En español | Are the world's seas becoming jammed with passenger ships? With more than 20 million passengers taking a cruise each year, you would think so.
But the great majority of these ships travel the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas, which means that some other wonderful destinations remain uncrowded by cruising. Here are five unusual ports of call with lots to offer that are available on a variety of cruise lines with sailings coming up this season.
1. Île de la Réunion, France
As you might expect from a 980-square-mile island that's officially part of France, bakeries here turn out buttery croissants, goods are priced in euros and a museum shows works by Renoir, Rodin and Cezanne. But Réunion lies in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, nearly 6,000 miles from Paris, and among the sights here that you won't find on the French mainland are white-sand tropical beaches, an active volcano and plantations perfumed with vanilla-producing orchids.
2. Kirkenes, Norway
Located 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this town of 3,500 is the northern terminus of the Hurtigruten shipping line, which provides cargo and passenger service along Norway's remote and craggy coast. The ever-shining midnight sun of summer allows plenty of time for feasts of king crab hauled from the fjord minutes before. But many adventurous visitors also come during the dark winter to stay at a snow hotel, take a dogsled ride and experience the magical Northern Lights.
3. Hiroshima, Japan
Yes, it will be forever associated with the destructive power of the atomic bomb, and its must-see Peace Memorial Museum is a sobering plea for a world free of nuclear weapons. But modern Hiroshima is a thriving city of about 1.2 million and a far easier — and lovelier — introduction to Japan than massive, sprawling Tokyo. Stroll vibrant streets lined with small noodle shops, sushi joints and boutiques; eat a hotodogu (hot dog) as you take in a professional baseball game; or catch a ferry to nearby Miyajima, an island that's home to a pair of the country's oldest and most photographed Buddhist and Shinto shrines.
Next page: Why you'll want to experience the sights and sounds of Argentina and Savannah. »