This is Hong Kong – have you rested? City-state, deep-water harbor, darling of empires, engine of global finance, shopper's paradise, cinematic trend-setter, world's most vertical city. Whew. Cruise to Hong Kong and join the parade into one of the city's countless markets. Watch the hardworking world of Aberdeen's junks and sampans. Rise above it all on the tram ride to the top of Victoria Peak. Hong Kong is where ancient herbal remedies mix with designer fashions, Buddhist monks mingle with businessmen, and Chinese traditions meet modern international capitalism.
The southern finial of the South American continent is as fractured as frost crystals, but the inlets, bays, and passages around the Strait of Magellan are home to a million wonders. Punta Arenas is the threshold to them all. From here, cruise visitors can venture to the high scarps of Torres del Paine National Park, the penguin colony at Seno Otway, or the Martian volcanic topography of Pali Aike National Park. Punta Arenas worth lingering in, as well. Visit the tree-lined Plaza de Armas square or walk 10 minutes farther to the top of La Cruz Hill. The city of 150,000 people lies at your feet. 850 miles farther south Antarctica begins.
Beach after beach bejewels Phuket's fractal coastline. And what isn't beach is mainly mountainous jungle, town, or gothic cliff face. The Thai island sits on the Andaman side of the Malay Peninsula. To swim in its cerulean waters is to risk reordering your life's priorities, with equanimity bumped to the top of your to-do list. Cruise visitors can take in the beaches along western Phuket, visit Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island; plug into the energy of Patong town; or the feel calm of Phra Taew National Park. Prom Thep Cape, at the southern tip of the island, is the place to watch the sun drop into the Andaman Sea.
We craft monuments to our deities from materials close at hand. On Easter Island the monuments were moai, giant sculptures of ancestors, and the material was almost always tuff, solidified volcanic ash. Craftsmen worked the quarry at Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater at the center of the island and teams of islanders would transport the sculptures to locations all around the island using a method that is still a mystery. After centuries of neglect, the moai are today protected in Rapa Nui National Park, which is honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cruise visitors can climb up to the craters at Rano Raraku or Rano Kau or drive along the coast. You'll see moai everywhere.
Barcelona effuses the ancient, the modernist, and the Gaudi. Legend has it the city was founded by Hercules 400 years before the founding of Rome. Whatever the truth, the city today is a global capital of commerce, fashion, culture, and sunshine (the city gets about 300 days of it a year). Cruise visitors should start with a walk down Las Ramblas, the glorious tree-shaded thoroughfare at the heart of the city. Claim a patch of sand on one of the city beaches. But, most of all, see what visionary architect Antoni Gaudi wrought. Seven of his creations have been honored as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including La Sagrada Familia, the Park Guell, and Casa Mila.
The ancient Egyptians built a mighty city along the Upper Nile dedicated to the god Amon-Ra. Today, Luxor is an archaeological wunderkammer. The Karnak and Luxor temple complexes are copses of stone columns, monuments, and obelisks. The Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are sprawling tomb complexes sculpted from the land on the west bank of the Nile. The Ramsesseum is a the mortuary temple of Ramses the Great. There is on the sands of the complex a great granite head, the likeness of Ramses. If it triggers a memory for cruise visitors, it may be because the shattered visage inspired some of the great lines of English poetry in Percy Shelley's sonnet "Ozymandias."
The largest varanus komodoensis measured more than 10 feet long and weighed 366 pounds. Komodo dragons, as they're popularly known, hunt in packs, produce a toxin that sends their prey into shock, and are generally terrifying. Found only on Komodo Island, one of more than 17,000 Indonesian islands, they are protected in Komodo National Park. UNESCO has declared the park a World Heritage site for its beauty and the evolutionary singularity of its resident lizards. The island as a whole is characterized by dry savannah, rugged hills, blue waters, and beaches composed of white sand, with one pink exception.
Start with either of two Mumbais. First is the ancient religious India you see at Elephanta Island. Lying about 6 miles south of Mumbai, the hilly island contains a network of caves that Hindu and Buddhist artisans have sculpted over the last 1,500 years into monuments to their faiths. Second is the British colonial India manifest in the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The railway station is the busiest in India and its architecture a mixture of high Victorian gothic and Indian palace. Both the caves and the railway are UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the city itself is merely the pulsing economic and cultural dynamo of the world's most populous country. Cruise visitors can start anywhere – perhaps with a delicious bhelpuri and a walk along Marine Drive – then jump in.
The lone cowboy rides across the open prairie as he surveys the fertile land before him. Only this storyline isn’t in West Texas. Rather, the cowboy, or gaucho as he is known, is in central Argentina, and the fertile lowlands before him are known as the pampas. A cruise to Buenos Aires takes you to one of the cultural and commercial capitals of South America. Yet what distinguishes this 21st-century metropolis from other cities of the same ilk is its proximity to the country and, in turn, country living.
