Ports
Print this page PRINT or Email this page EMAIL the page

Málaga , Spain

Located on the Mediterranean, on the southern coast of Spain, Málaga is the capital city of the Costa del Sol and the gateway to beautiful Andalucia. It was also the birthplace of the artist Pablo Picasso, many of whose works are displayed in the Museo Picasso (Picasso Museum) here. Three thousand years of history—from the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans to the Moors—make this one of the world’s oldest cities. While here, admire La Manquita (literally, “little one-armed lady”) Cathedral; the Alcazaba, a 15th-century Moorish fortress; the Roman theater; a famous bull ring—and a famously pleasant climate, boasting an average of 320 sunny days a year. 

Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Aitutaki's coral reefs enclose a particularly large and beautiful lagoon. The main island is only eight square miles in area and is virtually flat -- so much so that you can keep the ocean in sight from nearly any point on Aitutaki. The island is thought to have been first settled around 900 A.D. by Ru, a legendary Polynesian explorer. Today the island's inhabitants preserve much of their traditional culture through song, dance, legends, and crafts like tivaevae -- handmade, intricate, patchwork quilts featuring designs inspired by nature.

Amalfi, Italy

The Amalfi Coast, also known as “la divina costiera” (“the divine coast”), is one of the most gorgeously scenic regions in the world: a mountainous coastline just south of Naples, revered for its picturesque villages built into steep hillsides that plunge into the beautiful Mediterranean. Named for a mythological nymph beloved by Hercules, Amalfi is the main town on the Amalfi Coast, warren of alleyways and town squares giving way to sweeping views.

Antibes, France

A Mediterranean resort town on the Côte d’Azur of southeastern France, just seven miles northeast of Cannes, Antibes has seen a storied history. Called Antipolis (literally, “the city across”) when it was founded by the ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC, it became a stronghold of the Roman empire, whose ruins can still be seen to its south. In the 5th century AD, it fell under the control of barbarian tribes until the Middle Ages. A castle built on the foundations of an ancient Greek acropolis and Roman fort beginning in 1384 became the home of the Grimaldi family, who ruled the city until 1608 and still rule the tiny principality of Monaco. The Château Grimaldi still dominates the town and has served many functions over the centuries, including a governor’s residence, a town hall, and a military barracks. By the early 20th century, Antibes was less crowded than other towns on the French Riviera, attracting Pablo Picasso, who used the castle as a studio for several months in 1946. View works donated by the artist himself at the Picasso Museum in the château, and explore the Old Town, which is considered the cultural heart of the region. Antibes is also located at the center of one of Europe’s largest flower-growing regions. Perhaps you’ll delight in the scent of roses and carnations in the city’s marketplaces during your time here.

 

Athens, Greece

Birthplace of Western civilization and modern capital of Greece, Athens immediately brings to mind the spectacular Acropolis, where the ruins of the magnificent Parthenon still stand. But Athens has many other places of interest, too, among its popular city squares, which include the famous historic district, the Plaka, and Syntagma Square, heart of the modern city and location of the Parliament and other government buildings. You might also take in the fabulous views from Lycabettus Hill. 

Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis

The first European to discover St. Kitts was Christopher Columbus, in 1493, but it was not settled until the British arrived in 1623. With its strategic position, the island quickly became a center for the sugar trade. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands: an unspoiled paradise where development is limited, world-famous for its stewardship of the local ecosystems of lava formations, tropical forests, and lagoons. The capital of the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is Basseterre, which is located on St. Kitts. Basseterre offers two city centers—the Circus, a shopping destination modeled after London’s Piccadilly Circus, and Independence Square, home to the cathedral and other local landmarks. If you prefer to stay close to the sea, shipwrecked vessels and virgin reefs here offer excellent snorkeling and diving. Or venture afield to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, one of the best-preserved fortifications in the Americas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Barcelona, Spain

The capital of Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities, lively Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain, after Madrid. Today one of the world’s major cities and an important center for commerce, entertainment, education, science, and the arts, the city can trace its history back to the second century BC, when it was settled by the Romans. In the old city, the works of legendary architect Antonin Gaudí have earned designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most famous among his masterpieces is the magnificent but still unfinished La Sagrada Família cathedral, under construction since 1882. While in Barcelona, also enjoy the city’s multicultural ambiance and Mediterranean climate and lifestyle.

Benoa, Bali, Indonesia

With its beautiful beaches, lush landscapes, exotic culture, beautiful handicrafts, and fascinating dance traditions, Bali has drawn travelers from around the world for decades. Benoa is your launchpoint for discovering the treasures of this exquisite island. Indulge in watersports activities, including jetskiing, banana boating, parasailing, snorkeling, diving, and reef fishing. Venture afield to Taro Elephant Safari Park, where you can ride an elephant, or to Ubud, renowned for its temples, shrines, artists’ workshops and galleries, and the Sacred MonkeyForest. Or sample a delicious and unique cuisine whose specialties include babu guling (suckling pig), satay (skewered meat, fish, or tofu dipped in peanut sauce), and sayur urab (mixed vegetables).

 

Beqa, Fiji

In Fiji, virtually everyone you’ll meet will be smiling—and when you view the high mountains, lush vegetation, shimmering waters, and pristine white-sand beaches of this island nation, you’ll understand why. A British colony for nearly a century before gaining its independence in 1970, Fiji remains English speaking and today boasts a multinational population, among whom the majority are of Melanesian descent. As you mingle with the locals, you’ll see why Melanesians are reputed to be among the friendliest people in the world.

Located about six miles off the coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, Beqa Island measures less than six square miles in territory—yet it looms large among those seeking a paradise by the sea. Surrounded by one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, the island offers exceptional snorkeling at high tide, with an abundance of colorful tropical fish teeming among the coral blooms. Or bask on a golden-sand beach shaded from an azure sky by swaying palms.

Inland, the island is carpeted with lush rainforest laced with waterfalls and streams and dotted with villages known for their tradition of firewalking and joyous hospitality.

Bora Bora, Society Islands

Bora Bora lies 150 miles northwest of Tahiti in the Society Islands. The main island, home to 4,225 inhabitants, is in the center of a multicolored lagoon, surrounded by offshore "motu"

Cádiz, Spain

Situated in the Spanish province of Andalucía and surrounded almost entirely by water, Cádiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and arguably the oldest in Europe. It was founded around 1100 BC by the Phoenicians and later conquered by the Carthaginians, but it was the Romans who first turned it into a major naval base. The city languished under the subsequent rule of the Visigoths and the Moors, until its capture by Alfonso X, King of Castile and León, in 1262. 

