Top 5 Unusual Cruise Destinations

For many who are considering booking a cruise holiday, often the first destinations that spring to mind are sun soaked beach breaks in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean.

A Sunny Cruise
A Sunny Cruise somewhere unexpected could be just what the doctor ordered!

Whilst cruise holidays are a great way to explore the stunning attractions these locations have to offer, the fantastic advantage of cruises is that the world is effectively your oyster. When cruising, travelling is made simple. Provided the area is accessible by water, there are hundreds of destinations to visit and experience cross the globe.

Many of these are once-in-a-lifetime places to holiday in and by choosing a cruise vacation, holidaymakers can take advantage of the multitude of must-see attractions and natural phenomenon our planet has to offer. With this in mind, you may want to research into what unusual cruise destinations are available and what each of these unique locations has to offer. Listed below are five of the top unusual cruise destinations that are guaranteed to ensure you have a holiday with a difference.

1. A North Pole Expedition:

As the North Pole is one of the world’s most unexplored areas, taking an expedition cruise to the Arctic is as different and unique as they come. Unsurprisingly, the North Pole offers some of the most stunning wildlife scenes and the breathtaking landscapes of ice and midnight sun are certainly something to experience first hand. Holidaymakers can witness flocks of seabirds; sun-worshipping seals and walruses, as well as have the potential to spot the elusive polar bear. Not only that, those who travel to the North Pole can quite literally be ‘on top of the world’ as you are able to stand at your unique 90-degree North point. In addition, the cruise ships that travel to the Arctic are a little different to the ships that are home to holidaymakers travelling to other parts of the world; to plough through the ice at the North Pole, it is necessary that the cruises take place on powerful icebreakers. These triumphs of engineering are specially designed to break through the ice in the Arctic as well as provide cruise-goers with a comfortable and luxurious life on board.

cruising
A Luxurious cruise ship in the North Atlantic

2. River Cruise in South Asia:

Cruises in Asia are relatively new; however this area is home to some of the most spectacular natural phenomenon across the globe. One of the best ways to explore South Asia is to take a river cruise, and the Mekong River is an ideal waterway for this purpose. As one of the world’s most vast water systems, the Mekong runs through China, Vietnam and Cambodia, which are all renowned for their beautiful natural scenes and interesting cultures. There is a huge range of attractions to visit; holidaymakers can explore historically significant cities like Saigon or simply browse the colourful trinkets in the floating markets along the river, for example. In terms of wildlife, the Mekong is hugely diverse and supports plant life and animals that are rare in other parts of the world. Cruise-goers can have the opportunity to spot endangered species like the Irrawaddy Dolphin and Giant Catfish as well as the famous Mekong river palm trees, which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The cruise ships on the Mekong are also unique and have been described as being ‘fairytale like’ by travellers because of their distinctive character.

The Kerala Backwaters
South Asia has a delighful number of extraordinary sights

3. The Cape Coast in South Africa:

Historically, Africa was known as the final frontier of discovery and in terms of travel, it remains a place shrouded in fascination and mystery. People across the globe are captivated by the range of cultures, landscapes and wildlife species the continent has to offer and for this reason, cruises to African countries have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many of Africa’s most beautiful countries can be reached by water, and holidaymakers should consider sailing to South Africa when booking a cruise holiday. The country is diverse, both in terms of its people and its landscape; however it is renowned for it’s  exceptional beaches and African sunshine.

Exploring the Cape Coast is particularly impressive for travellers looking for a romantic cruise. The world-famous Table Mountain is the perfect romantic location, boasting majestic views across the coastline and city. Additionally, the Cape Coast is famous for its vineyards and winemaking, meaning couples can indulge in winetasting amongst the stunning scenery of South Africa’s coast. Other ports within the country are also well worth a visit, with Port Elizabeth offering some of the world’s most beautiful wild beaches and the bright lights of Durban providing glitzy hotels and world class gambling.

Table Mountain
A Stunning Photo of Table Mountain in South Africa

4. The Suez Canal and the Middle East:

 

Sailing through the Suez Canal and exploring the countries in the Middle East is one of the world’s most beautiful and historically significant journeys. The Middle East is world renowned as being the place where Christianity originated and it is also home to some of the globe’s most ancient civilisations. Travellers to this area can experience diverse examples of Middle Eastern architecture, significant religious sites and a plethora of stunning beaches.

For people that choose to take  cruises to the Middle East, it is this diversity of scenery that often appeals most. From the tallest building in Dubai to the ancient pyramids in Egypt, there is a huge range of places to visit and things to see in this area. Because of this, cruising can be the best way to discover what the countries in the Middle East have to offer. Holidaymakers can sail to a number of the Arab Emirates countries (like Dubai or Muscat), visit the stunning city of Aqaba in Jordan and explore the North African ports. It is worth noting that many of the countries in the Middle East are religiously conservative, so holidaymakers should bear in mind that there may be clothing requirements within some of the countries. Women in particular should ensure that they are covered up and headscarves should always be worn when entering a mosque.

