39 unforgettable cruise experiences

written by

updated 14.02.2024

Douglas Ward, the esteemed author of the Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, has amassed a treasure trove of amazing cruising experiences during his 39-year dedication to the cruise industry. From awe-inspiring encounters with Antarctic wildlife to indulging in Michelin-starred culinary delights and exploring UNESCO sites, his journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Originally known as the Berlitz Handbook to Cruising, Douglas Ward's expertise is unparalleled when it comes to enlightening and motivating fellow cruise enthusiasts. If you're eager to embark on your own unforgettable voyage, continue reading for a compilation of 39 extraordinary cruise experiences handpicked by the author himself.

Fingal's Cave, Sea cave in Staffa Island Scotland © Shutterstock

Fingal's Cave, Staffa Island, Scotland © Shutterstock

#1: Fingal's Cave orchestral marvel

Imagine the grandeur of Fingal's Cave on Staffa Island in the Inner Hebrides, accompanied by the melodious strains of Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, all while perched aboard the Hebridean Princess.


#2: Antarctic ice adventure

One of my most cherished memories is gazing in wonder from the Hanseatic's observation deck as it expertly navigated the ice-filled waters of the steep-sided Lemaire Channel in the Antarctic Peninsula.


#3: Michelin-starred feast on Europa

I had the privilege of experiencing artisanal cuisine prepared by three Michelin-starred chefs aboard Europa, a culinary haven accessible to all cruise-goers.


#4: Elegant arrival in New York City

Few moments match the elegance of gliding past the Statue of Liberty aboard the Queen Mary 2 in the early morning mist. It's a captivating experience available on any cruise ship entering New York Harbor.


#5: Royal breakfast on the high seas

Truly a great moment is enjoying a sumptuous breakfast in a Royal Box on the intimate boutique ships, SeaDream I and SeaDream II.


#6: Sashimi artistry at sea

I've had the pleasure of delighting in freshly sliced tuna and yellowtail sashimi at Nobu Matsuhisa's Silk Road Sushi Bar on the former Crystal Serenity. It's a culinary masterpiece complemented by the mesmerizing skills of Japanese chefs.


Statue of Liberty on a misty sunrise © Shutterstock

#7: Amalfi serenity

The breathtaking views of Sorrento, Italy, from the Club Suite balcony aboard Azamara Quest are etched in my memory. Sipping Limoncello while taking in the scenery is a moment I often recall.


#8 Moonlit dining in Southeast Asia

Little compares to experiencing the enchantment of Southeast Asia from the Aegean Odyssey's terrace café, illuminated by a full orange moon reflecting on the mesmerizing water patterns.


#9: Udon noodles in Alaska

Nothing else quite compares to enjoying hot udon noodles on the balcony while cruising Alaska's Inside Passage aboard the Nippon Maru.


#10: Queen Mary 2's grand entrance

An amazing cruise experience was standing on deck as the Queen Mary 2 gracefully enters Sydney Harbor, offering a view of Circular Quay, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House.


#11: Starry night on the Sea Cloud

I've had the privilege of lying in the Blue Lagoon area aboard the Sea Cloud, watching the sails guide this majestic tall ship as a shooting star streaks across the night sky.


#12: Toasting Shackleton

One of the most unique experiences has been raising a glass to Sir Ernest Shackleton's memory at his Christmas Day grave in Grytviken, South Georgia, a former Norwegian whaling station.


Circular Quay in Sydney © Shutterstock

#13: Aurora borealis 

Cruising along Norway's northern coast with Hurtigruten and witnessing the mesmerizing green flash of the northern lights as the sun dips below the horizon is a moment I won’t soon forget.


#14: SeaDream slumber

Drifting off to sleep to the gentle rhythm of the sea aboard the intimate boutique ships, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, is a level of serenity I've come to appreciate in my cruise adventures.


#15: Caribbean Bowsprit adventure

Sitting in the netting at the bowsprit of the Star Flyer tall ship, gliding gracefully across the azure Caribbean Sea was a fantastic cruise experience.


#16: Misty morning in Ha Long Bay

Entering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam from the foredeck of a cruise ship on a misty morning is an ethereal experience I have savoured.


#17: Regal bath aboard Queen Elizabeth 2

Enjoying a bath aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 while listening to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance on the in-cabin broadcast system, was the epitome of British elegance.


#18: Panama Canal power

Observing steel-wired electric mules expertly manoeuvre cruise ships through the lock chambers at Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal is a unique perspective 

The Caribbean Island Diamond rock on the horizon © Shutterstock

The Caribbean Island Diamond rock on the horizon © Shutterstock

#19: Venetian waterfront view

Gliding past St. Mark's Square aboard a cruise ship, revealed a unique and enchanting perspective of Venice that can only be experienced from the water.


