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10 Bucket List Cruise Ports You MUST See Before You Die

When was the last time you updated your vacation bucket list? Oh yeah? Well, that’s too long! It’s time to dust off that outdated checklist and start booking your next cruise. And of course, no trip would be complete without some amazing shore tours sprinkled in. Check out these breathtaking destinations and discover hand-selected excursions you’ll tell the grandkids about.

Costa Maya Storied history, powder-white beaches, and a jaw-dropping coral reefs are the calling card of Mexico’s Costa Maya region. Just north of the border with Belize, this stunning cruise port offers access to many of the country’s unsung Mayan archaeological sites. Unlike the major cities to the north, Costa Maya is authentically Mexican — unspoiled by overtourism and mass commercialization. During your stop, the Chacchoben Ruins are a must-see. Dating from around 700 AD, this two-square-mile area is dotted with towering pyramids, ancient temples, breathtaking courtyards and Mayan hieroglyphics. If ocean life is your jam, a scuba or snorkeling tour may be just what the doctor ordered. Costa Maya’s shallow reef habitats are teeming with fish, humongous sea turtles and sleek rays. Sharks, lobsters, and slithering eels will greet you as you explore this 4-million-year old formation. If you want the best Mexico has to offer, Costa Maya is not to be missed.

Malta Malta is a small, Mediterranean archipelago stretching between Sicily, Italy and North Africa. Adorned with megalithic temples, ornate baroque churches, narrow Old World streets, and hilltop citadels, it’s one of Europe’s most fascinating attractions. It also rivals Greece and Croatia for its collection of dazzling beaches. Delve into Malta’s 7,000-year-old history on a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. Here, you’ll discover prehistoric temples, Roman villas, Medieval towns, and the mystery of St. Agatha’s catacombs. And the Maltese wine? It’s not to be missed. Savor it on the Three Cities and Wine Tour as you explore the hamlets of Cospicua, Vittoriosa, and Birgu. Along the way, you’ll spy 17th and 18th century defense walls, fortifications and military outposts. Then it’s time for a jaunt to Marsa and a tour of Marsovin Cellars. Fascinated travelers learn how the region’s grapes are cultivated, pressed, and fermented into world-class varietals you’ll find nowhere else on earth. A tasting in the 400-year-old aging cellars is accompanied by by Maltese bread and cheese. And when you’re done, you can buy a few bottles to impress your friends back home!

St. Lucia St Lucia is one of the Caribbean’s most awe-inspiring ports of call. Its landmark Pitons rise from the ocean’s depths — a pair of green volcanic peaks that jut high above the island’s mountainous interior. Cast away on the sightseeing trip of a lifetime on the Soufriere Catamaran Sail Excursion. Cruising St. Lucia’s emerald coast, you’ll explore the celebrated Marigot Bay and spy the quaint townships of Anse La Raye and Canaries. After sailing past the iconic Pitons, you’ll board a mini-coach to explore the Sulphur Springs volcanic site, Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens before dining on a traditional island meal at an authentic local restaurant. If you’re looking for a buzz of excitement, you’ll find it on the Adrenaline Zip Line Tour. On this unforgettable eco-adventure, you’ll soar over awe-inspiring rainforest buzzing with flora and fauna. Zipping from platform to platform along a suspended cable, you’ll feel a sense of weightlessness and wonder. With its volcanic peaks and unspoiled jungle expanse, it’s no wonder travelers rate St. Lucia as one the Caribbeans can’t-miss destinations.

