A cruise offers an exciting and unique way to visit some of the world’s most compelling destinations. With excellent dining, activities and entertainment on board, not to mention the thrill of docking in a new port every other day, it’s an experience like no other.

However, with such a wide variety of places to visit – from the historic and cultural attractions of Europe to the natural wonders of South America – it can be difficult to know where to choose. Whether you’re a cruising novice or a seasoned seafarer looking for some inspiration, here are some of the best countries to visit on a ship.

Italy

Italy is one of the most popular destinations for Mediterranean cruises  with an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites, mouthwatering cuisine and stunning natural scenery, it’s no wonder this enchanting country is a firm favourite on European itineraries.

The west-coast ports of Livorno and Marina di Carrara are the gateways to Tuscany, home to some of the world’s most celebrated artwork and architecture. With frescoed churches, bustling piazzas and Renaissance buildings at every turn, not to mention iconic landmarks such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the red-roofed Duomo in Florence, this dazzling region is brimming with culturally enriching experiences.

In northern Italy, Venice takes the crown for the busiest port, with its romantic canals, winding walkways, ornate basilicas and gothic palaces. These famous Italian cities also boast first-class museums and galleries, showcasing masterpieces from the likes of Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.


Brazil

Known for its vibrant culture and impressive natural scenery, Brazil is one of the world’s most alluring destinations. A cruise here offers a cornucopia of experiences – from modern cities buzzing with life to old colonial towns frozen in time, and from wildlife-rich rainforests to white-sand beaches. Whether you’re dancing the night away in a samba club, climbing a rocky outcrop for spectacular views or snorkelling in crystal-clear waters, there’s certainly no shortage of thrilling activities on offer.

Most cruise itineraries include a number of stop-offs in cities along the coast, including Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Salvador and Natal. Various tours are available to the main attractions, allowing you to experience the local culture and cuisine first-hand.

The country’s cultural core, Rio, is an absolute must-visit, and cruise passengers are rewarded with stunning vistas of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue when arriving into the port. For a one-of-a-kind experience, smaller ships can take you on a thrilling river cruise into the depths of the Amazon rainforest.


Cuba

When you think of Cuba, images of bright buildings, classic cars, cigars and pristine beaches come to mind. Recent regulation changes means more cruises are visiting this Caribbean island than ever before, so there’s no better time to go than now.

As soon as you step foot off the ship you’ll be transported back in time to a simpler era, with little signs of modernisation. For many, Cuba’s well-preserved historical heritage is its main appeal.

Most ships dock in Havana, known for its Spanish-colonial architecture, rainbow-coloured houses and 1950s’ cars. Although many visitors make a beeline for the beaches, take the time to explore Old Havana, with its stone squares, crumbling churches, mansions-turned museums, bustling restaurants and rhythmic dance clubs. The colonial towns of Trinidad, Camagüey and Remedios are also worth a visit if you have the time, each exuding their own character and charm.

Of course, it’s not just culture and history that draws cruise liners to this tropical nation. The island has an abundance of white-sand shores, and if you want to venture off the beaten path, there are rugged mountains, verdant forests and deserted plantations waiting to be discovered.


Australia

Another of the world’s most sought-after cruise destinations is Australia. With modern cities and diverse landscapes ranging from mountains to deserts and rainforests, it’s no wonder this vast and vibrant country is high on many people’s travel bucket lists.

Many international cruises arrive in Sydney, home to some of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Other cities that often feature on Australian cruise itineraries include Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, each offering buzzing waterfront scenes packed with bars, restaurants, shops and fantastic sandy beaches.

Some cruises also visit offshore islands such as the Whitsundays, Kangaroo Island and Tasmania, offering picture-perfect scenery and fantastic wildlife-spotting opportunities. With many liners, you can choose to pair your cruise with land excursions and take part in exciting activities such as hiking, white water rafting and snorkelling.

Hopefully these countries have inspired you to set sail on a sea adventure, and wherever you choose, you’re guaranteed to enjoy some unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. If you’re planning on booking a cruise to one of these destinations, remember to do your research and shop around for an itinerary that suits your needs and budget.

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