Cádiz served as the launchpoint for two of Christopher Columbus’s four voyages to the New World and was later targeted by English pirates. Most notable was Sir Francis Drake, whose attack on the Spanish Armada in 1587 destroyed much of the fleet. Nine years later, the Earl of Essex burned the city to the ground.

Nevertheless, by the 18th century, Cádiz boasted 75% of Spain’s trade with America, and its urban plan served as a model of many fortified colonial cities in the New World. (In fact, the city was used as a stand-in for Havana in the 2002 James Bond movie, Die Another Day.) One of the wealthiest and most sophisticated cities in Spain, it attracted the attention of Napoleon Bonaparte, who laid siege to the city for two and a half years. 

The people of Cádiz remained defiant, however, and it was here that Spain’s first Constitution was signed, in 1812. Today, it is the principal home port of the Spanish Navy, and its annual Carnaval is nearly as famous as that of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

While here, you might visit the Old Town with its historic fortress, the Castillo San Sebastian, and famous cathedrals, including Santa Cruz, San Felipe Neri, and Oratorio de la Santa Cueva, where three paintings by Goya are hung. Cádiz’s most famous son is composer Manuel de Falla, whose crypt is in Cádiz Cathedral and for whom the Gran Teatro Falla here was named. 

Perhaps you’ll also explore the newer part of the city, with its elegant boulevards, modern buildings, and parks with exotic plants rumored to be descended from species brought back to Spain by Columbus. 

Cartagena, Spain

Located on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Spain, Cartagena was named for the North African city of Carthage and served as the Iberian capital for the brilliant Phoenician/Carthaginian military commander and strategist Hannibal during the third century BC. In the city’s medieval old town, find narrow bustling streets lined with shops and restaurants. Other highlights of the city include the prototype of a submarine by the inventor Isaac Peral, the National Museum of Marine Archaeology, and many splendid Roman ruins, including an amphitheatre.

Cannes, France

Think of Cannes, and your first thought will almost certainly be of the international film festival held here every May. First scheduled to occur in 1939, the festival was delayed by World War II and didn’t actually debut until 1946. Held in September until shifted to May in 1952, the festival began its history as a social event more than an artistic one. Today, it is a major networking event for the film industry and the most prestigious film festival in the world.

There is much more to Cannes than its most famous annual event, however. Settled by the 2nd century BC, Cannes was a poor fishing village until 1834, when the British Lord Chancellor, Lord Brougham, was en route to Nice but forced to stop in town because of a cholera outbreak there. He was immediately charmed by Cannes’ beautiful bay, sandy beach, green forests, fragrant orange groves, and mild Mediterranean climate. He built a villa in town, fashionable gentry from Queen Victoria’s court soon followed suit, and the transformation of Cannes began. Opulent hotels and villas in the style of Russian and Indian palaces were constructed, and neighborhoods sprouted trees imported from far-off lands. Among these was the palm tree, inspiring the film festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or (literally, “Golden Palm”).

Today, Cannes is one of the most glamorous resort towns of the French Riviera. The heart of town is the Boulevard de la Croisette, the promenade that stretches along the beach and hosts some of Cannes’ grandest hotels. A walk along this tree-lined artery can take you past Palais des Festivals et des Congres, where the film festival is held. For world-class shopping, head to the Rue d’Antibes. Or perhaps you’ll stroll the Alleé de la Liberté Charles de Gaulle, known for its Marché aux Fleurs (flower market). City Hall and the Old Port are nearby.

Another leading attraction of the city is Cannes Castle, perched on a high cliff overlooking the city and the sea. Here, you can also visit the Castle Museum and the Eglise Notre Dame Esperance (Notre Dame Esperance Church).

Corfu, Greece

One of the most popular Greek islands, Corfu is revered for its lush mountainous landscape, golden beaches, traditional villages, Venetian fortresses, and some of the most beautiful beaches on the Ionian Sea. In Corfu Town, admire a charming mix of architectural styles, as well as welcoming French-designed city squares.

Çanakkale, Turkey

The legendary city of Troy is located in the province of Çanakkale, whose fascinating history also encompasses the Persian, Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires. Straddling the Dardanelles—the narrow strait that links the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara—the city of Çanakkale, like Istanbul, lies on two continents: Europe and Asia. History buffs will remember Çanakkale as the site of the World War I Battle of Çanakkale between the U.K., France, and the Ottoman Empire. You may delve further into the region’s history at the Çanakkale Museum, the Naval Museum in Çimenlik Fortress, and Korfmann Library here.

Constanţa, Romania

The site where Jason and the Argonauts landed after finding the Golden Fleece, according to legend, Constanţa boasts 2,500 years of history. It was founded on the western shores of the Black Sea in the sixth century BC, as a Greek colony called Tomis. It was renamed Constantiana by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great after its conquest by the Romans in AD 71 and further shortened during the Ottoman era. In the 19th century, it was converted into a seaside resort by King Carol I and today is Romania’s third-largest city. Enjoy its many ancient ruins, museums, casino, and beaches, as well as shopping and open-air restaurants.  

Cairns, Australia

Located on the coast of the Coral Sea, Cairns has been described as the “sunny garden city where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Wet Tropics Rainforest” and “the safest tropical city in the world.” The gateway to Far North Queensland, it is best known for the amazing natural wonders that surround it, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforest, the Atherton Tableland, the Outback, and many fabulous beaches. It was an Aboriginal stronghold when Captain James Cook discovered it in 1770, but it wasn’t officially founded until 1876, when gold was discovered in the region. It became a military base for Pacific operations during World War II and has since found its calling as a center for tourism. Enjoy any of a number of activities here, including diving, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, birdwatching, and hiking, or immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture at Tjapukai Aboriginal Park, Australia’s largest indigenous cultural park. Or simply explore downtown Cairns, which features a popular lagoon pool, many museums, and gourmet dining.

