Everyone knows the point of a cruise is to get some time off-land, truly disconnect from the daily grind, imbibe as many expensive cocktails as you can while out at sea and maybe do some exploring at the various stops while you’re at it. The time spent on the ship may be the main attraction, but there’s no reason not to make the most of a stop in a fabulous port city as well.
In many cases, those ports have a plethora of fun and fascinating places to visit, from historical landmarks to museums. Consider the potential port cities for embarking and for stops along the way when you’re planning your cruise vacation, as you can get some bonus side adventures in on land.
The following are five particularly great port cities to visit during your cruise getaway.
An Alaskan cruise is a guaranteed way to see some amazing natural landscapes and locales, and a good opportunity to spend some time learning about Alaskan culture. The port city of Sitka is a prime spot to do that, as you’ll find here a blend of Russian and native traditions. The Tlingit Indians have long inhabited this area, which later became home to Russians and Americans as well.
You can take a narrated land tour to get an earful about the local history, or pay a visit to the historic Alaskan Native Brotherhood building in the Tlingit village. Take in a traditional performance by the New Archangel Dancers, a troupe that performs Russian and Ukrainian dances in authentic cultural dress. For wildlife excursions, Allen Marine Tours’ Sea Otter & Whale Quest is a great chance to observe sea otters, humpback whales and puffins in their natural environment. At Fortress of the Bear, you can observe rescued Alaskan brown bear cubs.
The elegant, stylish Swedish capital offers a wealth of cultural landmarks and attractions. While in town, be sure to visit the Vasa Museum, centered around a remarkably well-preserved 17th century ship (the only one that still exists) that retains 95 percent of its original fixtures through restoration, according to Visitstockholm.com. It’s all the more remarkable because the ship sank on its maiden voyage in 1638 and was not retrieved until 1961.
The Moderna Museet is a must visit for any art appreciators and aficionados, as it houses works from greats such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Henri Matisse. If you’re looking for a thrill, take a ride on the SkyView. This lift takes you to the top of the Ericsson Globe, the world’s largest spherical building, and affords you views of the entire city, including all 14 of the metropolis’ islands.
Quebec City, Canada
This charming French Canadian city nearly overwhelms travelers with all there is to do. Take a helicopter tour to admire Quebec City from above or hop on a boat to sail down the St. Lawrence River. If you’re in the mood for something spooky and a little silly, take a ghost tour, a great way to see a city and learn about its history while having fun and avoiding throngs of fellow tourists.
Take in some beautiful and eccentric artwork at one of two Albert Gilles Copper Art museums, where you’ll see fine works crafted by the museums’ namesake and learn about the family’s global contributions to art and architecture, according to Quebec’s tourism department. For more traditionally appreciated art, head to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, where you can admire the masterpieces of native artists and world-renowned figures such as Picasso, Auguste Rodin and Claude Monet.
New York City
What isn’t there to do in New York City? Plan ahead and purchase tickets to a Broadway show for when you’re in town, as this is still a quintessential New York experience. If it’s your first time in the city, join your fellow tourists and make the journey to the Empire State Building, where you can ride an elevator to the Observation Deck and see what’s really so special about this iconic New York building.
There seems no end of great museums to check out in New York, but the Museum of Modern Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum are always good options. And if you’re feeling risque, there’s always the Museum of Sex.
New York is notorious for its fashionable population and great shopping, and whether you’re feeling spendy or not, it’s always fun to wander through department stores such as Barney’s and admire the fine handiwork of the designers who sell there.
If there is one place you must visit while in Barcelona, it’s the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished yet still architecturally stunning Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudí. Other cities on this list have museums with Picasso’s works, but Barcelona is home to the Picasso Museum. Here guests can visit a collection of more than 4,000 of the master’s works, and bear witness to his intimate relationship with this city, according to the official site.
To get a sense of Barcelona’s rhythms and life here, visit La Rambla, the most famous street in the city. Here you’ll find street vendors and artists, and an intersection of commerce and history as you’re surrounded by historic buildings and neighborhoods.
While it may be true that most international port cities have much to offer visitors, these five offer particularly attractive options for modern entertainment, cultural immersion and historical sentiment. Choosing to spend some time in a vibrant and interesting port city can significantly enhance your cruise vacation experience, adding an extra layer of excitement and sentimentality to the trip. Whether you choose one of the five cities listed in this article or another exciting international destination, choose your cruise wisely and don’t miss an opportunity to experience some of the wonders on land as well. That way you’ll have some colorful experiences to reflect on when you’re relaxing out at sea.