Sailing into port after a day or more at sea is a highlight of any cruise, but some ports are better than others. Catherine McGregor chooses her top 10.
- Venice, Italy
The best way to arrive in Venice? By boat, no question. Ships reach the terminal via the Giudecca Canal, gliding past the city's spectacular Byzantine and Gothic architecture, including St Mark's Square. If you're lucky, you'll time your arrival for dawn, when the magical city is bathed in golden light.
- Hong Kong, China
The ideal time to arrive in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour is at night, the glittering neon skyscrapers looming over you on both sides as your ship glides towards its berth. Hong Kong boasts two cruise ship facilities: the historic Ocean Terminal, whose connected Harbour City complex is home to more than 100 shops, restaurants, hotels and restaurants, and the new, Sir Norman Foster-designed Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.
- Stockholm, Sweden
Inside the Stockholm archipelago are a frankly incredible 24,000 islands, islets and skerries, some uninhabited, others dotted with storybook log cabins, cottages and summer houses. And that's what makes arriving in Stockholm by sea such a thrill. As your captain uses all his skill to navigate these narrow waters, sit back and enjoy the ever-changing view from the deck.
- Moorea, French Polynesia
You've heard all about Tahiti, and maybe you've been lucky enough to visit. But the capital, Papeete, isn't the most beautiful port in French Polynesia. That crown belongs to Moorea, a tiny island to Tahiti's east, where ships glide past white-sand beaches and tropical lagoons before berthing in the tranquil and idyllic Cook's Bay. Travel guru Arthur Frommer, of Frommer's Guides fame, called Moorea “the most beautiful island in the world”. It's not difficult to see why.
- Istanbul, Turkey
Thanks to its incomparable location between Europe and Asia, with northern Africa close by, Istanbul has been a centre of trade and travel for thousands of years. Sail up the Bosphorus and you're following the same route as legions of spice traders and cloth merchants, royal delegations and invading armies. You'll catch sight of many of Istanbul's most famous buildings, including the Blue Mosque, Haggia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, before your ship berths at Yolcu Salonu passenger terminal, a short tram ride from the city centre.
- New York, United States
The view of southern Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty in the foreground, has for centuries greeted millions of weary and grateful travellers. It's remains just as thrilling. These days cruise ships still berth at Manhattan's Passenger Ship Terminal (AKA “Luxury Liner Row”) but also at Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New Jersey and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, south Brooklyn
- Santorini, Greece
Many Greek islands are beautiful, but none are as dramatic as Santorini, a barren volcanic island with whitewashed houses tumbling down its steep seafront cliffs. There's no cruise ship terminal here; instead passengers are tendered ashore on small fishing boats – a truly memorable experience From the Old Port you can reach the main town, Fira, by cable car, mule ride or foot. Alternatively, you can skip the queues and jump on a speedboat to Oia, Santorini's second-largest village. Cruise-ship excursions are also available.
There are no cruise ports in Antarctica, but it's one of the world's great cruising destinations all the same. Depending on conditions, you'll disembark the ship at various points, exploring the magnificent Antarctic coast by Zodiac inflatable. Possible landing spots include Deception Island, an active volcano with hotsprings (take your togs!); Port Lockroy, where there's a museum and souvenir shop; and Half Moon Island, home to large colonies of chinstrap penguins, fur seals and elephant seals.
The fortunes of the beautifully preserved city of Dubrovnik have long depended on the sea. The city, historically known as Ragusa, was a medieval maritime trading centre; its magnificent architecture and grand museums speak of centuries of wealth and influence. As both a World Heritage Site and oft-used Game of Thrones location, this is a place everyone should see at least once. Most cruise ships dock at Gruz, a couple of kilometres from the town, but some drop anchor in the bay, with passengers tendered directly to the old town.
A shining city encircled by mountain peaks on one side and ocean on the other, Vancouver has one of the most gorgeous urban settings in all of North America. Arrive by cruiseliner and you get the full effect, sailing under the Lions Gate Bridge – a beloved Vancouver landmark – before berthing at Canada Place terminal in the heart of downtown.