The lemon-colored Convento de San Francisco was built over a century starting in 1673. The Plaza Mayor was laid out under the direction of conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The Cathedral of Lima was built starting in 1535 and while it seems construction has never quite stopped, the church retains its colonial facade. These structures and more form the historic center of Lima, which UNESCO has collectively designated as a World Heritage Site. The grand old buildings attest to Lima's longtime role as one of the queen cities of the Spanish empire. Today's cruise visitors will find an economic power, a financial center, and, thanks to Spanish, Andean, and Asian influences, one of the gastronomic capitals of the Americas.
The port of Valparaiso is a steep amphitheater so remarkable for its brightly colored residences and church steeples that UNESCO has declared its historic quarter a World Heritage site. Ride one of the city's many funiculars to take in the views town and sea. About two hours inland, the steeps of the Andes rise up behind Santiago, the country's capital and economic center. A good first stop for cruise visitors is the ornately architectured Santa Lucia hill. Get your bearings, then explore city landmarks like the Plaza de Armas, La Chascona (one of Pablo Neruda's homes), or one of the paseos in the Centro. At the end of the day, toast the city with a glass of Carménère, cherry, deep-red, and smoky.
It's a port city, but the ocean is almost a thousand miles away. One of the world's great boomtowns, Manaus rose to glory as the rubber trade exploded in the late 19th century, minting fortunes and redefining extravagance for its nouveau riche. All the better for today's visitors, as the boom-time landmarks still enchant. The Teatro Amazonas is a copy of the Grand Opera de Paris, the Mercado Municipal echoes Les Halles, and the Palacio Rio Negro evokes old Portugal. Of course, the endless jungle stretches all around. From Manaus, cruise visitors can venture even deeper into the heart of the Amazon, on the lookout for jungle birds, manatees, and giant alligators.
Rio de Janeiro resists all adjectives. Even if you get that absolute vista from the top of Corcovado Mountain, you'll still thirst for more – for the taste of an acai berry drink, the pulse of samba, and the feel of the Atlantic on your toes. Drink deeply, you have such a journey before you. A cruise to Rio de Janeiro brings you the stunning setting and joyous lust for life make Rio a cidade maravilhosa, "marvelous city." Ipanema, Copacabana, samba - the words alone conjure Brazilian paradise.
As much a metaphor for endurance and rebirth as a location on a map, Devil's Island was once an infamous French penal colony. Today, it helps facilitate French space launches and welcomes thousands of cruise visitors every year. What's called "Devil's Island" is actually a group of three volcanic islands just off the coast of French Guiana collectively known as the Salvation Islands. The islands are beautiful, but to former prisoners they were the "Green Hell." Come ashore and tour the ghostly ruins.
Lisbon was for many years Europe's main portal of debarkation for the rest of the planet. Ships captained by Portuguese explorers like Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan skittered across the globe, hauling treasure home and making Lisbon a global capital. So it's appropriate to arrive by ship. Cruise to Lisbon, situated on a wide bay where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic, and the white facades of its ancient neighborhoods lead uphill to the iconic Castelo de São Jorge. Other landmarks include the World Heritage Sites of Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, both built in Lisbon's native Manueline architectural style.
Tokyo will overwhelm a cruise visitor unless … never mind. It's going to overwhelm you no matter what, so you best just go with the flow. Tokyo is a sensation: Walk out of Shinjuku Station some evening and into a neon canyon peopled with shoppers, professionals, and gawkers. Tokyo is a cadence: The Yamanote Rail Line threads through the city and trains arrive every few minutes. Systole, diastole, systole, diastole. Tokyo is a rhythm: Shop the ritzy Ginza. See the temples at Asakusa; the gardens of the Imperial Palace; or the Meiji Shrine. Duck into a funky boutique along Takeshita-dori or applaud the angel-headed hipsters at Yoyogi Park. Tokyo is a state of mind.
Nagasaki was for centuries Japan's chief point of contact with the rest of the world. It was founded by the Portuguese. It became a national center of European scholarship. It was a center of Japan's heavy industry. Trade with China flowed from its wharves. It is the setting for "Madame Butterfly." Cruise visitors come to see the ghost town of Battleship Island, the European architecture of Glover Garden, or the Former Dutch Factory, an island for containing foreigners. They come to shop at Youme Saito or Nishi-Hamanomachi. They come to slurp a bowl of champon. They come to visit Nagasaki Peace Park and remember August 9, 1945.
Beijing is ancient, older almost than imagining. The first human habitations date back some 700 millennia, to the very dawn of the human species. 24 emperors called it home. Today, it is the center of culture, education and politics in China. It is a leading city of the world. And it is a hive of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are places in and around the city so potent they've become touch points of our global psyche: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and since the 2008 Olympic Games, the National Stadium (aka the "Bird's Nest"). Everywhere cruise visitors go they touch history.
It's the capital of the world. It's the biggest city. It's the busiest port. It's a center of technology and transport, commerce and capital, fashion and finance. Shanghai sits astride the Huangpu River, daring you to try and take it all in. The Yuyuan Gardens are an island of serenity in the Old City. The old buildings and boutiques of the Bund evoke the Shanghai of the 1920s. And the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center are the architectural giants of the Pudong District. Best for cruise visitors to pick a destination, any destination and go. Or, just visit a tea house and let the day carry you where it will.
