On an ocean cruise, every port is an invitation to adventure – a whirlwind romance with a new destination that just might turn out to be your favorite place on earth. But not all stops are created equal. Some cruise ports can make an amazing first impression, capturing mental snapshots that linger in the memory.
We looked at some of the most exotic cruise stops worldwide to discover just what makes their first impressions last.
Centuries of Caribbean, European and South American culture on a single sun-soaked island of just 171 square miles? That's Curaçao. This island's 140,000 residents represent more than 60 nationalities, giving this sun-kissed island a uniquely cosmopolitan flavor.
The cartoonishly cute capital, Willemstad, oozes the architectural influence of Dutch settlers who first arrived in 1634. The seafront buildings look like they were lifted straight out of Amsterdam then splashed in vibrant Caribbean colors. The city's 19th century neighborhoods show a strong influence from Venezuela, just 40 miles to the south. This is the place to come for South American sreet-side snacks like the hearty Gordita-like arepas.
With its natural deep-water harbor marked by an ingeniously hinged pontoon bridge, Willemstad draws about 200 cruise stops each year. And the island's fantasy white sand beaches and surrounding turquoise sea attract honeymooners and divers alike.
Princess Cruises offers stops at Curaçao aboard seven- and 14-day Caribbean cruises departing from
Dubai's reputation as a land of contrasts in nowhere more evident than in the must-visit Jumeirah district. This affluent area includes the iconic and futuristic offshore Burj Al Arab, sometimes billed as "the world's only seven-star hotel," and the marvelously ornate Jumeirah Mosque, built in the medieval Fatimid tradition and one of the few such places of worship open to non-Muslims for tours.
But the country's "Las Vegas on steroids" image, marked by high-end malls filled with designer-clad Emiratis and a headline-making indoor ski resort, is just one of Dubai's many fascinating faces.
Surreal rippling sand dunes are within easy reach via the Dune Dinner Safari excursion, which offers an opportunity to explore the desert in air-conditioned 4x4s before serving up a lavish Arabian-style spread of fresh meats and salads.
Though the word “cruise” traditionally evokes images of balmy palm-fringed beaches and sweltering tropical ports, contemporary cruise lines also visit gloriously un-sunny destinations like Antarctica and Siberia.
Carnival's cruises weigh anchor here during the summer months, when the city's average high temperatures are in the very pleasant low 70s and, thanks to its extreme northern latitude, days are freakishly long, allowing for maximum sightseeing.
If you yearn for that “Cast Away” sensation without actually being, well, cast away, the closest you’ll safely come might be a Mystery Island stop on one of
An uninhabited gem that’s part of the South Pacific island nation of
Vanuatu's charming capital, Port Vila, is the launch point for a number of exotic excursions offered by the cruise line. And itineraries also include three stops in French-flavored New Caledonia (including Nouméa, known as the "Paris of the Pacific") and two in the postcard-perfect paradise of Fiji.
As the world’s only major transcontinental city, Istanbul offers visitors the rare opportunity to visit both Europe and Asia in a single stop.
Founded six centuries before Christ (as Byzantium), this sprawling municipality of 14 million people is the beating heart of
Celebrity's Black Sea and Greek Isles sailings also cruise the Bosphorus — the dramatic strait separating Europe and Asia -- and stop in Ukraine, Bulgaria and Greece.