A few summers back, while assigned to an Alaskan itinerary, a passenger complained to me that a day of Scenic Cruising through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was a “day wasted.” Apparently, she was unaware when she booked the cruise that Glacier Bay is not a Port, and guests cannot go ashore to stock up on t-shirts, Ulu’s and fudge.
And that is the point of an afternoon or day of Scenic Cruising: leave your wallets in your stateroom, grab your camera, slather on the sunscreen and get comfy somewhere on the outside decks – you are about to see some extraordinary feat of nature that is most likely only accessible by water!
Frommers has compiled an excellent list of the world’s most scenic itineraries; however, this Top 10 list is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg! Scenic Cruising provides intimate accessibility to Ocean carved grottos, Fjords, Glaciers, and active Volcanoes. My visits to Alaska, the South Seas, the Mediterranean and Greek Islands have rekindled my childhood fascination with the Natural World – and those Earth Science classes from High School no longer seem futile or irrelevant. Suddenly Geology, Glaciology, and Plate Tectonics become relevant, miraculous, and beautiful, eliciting both intellectual curiosity and artistic inspiration!
I feel fortunate to have visited most of the destinations on the Frommers list. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite photos from some of those locales and a few other scenic hot spots:
Glacier Bay National Park:
Located in the Alaskan panhandle, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has been a mainstay for cruise ship visitors for decades. The National Park Service provides fantastic programs, in which park rangers, naturalists, and Cultural Interpreters board the ships to provide scenic commentary and lectures.
Cabo San Lucas and the Baha Peninsula:
The Baja Peninsula stretches some 800 miles from the U.S. border (California and Arizona) to the tourist Mecca of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Travelers arriving by cruise ship should follow my time-honored advice of getting up early; the rising sun on Cabo’s rocky landscape produce a spectacular color explosion in the wee hours of the morning.
El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, also known as The Arch, or Lands End, is a distinctive rock formation at the southernmost tip of Cabo San Lucas. Its spectacular natural shape is a natural phenomenon, naturally carved by ocean currents. This formation has some historical significance as well – notorious pirates, such as Sir Francis Drake, would hide in its crevasses, waiting to ambush and plunder merchant ships.
Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica:
This lush inlet on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast includes the Piedras Blancas National Park (former Corcovado National Park extension), with 35,000 acres of protected rainforest as well as an important marine area. This region is absolutely bursting with marine life!
This 17-mile waterway is sometimes referred to as Europe’s southernmost fjord. The Bay of Kotor is the result of an old river running from the interior to the Adriatic Sea. Still, the captivation views are fjord-like, with mountains rising on both sides of a long, thin bay that leads to the Old Walled Town of Kotor.
Geirangerfjord and the Geirangelva River:
The UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord is located in the Sunnmøre region of Norway, and surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and sumptuous vegetation. The small village of Geiranger is located at the end of the fjord into which the Geirangelva River empties.
Maui, the Hawaiian Islands: The waters around the main Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe constitute one of the world’s most important habitats for the North Pacific Humpback Whale. During the winter and spring months of January through May, the abundance of Humpback Mothers and Calves in these waters is astounding.
There are stringent speed and traffic restrictions in place for cruise ships sailing in and out of ports such as Lahaina: Cetaceans always have the right of way!
Confederation Bridge – Prince Edward Island, The Canadian Maritimes:
The 8-mile long Confederation Bridge joins the eastern Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, making travel throughout the Maritimes easy and convenient.
My personal favorite for scenic cruising, Stromboli is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, northeast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. There are two villages on the island, the larger Stromboli and the much smaller Ginostra. Italians have been dwelling alongside these conical dragons, seemingly unfazed, for millennia. Not surprisingly, there is a fair amount of tourism on the island, including Evening Guided Walks to the island’s summit.