Isla de Coiba, Panama

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural riches, Coiba National Park is a 430,825-acre park in the Gulf of Chiriquí off Panama’s Pacific coast. Among the 38 islands that comprise the park is Isla de Coiba, the largest island in Central America. Because the island served as a Panamanian penal colony until 2004, access was highly restricted. As a result. some 80% of the island is carpeted with unspoiled virgin rainforest. Home to rare indigenous plant species, the island is also a haven for howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, crested eagles, four turtle species, and more. And the north end of the island features beautiful white-sand beaches.

Corinth Canal, Greece

Built between 1881 and 1893, the Corinth Canal cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth, effectively separating the Peloponnesian Peninsula from mainland Greece. Although not completed until the late 19th century, the canal was first attempted as early as the 7th century BC, by the Corinthian tyrant Periander, and the Roman emperors Julius Caesar (44 BC), Caligula (37 BC), and Nero (AD 67) also made the attempt. Less than four miles long and less than 70 feet wide—too narrow for a modern freighter to navigate—it remains a marvel of engineering.  

Marenco, Costa Rica

From Marenco, a private nature reserve on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, you’ll have easy access to Corcovado National Park, called “the most biologically intense place on earth” by National Geographic. Within its 103,000 acres lie 25 to 30 ecosystems, including virgin rainforest, cloud forest, mangrove swamps, and coastal habitats. Among the 367 species of birds that make their home here is the largest population of scarlet macaws in Central America. Corcovado is also an important sanctuary for rare and endangered species such as jaguars, pumas, ocelots, Baird’s tapirs, and harpy’s eagles.

Corcovado National Park occupies most of Osa Peninsula, the southernmost peninsula in Costa Rica. Osa Peninsula is also the single largest expanse of a lowland tropical rainforest in Central America and one of the tallest rainforests in the world.

Cartagena, Colombia

Officially named Cartagena de Indias by Spanish explorers, who settled the city expecting it to become a port on the spice trade route to India, Cartagena is almost entirely surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Today, a blend of Spanish colonial influences and a tropical Caribbean lifestyle infuses the vibrant local culture of Colombia’s fifth-largest city—and most popular travel destination. Cartagena is also one of the loveliest cities in South America, with narrow streets, stately mansions, sprawling plazas, grand monasteries, open-air cafés, horse-drawn carriages, and a beautiful seaside setting. Perhaps you’ll visit the Ciudad Amurallada—the city’s historic walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or instead you might head to one of Cartagena’s many beaches. The best-known of these, Playa Blanca, is considered one of the finest beaches in the country.

Willemstad

Independent since the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, Curaçao is sometimes called “Hollandin the Tropics” and was recently named a “Top Destination” for 2012 by Frommer’s. Much of the island’s acclaim is due to its charming capital city, Willemstad, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its distinctive urban planning dating to 1634 and mix of architectural styles. While here, admire the city’s magnificent setting on a natural harbor and quality shopping in historic buildings. Perhaps you’ll also visit Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which boasts the longest-standing Jewish congregation in theNew World, dating to 1651. 

Rome, Italy

There is no shortage of things to do and places to explore here in the heart of the ancient Roman empire and capital of modern Italy. Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an abundance of monuments, cathedrals, artistic masterpieces, and more reflect the city’s rich ancient, medieval, and Renaissance history. You might also spend time in the independent Vatican City, home of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, which lies within its boundaries.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Adriatic” by George Bernard Shaw, Dubrovnik is Europe’s best-preserved walled city. The heart of the city is the Stradun (also known as the Plaka), the gleaming, wide, marble-paved thoroughfare that dates to the 13th century, and the Stari Grad—the extraordinarily well-preserved old city—has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which is helping to restore the city’s beautiful Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains. 

Delos, Greece

One of the Cycladic Isles, located in the Aegean Sea, near Mykonos, Delos is a stark, nearly treeless island whose pristine character is painstakingly preserved. It is a treasure trove of history, boasting more than 5,000 years of civilization, and is also considered a sacred island—the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, according to Greek mythology.  

Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Named for Sir Francis Drake, who is believed to have explored it during the 16th century, Drake Bay is located on the northern side of Osa Peninsula, home of Corcovado National Park—Costa Rica’s largest national park and one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Here, you’ll have many opportunities to witness amazing wildlife by land and sea. Enjoy snorkeling, dolphin and whale watching, hiking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, horseback riding, sportfishing, and birdwatching.

 

Darwin, Australia

The capital of Australia’s tropical Northern Territory, on the Timor Sea, Darwin was called Palmerston when it was founded in 1869. The city has suffered devastation twice since. As the frontline for Allied action against the Japanese in World War II, it was heavily damaged in World War II—the only Australian city ever bombed. In 1974, Cyclone Tracey caused further damage, leaving only 400 of the city’s 11,200 houses standing in its wake. Both times, this resilient metropolis has rebuilt from the ashes, so that today it is an attractive city of contrasts: lively yet laidback, urban yet remote, and a multicultural mix of 56 nationalities, including Aborigine. You might want to spend time in the revitalized waterfront area, featuring shops, restaurants, lagoons, parks, and mansions. Visit the Mindil Beach Sunset Market—the best known of Darwin’s many outdoor markets. Or venture farther afield, to Crocosaurus Cove, where you can get close to saltwater crocodiles, or to Parap, a suburb whose galleries are brimming with contemporary and Aboriginal art.

 

 

Les Saintes, F.W.I.

Located just six miles south of Guadeloupe, this small archipelago of eight gorgeous tropical islands is a world apart with its serene, relaxing ambiance. First spotted by Christopher Columbus, who gave them their name in 1493, Les Saintes were settled by the French in the mid-17th century, and a decidedly French ambiance prevails to this day. Only two of the islands are inhabited, mostly by fishermen, who are known for their unusual hats found nowhere else. In Terre-de-Haut, one of the inhabited islands (the other being Terre-de-Bas), enjoy exceptional snorkeling in the magnificent bay, or take in the view from above at Fort Napoleon. Or explore the village, with its interesting shops and art galleries.

Elba (Portoferrio), Italy

“The Pearl of the Tuscan Archipelago” is a beautiful island in the Tyrrhenian Sea that once was connected by a land bridge to Corsica but is better known today as the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile after his abdication in 1814. The chief city on the island, Portoferraio, dates to the Etruscan civilization and offers many historic landmarks, as well as beautiful beaches.