St. Maarten The exquisite isle of St. Maarten offers a cornucopia of Caribbean treasures. Its sublime white-sand stretch for miles along an undulating coastline that gives way to iridescent reefs that beckon snorkelers from around the globe. The island is the smallest in the world to be governed by two sovereign nations (The Netherlands and France), contributing to its uniquely Euro-Caribbean social fabric. Experience the culinary heritage of this unique island on the epic Flavors of St. Martin Culinary Road Trip. Meandering among scenic vistas, you’ll delight in Dutch, Creole, and French gastronomy including Dutch cheeses, local wine and Cajun barbecue to name a few. On your day in port, don’t miss the Island’s trademark Maho beach. Featured on postcards and travel shows the world over, this is where jumbo jets fly mere feet over the heads of sun-seeking beachgoers. On a Jet Blast Beach Day Excursion, you’ll mingle at Sunset Beach Bar and Grill as 747s glide directly overhead before landing on “the scariest runway in the world.” Get your camera ready and make some postcards of your own at this one-of-a-kind destination in the Caribbean.

Hilo Situated on the northeastern side of the island of Hawaii, Hilo is blessed with soul-stirring natural wonders, including dramatic waterfalls, fertile rainforests and blooming gardens. Curving around the crescent-shaped bay, downtown Hilo is a charming town packed with boutiques, galleries, storefronts and eateries. Make the most of your stop on the Best of Big Island and Volcanoes National Park Tour. This unforgettable excursion features rainforest waterfalls, black sand beaches, craters, lava tubes and sought-after orchids — some of which are worth up to $20,000! It’s the only place in the world where you can peer at the 80-foot Rainbow Falls AND the explore the summit of Kilauea volcano! If ocean exploration is more your speed, hop aboard a private kayak and explore the crystal-clear waters of Hilo Bay. As you paddle down the Hamakua Coast, you’ll take in dazzling views views of the Mauna Loa crater, lush rainforest, Queen Liliuokalani Gardens and Mokuloa, also known as Coconut Island. According to local legend, the island’s healing powers can cure the sick. Enjoy a picnic and some snorkeling on this island paradise before paddling to your port destination.

Cartagena Perched on the glimmering Caribbean coast, Cartegena wows travelers with its 18th-century walled city, imposing clock tower, pastel-painted colonial homes and labyrinth of cobblestoned streets that zigzag past historic forts and cathedrals. The UNESCO World Heritage Old Town is a sight to behold, but that’s just the start of your adventure in this South American jewel. Hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage for a tour of the city’s cultural and architectural gems. As you meander past colonial masterpieces, churches, mansions and more, the sights, sounds and smells of the bustling barrio will transport your soul. If you hunger for exotic local fare, indulge your senses on a scintillating Street Food Tour. At Simon Bolivar Square, you’ll sample tropical fruits served by local Palenqueras. On Roman Street, you’ll indulge in Bollo de Mazorca con queso and Bocadillo con queso costeño. Next up, you’ll get an unforgettable taste of freshly caught octopus, shellfish, and shrimp, before hitting up the Donde Magola on Portobello Street for mouthwatering Arepas con huevo Carimanola and flash-fried empanadas. If you crave Instagrammable moments, Cartegena never disappoints!

Phuket There’s a reason Phuket is hailed as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea.” Tucked off Thailand’s glorious southern coast, this colorful island boasts a storied history reflecting Chinese, Thai, Malay, and Western influences. Its transparent waters, dramatic beaches, and densely forested hills form the perfect backdrop for windsurfing, snorkelling, and hiking in unspoiled nature. Get an authentic taste of local flavor on the Phuket Highlights Tour. It all starts at Promthep Cape, where you gaze at spectacular views of Nai Harn Beach and Ko Kaew Island, where the Andaman Sea caresses the shoreline 200 feet below. At the famed Wat Chalong Buddhist temple, you’ll stroll through the grand pagoda for an up-close look at intricate scroll carvings and colorful paintings. This holy structure is reputed to contain a genuine splinter of bone from the Buddha. For an adventure of geologic proportions, board a speedboat to Ko Phi Phi Ley island. Here, sheer limestone cliffs jut from the surface of the glassy waters to form one of the most stunning natural sights in the world. On your adventure, spend some time snorkeling at this otherworldly paradise. Then reboard your craft for a glimpse of soaring cliffs, expansive beaches, and emerald waters at Phi Phi Don island. These exciting Phuket excursions will leave you breathless.

