When you think of a cruise, many destinations may come to mind including the Caribbean and Alaska. But there are less obvious choices for cruise destinations, even where cruising just might be your better option overall for a few reasons including the bang for your buck that cruising provides; the variety of places you can visit instead of being stuck in just one; and the very special bonus of unpacking only once. Here are 7 destinations you’d never think to experience on a cruise:
#1. Costa Rica: One of the happiest places on earth
Did you know you could visit Costa Rica on a cruise? While many travelers will grab their backpacks to explore Costa Rica for a few weeks or even a few months, what if you’re not sure Costa Rica is for you? Check it out on a cruise first! In fact, you can cruise to both sides of Costa Rica: Puntarenas on the Pacific coast or Puerto Limon on the Caribbean side. And the best part? You’ll be able to enjoy all the quintessential Costa Rica experiences from either destination - just think of the possibilities!
Wildlife viewing includes monkeys, sloths, and jaguars, along with colorful Scarlet Macaws and toucans. You can explore the ecosystems of Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest by trekking, riding an aerial tram or a thrilling zip line through the treetops! Relax and take a beach break, but if you’re a foodie don’t miss out on sampling the rich Costa Rican coffee on a traditional farm, visiting a banana plantation or learning all about the chocolate making process, which includes tasting, of course. You’ll be living the pura vida (pure life) in no time at all.
#2. Paris, France. Need I say more?
Who knew you could visit Paris while on a cruise?? After disembarking your ship at Le Havre on the northern shore of France, you’ll be able to visit some of the most magnifique attractions in all of Paris such as the 14th-century Notre Dame Cathedral, the incroyable (amazing!) city views from the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, or the inspiring works of art on display at the Louvre Museum.
Of course, you could also visit the landmark Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe or Musee d’Orsay, or stroll along the River Seine like a local. Plus, if you’re an impressionist lover, a visit to see the actual water lilies at Monet’s home in Giverny is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ooh-la-la, it’s no wonder France is the world’s most visited tourist destination!
#3. The Best of the Pacific Northwest: California & British Columbia
If you’re looking for family fun closer to home, California and British Columbia offer well-rounded experiences from nature adventures to adventures in theme parks. But how will you choose just one destination for your family to visit? Here’s the easy answer: don’t! Instead, let Norwegian Bliss take you on a family friendly Pacific Coastal extravaganza! You’ll be able to walk along Stanley Park’s Seawall in Vancouver, and then see the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in Victoria.
From there you’ll sail south to San Francisco where you can check out lively Pier 39, Golden Gate Park or the landmark Golden Gate Bridge itself. When you cruise into Los Angeles, you can top off your family adventure with a trip to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, step into the footprints of famous celebrities along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or by taking a scenic 2-hour drive down the coast to popular Balboa Park in San Diego.
#4. Florida: Where the fun in the sun never ends
If you’re sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line to the pristine beaches of the Bahamas or to explore the culture of the Caribbean, this is the perfect time to also explore the Sunshine State. Miami provides the opportunity to take an exhilarating airboat ride in the Everglades, while art and architecture enthusiasts are sure to love Art Deco South Beach and the colorful murals on display in the up-and-coming artsy neighborhood of Wynwood, which you can easily check out with a Hop-on Hop-off bus pass.
If you’re ready to sail from Orlando (Port Canaveral), consider getting your education on by visiting the Kennedy Space Center, or by getting transfers to the multitude of fun to be had at Universal Orlando Resort or Seaworld Orlando. Don’t miss viewing the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, or enjoying a catamaran sail and snorkel in vibrant Key West.
#5. Alluring Asia: Terra Cotta Warriors, Great Wall & more!
Asia is a fascinating destination offering so many things to see and do, it’s hard to know where to start. And that’s exactly why an Asian cruise is a perfect choice! If you’re sailing in or out of Tokyo (Yokohama), you can plan a pre- or post-cruise stay at Tokyo Disneyland, just 28 miles from the port. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit sites like the mysterious Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an or let yourself be whisked away on a bullet train to see the iconic Great Wall of China in Beijing.
If you choose a Japan cruise, you can see the storied, 16th-century Osaka Castle and picturesque Mt. Fuji near Tokyo, one of the most photographed sites in Japan! Plus, an exotic cruise on Norwegian Jewel will bring you to the Emerald Buddha and the 18th-century Pura Ulun Danu Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, home to the ruling King of Siam. A boat tour along the Chao Phraya River will include seeing the intricately carved Wat Arun temple.
#6. New Orleans: the Big Easy
If you’re sailing out of New Orleans, you’d be doing yourself a real disservice if all you did was go to the embarkation port in this lively, French-vibe city teeming with live music experiences, world-class cuisines, and history galore. The Past, Present and Perfect shore excursion will take you near famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, the mansions along tree-lined St. Charles Street and the hauntingly beautiful St. Louis Cemetery No 3. I highly recommend spending more time pre- or post-cruise in this historical city.
The striking Oak Alley Plantation is about 53 miles away, plus New Orleans itself is also home to the iconic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World and an absolute must-visit: Cafe Du Monde where you have to order beignets and coffee. Just try not to get any of that powdered sugar in your hair. Ha! Good luck with that one, but they’re absolutely worth it, so delicious! Plus there’s the Audubon Zoo, Preservation Hall Theater, and an array of vampire and ghost walking tours. And voodoo shops. Spooky!
#7. Australia & New Zealand: Why not explore it all?
When I think of Australia, I think of hoppity kangaroos and cuddly koalas. Similar in size to the US, Australia is another vast destination to visit, so where do you start? Norwegian Cruise Line can take you to many of Australia’s famous highlights including the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and the colorful Great Barrier Reef near Cairns. Melbourne is calling your name so you can finally see those adorable koalas and 'roos up-close-and-personal! Or maybe riding the rails on a narrow-gauge steam train is more your thing.
In New Zealand, you can visit the spa town of Rotorua, check out a boutique winery or immerse yourself in the Maori culture for a few hours, where you may even become a Maori Chief for the day! As an added bonus, many of the Norwegian Cruise Line sailings to Australia and New Zealand also include ports of call in exotic Indonesia where you can see batik fabric making demos, Komodo dragons and picturesque temples like Pura Ulun Danu on Lake Bratan and the 16th-century Pura Tanah Lot, cited to be the most photographed temple in the country.