For the earliest risers among the cruising community, rugging up and standing on deck to see a ship sail into port is a truly moving experience – in more ways than one. But some of the 260 destinations visited by Royal Caribbean International around the world are more special than others.
From the mouths of 12 men and women who would know – all Captains of Royal Caribbean ships – 12 have been voted as their favourites.
1. Sydney Harbour
For a local or a visitor, the 240kms of shoreline that makes up Sydney Harbour was unsurprisingly decided as the favourite by Captain Rick Sullivan, who piloted Rhapsody of the Seas during some of the eight seasons the ship sailed in Australia. The harbour is well known for its annual New Years Eve festivities where the Sydney Harbour Bridge lights up TV screens around the world with its fireworks extravaganza. For Sullivan, his favourite harbour will be back on his regular schedule from 28 November when Explorer of the Seas – his newest command – sails into Sydney for the first time.
2. The Hubbard Glacier, Alaska
The icy, white glaciers of Alaska are popular with many a cruise passenger, and for Captain Sindre Borsheim of Voyager of the Seas, the view from Yakutat to Disenchantment Bay is anything but. Says Borsheim “it is different every time as the colours vary with the light”. Captain Juan Caranti from Rhapsody of the Seas agrees, describing the moment when a piece of ice falls into the ocean as being “like a thunderstorm”. The Hubbard Glacier is located in Eastern Alaska and is visited on many voyages to America’s 49th state.
3. Venice Harbour, Italy
Worth the early start to see the sun rising over the floating city, Venice and its architecture was voted by many of Royal Caribbean’s Captains as among their favourites. Cruise ships approach the city via its lagoon, giving those onboard an up-close view of the iconic cityscape.
4. Geiranger Fjord, Norway
Located in Møre og Romsdal, in the country’s southwest, the picture-perfect fjord delivers a serene cruise experience, as cruise ship engines are largely dulled to a gentle putter to allow the majesty of the mountainous surroundings to sink in. Deep blue water leads to wild waterfalls in some places along with healthy, green trees. The waterway was voted as the favourite of Captain Espen Been, pilot of Grandeur of the Seas.
5. Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
Another of Captain Espen Been’s most adored, the Swedish capital was described as being like “nothing else” due to the difficulty of navigating something like 30,000 rocks and small islands that make up the obstacle course to enter the harbour. While they provide the Captain with a challenge on the ship’s Bridge, the region from Arholma in the north to Landsort in the south offers plenty of viewing opportunities, with islands, sandy beaches, sheer cliff faces and “homes that look like doll’s houses”.
6. Vesuvias, Italy
With the iconic and menacing Mount Vesuvias in the background, fabled with its place in history, the Italian coastline in Naples affords some of the best views in the world in which to welcome a ship, according to many of the cruise line’s men and women in charge. Captured from the sea, the sight of the once-deadly Mount Vesuvias towering over the town below is wholeheartedly agreed as one for the ages.
7. Golfo di Poeti, La Spezia, Italy
Making its third appearance in the lineup, Italy and the La Spezia coastline never ceases to amaze many in the Royal Caribbean International fleet. Known also as the Bay of Poets as named by Lord Byron, the line’s Captains agreed the sight of the coastline as ships leave the port is breathtaking and “enchanting”.
8. Nice, France
The playground of the rich and famous, ocean ships are a frequent sight among hundreds of private yachts and luxurious small ships. The neighbouring port of VilleFranche won its place in the lineup due to the mountainous backdrop which hangs over the back of the coastline. Captain Thomas Busto from Adventure of the Seas says that April is the best time to visit the port – midway between the end of winter and the start of summer. He says “when the ships arrive in the Mediterranean in late-April, the mountains are still snow-capped but the beaches are welcome sunbathers”.
9. Kotor, Montenegro
A region that has seen its fair share of volatility in recent decades is still home to some of the most picturesque views in Eastern Europe. The city was labelled as “completely different in terms of view and entertainment” by Captain Lis Lauritzen, master of Vision of the Seas. Regarded as one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea, the town of Kotor sees little traffic from major cruise ships, leaving it in a category of its own. Mountains shadow the coastline and its Venetian architecture.
10. Moorea, French Polynesia
The Tahitian island of Moorea is home to clear turquoise lagoons ringed by coral reefs and overwater bungalows along the water’s edge owned by some of the world’s most luxurious holidfay resorts. Just across the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean, Moorea is ideal for adventure holidaymakers seeking hiking and scuba diving as much as it is for those keen for fun in the sun, offering a postcard photo opportunity for cruise travellers around every corner of every island.
11. Vancouver, Canada
On the edge of Alaska and the setting-off point for many voyages to the region, the major Canadian west-coast city was voted by Captain Rick Sullivan of Explorer of the Seas for its scenery as you sail under the First Narrows Bridge into Vancouver Harbour, with the mountains in the background.
12. The English Channel, United Kingdom
To close the list, Captain Henrik Loft Soerensen from the Brilliance of the Seas claims simply that the English Channel is “beautiful and peaceful”
All of the ports can be visited by contacting your travel agent to book on a Royal Caribbean International cruise.