Raindrops On Roses & Whiskers On Kittens: A Few of My Favourite Ports
by Ming Tappin
How'd they do that? Contemplating mystery at the Pyramids of Giza.
Biking around Bora Bora - easy and blissful.
All decked out - a serene day on the Inside Passage.
One of the charming passageways of Mykonos...
...and one of its friendly local residents.
Ports of call are a key part of any cruise experience. In fact, the itinerary and ports is the most common reason why people select a specific cruise. I'd like to present a few of my favourite ports of call. Whether they are on your wish list or you have already crossed them off, I hope you will enjoy my insights on these gems.
Alexandria for Cairo
On almost everyone's bucket list, the pyramids of Giza and the antiquities of Egypt are life-changing visits. Standing next to a towering stone block, meeting face to face with Tut's jewelled burial mask and staring into the hollow eye sockets of the mummies at the Egyptian Museum, you can't help but contemplate the ingenuity of mankind. Tip: Many tour companies allow clients to customize private tours to match their wish list, and will pay commission to TAs. My only disappointment -- not having enough time to enter the burial chamber of Khufu's pyramid. A good reason to return another time!
15 years is a long time to preserve a memory that lasted only a few hours, but my bicycle ride around Bora Bora in 2001 was truly magical. Circumnavigating the island is a cinch, with multiple stops at remote coves to picnic and gaze out at the turquoise lagoon. From admiring roadside hibiscus trees in full bloom, greeting friendly locals in passing, to sharing the road with hens & chicks, biking ‘BOB’ truly makes you appreciate the simple things in life.
The Inside Passage
More so than any port, for me the Inside Passage is the top draw on an Alaska cruise. One of my favourite things to do is to bundle up and sit on the balcony, or walk the upper deck in search of whales and other sea life. The scenery is spectacular and calming, I enjoy the silence as the ship cuts through the smooth waters, while towering mountains rise above. So many people choose to hide out in the ship's lounge and look through the windows. The real show is outside, with the wind in your hair and drizzle on your face. Pack all your cold weather gear unless you want an excuse to visit the ship's shops.
This port was literally the "cat's meow" for me. In addition to the iconic windmills, charming narrow alleyways and quaint homes, hundreds of stray cats stole the show, and my heart. Locals keep them fed, and the cats keep the town pest-free. I made many friends that day, and it goes to show that the most colourful locals you meet while traveling aren't always the human kind.
The Panama Canal
For ladies having a difficult time convincing husbands to cruise, the Panama Canal is a sure winner. The wonders of this engineering marvel are many -- from the arduous construction history to the intricate daily operations and a wealth of facts and figures (did you know the locks fill and drain quicker than your bathtub), the Canal captivates all. Go big or go home: Take the full transit crossing for an unforgettable journey from sea to sea, choose a ship that allows unobstructed front-row viewing, and get up before dawn to stake out your spot for this spectacular show.
An "Epic Walk" in Santorini ranks as one of my favourite DIY days in port. From the tender dock of Fira, we hiked up the mule trail and walked 10K to Oia, ducking through bougainvillea-covered passageways, traipsing over stone steps, accompanied by blue ocean vistas beyond. Blue-domed churches and white-washed villas dot the path, with hidden treasures at every corner. Once in Oia, we enjoyed a fiery sunset before catching the local bus back to Fira. If you go: obtain a route map online, allow at least 3-4 hours for scenic stops and photo ops, and select a ship that stays late in port.
Stay tuned for more of my favourite ports in the next column.
Taking a break on our epic Santorini walk from Fira to Oia.
Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of www.yourcruisecoach.com.