I absolutely love cruising. Since the first time sailing to the Western Caribbean from New Orleans in 2002, I was hooked. Now, after 50+ cruises under my belt, I still love the itineraries, the ship’s activities, the delicious food, meeting people from all over the world, and making memories on the high seas. Here are my all-time favorite cruises.
Note: I was hosted by Holland America’s Princess Cruises on this particular cruise. All opinions are my own.
A few years ago, one of my best cruise buddies and I took the Baltic Capitals cruise with Princess Cruises. We started in Athens, Greece, and finished in Istanbul, Turkey. Not only was this the most exhausting cruise I’d ever taken (I pounded the pavement every minute I could), but it also allowed me to check off several personal travel bucket lists and my number one, which was Istanbul. We sailed the Bosphorus Strait, Black Sea, and visited some of the world’s most amazing cities on a 2,000 passenger cruise ship for nine days.
This was a trip of a lifetime. I truly needed a vacation when I got home due to the long days in port (much longer than a typical Caribbean cruise) and the number of things we saw in each country. The cruise highlights were a fun food tour around parts of Athens I had not seen on previous trips, touring the hanging monasteries in Volos, visiting the historical region of Khios, and exploring a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bulgaria. We also had a visit to Constanta, my first time in Romania.
Pro Tip: Splurge on the best excursion option in the places you have waited a lifetime to see. We hired a private guide for our two days in Istanbul. Hanifi Yilmaz was the best guide we could have asked for in a city where we truly felt like foreigners. Words cannot describe how amazing this trip was, and to date, after all of my cruises, it remains my number one.
Starting in Copenhagen, this nine-day cruise with NCL was another exceptional itinerary. We had a couple of days in Copenhagen (where we had time for a cruise ship excursion plus a few hours on our own to see the ABBA Museum), Stockholm, Helsinki, and Berlin (a fantastic historical tour). We had an overnight in St. Petersburg, allowing us time to have a 12 and 13- hour tour day with our private guide. I saw so much of St. Petersburg, which was one of the best travel days of my life.
St. Petersburg is the most opulent place I have ever visited. Even after touring Vatican City, all the historical biggies in Rome, Newport Mansions, and other exquisite sites, none could touch the magnificence of St. Petersburg.
Fun Fact: My friend and I had not heard much about Tallinn, Estonia, so we almost skipped it and stayed on the ship because it was our only time to rest during the packed itinerary. She found a fun-sounding food tour, which is why we got off the boat. It turns out, Tallinn was our favorite cruise port of the trip and is still my favorite European city. Don’t miss a port… no matter how tired you are.
My friend, Angie, and I cruised to Canada and New England with Holland America after I drooled over that cruise for nearly a dozen years. We flew to Montreal, where we overnighted and explored the city before boarding the cruise. Our itinerary was Quebec City, Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), and both Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Back in the U.S., we stopped in Bangor, Maine, and the cruise disembarked in Boston. The cruise ship itself was fantastic, one of the most excellent oceanliner ships I’ve ever sailed on, and we could not have been more pleased with the food, entertainment, and excursion choices.
In Quebec City, afternoon tea at the Château Frontenac is a must, and in PEI, we toured the Anne of Green Gables sites. One of the most photographic sights in Canada is Peggy’s Point Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. We took that excursion which also visited the somber Titanic graveyard.
In Maine, we rented a car, explored Acadia National Park at our own speed, feasted a local lobster roll, drove by the mega-mansions in Seal Harbor, and ate blueberry ice cream.
This cruise had fewer kids than I had ever sailed with. It is a vacation that a seasoned cruiser should take, with a fabulous schedule and ship. I think a newbie cruiser may be a bit overwhelmed on this one.
Pro Tip: We had to walk quite a distance, and over uneven and hilly terrain when visiting the Titanic Graveyard and Peggy’s Cove. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle with you.
The first major cruise I took (meaning not the Caribbean) was to Scandinavia with seven girlfriends. Talk about a blast…. wow! We flew to London for a few days before cruising out of Southampton. Our cruise ports included Oslo (Norway), Copenhagen (Denmark), Amsterdam (Netherlands), and Helsingborg (Sweden). The cruise ended in Copenhagen, where we stayed a few more days to soak up the scenery and rich history.
This was my first of many cruises with Princess. The Sea Princess was an older ship with around 2,000 people. It went into dry dock for refurbishment after our cruise. I love how Princess uses many of the same names for the common areas, bars, and restaurants, making it easy to find your way around from ship to ship.
Many cruisers schedule the Rhine as their first river cruise and typically choose Viking River Cruises for dependability and price point. I did the same and loved it; however, I think the Danube is more scenic and has a better route than the Rhine. River cruising enriches your mind, soul, and spirit. This cruise began in Passau, Germany, one of the most beautiful cities of the trip.
My three best cruise girlfriends and I were the youngest on board the 198 passenger Viking Helvetia ship, minus one couple traveling with their parents and one teenage grandchild. We had an ultimate time and met people whom we still keep in touch with today.
Ports of call included Linz, Vienna, and Melk (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Budapest (Hungary). Excursions are included with your Viking cruise fee, though there are a few optional ones for an additional cost. Beer and wine, plus soda, are complimentary during mealtimes.
Pro Tip: One of the most magical moments of your travel life will be when the boat sails into Budapest, with the thousands of white lights twinkling from the buildings and bridges on both sides of the water (Buda and Pest). Put your cameras and recording devices away and just take in the moment. It is surreal.
Pro Tip: I recommend the post-cruise extension with Viking in Budapest. For around $399 per person, my girlfriend and I stayed in a luxury hotel for a few nights, had all of our travel connections reserved, plus complimentary gourmet breakfasts.
Alaska is one of the top desired cruise locations, and why not? With impeccable picture-perfect scenery and a United States landscape that is one-of-a-kind, it is no surprise that this is one of my all-time favorite cruises.
My Alaskan trip started in Seattle with Princess, who fine-tuned the Alaskan journey. It sailed to Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, before heading to Victoria, British Columbia, where we disembarked after a week.
The safari tour by land and sea in Juneau was terrific, providing my daughter and me excellent photo-ops for glaciers, bears, whales, and bald eagles. In Ketchikan, we were in love with the scenery and mostly explored the town and local restaurants, including having a cold beer and enjoying the boisterous sing-along at Red Dog Saloon.
Victoria was a real treat — my first time in Canada. I thought my Alaska trip was perfect and thoroughly enjoyed the Alaskan-themed midnight buffets, probably unheard of today. Swimming in the pool with the ice-capped mountains in the background was pretty memorable.
Where To Next?
I am so excited that cruising is back and anxious to add more routes to my cruise memories. I want to cruise America’s Great River with Viking, Hawaii with Holland America, give NCL another shot, and familiarize myself with Windstar Cruises. Have you considered a cruise vacation, or have you already been bitten by the cruise bug?
A cruise vacation offers great value and its all-inclusive nature appeals to travelers of all ages: