39 amazing cruise experiences

Cruise ship in Venice. Photo: Shutterstock
Cruise ship in Venice. Photo: Shutterstock

Being awestruck by Antarctic wildlife. Savouring Michelin-starred meals. Experiencing the magic of one-of-a-kind UNESCO sites. There’s no question that Douglas Ward — esteemed author of the Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships — has enjoyed plenty of incredible experiences during his 39-year tenure devoted to the cruise industry.

Originally published as the Berlitz Handbook to Cruising, there’s no better book — or expert — to inform and inspire cruise travelers. So, if you’re looking to enjoy your own voyage of a lifetime, read on to discover 39 amazing cruise experiences, courtesy of the author himself.

1. Immersion in the orchestral majesty of Fingal’s Cave

Passing within arm’s distance of Fingal’s Cave on the Inner Hebridean island of Staffa as Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture was played on the Hebridean Princess.

Fingal's Cave. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Slicing through ice in the Antarctic Peninsula

Watching from the Hanseatic’s above-bridge observation deck as the ship slowly sliced through ice in the steep-sided Lemaire Channel in the Antarctic Peninsula.


3. Dining on Europa’s finest food and wine 

Tasting artisan cuisine prepared by chefs whose restaurants had three Michelin stars aboard Europa. This culinary heaven can be enjoyed by anyone with a ticket.


4. Approaching the Big Apple in big style

Gliding past the Statue of Liberty aboard Queen Mary 2 in the early-morning mist. Anyone can experience this aboard any cruise ship sailing into New York.

Statue of Liberty on a misty morning. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Living the high life on the high seas

Having breakfast in a Royal Box aboard the boutique ships SeaDream I or SeaDream II. 

6. Witnessing Japanese culinary wizzes

Enjoying freshly sliced tuna and yellowtail sashimi at Nobu Matsuhisa’s Silk Road Sushi Bar aboard the former Crystal Serenity. Not only was this a culinary tour de force, but watching the Japanese chefs was entertaining, too.


7. Experiencing Amalfi magic 

Sitting on a Club Suite balcony aboard Azamara Quest admiring the scenery of Sorrento, Italy, with a Limoncello in hand.


8. Being wowed by the water during a candlelit dinner

Dining by candlelight on the terrace café of Aegean Odyssey in Southeast Asia while watching the mesmerizing water patterns created by a full orange moon.

9. Devouring divine udon noodles in Alaska

Sitting on my balcony while enjoying steaming hot udon noodles while transiting Alaska’s Inside Passage aboard Nippon Maru.


10. Sidling into Sydney in majestic style 

Being on deck as Queen Mary 2 turned into Sydney Harbour and sidled up to Circular Quay, near Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. 

Circular Quay, Sydney. Photo: Shutterstock

11. Seeing shooting stars from a tall ship 

Lying in the Blue Lagoon area aboard the Sea Cloud watching the sails direct this wonderful tall ship as a shooting star passed overhead. An incredibly serene, magical experience.

12. Paying tribute to Shackleton

Toasting Sir Ernest Shackleton at his grave one Christmas Day at Grytviken, the former Norwegian whaling station in South Georgia.


13. Bathing in the glory of the northern lights

Cruising aboard a Hurtigruten ship on the northern coast of Norway and seeing the green flash of the northern lights appear as the sun dipped.


14. Slipping into sleep under the stars 

Being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the sea aboard the intimate, boutique-sized SeaDream I and SeaDream II.


15. Hanging out like Spiderman of the Caribbean 

Sitting in the netting hanging at the bowsprit (front) of the Star Flyer tall ship as it glided gracefully across the azure-blue Caribbean Sea.

Tall ship in Curacao. Photo: Shutterstock

16. Visiting heavenly Ha Long Bay on a misty morning 

Standing on the foredeck of a cruise ship entering the Ha Long Bay UNESCO World Heritage site in north-eastern Vietnam. Top tip: for an added ethereal calm, visit in the early morning, when the mist is heavy.


17. Bathing for Queen and country 

Taking a bath aboard Queen Elizabeth 2 while listening to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance on the in-cabin broadcast system, thinking: how incredibly British!


