nestled in a valley surrounded by ancient volcanos.

Learn more about cruises to Akaroa.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain (Photo: Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock)

Barcelona is one of Europe's most vibrant and beautiful cities, partially because of its architecture. (Antoni Gaudi's work on buildings throughout the Barcelona makes for great photo ops.) Also be sure to check out the buzzing pedestrian boulevard Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter.

Learn more about cruises to Barcelona.

Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City, Canada (Photo: almanino/Shutterstock)

From blooming springs to colorful autumns, Quebec City is picture-perfect whichever season you choose to cruise (though fall is hard to beat). Swoon over the Old Town district, filled with French-style cafes, street performers and horse-drawn carriages. You might start to feel like you're in Europe.

Learn more about cruises to Quebec City.

Geiranger, Norway

Geiranger, Norway (Photo: Sergey_Bogomyako/Shutterstock)

Norwegian fjords are magical. When surrounded by lush snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and little villages, you'll want to keep your camera handy at all times. Whatever the season, you'll find beautiful photos ops everywhere.

Learn more about cruises to Geiranger.

Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta (Photo: liseykina/Shutterstock)

From stone forts along the harbor to historic buildings converted into new restaurants and boutique hotels, Valletta is a relic of the 16th century with modern flair -- and astounding beauty to boot. For more scenic views farther afield, take a boat from Valletta to the Blue Grotto, or bus to Marsaxlokk, where colorful fishing boats and markets abound.

Learn more about cruises to Valletta.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Photo: Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock)

The capital of the United Arab Emirates is a modern architectural marvel, dominating the Persian Gulf. Flashy skyscrapers and five-star resorts along the coast draw eyes from every direction, while more traditionally designed features like the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque offer a breathtaking insight into the country's Islamic roots.

Learn more about cruises to Abu Dhabi.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia (Photo: PlusONE/Shutterstock)

Coined "Helen of the West Indies" for its two massive volcanic peaks, this Caribbean island creates a sense of awe for visitors with its unspoiled rainforests and idyllic beaches. Hike to enjoy the birdseye views, or snag a day pass to one of the island's lush resorts, where you can soak up the surroundings from an infinity pool with your favorite cocktail in hand.

Learn more about cruises to St. Lucia.

Publish date January 08, 2020
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