Editor's Note: Due to ongoing issues in the Crimean peninsula, stops in Yalta have been halted by most cruise lines.
Jutting out into the Black Sea, lined with beaches and at the same latitude as southern France, the Crimean coastline has been dubbed the Ukrainian Riviera. Yalta ranks as the largest and most popular resort town on this stretch of coast. Set in a deep bay and surrounded by green mountains and vineyards, it's certainly easy on the eye as you sail toward the shore.
Yalta has been shaped by many influences over the centuries. According to legend, it was founded in the 1st century by Greek sailors who lost their way in a storm. When they landed in the bay with its warm climate and beautiful surroundings, they decided to stay put and form a settlement. The old part of town contains wooden houses built under Turkish rule in the 18th century; Russia took control in the late 18th century. Yalta quickly became the Black Sea's most fashionable resort and a playground of the czars and aristocracy when Alexander II made nearby Livadia his summer home.
Its balmy climate and seaside location led to Yalta becoming a health resort for Soviet workers in the 20th century, with grand homes turned into sanatoria.
For cruise passengers making their way on land under their own steam, it's easy to see why many don't get any farther than the long stretch of promenade named after Lenin (and where his statue gazes out to sea). Situated next to the cruise terminal, the waterfront is well over a mile long and lined with interesting shops and places to eat and drink. The rest of the town is not as accessible as main districts in other Black Sea ports, such as Odessa. The roads are quite steep and often busy with tour buses and taxis leaving the port. However, Yalta is the gateway to a fascinating region. Beyond the town, winding roads offer spectacular views of the coast and lead to evocative Crimean War sites and palaces that played a pivotal role in modern history.