Cruise Holidays – Memorable Worldwide Arrivals by Sea

P&O Cruises in SydneySometimes when I’m not quite ready to go to sleep, I lie in bed and think about all the wonderful places I’ve been lucky enough to visit in the world so far, and invariably, as you would expect, those thoughts involve me sailing in on a ship, in my mind’s eye! Arriving by sea is such a magical introduction to any destination – it’s quiet and serene, even if you’re approaching a city full of hustle and bustle, and if you arrive in the early morning or at dusk, it’s even more beguiling.

The approach to Sydney is, quite simply, spellbinding. Ships sail into Sydney Harbour through The Heads, and then make their way past further headlands and beaches, with sun-drenched houses perched up high in the greenery and nestled down by the shore. Eventually the city comes into view, with its skyscrapers, Sydney Tower, Harbour Bridge and the beautiful Botanical Gardens along the south shore; while in the foreground to all this, is the tiny Fort Denison, on its own little island in the centre of the city harbour. (That’s where I stood a few years back as Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria ‘danced’ around the island surrounded by a sea of small boats – what an incredible sight in the evening sunshine.) And of course the architecturally unique Opera House then comes into view, standing small in comparison with the rest of the modern city, but prominently, on a promontory opposite Circular Quay, the final berthing place for many of the ships that visit this great city. There really is no better way to view Sydney for the first time, especially at dawn, as the city is just waking up.

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in New YorkNew York is another ‘must see’ sail in. After six days crossing the Atlantic, cosseted in luxury aboard Queen Mary 2, the first sighting of land with pinpricks of light on the horizon is mesmerising. And, as you come closer, the waves of the Atlantic seem to smooth away, and the ship glides in closer and closer to the land. The Verrazano Bridge looks too low, as though the ship’s funnel won’t fit underneath, but amazingly it does, and then all you can hear are the clicks of cameras against the silence, as we all capture the Statue of Liberty and then the silhouette of the city skyline against the rising dawn sun. Magical.

Not many people who visit Venice can resist the temptation of a boat ride around the Lagoon, to islands like Murano, with its incredible glass making and Burano, with its pretty multi-coloured houses lining its very own mini-canals. But those lucky enough to have sailed into the lagoon on a ship, will have seen the attractive Venetian architecture of churches, bridges and piazzas, from a very different perspective – from above, as the city of islands spreads out before you. P&O Cruises in VeniceNowhere else in the world looks quite like Venice, and there has been no better way to see it than from a ship slowly cruising up the Giudecca, past those ornate houses and hotels, St Mark’s Square and the entrance to The Grand Canal. After next summer, that will be the preserve of smaller ships, so go next year, or choose your cruise carefully, if you want to see that great view!

A lesser known, but equally wonderful sight is to cruise up through the fjords of Montenegro, to the hidden gem, Kotor. When you’re gliding through the majestic fjord, cutting through  mountains and cliffs, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Norway, but then there, at the far end, stands a ‘little Dubrovnik’, with its pretty stone facades. Kotor is a traffic-free walled town, full of intriguing alleyways, and cobbled squares, with bleached white stone churches, colourful cafes, and craft shops waiting to tempt you in.

Kotor, MontenegroAnd finally, just before sleep sets in, I turn my mind’s eye further north, to the Baltic, and the amazing approach to Stockholm, past literally thousands of small islands – the Stockholm archipelago. Some are inhabited only by birds, and others crowned with a distinctively-designed Swedish house on top of a cliff, with its boat moored below on the shore, as a life-line to the outside world. The wildlife you can see with a good pair of binoculars would amaze any nature lover, with the sheer variety and prolific number of birds on the rocks and flying alongside the ships. And then the city comes into view with its more modern part and its Old Town, Gamla Stan to explore. Both are equally fascinating to visit, and make sure you make a (fairly quick!) visit to an Ice Bar, for a really unique, if a little chilly, experience.

And so then, to sleep. With my mind still full of colourful visions, I wonder where my dreams will take me tonight.

More about Carol

Carol has worked in cruising for the last 16 years, for Swan Hellenic, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line and P&O Cruises, having previously spent time with Thomson (now TUI), in tour operating and also in hotels with Forte, but she has continued to be fascinated by the sheer variety of cruise holidays available. For the holidaymaker, a cruise combines all the ease tour operators bring to taking a package holiday, with the choice of different styles of ‘floating hotels’ and of course the ability to experience lots of different destinations in one holiday. She thought it might be helpful to chat about some of the different aspects of cruise holidays that people might not be aware of, and also simply share some of the great cruise experiences she has been lucky enough to have first hand. We hope you enjoy reading ‘Carol’s Cruise Collection’ and if you have any requests for her to take a particular focus, please contact us.

Read more from Carol’s Cruise Collection: Food and travel – a winning combination!

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Carol Marlow

Former managing director, P&O Cruises

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