The Most Intriguing New Cruise Ports

Santa Marta, Colombia’s oldest city, is more working-class in feel and yet retains much of the Spanish colonial charm.
Santa Marta, Colombia’s oldest city, is more working-class in feel and yet retains much of the Spanish colonial charm.

Luxury cruisers who’ve “been there, done that” in major ports across the globe often wonder where to go next. During 2015-2017, the major luxury lines will transport guests to dozens of new appealing ports around the world. Here’s an “A to Z” look at some of our favorites from that “maiden call” list with just an example or two for each port.

Archangel, Russia

Founded in the 16th century, Archangel in northwestern Russia is famed for its Archangel Michael Monastery. Cultural enthusiasts can visit the Gallery of Arts and Natural History Museum. We highly recommend Malye Korely, one of Europe’s biggest open-air museums with magnificent Russian wooden architecture. Crystal Cruises and Oceania Cruises are among those with new calls.

Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda

Cruisers can visit Antigua’s more laid-back sister, Barbuda on SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream II voyages there, among them a March 28 departure from St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. We suggest bird lovers visit the Frigate Bird Sanctuary while history buffs can tour the Codrington House ruins, better known locally as “Willy Bob” or Highland House. Other diversions include beach play, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, golfing or scuba diving to shipwrecks and reefs.

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Boracay Island, Philippines, is surrounded by white-sand beaches. It is appreciated for activities such as sailing, snorkeling and diving.
 
Boracay Island, Philippines, is surrounded by white-sand beaches. It is appreciated for activities such as sailing, snorkeling and diving.

Boracay Island, Philippines

Seeking lovely beaches? New for Crystal, Oceania Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas are calls at Boracay Island. White Beach has sands that reportedly stay cool even in hot weather. Yapak is a puka-shell beach with a green-covered searock formation and good shelling. Honeymooners could check out romantic Balinghai in a secluded cove. It’s popular to explore the island by bicycle or motorbike.

The Green Cape Lighthouse in Ben Boyd National Park is admired by those visiting Eden, Australia.
 

The Green Cape Lighthouse in Ben Boyd National Park is admired by those visiting Eden, Australia.

Cooktown, Australia

Azamara Club CruisesAzamara Quest will call at Cooktown in winter 2015-2016 on new Great Barrier Reef and Bali voyages; it’s also a maiden port for Oceania in 2016. It’s named for explorer James Cook, who beached his ship, The Endeavour, here in 1770. To learn more about that, travelers often visit the James Cook Museum or the Cooktown History Center. Cruisers can lounge on the beach at Cherry Tree Bay, climb Grassy Hill, take an Aboriginal tour or snorkel or scuba dive to spot brightly colored corals and fish.

Doha, Qatar

Seabourn will soon begin sailing to Qatar, now the world’s richest nation, thanks to petroleum resources. Luxury travelers will marvel at Doha’s modern skyscrapers and find a welcoming aura. This is a great port stop for browsing and buying at designer boutiques; the Villaggio Shopping Mall or The Pearl are two good options. Cultural buffs might tour several museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art. What’s fun? Cruisers can take a camel ride over the dunes.

Eden, Australia

Travelers can’t get any further south in New South Wales than this former whaling town, a new call for Oceania Cruises’ Marina in 2016. Travelers will admire the “look” of this destination with two bays, a lighthouse, rolling hills, beaches and rugged cliffs. We recommend eco-enthusiasts go whale-watching or check out the Killer Whale Museum. Local shops offer hand-made leather goods and crafts.

Fort-de-France, Martinique

This maiden call for Regent Seven Seas in winter 2015-2016 gives cruisers a slice of French life with a tropical feel. It’s lovely to stroll through La Savane, a central park with an Empress Josephine statue, or, alternatively, to tour the harbor’s imposing fortress. Rue Victor Hugo is the city’s main shopping street with fresh fruit and flower vendors and boutiques that are the next best thing to Paris. Many cruisers head out of the city for a rainforest visit and to glimpse Soufriere in Mount Pelee’s shadow. Culinary fans can expect French, African and Creole influences in local dishes.