It's an island city-state, a World War II battleground, a global economic superstar, and a crossroads of the world. Cruise to Singapore and in the space of a few hours you can relax in a Chinese teahouse, purchase a colorful sari in Little India and visit the gold-domed Sultan Mosque.
The small village of Benoa is located on the southeastern coast of Bali, and while the town has developed over the past 20 years into a popular cruise destination for visitors, it retains its charming identity as a local fishing village. The calm waters and the beautiful white- sand beaches have made Benoa one of Bali’s most appealing water-sport destinations.
In the South Pacific, about halfway between Fiji and Australia, you'll find a part of France. New Caledonia is a cluster of islands in the Coral Sea and is blessed with a massive coral reef. Noumea, the country's capital, covers a peninsula on the largest island, the cigar-shaped Grand Terre. Thanks to the happenstance of history and geography, Noumea is a mix of France and tropical beaches. Cruise visitors can snorkel at Baie des Citrons, walk up to Ouen Toro Park for a view of the city, or stop at the Waterfront Market for a pain au chocolat.
Sydney is both timeless and protean. You'll meet with 50,000 years of Aboriginal history, and changes brought by the delivery of British convicts and the Rum Corps settlers. See a botanical wunderkammer eons in the making and feel the electric now-ness of one of the world's great cities. A cruise to Sydney will bring you opera, here, as well as opals and koalas. The strands of culture and nature and art all braid together to form Sydney's brilliant, rugged transcendence.
The ghosts of Waikiki ride surfboards. Honolulu's signature beach was long a retreat for longboarding royals, but today, the gentle waves carry many a happy, uncoordinated visitor, learning to surf. Waikiki tells one story of the Hawaiian capital. The dormant volcano of Diamond Head tells another. Pearl Harbor another. The city is a tapestry of commerce, natural beauty, and war history. Pearl Harbor made it an important way station for trans-Pacific trade, an ideal spot for a U.S. naval base, and of course, the military target that ignited American entry into World War II. Cruise travelers can see one part of that history at the USS Arizona Memorial and another at the Punchbowl military cemetery.
The Moorish palace started as a fort. One of the largest Roman Catholic Cathedrals in the world used to be a mosque. The Renaissance archive contains the annals of the Spanish in the New World. All three – the Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral, and the Archivo de Indias – are UNESCO World Heritage sites. All three were built in the Mudejar style, a Muslim aesthetic that developed under Christian rule. Cruise guests can see what alchemy can happen when cultures intertwine. Walk the narrow lanes of the Jewish Quarter, the expanse of the Plaza de Espana, or the halls of the Museo de Bellas Artes. Then stop for tapas.
Malta's tiny size belies its strategic importance over the centuries. Claimants to the Maltese archipelago included nearly everyone who was anyone in Mediterranean history: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, British, and more. Even Odysseus stopped here – detained seven years by the nymph Calypso. The town of Victoria crowns the center of Malta's island of Gozo. It is known locally as "Rabat," ("suburb outside the fortress walls"). The fortress in this case was founded during around 1500 BC and its walls present a 360-degree view of the island. Cruise visitors can explore the exquisite 17th century baroque cathedral, stroll the gardens of Villa Rundle, and shop for fine weaving, lace and silver filigree.
Ephesus is a beautiful ghost. In the first century B.C., the city was one of the largest cities in the world. It's Great Theater sat 24,000 people. Its Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Library of Celsus was perhaps the finest in creation. Today, the Great Theater is a ruin, the temple is gone, and the library is a shell, open to the sky. Still, your cruise excursion will reveal glory in the old stones. Ephesus has one of the largest collections of ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Prime among them is the library, whose two-story façade still stands, and the house said to be the last residence of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Cross the Galata Bridge to the old city, past the Süleymaniye Mosque, whose 174-foot dome was once the highest in the Ottoman Empire. Pass the ancient city walls, built by Constantine, and beneath the epic Roman aqueduct. You've come for spice; for the scent of curry, saffron, and myrrh; for a taste of something ancient. A cruise to Istanbul (nee Constantinople nee Byzantium) takes you to the world's only two-continent metropolis, thick with nearly 10 millennia of history.
There's no escaping the Parthenon. The temple to Athena looms over Athens from its perch atop the Acropolis, and it looms across the Western imagination as an icon of art and civilization. You may as well give in and start your cruise visit there. And why not? Completed in 438 B.C., the temple still astounds as the flowering of Greek art and architecture. When you come down off the hill, be sure to visit the Ancient Agora, Syntagma Square, the National Archaeological Museum, and the city's infinite impromptu byways. As you sample some souvlaki or a frappe, take a glance back up the hill from time to time and give the goddess her due.
Your eyes deceive you as you get closer. An entire stone city concocted from spires and cupolas seems to float on water. The optics seem off, but by now you're too far charmed to turn back. Cruise to Venice start easily. Have a bicerin, a hot mix of espresso, drinking chocolate and whole milk. Then step out into the palatial arcades and outdoor cafes of St. Mark's Square. Ready? Now you can really get going. Venice has 117 islands and a million stories of empire, longing, and glory.
Sep - Apr