English Harbour, Antigua

The sister island of the flat coral island of Barbuda, Antigua is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands of the eastern Caribbean. Hospitable trade winds, protected coves, and a strategic location made the island an important port during the 18th century. Today, it draws travelers for its spectacular beaches and nearly perfect climate. The Moana moors at the southern tip of the island, in English Harbour—an important British naval base under Horatio Nelson in the late 18th century. Closed in 1889, it has since been completely restored and covers 15 square miles of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, the only Georgian dockyard in the world. It is also internationally revered as a yachting and sailing destination.

Fakarava, Tuamotus

Fakarava is an atoll in the west of the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia. It is the second largest of the Tuamotu atolls. Fakarava's main village is called Rotoava.The first recorded European to arrive to Fakarava Atoll was Russian oceanic explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen in 1820 on the ships Vostok and Mirni. He originally named this atoll "Wittgenstein."

Omoa (Fatu Hiva), Marquesas

The southernmost island in the Marquesas, Fatu Hiva may also be the most beautiful. This remote paradise has no airstrip, only one road, and just 500 residents. A century ago, the island was known as a haven for sailors looking to avoid the attention of authorities. Today, it's known for the production and sale of tapa , beaten bark cloth decorated in ink with traditional Polynesian artwork.

Fiskardo (Kefalonia), Greece

Less developed than many of the better-known Greek islands, Kefalonia offers many pockets of authentic local culture for the visitor. The largest of the seven Ionian islands, it is home to 365 villages—one for each day of the year. Fiskardo, located at the northern tip of the island, is famous as one of the few villages that was not destroyed in the earthquake that struck Kefalonia in 1953. In Fiscardo’s picture-postcard harbor, you’ll find traditional fishing boats moored alongside luxury yachts, and pebbled beaches surround sheltered coves that are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving. You’ll experience Fiscardo at the best time of day—the evening, when the lights of its preserved historic buildings and charming cafés and restaurants bathe the village in a magical glow.

Madeira, Portugal

This Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the Canary Islands, has been dubbed the “Floating Garden of the Atlantic” for its lush gardens, exquisite scenery, and balmy climate. First colonized around 1420-1425, it was one of the first discoveries of Portugal’s Age of Discovery, but it is better known today as a popular year-round resort and source of the eponymous fortified wine that is produced here. Its capital is Funchal, a clean, crescent-shaped city where flowers bloom year-round. As The Moana enters its stunning azure harbor surrounded by mountains, you’ll see why the approach to the city is considered one of the two most beautiful in the world (the other being Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). While here, enjoy the plentiful walking trails, watersports, and dazzling shops, restaurants, and nightlife of this sophisticated urban center borne of a pirate stronghold.  

Golfo di Aranci, Italy

Located on the northeast coast of Sardinia, overlooking the Gulf of Olbia, Golfo di Aranci was once dominated by the Aragons but was established as a fishing port in the mid-18th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it had grown into an important trading center. Today, people come here for its many beaches and for the natural beauty of its rocky headlands and white-sand beaches, where crystal-clear waters invite diving. Climb up to the church of Nostra Signora del Monte, built from local granite, for magnificent views, or shop for local crafts on Via Libertà. Or, if you’re interested in history, might want to visit the Nuralgic Sacred Well of Milis and the old lime factory.

Gibraltar, UK

Encompassing only about 2.25 square miles and rising to a height of roughly 1,400 feet, Gibraltar is one of the world’s most famous landmarks. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an island, but rather a peninsula, connected to the Andalucia province at the southern tip of Spain by a narrow, sandy isthmus. It is sometimes called the “Meeting Place of the Continents” for its location in the western Mediterranean, less than eight nautical miles off the northern coast of Africa.

This highly strategic positioning has given the Rock a tumultuous history of conquest. One of the legendary Pillar of Hercules (together with Morocco’s Jebel Musa) flanking the Strait of Gibraltar, it was an Arab stronghold from the 8th century until 1462, except for a brief possession by the Kingdom of Castile, from 1309 and 1333. Captured from the Moors by Spain, Gibraltar was conquered by the British in 1704 and officially became a British possession by terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It has remained so despite continuing attempts by Spain to regain possession.

Today, Gibraltar is a self-governing British Overseas Territory—affirmed most recently in a 2002 referendum, in which its citizens voted overwhelmingly against any joint sovereignty with Spain. For its part, the British government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment never to cede Gibraltar to Spain against the wishes of its citizens.

While the residents are largely bilingual, English is the official language, and the spirit of its people is fiercely British. Of its 30,000 residents, 26,000 are natives of Gibraltar, with the balance consisting largely of British expatriates.

The most famous residents of the Rock are not people, but rather its Barbary apes—tailless monkeys that are the only free-ranging primates in Europe. Friendly and inquisitive, these animals are believed to have descended from apes that were imported to Gibraltar as pets or game during the early days of the British garrison and found a hospitable environment in these limestone cliffs. Legend has it that when the apes leave Gibraltar, the Rock will cease to be British.

 

Golfito, Costa Rica

Literally “Little Bay,” this small port town is located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, near the border of Panama. The banana plantations that once blanketed the region later gave way to the production of African palm oil. Today, Golfito is better known as a center for sportfishing and duty-free shopping. Admire the excellent beaches set against the backdrop of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Golfito (Golfito Wildlife Refuge), part of Costa Rica’s national parks system, featuring steep hills carpeted with pristine rain forest.

Huahine, Society Islands

One of the most picturesque and geographically diverse islands in the Society Group, enclosed in a single lagoon, it covers 75 square miles. Huahine is located 109 miles northwest of Papeete. The highest point on the island, Mt. Turi, reaches 2,200 feet and is located on Huahine Nui. Mt. Tavaiura in the Fitii Peninsula looks like a women's face, leading to her chest and her round belly, hence one of the interpretation for Huahine's original name (pregnant woman).

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

The third-largest archipelago in the South Pacific, with 992 islands, the Solomon Islands were settled by European colonists and missionaries during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1893, the archipelago was divided between Great Britain and Germany. Among the British-controlled islands was the then-obscure island of Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomons.

Inhabited for thousands of years, Guadalcanal was discovered in 1568 by the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña de Neira, who named it for a village in Andalucia, Spain. In 1942, the Japanese effort to build an airfield on the island prompted six months of combat, in which the Allies were ultimately victorious. It was a turning point in the Pacific theater during World War II.