Falmouth, Jamaica

This northern Jamaica cruise destination was developed by Royal Caribbean but it’s now on luxury lines’ radar. Silversea calls this month and in late 2015. Travelers can delve into 1700s life via a line-operated tour to the Good Hope Estate, with its lovely restored plantation home. Alternatively, travelers might grab a tube and float down a river.

Gisborne, New Zealand

Named for the crew member on Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour who first sighted land in 1769 near here, Gisborne is called the “Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand” and visitors travel to boutique wineries for tours and tastings. Oceania calls for the first time in 2016. Enrichment buffs can learn more about Maori culture and the excellent Tairawhiti Museum displays historical artifacts and artwork.

Jeongbang waterfall (left) in Jeju Island, South Korea, is considered the only one in Asia that falls directly into the ocean.

Jeongbang waterfall in Jeju Island, South Korea, is considered the only one in Asia that falls directly into the ocean.

Hobart, Tasmania

In 2015, small-ship line Ponant Cruises heads for the first time down under with the 264-passenger L’Austral. Cruisers might head out for wine tasting, visit Port Arthur’s historic penal colony or stroll through botanical gardens. Our recommendation? Why not see the local critters—wombats, emus and the elusive Tasmanian devil—at a wildlife park.

Huelva, Spain

Christopher Columbus sailed from Huelva to the New World. Azamara will arrive during a two-week “Wake of Columbus” voyage, departing November 25, 2015, from Barcelona; several other lines also call for the first time. Huelva has welcomed mariners since 3,000 B.C. and, thus, has Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Moorish influences. Popular sites include a 1605-era cathedral, grand theater and the pleasant urban Moret Park. It’s tasty to sample the Jamón de Jabugo (the local Spanish ham) and cherry liquor.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Crystal Cruises calls here during its 2016 Northwest Passage voyage. Formerly known as Jakobshavn, this western Greenland town is 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This small port is home to only 4,500 residents, yet is Greenland’s third-largest settlement. What’s the big draw? Quite literally, it’s ice; the nearby Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Jeju, South Korea

Cruisers arriving on Regent Seven Seas or another line can walk the scenic path to the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall or admire island views from Hallasan, South Korea’s highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The destination has a superb lava tube system of caves as well. We suggest an enriching stop at the Jeju Folk Village Museum to learn about island history and culture.

The Trojan Horse, used in the movie “Troy,” on display near Kepez, Turkey.
 
The Trojan Horse, used in the movie “Troy,” on display near Kepez, Turkey.

Kepez, Turkey

While Kepez isn’t a household name for Mediterranean cruisers, this seaside town has access to several iconic sites—the ruins of ancient Troy and also Anzac Cove and Gallipoli’s World War I battlefields; here Turkish and Allied troops tragically faced off in a tug-of-war over the Dardanelles. Luxury cruisers have a new option to arrive via SeaDream in 2015 and take a line-offered tour to either site.

Luanda, Angola

Since Angola’s Civil War ended a decade or so ago, its capital city Luanda has been on a fast track to rebuilding. Silversea and others are headed back and luxury cruisers can learn about the country’s history at museums, historical sites and monuments. One highlight? The Parque Nacional da Kissama, south of Luanda, is an expansive wildlife park with elephants, water buffalos, antelopes and nesting sea turtles.

Lüderitz, Namibia

During an “Around the World in 180 Days” voyage in 2016, Oceania’s Insignia will have a Lüderitz maiden call. Founded in 1883 by a wealthy German merchant, Lüderitz has colorful Art Nouveau architecture and shoppers can purchase woven rugs, hand-made jewelry and African handicrafts. Coastal waters teem with penguins, dolphins, sharks and seals. One quirky activity? Cruisers might visit the Kolmanskop ghost town, once a bustling diamond trade center.

Morehead City, NC

Silversea’s Silver Shadow has a maiden call here during a roundtrip cruise from Fort Lauderdale on April 3, 2015. North Carolina’s Maritime Museum in nearby Beaufort will appeal to maritime enthusiasts with its boats, models, decoys and dioramas. Cruisers will also admire Bahamian- and West Indies-style homes. We like the English double-deck bus tour and strolling through the Beaufort Historic Site with an eerie 300-year-old graveyard; good walking shoes are needed for exploring here.