#20 Hermitage Museum proximity

It's an extraordinary feeling to experience mooring mere steps away from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, while aboard a small cruise ship.


#21: The classic Titanic-like pose

Few moments are as iconic as emulating Kate Winslet's iconic pose on the front of the Braemar as it gracefully navigates the Swedish archipelago.


#22: North Pole Summit

A truly surreal moment was standing at the geographic North Pole aboard the impressive Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory, with the world literally at my feet.


#23: Horizon-gazing in luxury

Enjoying the horizon view while reclining in the bathtub of one of the two Deck 10 Crystal Penthouse suites aboard the former Crystal Symphony has been a luxurious highlight of my cruise experiences.


#24: Soothing spa serenity

Soaking in the hot bath of the grand spa aboard Asuka II, with a view of Naha's city lights in Okinawa, Japan is a tranquil moment I've cherished


 San Marco square from the water © Shutterstock

#25: Husky-pulled Alaskan adventure

Being pulled by a team of huskies in Juneau, Alaska, as I glided past glaciers and ice peaks remains a thrilling memory.


#26: Glacial drama in Glacier Bay

Witnessing blue glacial ice calving from the deck of a small cruise ship in Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the ice performs a captivating dance inches from sight, is a natural spectacle I've been fortunate to witness


#27: Geothermal bliss in Iceland

Relaxing in a geothermal pool at Iceland's Blue Lagoon, nestled in the lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula, is a delightful shore excursion option I would recommend to fellow cruise enthusiasts.


#28: Meeting famous faces

It's hard to find an equal to experiencing the unexpected pleasure of meeting renowned personalities like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tippi Hedren, and Dame Margot Fonteyn during your cruise adventures.


#29: Photographic expeditions

Embarking on a photo tender arranged by the cruise line, capturing stunning images from the deck of a tall ship under full sail, has allowed me to share the beauty of cruising.


#30: Volcanic encounter in Sicily

Cruising close to Stromboli off the north coast of Sicily, where the nearly constant eruptions of incandescent lava illuminate the night sky, is a fiery encounter and one of my top cruising experiences.


Stromboli island © Shutterstock

#31: Whale wonders in Antarctica

Witnessing killer whales (orcas) frolicking in the waters off the starboard side of an Antarctic expedition cruise ship, an encounter so close you could almost touch their dorsal fins, is a wildlife spectacle I've shared with fellow wildlife enthusiasts.


#32: Fiery New Year in Funchal

You'll be hard-pressed to find an equivalent to celebrating New Year's Eve in style with a glass of champagne aboard a ship while enjoying a spectacular firework display in Funchal, Madeira.


#33: High-flying zipline thrills

Experiencing the thrill of careening along a zipline high above the decks of Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, or Oasis of the Seas, much to the surprise of fellow passengers, is an adventurous highlight.


#34: Maiden voyage marvel

Revelling in the excitement of embarking on a maiden voyage aboard a brand-new cruise ship, is a coveted experience among cruise aficionados.


#35: Glass capsule panorama

Gaining a new perspective from the 'glass capsules'. This can be done aboard ships like Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, and Spectrum of the Seas. It is a modern cruise innovation that I’d recommend.

Anthem of the Seas-cruise-shutterstock_1430618978.jpg

Anthem of the Seas with the glasss capsule © Shutterstock

#36: Meeting my wife

There is always the possibility of meeting the love of your life while sailing the high seas. I did myself many years ago. 


#37: Ship-shaped chocolate delight

Indulging in ship-shaped chocolates created by the renowned French celebrity master chef Alain Ducasse during a cruise between Cherbourg and Reykjavik is a sweet memory I've savoured.


#38: Distinctive Cunard Gins

Sampling a special tri-pack of miniature gins crafted by the Summerhill Distillery in Scotland for each of the three current Cunard ships is a unique tasting experience I've enjoyed and would highly recommend.

#39: Sunset magic on the Magic Carpet 

Sipping cocktails at sunset in the 90-seat Magic Carpet lounge bar, a unique feature that moves vertically between decks 2 and 16, providing an unforgettable novelty, has been a delightful part of my cruise expertise.


For more inspiration and invaluable advice to make your cruise unforgettable, delve into Douglas Ward's Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. If you're new to cruising, be sure to read our top tips for first-timers and discover the best cruise experiences tailored to different types of travellers.

written by

updated 14.02.2024

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