Cream Coloured Ponies & Crisp Apple Strudels: A Few of My Favourite Ports
by Ming Tappin
Music and colourful buildings are around every street corner in Havana.
Savouring the goosebump moments at the Christmas markets of Cologne.
Time out for a picnic during the Canyon Rim Drive at Volcanoes National Park.
A Turkish Delight: Sailing into Istanbul with stunning vistas of the Blue Mosque.
A beach day on a private island is one of my favourite ports of call.
This week we are continuing with a look at a few of my favourite ports of call.
No doubt this will become many travellers' favourite cruise port soon, as more cruise lines begin their operations in Cuba. The historic city is an architecture buff’s dream. Not to mention a classic car enthusiast’s heaven. The people are warm and inviting, the music is infectious, and although life is hard, the resilience of the Cuban culture shines through. Of all the islands I have visited, Havana - and Cuba in general - ranks as one of the most culturally rich and thought-provoking places in the Caribbean; there is so much more beyond the beach and AI resorts. I look forward to returning again by ship. A pre/post cruise stay is essential here, encourage your clients to spend at least 3 nights to get the full experience.
My visit to Cologne on a river cruise was made extra special because it was during the Christmas Market season. The city gets fully decked out in festive regalia and the Christmas markets are a feast for the senses. The towering gothic cathedral with its intricate carvings, the smell and taste of gluhwein and yes, crisp apple strudels, the tolling of the cathedral bells all come together for one great goosebump moment. For those wanting to experience traditional festive season, a Christmas markets river cruise is the right ticket.
I did the Canyon Rim drive at Volcanoes National Park when our Hawaii cruise dropped in on Hilo. This self-drive allows lots of opportunities to jump out and take a side trail to see Kilauea's path of destruction (or creation, depending on your view), hiking on the barren landscape, and even walking through a lava tube. Because of its distance from Hilo and our limited port time, we were not able to see more of the park, but what we saw was definitely worth the effort and it was one awe-inspiring demonstration of mother nature's power. Definitely on my list for a return visit.
Another must-do as a pre or post cruise stay, Istanbul gives you full immersion in its Greek, Roman and Ottoman past, evident in the myriad of museums, mosques and landmarks, all within walking distance of each other. In addition to the expansive grounds and dizzying tile work of Topkapi Palace, a highlight of my visit was a cruise up the Bosphorus on the local ferry, landing in "Asia" at the mouth of the Black Sea. Just like Cologne, Istanbul plays on all 5 senses for an unforgettable visit, with its fragrant spice markets, sky-piercing minaret spires, and cacophonous mix of chiming trams and honking traffic. I do hope that travellers will regain confidence to travel to this wondrous city in the near future.
Cruise Line Private Islands
For a beach, sun, sand and snorkelling fan like me, a day on a private island is perfection. I love lounging and getting my share of the sun and warm water. No agenda, no obligations - other than having to catch the last tender back to the ship, on which I am usually one of the last passengers! If you are on a big ship, you will have to share the island with a few thousands of your closest friends. But these islands are designed with plenty of chairs and umbrellas for everyone, and some offer designated family and adult-only areas.
Lastly, although not a port, sea days are one of my favourite things. I use these days to sleep in, recharge, and take advantage of the ship's facilities. There is no pressure to be anywhere, and you can be as busy or as sedate as you wish. Many people are "afraid" of sea days because they feel trapped and think there will be nothing to do. But other than transoceanic cruises or grand voyages, sea days are quite spread out and generally max out at two consecutive days. Selecting a large ship with active onboard offerings will take care of these fears.
I hope you have enjoyed reading a few of my favourite ports. There are so many more I have yet to experience. I would love to hear what ports are special to your heart!
For me, nothing beats a leisure day at sea to unwind and recharge.
Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 39 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of www.yourcruisecoach.com.