Oban, Scotland

Making a 2015 maiden call here is Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2. This northerly port near the Orkney Islands appeals to eco-enthusiasts who have a good chance of spotting marine life and birds, and in certain locations, even gray seals, otters and puffins. We’d recommend this region’s fresh seafood or savoring a fine Scottish whiskey while viewing rugged landscapes.

Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Sailing roundtrip from Miami on March 26, 2016, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner will sail into this French Caribbean port during a 14-day itinerary that also can be a 26-day option. Active cruisers might take a hike to the top of La Grande Soufrière volcano. Those interested in a mellower diversion can sample rum on a distillery tour.

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa near Reykjavik is one of the most visited sites in Iceland. Located in a lava field, its warm waters are rich in minerals.
 
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa near Reykjavik is one of the most visited sites in Iceland. Located in a lava field, its warm waters are rich in minerals.

Reykjavik, Iceland

This city is the access port for travelers to view Iceland’s “fire” and “ice” attractions during an upcoming maiden call for Windstar Cruises, the small-ship ocean line. While the city has a good mix of historical and cultural attractions, we’d suggest a warm-water soak in the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, while surrounded by lava fields and admiring snow-capped mountains.

Sanya, China

After guests of Oceania, Crystal and other lines return from visiting this tropical Hainan island port, they’ll likely describe it as “China’s Hawaii.” It’s known for nice beaches, good snorkeling, jet ski rides and the stunning Asian Dragon Bay. We recommend animal lovers visit Nanwan Monkey Island, home to more than 1,800 endangered macaque monkeys. When in Sanya, it’s also opportune to look up as the Guan Yin Statue of Hainan is one of the world’s tallest statues.

Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy

For 2015, Silversea will have a maiden call at “Leuca.” Lying along Italy’s “heel,” this pretty town offers white-washed buildings, azure waters, promontories, grottos, caves and coves, not to mention a lighthouse. We also like the pretty 19th-century Art Nouveau villa exteriors, some with Moorish designs. St. Mary’s Basilica commemorates St. Peter’s travel through Italy. We suggest sampling Puglian rolls topped with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and oregano.

Santa Marta, Colombia

While cruise ships visit Cartagena in high numbers, Santa Marta, Colombia’s oldest city, is more working-class in feel and yet retains much of the Spanish colonial charm. Regent Seven Seas calls here for the first time in 2016. The Cathedral of Santa Marta is one of Latin America’s first basilicas. Nearby are the Sierra Nevada mountains and beaches. We enjoyed a tour of Simon Bolivar’s Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the house where this “George Washington” of South America lived and died in 1830. Travelers will peruse his personal belongings, stroll gardens and visit his tomb.

Taolagnaro, Madagascar

Founded by the French East India Company in 1643, Taolagnaro originally was called Fort Dauphin in honor of the six-year old who later became Louis XIV, the “Sun King.” A Crystal Cruises maiden call in 2015, the port is a gateway to Madagascar’s semi-tropical landscapes. A “must-do” activity is watching the active lemurs at the Nahampoana Reserve.

Ullapool, Scotland

Silversea guests visiting here in 2016 might go hiking, climb Ullapool Hill or visit a botanical garden, the Falls of Measach or local castles. Ullapool is also a gateway to Loch Ness, for those wanting to take a private car tour to view the loch and potentially spot “Nessie.” Golfers can play at a nine-hole course. What to buy for friends? We suggest gifts of locally made, hand-knitted woolens.

Kolmanskop is Namibia’s most famous ghost town and is situated just a few kilometers inland from the port of Lüderitz.
 
Kolmanskop is Namibia’s most famous ghost town and is situated just a few kilometers inland from the port of Lüderitz.

Walvis Bay, Namibia

In December 2015 and January 2016, five cruises of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ luxury ship Europa II will visit East and South Africa with maiden port calls at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, South Africa, and Walvis Bay, beautifully rimmed by the Namib Desert. Cruisers might head out to Dune 7, the highest sand dune near town, for scenic views. A natural lagoon, in contrast, will appeal to birdwatchers who might spot flamingos, pelicans and migratory birds.

Zadar, Croatia

Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria will call at Zadar on multiple Mediterranean voyages starting in summer 2015. Historically focused cruisers will likely explore Roman ruins and medieval churches. Or, it’s a good destination to just sit and relax at a café and people watch.

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