18. Taking in the power of the Panama Canal 

Watching as steel-wired electric mules pull cruise ships into position in one of the lock chambers at Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal.


19. Viewing Venice from a unique angle 

Gliding by St Mark’s Square aboard a ship offers a view of Venice you can only enjoy from the deck of a waterborne vessel. Magic.

St Mark's Square, Venice. Photo: Shutterstock

20. Mooring mere steps from the State Hermitage Museum 

Being aboard a small cruise ship as it moored mere steps from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.


21. Striking a Titanic pose 

Standing with outstretched arms at the front of Braemar, just like Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997), as the ship glided through the Swedish archipelago.


22. Standing on top of the world

Standing at 90 degrees north — the geographic North Pole — literally looking down on the world. I visited in 2016 aboard the stunning Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory.

23. Soaking up scenery 

Staring at the horizon while lying in the bathtub in one of the two Deck 10 Crystal Penthouse suites aboard the former Crystal Symphony.

24. Soaking in a Grand Spa

Sitting in the hot bath of the grand spa aboard Asuka II, looking out over the city lights in Naha, the port for Okinawa, Japan.


25. Being pulled by paw power in Alaska 

Being drawn by a team of huskies in Juneau, Alaska, as we sped past glaciers and ice peaks.

Husky-drawn sleds in Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

26. Rocking and rolling in Glacier Bay

Watching blue glacial ice calving from the deck of a tiny cruise ship in Glacier Bay, Alaska. You rock and roll as it slips, slides and crashes into the water within inches of your body.


27. Enjoying geothermal goodness in Iceland

Sitting in a pool of geothermal water in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, part of the lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula. This is offered as part of a tour from your ship.


28. Close encounters with famous faces

Meeting someone you never thought possible to meet. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet, talk to, and have a drink with many well-known personalities including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Tippi Hedren, and Dame Margot Fonteyn.


29. Enjoying awesome photo ops

Being aboard a photo tender arranged by the cruise line. In my case, taking photographs aboard a tall ship while it was under full sail.


30. Seeing volcanic action up close in Sicily

Cruising close to Stromboli off the north coast of Sicily. The almost-constantly erupting volcano emits incandescent lava.

Stromboli volcano, Sicily. Photo: Shutterstock

31. Being wowed by whales in Antarctic waters

While aboard an Antarctic expedition cruise ship, killer whales (orcas) began splashing in the water off the starboard side aft — so close, I could have touched their dorsal fins. 


32. Seeing in the New Year in fiery style

Being aboard a ship sipping champagne while enjoying a magnificently colorful New Year’s Eve firework display in Funchal, Madeira.


33. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah’ing at sea

Careening along the zipline between rows of cabins high above the deck of Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, or Oasis of the Seas. Quite a surprise to some occupants!


34. Being exhilarated by maiden cruise magic

Enjoying the excitement of a maiden voyage aboard a brand-new ship — an experience highly prized among cruise collectors. 


35. Boarding a boat for a bird’s eye view

Experiencing a new perspective from one of the ‘glass capsules’ aboard Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, or Spectrum of the Seas.

Anthem of the Seas. Photo: Shutterstock

36. Finding the love of your life 

Many years ago, I met my wife aboard a Japanese cruise ship. You too, could meet the person of your dreams aboard a cruise ship — it happens all the time.


37. Savoring shipshape delights in Cherbourg

While cruising between Cherbourg and Reykjavik, my wife and I enjoyed a special tasting of ship-shaped chocolate created by the famed French celebrity master chef Alain Ducasse. 


38. Enjoying special gin 

I tasted a special tri-pack of miniature gins made by the Summerhill Distillery in Scotland for each of the three current Cunard ships. 


39. Sipping sundowners on a Magic Carpet

Enjoying cocktails at sunset on the 90-seat Magic Carpet lounge-bar on the starboard side of the ship that moves vertically between decks 2 and 16. The novelty is pretty special.


For more inspiration and invaluable wisdom that'll ensure you enjoy an unforgettable cruise, read Douglas Ward’s Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships.

New to cruising? Read our top cruise tips for first-timers, and wise up on the best cruises for different types of travelers