The island is still brimming with World War II relics, monuments, and memorials. Perhaps you’ll explore its tropical interior, with its excellent birdwatching. Or discover why the island is revered for its superior snorkeling and diving, with clear waters, shipwrecks, and an abundance of marine life, including barracuda, lion fish, giant clams, hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks.

Atuona (Hiva Oa), Marquesas

Hiva Oa is one of the islands discovered and named by Mendaña in 1595. The main town is Atuona on the southern shore within Traitors Bay. Above the steady rumble of the Pacific surge, the sharply sculpted mountains of Hiva Oa hide their summits in the mists of rain-filled clouds. The largest and most fertile island in the southern group of the Marquesas, Hiva Oa has deep valleys, lush plateaus and thickly wooded forests. Atuona is a favorite port of call for yachts.

Hapatoni, Tahuata, Marquesas

The smallest of the Marquesas archipelago, at only 19 square miles, Tahuata is a leaf-shaped volcanic island with sheer cliffs, white-sand beaches, lush vegetation, and twin bays (Iva Iva Nui and Iva Iva Iti). Literally “sunrise” in Marquesan, it is accessible only from Hiva Oa, from which it is separated by a mile-wide channel. The island was discovered in 1595 by the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña de Neira, and in 1842 it became the first French settlement in the Marquesas, after centuries of tumultuous encounters with European explorers. The m/s Paul Gauguin will call on Hapatoni, a charming, seafront village with an ancient paved royal walkway shaded by tamanu trees and whose air is redolent of tiare and frangipani. Visit the huge Catholic church, built by the Vatican and decorated with stunning stained-glass windows and beautiful local carvings. Admire traditional carvings at the crafts center. And enjoy fine swimming and snorkeling in the only Marquesas island edged by coral reef.

Hvar, Croatia

The “queen” of Croatia’s spectacular Dalmatian islands, Hvar is revered for its scenic beauty, rich history, and mild climate. Once called the “Austrian Madeira,” the island of Hvar was prized for its strategic location in ancient times. More recently, it has been acclaimed as one of the world’s ten most beautiful islands by Condé Nast Traveler and the U.K.’s Traveller magazine. The city of Hvar features one of the largest and most beautiful town squares in Croatia, and scenic strolling abounds.

Hiva Oa, Marquesas

Hiva Oa is one of the islands discovered and named by Mendaña in 1595. The main town is Atuona on the southern shore within Traitors Bay. Above the steady rumble of the Pacific surge, the sharply sculpted mountains of Hiva Oa hide their summits in the mists of rain-filled clouds. The largest and most fertile island in the southern group of the Marquesas, Hiva Oa has deep valleys, lush plateaus and thickly wooded forests. Atuona is a favorite port of call for yachts.

Ibiza, Spain

The Balearic Islands, an archipelago in the Mediterranean off the east coast of Spain, are one of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities. The four main islands of the chain are Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera, and the chain is renowned for its superb weather, beautiful scenery, exceptional beaches, and warm hospitality. The main city of Ibiza, also called Ibiza, boasts a history that dates to the ancient Phoenicians and Carthaginians, though it is better known as an artists’ and hippie colony during the 1960s and today as a popular getaway for travelers and jetsetters. While here, enjoy the city’s charming historic architecture, beautiful beaches, and lively nightlife.

Isla del Caño, (Drake Bay) Costa Rica

Located off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the uninhabited Caño Island (Isla del Caño) is part of a protected national park and a popular ecotourism destination. Enjoy its beautiful beaches, or snorkel or dive among the coral beds, keeping on the lookout for manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, humpback whales, moray eels, white-tipped sharks, and a dazzling display of fish. Or venture inland on the island’s filigree of hiking trails, and view the stone spheres left by an ancient civilization dating to the pre-Columbian era.

 

Isla Gamez, Panama

In Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park, a marine park in the Caribbean Sea near the Costa Rican border, lies Isla Gamez, an uninhabited island that serves as a protected refuge for leatherback and hawksbill turtles, tiger herons, whitetip sharks, howler monkeys, and colorful tropical fish. Your port call here gives you an opportunity to marvel at this amazing wildlife by land and sea. Or relax on beautiful beaches whose turquoise waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

Located about 750 miles east of Australia, New Caledonia, like its South Pacific neighbor, was once a penal colony. There could surely be no more idyllic place to be incarcerated than these sleepy islands with white-sand beaches, entirely surrounded by a pristine lagoon. Discovered for Europe by Captain James Cook, the archipelago was settled by Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, eventually becoming a French possession in 1853. Today, while New Caledonia is becoming increasingly independent, it retains its French sophistication, blended with influences of its Melanesian heritage.

You’ll begin your discovery of these islands on Ile des Pins, known to the Melanesian people as Kunie. To understand the visual impact of Ile des Pins, consider this story from the 1999 windsurfing championships, held in New Caledonia. In the midst of the competition, board sailors came within sight of the island and stopped short, dropping their sails so that they could take in the view. The island is that beautiful. 

Its interior carpeted by Araucaria pines, some growing as high as 200 feet tall, this island received its European name (literally, Isle of Pines) in 1774 from Captain James Cook, who first glimpsed it on his second voyage to New Zealand. Perhaps even more appropriate is the island’s nickname: l’île la plus proche du Paradis (literally, “the closest island to Paradise”). 

The island is home to a variety of wildlife, including the world’s largest gecko. Even more impressive are the wonders you’ll find under the waves. You might want to bring your snorkeling equipment with you when you come ashore. Good snorkeling can be found within walking distance of the pier, which is surrounded by a beautiful crescent of white-sand beach. Surrounded by coconut trees and wild orchids, the white-sand beaches of the island’s Kuto and Kanumera Bays are considered among the loveliest in the world. Ile des Pins is also known for its interesting caves, including Ouatchia, Wemwanyi, and Queen Hortense’s Cave, named for the legend of a 19th-century queen who hid there during a tribal war.

However you choose to spend your time on Ile des Pins, relaxing and soaking up the scenic splendor and easygoing ambiance of the island are the keys to making the most of your time in this tropical paradise at the southern tip of the archipelago. The local Kunie people will make you feel right at home. If you choose to browse the food, clothing, and handicraft stalls by the pier, please be aware that there is no local culture of bargaining, and attempting to barter could offend your friendly island hosts.

