From coral reefs to magnificent glaciers, set sail for gorgeous views on the world’s most scenic cruises. Scenic views are the most awaited part of the amenity-packed cruise experience.
With their shallow drafts, small cruise ships can get close to the sights. Some of them even have inflatable Zodiacs that allow passengers for an intimate coastline exploration.
As keen travelers look for more adventure, cruise lines respond by charting a course to ever more beautiful and remote corners of the map.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but on the world’s most scenic cruises, even Mother Nature will serve views that please the weariest traveler. And it may also change the very way you look at the world.
The Kimberley, Australia
Nothing compares with the Kimberley coast. The rugged red cliffs of northwestern Australia make one of the wildest, most beautiful coastlines globally. But these are only accessible by ship.
Here, where the Indian Ocean meets the Timor Sea, the remote island breeds inlets and rivers. These bodies of water plummet over towering rock faces into turquoise seas, carving its way through deep gorges.
The Kimberley coast boasts a majestic 328-feet high waterfall. They also have saltwater crocodiles that lay scattered across the vast open plain.
The magnificent island collides with cliffs and stretches of white sands. This makes the Kimberley coast a place for the adventurous, the curious, and the nature lovers.
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, Galapagos is an island virtually untouched by man.
It fosters hundreds of species found nowhere else on Earth. This includes giant tortoises, curious iguanas, and blue-footed boobies.
The Galápagos National Park regulates the number and type of tourist boats that operate in the area. This is to avoid overcrowding and reduce the impact of tourism’s environmental impact on the island.
Accepting a few visitors also reduces the stress on the fantastic animals of the Galápagos.
You’ll cruise past volcanic peaks and beaches, with opportunities to schmooze with land critters. You can also snorkel with sharks or watch the birds while contemplating the ongoing evolution in this wild spot.
The East African cruise experience peaks at Madagascar, also dubbed as the “eighth continent.”
As you island-hop across the Indian Ocean, passing Mauritius and Seychelles, you’ll see amazing sights. This includes volcanoes, dense forests, and some of the most pristine beaches and teeming coral reefs.
Because of its nature reserves, national parks, and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Madagascar is an enticing destination for nature-lovers.
Cruising to Madagascar lets you see species endemic to Madagascar, enjoy a classic African safari, and have a relaxing experience on the tropical islands.
French Polynesia is an ethereal collection of islands. It is also where dark volcanic peaks loom above green foliage and turquoise sea.
When coming ashore, you’ll often stroll down a small dock to the sounds of a ukulele and traditional songs.
While this welcome can feel forced, that initial step onto its dry land is always fun—no wonder the region is such a great cruise destination.
Cruise ships often stop at ports like Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Huahine. But one of the most scenic destinations in Moorea Island.
Just 12 miles from Tahiti, this heart-shaped island is encircled by a lagoon of the azure blue Polynesian sea. It also boasts both white and black sand beaches.
You can also see rocky volcanic peaks covered in foliage and dotted with waterfalls rise from the island’s interior.
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Located in a remote section of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park is a national treasure.
Often called the “Switzerland of the South Pacific,” the region is known for its dramatic mountain peaks and abundant wildlife. It’s also been the backdrop of several movies, including the Lord of the Rings.
Cruising on Milford Sound is one of the best ways to experience the national park.
The sound cuts through cliffs carved by glaciers. The unspoiled Milford Sound wilderness is home to bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin. Your ship may even get close enough to a roaring waterfall for you to feel the spray!
It is hard to argue when you behold the ethereal beauty of a waterway since the Maori people discovered it more than 1,000 years ago.
The Glaciers in Alaska
Cruising the calm waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage delivers high-drama views. And we’re talking about the impressive sight of immense glaciers that calves into the sea.
But what may linger in your memory is the sheer vastness of its icy and forested wilderness.
Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of any Alaskan cruise experience. No roads can take you to the park. So cruising is one of the best ways to see this rugged natural beauty up close.
Cruise ships can sail through the fjords, providing a good view of ice walls, tidewater glaciers, and snow-capped mountains.
Keep your cameras handy to catch glimpses of whales, eagles, and grizzly bears, if you’re lucky.
Antarctica covers one-tenth of the world’s surface, yet only 30,000 tourists visit this vast continent each year.
This continent has plenty of wildlife where you can witness orca and sperm whales from the deck. You can also observe penguins and elephant seals up-close on the island stops.
The best way to view this snow-covered wilderness is from the warmth and safety of a cruise ship. Itineraries may sometimes vary by cruise line, but many ships visit the South Shetland Islands and the 1,000-mile Antarctic Peninsula. But this may change depending on conditions and safe passage.
There are no actual ports in Antarctica, but highlights include Deception Island, Half Moon Island, and the Lemaire Channel.
Greek Isle Cruise
Inhabited since 270,000 BC, Greece has earned a vibrant place in history as the birthplace of democracy. This is also where Western philosophy, drama and literature, and the Olympic Games were born.
Today, it draws visitors to its ancient ruins, gorgeous coastlines, and wide-open spaces.
Ancient architectural wonders combined with whitewashed towns, beaches, and abundant sunshine make the Greek Isles a popular cruising destination.
The most magnificent scenery belongs to Santorini, where your ship sails into a giant caldera, created when a volcano erupted in 1500 B.C.
Other must-sees include ruins like the Parthenon, Ancient Mycenae, and Mystras.
If you visit Athens, make sure to visit the Byzantine and Christian Museum and the Acropolis Museum. These sites showcase Greek treasures preserved from the earliest centuries of Western civilization.
If you want to go shopping, you can stroll through Plaka, which is also a historic neighborhood.
The Norwegian Fjords
The crystal-clear Norwegian Fjords are served up with natural riches. With cascading mountains, and clear, deep waters, the Norwegian fjords are a world of their own.
These stunning waterways go right through 1,000-foot cliffs, revealing snow-capped mountains, glacier-fed waterfalls, and rolling lowlands. The spectacular views just keep on coming as you continue to cruise with the midnight sun.
Cruises here are peaceful and unhurried. Thus, offering guests the chance to enjoy the natural beauty, regional wildlife, and rural countryside of Norway.
Ports range from the picturesque town of Bergen to the storybook hamlet of Flam.
While there are beautiful views around every corner of Norway, some of the most dramatic scenery can be found in the Geiranger Fjord and the Sognefjord, which stretches halfway to Sweden.
There’s an eerie beauty and fantastic quality to the Scottish Hebrides. It boasts hundreds of less-populated islands, with rocky cliffs and seashores.
Rolling moorland leads to striking rock pillars and pinnacles on Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula. Meanwhile, a volcanic peak boasted Eigg, and whales and dolphins swam off Ulva and Mull.
You’ll also get the change to view spectacular lochs, bird reserves, and the occasional castle or mysterious stone circles.
You shouldn’t miss a trip to the Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles. It is a journey into the far reaches of Scotland and the U.K., not to mention that these are also lands of extreme beauty.
Scenic cruising encompasses the most magnificent sights and highlights of the most iconic places on Earth. Sailing deep into the waterways will provide postcard-perfect vistas of lush-green valleys, sky-reaching cliffs, and alpine peaks.
The best part? You get to enjoy all of these while you’re onboard the cruise ship.