Top 5 Destinations Best Seen By Cruise Ship
Destinations Best Seen By Cruise Ship
Cruise versus Land Vacation?
Over the years, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the debate of “cruise vs. land-based vacation”. You know the refrain, it goes something like this: “I don’t know about taking a cruise, I think I would just miss out on seeing as much as I could if I just flew to… (insert destination here), and rented a car, etc.”
Well, after travelling around the world, visiting all seven continents and experiencing much of it by both land and sea, I have developed a very definite opinion on this topic: For some destinations land is best, but for many of the world’s most spectacular hidden jewels, only a cruise truly allows you to experience all of the richness that is there! In fact, as 70% of the entire world is covered by water, to only experience it by land would be to limit you to seeing only the remaining 30%! And remember, much of that large body of water is speckled with the world’s most beautiful islands, coastlines, wildlife, topographies and cultures.
But here is the most important thing that I have come to learn first-hand: Some places can really only be experienced by sea! Yes, I’m sure you could take a bus tour of the road that parallels the Panama Canal, but that is like travelling to Disney World, only to stay in the parking lot and not actually go inside! You have to actually sail on a ship, squeeze through the tight channels, listen to the experts as they narrate how the canal was made, be raised and lowered in the three locks, and drift by the many islands of Gatun Lake while watching for white-faced monkeys in order to truly absorb the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is the Panama Canal.
But there are many other exotic locales and destinations that need to be experienced by water. In many cases, some of the most famous and beautiful vistas can only be seen from a sea view perspective, and cannot be experienced from land at all. As an example, although I had been to Hawaii many times, and had even previously visited Hawaii Volcano National Park, I never truly got to experience the awesome beauty of seeing the nighttime, red-hot lava flow of Kilauea spilling into the sea until I booked an Hawaiian cruise. Here’s why: You know those spectacular videos that you’ve seen of the lava flowing down the mountain side and into the water? They are taken from about a half mile out to sea, looking back towards land! You see, you simply can’t get that same view obliquely from landside! Our cruise ship stayed offshore of the volcano for about three hours one night while slowly spinning in a 360 degree circle, to ensure everyone could experience the view from the comfort of their own balcony! Spectacular.
Here’s another thought to keep in mind: Some of the most wonderful locations in the world are in fact beautiful specifically because of their location relative to the sea. Case in point – Greece. Although Athens and its’ wonderful ancient ruins are located on that part of Greece that is attached to the continent of south-eastern Europe, Greece is also comprised of over 3000 islands or islets, of which about 130 are inhabited. And these islands include some of the most beautiful destinations in the entire world, such as Santorini, Mykonos, and the isle of Rhodes, as an example. In my personal opinion, one of the most beautiful mornings I have ever experienced in my life, was the time I awoke on my cruise ship and walked outside to the fantail to discover that during the night, we had sailed into the middle of the sunken caldera that is Santorini, located in the very blue, Mediterranean Sea. As the sun came up over the cliffs, I realized that we were now anchored in the middle of an ancient volcano (some say that below us sat the lost city of Atlantis). I looked up to see the many tiny whitewashed dome-style houses that protrude from the cliff walls located along the top of the crescent shaped island. Soon I would take the ship’s tender over to the inside of the crescent, where I would allow a donkey to carry me up the vertical zig-zag trail that leads to the top of the island of Santorini, and to the village of Fira. Looking back down to our ship anchored in the center of the postcard-pretty blue sea in the caldera, I realized how fortunate I was to have been able to view Santorini from the water inside the sunken volcano – a view not possible from the land. Yes, to truly experience Greece, you must also experience the Greek Isles and the tranquil blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Some places are so over-the –top spectacular in both size and substance, that you simply must experience them both ways: On land and on Sea. To see them in only one way or the other is to really deprive yourself of all there is to offer. In this category, Alaska immediately comes to mind. Oh yes, it’s true: Alaska has so much to see in its’ interior that you must mark a land-tour on your Bucket list. But there is also so much to see –that ONLY can be experienced – by ship! Alaskans themselves know this, which is why their state boasts America’s largest Maritime Highway system. In fact, the famous Inside Passage is just that: a series of islands located just offshore of Alaska and British Columbia that forms a protected passage from the open ocean, and provides one of the world’s most idyllic water-borne routes, connecting Vancouver B.C. (or Seattle Washington) to Alaska. Along the way, your ship squeezes “between a rock and a hard place” and takes you right amongst pine forests, bald eagles, humpback whales and Orcas, quaint Indian villages, (sometimes even a bear running along the shore) and glaciers! And only by ship can you experience the awesome majesty of entering Glacier Bay National Park. After slowly gliding past hundreds of icebergs, you reach the 200’ tall blue/white glaciers. Your ship drops anchor just offshore, while you stand on the bow and listen. Suddenly, there is a loud, thunderous cracking noise. Then, almost in slow motion, a chunk of ice the size of a sky-scraper “calves” and breaks away from the glacier, and falls into the sea. A moment later, only the tip of the glacier resurfaces, and you realize that you just witnessed the birth of an iceberg. Awesome. And only viewable from a ship.
I could go on for a very long time regarding destinations best experienced by ship, but I will end with Antarctica. The “White Continent” located at the bottom of the globe is truly the last place on earth remaining that (fortunately) has not been developed by man, and so is still essentially the same as it was thousands of years ago, or when Shackleford led his fateful expedition there 100 years ago. But that also means that it is not set up with hotels, resorts, airports (other than military), taxis, etc. It is still unspoiled. How then to see it? By ship of course. And here is a great perk: In many cases your cruise will include a large part of South America, such as Chile (including sailing amongst the famous Chilean Fjords), Argentina, Uruguay, and even the Falkland Islands! But in the middle of your 17 day cruise, after rounding Cape Horn at the southern-most tip of South America, and sailing through the famous Straits of Magellan, your ship turns southbound as you head to Antarctica! It takes about a day and a half to cross the Drake Passage, but then you have arrived! Land of the Penguins – by the millions! And whales, and sea leopards, and Ice Floes, and on and on. Our ship sailed in and around the Antarctic Peninsula and to the Weddell Sea for almost four days. Probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in my life. And yes, all made available to enjoy by cruise ship.
As I alluded to above, there are many other places in the world that can only be truly and/or fully appreciated by sea, but as I have limited space here, I will list my five personal favorites (in no particular order):
- Alaska’s Inside Passage (Including Glacier Bay of course)
- Greek Isles (Santorini is an absolute must)
- Antarctica (Along with the Chilean Fjords)
- Panama Canal (A destination unto itself)
- Hawaii (To view Kilauea’s lava flowing into the sea; to see the Napali Coastline, and to sail amongst all of the islands)
I’m Sheila Cannon and I help career focused couples, who have no time to plan, have the honeymoon, destination wedding or romantic vacation of a lifetime custom designed for them without them having to lift a finger. If that’s you, click here to get started putting me to work for you!
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