Istanbul, Turkey

Though not the capital of modern Turkey (that title belongs to Anakara), Istanbul was the heart of first the Byzantine and then the Ottoman empire (when it was known as Constantinople), and it remains not only the most populous city in the country, but also one of the greatest cities in the world. Built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome, it straddles the Bosporus—the narrow strait that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara—and is the only major city in the world to be located on two continents: Europe and Asia. A multicultural melting pot and one of 2010’s three European Capitals of Culture, it offers many fascinating attractions. Among these is the Blue Mosque, constructed by many of the same architects who helped build India’s Taj Mahal and whose interior is covered by 20,000 blue ceramic tiles. Just across the street is Aya Sofia, a magnificent early Christian church later converted to a mosque and today a museum. Explore the Harem, Treasury, and splendid courtyards of Topkapi Palace, a museum complex that was home to the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years and remains the world’s oldest and largest surviving palace. And browse the impressive Grand Bazaar (known locally as the Covered Bazaar), the largest covered bazaar in the world—a bustling warren of 4,000 shops, as well as mosques, courtyards, and cafés.

Delphi, Greece

In ancient times, Delphi was considered the center of the world: the place where heaven and Earth met. Today, this town in the valley of Phocis in central Greece, built on terraces in the foothills of Mount Parnassus, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece: home of the Temple of Apollo, where the oracle prophesied, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other magnificent ruins here include a 4th-century amphitheater, the Treasury of Athens, the stadium, the Tholos (a circular building), and the Sacred Way leading to the temple.

Ithaca, Greece

A lot of history is packed into this small Greek island in the Ionian Sea. The legendary home of Odysseus, Ithaca was the capital of Cephalonia at the time of the Trojan war (around 1500 BC) and later was conquered by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Venetians, the French, and the British. The capital city, Vathay, features the world’s largest natural harbor, where you can enjoy excellent snorkeling, and hiking also lets you take in the beautiful natural surroundings.

Mykonos, Greece

Popular with jetsetters and celebrities, this charming island in the Aegean Sea is known for its trademark windmills, winding streets, trendy shops, and lively tavernas. Perhaps you’ll also spend time on one of the beautiful beaches that dot the shoreline.  

Santorini, Greece

This stunningly beautiful island in the southern Aegean Sea was created by a volcanic explosion in 1600 BC. Today, it is renowned for its whitewashed villages and black-sand beaches. Perhaps you’ll venture to the rim of the now-dormant volcano, which is accessible by funicular or donkey. And the spectacular sunsets here are not to be missed.

Kieta, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world (after Greenland). Divided between Germany and the U.K. in 1885, it was transferred to Australia in 1902 and gained independence in 1975. Some 80% of the population lives in rural areas without modern amenities, and with more than 700 native languages, it is the world’s most linguistically diverse nation.

The island of Bougainville is a volcanic island, rugged and relatively unspoiled, with lush jungle, fabulous beaches, and one of the world’s largest caves. A bloody secessionist revolt here ended in 1997, when New Zealand negotiated a peace agreement that resulted in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (actually two islands, Buka and Bougainville). Finalized in 2000, the agreement leaves open the possibility of full independence.

There are many World War II sites and relics scattered throughout the island that you can explore. Or enjoy excellent snorkeling, swimming, and diving in the clear waters … browse the shops for traditional wood carvings … and admire the diversity of bird life that is second only to Guadalcanal in this region of the South Seas.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

Home of the Komodo dragon—the world’s largest lizard, which exists nowhere else on Earth—Komodo is located in the center of the 17,508 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago. Although settled since at least the Neolithic era, the island today is inhabited mostly by the descendants of convicts who were exiled here. It is better known, however, as one of three islands that comprise Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Man and Biosphere Reserve. While here, enjoy the tropical climate and hilly terrain rimmed with white-sand beaches and one of only seven pink-sand beaches in the world. Perhaps you’ll visit the park, take a walk along the walking trails (because of the dragons, it is required that you be accompanied by a guide), or take a cruise in a glass-bottom boat to admire the abundant marine life.

Note: Komodo Island is a tender port. Due to National Park restrictions, passengers will only be allowed onto Komodo Island if they are part of a organized tour. Please make sure you take bottled water, hat, sun screen and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Korcula, Croatia

One of the greenest islands in the Adriatic and the reputed birthplace of Marco Polo, Korcula is distinguished by its tranquil beauty, with secluded beaches and bays, surrounding islands, and the medieval ramparts of Korcula town. It is also a lively artistic and cultural center.  

Kotor, Montenegro

Situated on the only natural fjord of its kind in the world—one of the most beautiful bays in the world—spectacular Kotor captures the spirit of Montenegro with its blend of exuberant youth and ancient traditions. Explore the Old Town, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its amazingly well-preserved medieval architecture. 

Kusadasi, Turkey

An Aegean port city on Turkey’s west coast and jumping-off point for both Izmir and the Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, Kusadasi offers many attractions in its own right. Named for its location on a peninsula that resembles a bird’s head (Kusadasi literally means “bird island”), it was founded in 3000 BC and has served as a center for art, culture, and history ever since. It is also a strikingly beautiful city, with stunning scenery, gorgeous sunsets, and a warm Mediterranean climate. As you enjoy Kusadasi’s excellent palm-lined, powdery beaches, shopping, dining, and nightlife, you’ll find it easy to communicate with the locals, as English is widely spoken here.

Almeria, Spain

The province of Andalucia in southern Spain is known for its unspoiled natural beauty and whitewashed villages and has even been used as a location for numerous films—including American Westerns. The Andalucian village of Almeria, from the Arabic for “mirror of the sea,” is set in the foothills of a mountain range dominated by a Moorish fortress and overlooking a beautiful bay. Spend time here browsing the many museums that line its winding streets, or get closer to nature by taking advantage of its excellent SCUBA diving and hiking trails.

Ile de Lifou, New Caledonia

Lying about 78 miles off the east coast of New Caledonia’s main island, Grand Terre, the Loyalty Islands enjoy a long reputation as an enchanting paradise, with tranquil azure lagoons fringed with beautiful white-sand beaches, gardens bursting with fragrant blooms, rugged cliffs, and deep rock holes. 

Inhabited since around 1100 BC, these islands saw an influx of Polynesian immigrants during the 16th and 17th centuries, and were discovered for Europe in 1793 by a British captain seeking a shortcut from New Zealand. It is not known why he gave the archipelago the name Loyalty Islands. Some historians believe it is a tribute to the loyalty of its inhabitants; others think it is an homage to the Loyalty, a British merchant ship that sailed the South Seas during that period. 

