En español | The ease of traveling from port to port is clearly part of the appeal of a cruise, but taking in a combo of natural and cultural wonders as you go is what floats a sightseer’s boat.
Cruise: Princess Cruises’ 7-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise, from Seattle
Ship: Ruby Princess; 3,080 passengers
Price: Starts at $1,980 per couple
Cruises to the 49th state tend to check all the boxes on a spectacular-views wish list. A weeklong cruise to Alaska’s Inside Passage, from Seattle on the Ruby Princess, is a relatively inexpensive version of that journey. Yet you’ll see lush forests, pristine islets, picturesque ports and majestic fjords along a network of calm, glacier-carved waterways that stretch for 500 miles through southeastern Alaska’s panhandle. It’s an area full of wildlife — bald eagles, caribou, grizzly bears, moose and several species of whales — and you’re likely to spot many of them from the ship.
You can also sightsee on land, for a fee. One excursion is an eight-hour trip ($130 per person) from Skagway, over the White Pass Summit, along the Klondike Highway, offering an otherworldly view of ultramarine glacial lakes.
Cruise: Celebrity’s 12-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise
Ship: Reflection; 3,046 passengers
Price: Starts at $4,140 per couple
Let’s talk bucket list. While Celebrity’s cruise is priced higher than some other sails on the Baltic Sea, it gives travelers 12 full days of exploration there, including a stop at St. Petersburg, Russia. The recently refurbished Reflection, sailing round-trip from Amsterdam, offers a journey with lots of sightseeing time. Highlights are the big Scandinavian capitals such as Stockholm — you can visit Nordic wild animals at Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo, or channel your inner dancing queen at ABBA the Museum — and Denmark’s cheery Copenhagen. In Helsinki you’ll have about eight hours to explore landmarks like Senate Square and the Rock Church, or pop into one of the public saunas.
The crown jewel of the itinerary, though, is regal St. Petersburg. The ship stays in port there for two full days, so passengers can enjoy the city’s riches. See the famed Hermitage Museum, wander the ornate gardens at Peterhof Palace or take in a lavish ballet performance at one of the iconic theaters.
Cruise: Viking River Cruises’ 8-day Lyon and Provence, France, cruise
Ship: Longship Heimdal; 190 passengers
Price: Starts at $5,200 per couple
Viking’s river cruises are a hugely popular — and easy — way to see Europe these days. One stellar option in southern France is Viking’s cruise along the Rhône on its Longship Heimdal. You’ll sail past charming towns, docking for strolls on cobblestoned streets in spots such as Tournon-sur-Rhône and Vieux Lyon. And although this cruise is higher end, it provides a complimentary shore excursion at each port, like a walking tour to check out ancient Roman ruins in lovely Vienne.
When you’re between ports, you can observe the passing landmarks from the comfort of the ship: The dining room features fabulous views through its floor-to-ceiling windows.