The cruise industry often doesn’t get credit for its influence on tourism, but it can play a big role in boosting a destination and making it more accessible for travelers. In order to add a port stop on one of its itineraries, cruise lines have to partner with countries and local tourism boards, working with them on everything from meeting the needs of the guests they’re bringing on shore, to shore excursions, and stocking the ship with fresh food and other basics—and doing it in a way that helps the destination. Cruising is a form of travel we’ll get behind any day, but from this perspective, it plays a big role in bringing back destinations that have fallen out of favor with travelers, whether because of safety concerns or general decline in interest. These five places are the latest to make a comeback, the ones you should be adding to your list. It’s no coincidence that they’re also ideally experienced via a ship.
Acapulco was once one of the hottest spots for Hollywood and the glamorous jet-set of the ‘50s and ‘60s. John Wayne owned a hotel here during that time and entertained many of his movie star pals, while Rita Hayworth stayed at the Boca Chica with husband Orson Welles while filming “The Lady from Shanghai.” Crime has been an ongoing problem for many years, due to battles between local drug cartels, and it wiped out much of the tourism there. Yet travel to Mexico overall is on the rise, as well as interest in Acapulco (great effort has been made to educate travelers on safety, and to note that most of the crime is far from the resorts). The city still has plenty of old-school charm, great food, and of course, amazing beaches that still appeal.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers several sailings that call on Acapulco; the cruise line provides shuttles to nearby resorts, as well as a walking tour to the fort of San Diego and further into the heart of the city, through its oldest district. Alternatively, if you’re content to just lie around, the ship offers day trips to the Fairmont Pierre Marques, a resort located right on a secluded beach with a lunch buffet that serves freshly grilled octopus and chorizo, as well as ceviche and craft cocktails you can enjoy poolside. Other cruise lines that sail to Acapulco and take advantage of its perfect beach weather are Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, and Oceania. Walking along the shore—Acapulco is on a deep, semi-circular bay—you’ll find tons of bars filled with chatty locals. Spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach with a cerveza in hand, and you may even feel like a movie star yourself.
The Nile, Egypt
Until 2015, many of Egypt’s cruise routes were considered off-limits for safety reasons, but in recent years, the grand Nile River has reopened and visitors are once again free to travel between Cairo and Luxor; there’s a reason we dedicated an entire article on why you should visit Egypt this year. More than 300 cruise ships ply these waters, but among the best and the oldest is the S.S. Sudan—itself once famous for ferrying novelist Agatha Christie around the area and the inspiration for Death on the Nile—which stops in Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan. The Sudan, which is slower than most, gives passengers the ability to revel at some of the oldest architecture on the planet while sailing on a piece of history. With just 23 cabins on board, you’ll feel like you’re in one of Christie’s mysteries yourself. Excursions off the ship include visits to the Temple of Dendera near Qena, the temple of Kom Ombo, and Elephantine Island. Along with archeological adventures, you'll be able to drink mint tea at the mirror-filled El Fishawy cafe in Cairo and learn the secrets of mummification in Luxor—and yes, they even mummified their cats and crocodiles. Another alternative is the Nour el-Nil fleet, among the few river barges small enough to stop in Esna (read more about that journey here).
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most spectacular cities on earth—and seeing the majestic sight of Sugarloaf beckoning over the Atlantic Ocean to the buzzy beaches of Ipanema is pretty grand from a ship. Despite the tremendous success of the 2014 World Cup and the subsequent Olympics, tourism hasn’t quite maintained peak levels there, in some part from an increase in petty crimes like muggings and pickpocketing. Yet these crimes are largely concentrated in smaller pockets of the city that dont' see as much foot traffic; overall the city is quite safe for visitors. Celebrity Cruises, MSC, Princess Cruises, and Oceania all sail there. Seabourn offers a 21-day voyage that kicks off in Buenos Aires and concludes in Brazil’s rugged Manaus, but not before docking in Rio for a day of surveying sites like the Tijuca Rainforest Park, Corcovado, and the world-famous Maracan? Stadium. Of course, if you just wanted to spend the entire day on Copacabana drinking caipirinhas, no one would blame you.
While Havana may be accessible again to Americans via flight, those flights have become increasingly scarce, largely due to the Trump administration’s changing policies on travel to the country. While the new policies might affect the number of cruises that call on Havana in the future, it’s still a burgeoning market for many lines, with Richard Branson’s heavily anticipated Virgin Voyages including the island on its first sailing. One of Royal Caribbean’s most popular routes is a six-day sailing from Miami, where popular excursions include tours of Havana from the backseat of a classic American car, visits to cigar factories and rum distilleries, and literary tours featuring some of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved haunts.
Just three years ago, most major cruise lines removed all stops in Turkey from their itineraries due to safety concerns; however, the relative calm since 2017 and weakened Lira has seen travelers coming back in a big way—and now, the new airport and expanded routes from Turkish Airlines, not to mention the new cruise port on the Galata waterfront scheduled to open later this year, have cemented the feeling that Istanbul has rebounded. Cruise lines have committed in a big way, with Ponant, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania, Silversea, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess, and MSC all offering sailings to Istanbul this year, with several also announcing another Turkish stop, in Kusadasi, home to Ephesus. Visiting Turkey via a cruise is one of the easiest ways to get around; Istanbul, for example, is a massive city to tackle on your own, but through your sailing you can set up excursions to sites like the Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, and the Underground Cisterns, as well as architecture tours that includes visits to the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. You may not have time to make it through all 4,000 shops there, but we'll salute you for trying.
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