The largest of the Loyalty Islands, Ile de Lifou (Drehu in the local language) remains a devoutly Christian island, due to the work of 19th-century Anglican and French Catholic missionaries. Yet, the friendly people of this island also proudly maintain the customs of their heritage, as you may see in their agricultural techniques and traditional huts. 

The early 19th century also saw the rise of the whaling industry on Ile de Lifou. Whaling ships often pulled into port in New Caledonia to stock up on provisions, and a whale-oil extraction plant was built on the island. The plant ceased operation, however, with the decline of whale populations and the replacement of whale oil with petroleum in the latter part of the century. 

Like all the Loyalty Islands, Lifou is dazzlingly beautiful, with pristine white-sand beaches, deep bays, steep cliffs, enormous caves, and a densely forested central plain that once was a lagoon. 

The waters off the coast offer some of the most extraordinary visibility you are ever likely to encounter, and the underwater topography is just as magnificent as the marine life you are apt to see. Enjoy snorkeling or swimming from the beach, and browse the market stalls for local handicrafts. 

Hiking trails abound for those who wish to explore the island’s interior, or perhaps you’ll take an island tour or join a guided visit to Lifou’s caves. Experience the island’s religious heritage at Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel or the Qanono Sacred Heart Chapel, learn about the vanilla industry at a local plantation, or venture to Mu tribal village to sample New Caledonia’s signature dish: bougna (shellfish, fish,o or chicken and vegetables in coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked on hot stones underground). 

Lipari, Italy

The largest of the Aeolian islands—a volcanic chain in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily—this ruggedly beautiful island delights the eye with steep cliffs tumbling down to a blue sea. Along the shoreline, you’ll find numerous beaches available, or spend time exploring the main town, also called Lipari, where an archaeological park showcases the city’s ancient Greek roots.

Lisbon, Portugal

One of the oldest cities in the world, Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and its largest city. It is also the westernmost capital in Europe—and one of the most beautiful capitals on the continent. According to legend, the city was founded by Ulysses, and its name—derived from ancient Phoenician for “enchanting port”—attests to both its long history and its stunning beauty. Lisbon was also the departure point for Portuguese explorers during the 15th century’s “Age of Discovery,” and monuments to this golden era may be seen in the city’s historic center, which was built on seven hills and can be reached only by funicular or elevator. These include the Tower of Belém and Jeronimos Monastery, which together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another highlight of the city is Monsanto Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world.  

Florence, Italy

Magnificent artwork abounds in museums, palaces, cathedrals, and gardens here in the Cradle of the Renaissance, also the capital of Tuscany. The city is dominated by the massive Duomo, the world’s fourth-largest cathedral, whose giant dome was the largest in the world during the 15th century, when it was constructed. While here, admire masterpieces by such legendary artists as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rubens, Giotto, and so many others.

Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji

In Fiji, virtually everyone you’ll meet will be smiling—and when you view the high mountains, lush vegetation, shimmering waters, and pristine white-sand beaches of this island nation, you’ll understand why. A British colony for nearly a century before gaining its independence in 1970, Fiji remains English speaking and today boasts a multinational population, among whom the majority are of Melanesian descent. As you mingle with the locals, you’ll see why Melanesians are reputed to be among the friendliest people in the world.

Located on the northwest coast of Viti Levu, the largest and most populous of the Fijian islands, Lautoka is Fiji’s second-largest city. Virtually synonymous with the country’s main export, Lautoka is known as “Sugar City” for the green-gold sugarcane that surrounds it on three sides, with the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean forming its western border. Enjoy window-shopping along its stately, royal palm-lined main thoroughfare. Visit its beautiful botanical garden. Or venture to Koroyanitu National Heritage Park (also known as Abaca National Heritage Park), where you’ll experience beautiful native forests and traditional villages.

 

Mahón, Spain

Menorca, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is the northernmost and second-largest of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous region of Spain. It is also considered the most tranquil of the island chain, with beautiful beaches and coves. Megalithic stone monuments reveal a prehistoric past, and Menorca has since been coveted over the centuries by the Romans, Carthaginians, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, and more. It was also briefly a British possession during the 18th century but was regained by Spain in 1756 and again in 1802.

The capital of Menorca, Mahón (officially Maó-Mahón) is located at the eastern end of the island and boasts the second-deepest natural harbor in the world. Admire the city’s mix of old and new architecture and perhaps delve into its storied past at the Museu de Menorca, with its displays of fine arts and archaeological artifacts. See how gin is produced at the 18th-century Xoriguer Gin Distillery. Or simply people watch at the Plaça de s’Esplanada, in the heart of the city, with its cafés, fountains, and bowling alley.

Maupiti, Society Islands

Here is your opportunity for an authentic experience of the Polynesia of old! Located just 25 miles from Bora Bora, Maupiti is considered an unspoiled paradise and one of the most beautiful islands in the South Seas. It is of the oldest settlements in the Society Islands, offering many ancient artifacts, including maraes (temples) and graves, where excavations have yielded stone axes, whale teeth, and fishhooks dating to AD 850. Maupiti was discovered by Dutch explorer Jakob Roggeveen in 1722 but remained otherwise largely untouched by Europeans before uniting with Bora Bora in the early 19th century. The island is dominated by the 1,250-foot Mt. Teurafaatui, which is often circled by sea birds such as frigate birds and reed harriers that make their home in the caves near the village of Vaiea. Perhaps you’ll hike up Mt. Teuraffatui for sweeping panoramic views. You might simply bask in the tranquil atmosphere of Tereia Beach, a beautiful, uncrowded, pink-and-white-sand beach also known as Lovers’ Beach. Or enjoy wonderful snorkeling in a lagoon populated by leopard and manta rays, colorful tropical fish, and spectacular coral gardens.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Ruled by the Grimaldi family since 1297, with only brief interruptions, the Principality of Monaco is the world’s second-smallest country (after the Vatican). Sandwiched between mountains and the sea, Monte Carlo is a district of the country and home of the famous Grand Casino. Monte Carlo’s steep and winding streets have been featured in numerous films, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” starring Grace Kelly, who would become Princess Grace of Monaco upon her marriage to Rainier III in 1956. Besides the casino, attractions of this glamorous district include numerous museums, churches, monuments, and gardens. 