Yes, Dubai really is as spectacular at night as it is in the day
Dubai is just as stunning at night

5. The British Isles:

When choosing a cruise holiday, many people would automatically think about heading abroad; however, taking a cruise around the British Isles is a great way of exploring what our home country has to offer. There is always something to discover in Britain, whether it be an old castle filled with history or a colony of puffins off the coast of Scotland, so it is a good idea to look into what is on offer. Furthermore, cities in Britain are renowned across the world for being historically significant, full of culture and architecturally stunning, so cruising can be best way of seeing places along the coast (like Edinburgh, Southampton and Dublin). Britain is also famed for the range of diverse eco-systems on its coastlines and holidaymakers have the opportunity to see picturesque natural scenery, a variety of wildlife and plant life. Whilst the weather can’t always be counted upon in Britain, cruising around the British Isles certainly is a cheaper alternative to cruises abroad, but it does not have to mean you compromise on your holiday experience. Being able to relax in the luxury onboard a cruise ship as well as exploring interesting places en route is what cruising is all about, so it is a good idea to look into what British cruises are available.

Cruise around the British Isles
Cruise around Great Britain

These are just a few of the fantastic unusual cruise destinations worth a visit across the world and with a bit of research and imagination, it is simple to find a holiday with a difference. With so many cultures to explore; natural wonders to see and unique experiences to have, it is often simply a case of choosing the right cruise to suit your needs. Once you’ve decided which destination to visit, the only thing left to decide is whether you’re interested in the comfort of a luxury cruiser or a cruise that is a little bit more budget friendly before booking. Cruises are one of the best ways to explore everything the world has to offer, so travellers should seriously consider what is on offer. For more inspiration, browse our Top Ten Cruises For 2013 article.

This Cruise guide was written by Claire Cavanagh.

 

 

 

 

Cruises to the Middle East: Dubai, Muscat, Aqaba, Suez Port

The Middle East was one of the cradles of civilization and the point of origin of most of the world’s major religion. Positioned at the meeting point of three different continents it has, over the milennia, exerted huge influence throughout the world as well as having had obvious strategic importance for many of the world’s greatest empires. Nowadays it is the heartland of Arabic and Muslim culture with all of its (to many of us) exotic architecture and culture.

The Middle East
The Middle East is now a very popular choice for cruise lovers

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A typical itinerary in the region can take in sights as diverse as:

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  • The pyramids of Egypt
  • The ancient ruined city of Petra in Jordan
  • The the high-rise towers of Dubai (picture above).

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From UNESCO world heritage sites to ultra-modern cityscapes, there is little that you can’t find on a cruise around the Middle East. What’s more, visiting the area on a cruise means that you retain your idyll of home comforts on board enabling you to experience the local culture whilst knowing you’ll be returning to Western gourmet food in the evening.

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The Most Popular Ports of Call

Dubai

Yes, Dubai really is as spectacular at night as it is in the day
Yes, Dubai really is as spectacular in the daytime as it is at night

Dubai is a city, a country, and one of the seven Arab Emirates. The first thing to know about Dubai is that it is in the middle of one of history’s biggest construction booms, a fact that is interesting in itself. The shopping in the city is a world class mix of authentic Arabian souks and high-end Western shops. With some of the world’s biggest malls next to some of its most gorgeous beaches, Dubai is like a version of California on steroids and forms a curious counterpoint to many of the other ports in the region.

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Muscat

The Port of Muscat
The Port of Muscat

Nearby Muscat is the capital of another country, Oman. Its architecture is modern but has proceeded on far more traditional lines and the city is known for having kept far more of its old-fashioned souks. Those who

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love the heat will also appreciate the fact that, due to its lack of wind, Muscat is known to be one of the hottest places in the world. Check out the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace and the beautiful, Portuguese influenced Al Jalili fort for some uniquely Arabian photo opportunities.

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Aqaba

Aqaba
Aqaba

The only port in the country of Jordan and happily one which provides a convenient location for exploring some of the greatest historical wonders in Jordan and the region. The most famous of these is, without doubt, Petra – “the rose red city half as old as time.” The city of Aqaba itself is well known for how warm the sea is and Jordanian tourists come from all over the country to take a dip. It’s also famed for its marine life and many scuba diving companies who operate tours of the local waters. Other ancient sites, however, include the impressive crusader castle known as the Citadel of Kerak and Madaba, site of the world-famous Madaba map at the Church of Madaba (play the video below for more details of the Citadel of Kerak).

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Suez Port

Suez Port
Suez Port Entrance

The entrance port to the Suez Canal which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean by cutting through Egypt and best known for the many films and books that have taken it as a subject. It’s an extremely common port of call, mainly because it has to be, and to be frank there is little of great interest in the town. It is, however, somewhere that many cruises which take in both Egypt and the emirates will call.

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Cultural Sensibilities and Travel Regulations

Enjoy
Enjoy your cruise to the fullest extent by respecting the clothing laws in the Middle East

Women travelling in the middle east will need to remember to cover up as showing too much skin is seen as indecent. Long sleeves and long skirts or trousers (in a light fabric such as linen) are the order of the day although the actual strictness depends on where and in which country you are in. Yes, even shorts are considered indecent on women in most of these countries. If you are intending on visiting a mosque you will also need to cover your head.

Those whose passports have Israeli stamps may have trouble gaining admission into some of the countries mentioned above and this is something to make sure to have cleared up before departing. Also, any medicine involving codeine can get you a conviction for drug trafficking if you do not also have a prescription with you for it so be careful if taking any medication along with you.

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