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Think of a place you want to visit and it is highly likely you will find a cruise ship to take you there. Here are 10 of our favourite cruise destinations. Words: Toni Eatts.

South Pacific

The South Pacific routinely tops the list of the most popular cruise destinations for Australians and New Zealanders. It’s logical that we want to learn about our Polynesian and Pacific neighbours, especially when they live in such tropical splendour. A standard week-long cruise departing Sydney, Brisbane or Auckland delivers you to destinations such as New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Loyalty Islands – islands that northern-hemisphere residents have to endure long plane journeys to enjoy. Longer cruises can take you to Fiji, Tonga, Western and American Samoa, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands.

Australia and New Zealand

Now that an increasing number of international cruise lines are sending ships into Australian and New Zealand waters, local cruise passengers have a greater choice of ships and itineraries. Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Fremantle and Auckland regularly have ships departing for cruises to tropical north Queensland, northern Australia and the Kimberley, and Tasmania.
In New Zealand, picture-perfect Fiordland National Park is popular, along with Christchurch, Wellington, Napier and Tauranga.

South-East Asia

Cruising these waters is becoming more and more popular as people realise it’s an easy way to explore so many different countries and cultures within relatively easy reach of Australia. Singapore is a departure port for short round-trips through the Strait of Malacca to Penang and Langkawi in Malaysia, and Phuket in Thailand. There are also cruises departing from Australia that cruise to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Mediterranean

This particular part of the world is perfect for a cruising holiday. The Mediterranean is full of ports offering history, architecture, culture and superb food. The region offers cruises from Spain to Turkey and everywhere in between. The variety means you can select from itineraries where, for example, you board in romantic Venice, cruise through the Greek Islands and wind up meandering along the coast of Turkey to intriguing Istanbul. There is also a huge selection of cruise ships to choose from as all the major cruise lines know how popular this destination with passengers from around the world.

Northern Europe

Many cruises in this region embark from Southampton, which suits Australians and New Zealanders, who often combine cruises with land holidays. Itineraries can take in a wide range of countries including the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Iceland, the Arctic region and Russia. These cruises are usually confined to the European summer and visit a wide variety of ports, from quaint coastal villages to fascinating cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm and St Petersburg.

European rivers

As these great waterways are lined with World-Heritage-listed villages, walled cities, and some of Europe’s best castles, museums and art galleries, they are popular cruising choices. While the most cruised rivers remain the Rhine, Moselle and Danube, you can also take a cruise through France, along the Saône and Rhône, in Portugal and Spain along the Douro River and along rivers, canals and lakes between Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia.

Alaska/Canada

This region offers everything from rustic villages to rumbling glaciers. Many cruise lines offer itineraries here, so you can sail on small adventure-style vessels or large resort ships. The Inside Passage, which begins at Vancouver Island, Canada, is the most popular itinerary, with visits to Sawyer Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park and Ketchikan. Cruises along the east coast of Canada begin in Montreal, New York or Boston, and calls might include Halifax, Quebec City, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

North Asia

Cruises to China, South Korea and Japan are growing in popularity because they allow you to visit several destinations without having to find your way around busy cities and airports. Feast on yum cha in Hong Kong, see the modern super-city of Shanghai and explore Tokyo, Nagasaki and Kyoto.

Asian Rivers

Cruising along Asia’s great rivers gives you a wonderful insight into the countries you visit. Glide along the Yangtze and see the Three Gorges and its controversial dam or cruise the Irrawaddy and Chindwin in Myanmar (Burma), the Mekong and Tonle rivers in Cambodia and the backwaters of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. These itineraries take you from mountains and jungles to open plains, via architectural wonders such as Angkor Wat. There are also cruises along the Rajang in Borneo and the Ganges and Brahmaputra in India.

Antarctica

A few ships depart from Australia for Antarctic adventures but most leave from South America. There are two styles of cruise to the wildlife-rich Antarctic Peninsula: larger ships and basic expedition vessels. The larger ships have restricted access to the area, so they tend to combine a voyage to the Antarctic with a cruise along the South American coast, generally departing from Valparaiso or Buenos Aires. The smaller ships usually depart from Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world. They often carry wildlife experts who give lectures and the focus is on shore excursions.

With so many places to visit, how can you decide which is your dream destination? The best way is to ask yourself what style of cruise holiday you’d like.

If you’re taking a week off from work to recharge your batteries, your requirements are different from those of, say, a retired couple who want to spend a month immersed in the cultural and historical sites of a particular part of the world.

There are dozens of options that fulfil both desires, however. If you need to unwind, consider itineraries that include some days at sea, such as those that take you around the South Pacific or Asia.

If you want something more action-packed, consider a river or ocean cruise around Europe that has you out seeing the sights every day and taking in cultural events on many nights.

To get back to nature, look for cruises to remote regions such as Alaska – or, closer to home, you can explore Tasmania, New Zealand, northern Australia and Antarctica.