There's no better way to see the islands of the world than aboard a cruise. What appears as a dot on the horizon grows larger and larger as you approach by ship, eventually becoming a swath of land just begging to be explored. From sunny specks of white sand beaches, to volcanic outcrops of towering peaks, and historic ports with sordid pasts, Norwegian Cruise Line visits islands in every corner of the world. Here, we list ten not to miss.
Top Island Destinations to Cruise
Only in recent years have Americans been permitted to visit Cuba and discover the colorful island they've been missing. Step back in time among the weathered facades and cobblestone streets of Old Havana. Stroll the seawall of the romantic Malecón. Sip a daiquiri at Hemingway's old haunt, the El Floridita bar. Cuba is one of a kind.
The island of Kauai is the greenest of all the Hawaiian Islands. It's often called "The Garden Island," for the lush tropical rainforest that covers most of its interior. Trek the famous Napali Coast Trail through emerald valleys and along 3,000-foot-high cliffs offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean below. Visit Lumahai Beach, setting for the film "South Pacific," or head inland to photograph one of the many cascading waterfalls that grace this tropical paradise.
The Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea was formed by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC. This jewel of the Mediterranean is characterized by steep cliffs overlooking a brilliant blue caldera, and of course, the whitewashed homes and blue domed churches that cling to the rocky cliffs. Volcanic activity created beaches of black, red and chalk-white sand. Visit the site of ancient Akrotiri, a Minoan settlement dating to the Bronze Age.
Roatan off the coast of Honduras is a favorite stop on the Western Caribbean cruise. This unspoiled island sits atop the world's second largest coral reef so the snorkeling and diving are spectacular. Kick back at tranquil Tabyana Beach, or join an eco-tour for ziplining through the jungle, or simply strolling among monkeys, parrots and iguanas.
Ko Samui off the coast of Thailand in Southeast Asia is a jungle paradise ringed by beautiful beaches. Head inland for a ride on an elephant, to see a monkey show, or to photograph the Na Mueang waterfalls. Visit popular Chaweng Beach and try the spicy local cuisine. Trek to the lush Secret Buddha Garden at the highest point on the island.
The country of New Zealand is two islands offering a wide range of sights and experiences. From cosmopolitan capitals to pristine fjords to world-class wines and stunning settings utilized as a backdrop in the Lord of the Rings films, New Zealand caters to every explorer. Adventurers will enjoy kayaking the fjords, nature lovers will get up close and personal with penguins, and photographers will have a field day capturing the scenery.
In addition to beautiful beaches and azure waters, the island of Bermuda is rich with history. It started in 1609 when an English ship bound for the colonies of Virginia ran aground on the reefs surrounding the island. The shipwrecked passengers decided to stick it out on the island and claimed the land for England. They established a colony on Bermuda's St. George Island, and today the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stroll the cobblestone paths of what is the oldest continually inhabited English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
The archipelago of French Polynesia is 137 of the most beautiful sun-kissed islands in the world. Visit three of those islands on the 17-Day Cruise of the Fabled South Pacific. In addition to stops in American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, you'll visit Tahiti, Raiatea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia.
Called the "Queen of the Pacific," Tahiti is home to sharp volcanic peaks, black pearls and the cosmopolitan city of Papeete. Raiatea means "Faraway Heaven," and this island is considered the most sacred in all of the South Pacific. Visit the largest outdoor temple in French Polynesia, believed to be the center from which all Polynesian migration began. Bora Bora, a famous honeymoon destination, is breathtaking in its beauty. Photographs don't do it justice.
Iceland is a volcanic island in colder climes, complete with active geysers, hot springs, and lava fields. Visit the national parks to explore massive glaciers. Between September and April, look to the skies for the Northern Lights. The majority of Iceland's population lives in the capital Reykjavik, so that's the hub for museums, restaurants, nightlife, and culture. Visit the Settlement Exhibition, featuring artifacts from a 9th century Viking settlement.
U.S. Virgin Islands
At or near the top of every list of best islands in the Caribbean, are the US Virgin Islands: St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. On St. Croix, visit the Buck Island National Reef Monument, an 880-acre underwater nature preserve featuring a snorkeling trail. Or walk the historic streets of Frederiksted, lined with Danish colonial and Victorian-era homes.
On St. Thomas, stop by Fort Christian, a United States National Landmark, for a primer on the island's rich history. Or visit the Synagogue of Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim, the oldest synagogue in the United States. Climb the 99 steps made from merchant ship ballast stones, to Blackbeard's Castle (constructed in 1679), for some of the best views on the island. Legend has it that the fierce pirate Blackbeard used this now National Historic Landmark built as a lookout post.
Whatever you're looking for from an island destination, Norwegian Cruise Line can help you find it.