Quebec City Known as the cradle of French America, Quebec City is the only fortified city on the continent north of Mexico. Its storied heritage, cobblestone streets, and European charm mesmerize travelers from around the globe. No wonder it’s the only UNESCO World Heritage site in North America. Take it all in on a charming Old Quebec City Walking Tour. On your journey, you’ll experience Quebec’s historical sites including the Citadel, a national historic monument and the official residence of the Governor General. Further on, you’ll encounter the Chateau Frontenac, the city’s undisputed architectural gem and Guinness World Record holder for the “most photographed hotel in the world.” Your tour also includes a stop at the spellbinding Place-Royale where Samuel de Champlain constructed a trading post in 1608. For an experience of the aerial variety, board a high-tech helicopter for a bird’s eye view of the marvelous St. Lawrence River, gorgeous countryside and glittering Quebec skyline. On your tour, you’ll you gaze upon the majestic Terrasse Dufferin, hover over the verdant Island of Orleans and soar past the famous Montmorency Falls. Get your camera ready as you buzz famous sights like Old Quebec, Battlefields Park, and Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain. For a taste of European culture in the Americas, it doesn’t get better than Quebec City.

Bora Bora Just 18 miles in circumference, the tiny island of Bora Bora packs a world of beauty into its pint-sized stature. Home to sparkling beaches, aquamarine waters, overwater bungalows and lush tropical valleys, it’s the closest thing to paradise on planet earth. Get an eye full of this South Pacific haven on a Bora Bora 4 Wheel Drive Excursion. On this thrilling tour, you’ll witness the island’s flora, fauna, history and culture — starting with ancient temples built by seafaring Tahitians circa 1000 A.D. Along the way, you’ll glimpse American WWII sites, fruit plantations in the Faanui Valley and make a visit Pareu, a local artisan maker of beautiful tie-dye Sarongs. You’ll also try your hand at making organic coconut oil while sampling delicious local fruits. If underwater adventure is your jam, Bora Bora has it in spades. Plunge into the ecosystems of the South Pacific on a Bora Bora Snorkeling Tour. Splash around in crystal clear waters as you explore the underwater fauna at four separate snorkeling spots including Matira Point; a fascinating coral garden; a sand bank for spotting eagle rays; and a short trip east of Bora Bora to spy manta rays. For an indescribable island experience, Bora Bora is definitely the place to be.

Kusadasi A stone’s throw from the ancient city of Ephesus, Kusadasi is renowned for its golden beaches, Ottoman architecture and ancient historical treasures. Just to the south of its modern port lies a treasure trove of historical sites including the House of Virgin Mary, Seven Sleepers, Didyma, Priene, Miletos, and the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Travel through time and explore the marvels of nearby Ephesus on intimate, small group tour. Accompanied by an English-speaking guide, you’ll enter the city through the famous Magnesian Gate at the apex of archaic Kuretes Street. From there, you’ll explore the Temple of Hadrian, The Library of Celsus and the colossal 25,000-seat Great Theatre. Along the way, you’ll see witness ten reconstructed structures from the ancient world and five video performances reimagining ancient Ephesus in all its glory. On your way back to port, you’ll visit a rug weaving shop and savor the delicious local wine and food. Speaking of local cuisine, you can get an authentic sampling on a Regional Tastes journey to the quaint village of Sirince. On this gourmet odyssey, you’ll luxuriate with a selection homemade fruit wines before heading to the small town of Kirazli Koy. In this “cherry village,” you’ll nibble on local crops before a sumptuous meal of Turkish coffee, fresh homemade bread, and home-cooked Turkish delicacies. If you can visit just one Turkish city, Kusadasi should be right at the top of your list!

Start Checking off your Bucket List Today.

As the ancient Chinese proverb states, “Life is too darn short.” (At least that’s what our fortune cookie said last time we ordered take-out.) With amazing experiences available in the world’s most stunning cruise ports, the time heed to that advice is NOW. Pack your bags, set sail for adventure and fill your scrapbook with unforgettable adventures. Because your travel bucket list? It’s not gonna check itself!

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