PHUKET Who goes there: Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: Phuket Town with its shop-houses, cafes and temples is interesting, but many guests head across the island to take a kayak or speedboat tour among the stunning Phi Phi limestone islands and caves. Or you can stay on shore and enjoy the long sandy beaches and water sports including snorkelling or diving in the clear water around coral reefs. Dine on spicy food at a beachside restaurant or enjoy a spa treatment at one of the many high-end resorts. There are several shopping malls, and the Royal Paradise market. For more handmade local crafts head for the OTOP market.
Don’t miss: Watching the sunset from famous Patong Beach.
Getting around: During high season, ships moor off Patong Beach and tender passengers to shore. In the monsoon season, they dock at Phuket Deep Sea Port. It is a 20-minute drive to Phuket Town taxis or bemos (three-wheel minibus) will be waiting at the pier. A taxi to Patong Bay, a 45-minute trip, costs about US$50 round trip.
BANGKOK Who goes there: Avalon Waterways, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking River Cruises.
Cruisers like: Shopping alert: if you are in port at the weekend, visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market which has more than 15,000 stalls selling almost everything. Nearby, Or Tor Kor is a huge growers’ market, ideal for tasting unusual tropical fruit. Elsewhere, there are shopping centres and temples such as the Temple of Dawn, but one of the most fun things to do is to take a longtail motor boat along the Chao Phraya River, which loops through Bangkok and the network of klongs (canals) to see how people live along the waterways.
Best for: Food lovers, photographers, shoppers.
Getting around: Most ships dock at Laem Chabang, a two-hour drive from Bangkok. Taxis will offer a fixed price, from about US$95 to Bangkok and US$40 to Pattaya. Some smaller ships head up the river to Khlong Toei Port near central Bangkok
KO SAMUI Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea.
Cruisers like: Thailand’s third largest island is an oasis ringed by its only road and pristine white sandy beaches, with a mountainous jungle inland. The brilliant corals are ideal for diving and snorkelling, while turquoise lagoons and waterfalls offer postcard views. To the north, there’s the Big Buddha, and several other temples. It’s possible to explore it all by hiring a bicycle or teaming up with a local driver and guide. There are plenty of clubs, bars, beachside restaurants and cafes, as well as cooking classes.
Best for: All ages, especially water lovers and active people.
Getting around: Cruise ships anchor off Nathon and take passengers ashore via tender. The city centre is within a 15-minute walk of the pier. Taxis are available and the fare should be agreed before departing the pier.
KRABI Who goes there: P&O Cruises, Silversea.
Cruisers like: Krabi town is relaxed and low-key. Hike up the hilly streets to local cafes for affordable authentic dishes. Head further to see Buddhist shrines still in use in Tiger Cave, the major drawcard. It’s worth climbing the 1200 steps for the view over the island and town. Venture inland to experience lush jungle and waterfalls, or head to the dazzling white beaches for sea caves in limestone cliffs (for keen rock climbers) and islands (some 130 of them).
Best for: Couples, active people.
Getting around: Hire a tuk tuk to get around on land or a traditional longtail boat from the beach for independent island hopping.