Ile de Maré, New Caledonia

Lying about 78 miles off the east coast of New Caledonia’s main island, Grand Terre, the Loyalty Islands enjoy a long reputation as an enchanting paradise, with tranquil azure lagoons fringed with beautiful white-sand beaches, gardens bursting with fragrant blooms, rugged cliffs, and deep rock holes. 

Inhabited since around 1100 BC, these islands saw an influx of Polynesian immigrants during the 16th and 17th centuries, and were discovered for Europe in 1793 by a British captain seeking a shortcut from New Zealand. It is not known why he gave the archipelago the name Loyalty Islands. Some historians believe it is a tribute to the loyalty of its inhabitants; others think it is an homage to the Loyalty, a British merchant ship that sailed the South Seas during that period. 

In the 1840s, teachers from the London Missionary Society began a concerted effort to convert the islanders to Protestantism—often coming into bloody conflict with French Catholic missionaries, who followed soon after.  The majority of inhabitants of Ile de Maré today are Protestant, and many British customs have also been woven into the culture—such as a passion for cricket. Yet, the people of the Loyalty Islands also proudly maintain their distinctive blend of Melanesian and Polynesian cultures. 

Of the four principal Loyalty Islands—Ile de Maré, Lifou, Ouvéa, and Tiga—Ile de Maré (Nengone in the island’s indigenous language) is best known for its wild beauty and mystical link with nature. The southernmost of the Loyalty Islands, it boasts the archipelago’s highest peaks, as well as dusky forests, charming creeks nestled among rocky headlands, and long pristine beaches fringed by coconut palms. Once a lagoon, the central plain is pitted with caves, and its natural fresh- and saltwater pools with their ever-changing shades of green and blue provide a home for interesting fish and turtles.

While here, perhaps you’ll embark on an island tour, or delve into island heritage at the tribal village of Eni. Grab your snorkeling equipment and admire the wondrous creatures that thrive in the magnificent reefs in Hnalé Bay, or venture to a natural aquarium formed by a wall of coral. Explore the many caves left behind by the former inland lagoon. Discover how vanilla is cultivated at a local plantation. Or see artisans at work at the Association Edrehna.

Malolo Island, Fiji

In Fiji, virtually everyone you’ll meet will be smiling—and when you view the high mountains, lush vegetation, shimmering waters, and pristine white-sand beaches of this island nation, you’ll understand why. A British colony for nearly a century before gaining its independence in 1970, Fiji remains English speaking and today boasts a multinational population, among whom the majority are of Melanesian descent. As you mingle with the locals, you’ll see why Melanesians are reputed to be among the friendliest people in the world.

You’ll feel right at home on Malolo Island, part of the Mamanuca island group—a volcanic archipelago. Seven of the chain’s islands are so low, they’re covered by the Pacific Ocean at high tide. Rising just a few feet above sea level, Malolo is a remote and rustic getaway owned by a Fijian family. Take advantage of the opportunity to truly get away from it all as you admire the golden-sand beaches, swaying palms, and azure skies … marvel at the phenomenal snorkeling, with an abundance of tropical fish inhabiting local reefs … take in sweeping sea views from the comfort of a double hammock … and enjoy true Fijian hospitality, offered by villagers whose ancestry here dates back thousands of years.

Moorea, Society Islands

Moorea, often likened to James Michener's mythical island of Bali Hai, is only 11 miles from Tahiti. Many visitors say it is worth the visit just to see Moorea's spectacular bays. The volcanic peaks, reflected in the waters of Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay, rise like a shark's jaw from the island's base. Sharks sighting on nearly every dive makes this island a popular diving destination. At times a tuna will come by or dolphins will be heard clicking just out of sight.

Motril, Spain

A pretty seaside resort in the Andalucian province of Granada, on the Costa Tropical, Motril features a historic quarter known as a fine example of Arab-Spanish urban development, as well as excellent shopping and dining. The city’s Museum of Sugar celebrates what was the city’s main industry for centuries. And enjoy diving in the warm waters off its many beaches, which include three nude beaches.  

Navplion, Greece

Also spelled Nafplio, Nauplia, or Navplio (Ναύπλιο in Greek), this picturesque Greek town of about 12,000 was founded by Nafplieus, the son of Poseidon, according to legend. The region’s roots date to ancient times, but the city’s oldest monument, Akronafplia Fortress, is a product of the Byzantine era. It was within this complex that the people of Navplion lived until the arrival of the Venetians in 1685. Today, it offers stunning views of the bay, the Palamidi Fortress, and the orange-roofed town below.

The Venetians were the first to name Navplion a capital city, declaring it the capital of their “Kingdom of the Morea” (Morea being their name for the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece). Part of the appeal of the city is its strategic location on the Argo-Saronic Gulf on the northeast Peloponnese. The city is also protected by a hilly backdrop, whose lofty heights are home not only to Akronafplia Fortress, but also to Palamidi Fortress, the last overseas stronghold built by the Venetians. Completed in 1715, Palamidi Fortress is named in honor of Navplion’s most famous native son, Palamidis, a hero of the Trojan War who is also attributed with the invention of weights and measures, lighthouses, and the first Greek alphabet, as well as being the father of the Sophists. To reach the fortress, climb 999 steps, then enjoy its romantic beauty, garlands of wildflowers, and views that sweep from the Argo-Saronic Gulf to the Aegean Sea.

Just 30 years after the arrival of the Venetians, the Ottomans conquered the city, nearly destroying it in the process. Nevertheless, influences of the Venetian, neoclassical, and Ottoman eras may be seen in the graceful buildings that line the cobbled streets of the Old Town, most of which lies on a peninsula that juts into the gulf.

In 1829, Navplion became the first capital city of the newly independent Greece and remained so until 1934, when King Otto moved the capital to Athens. Unusually mild and sunny, even for Greece, it is where the Athenians themselves often go for vacation, especially in winter. Perhaps you’ll visit one of the city’s many museums, which include the Archaeological Museum, Folklore Museum, War Museum, Children’s Museum, and Komboloia Museum, whose collections of rare traditional Greek beads (komboloi) are unique in the world. Or simply take advantage of the many food shops, cafés, and tavernas.

Nice, France

The “Queen of the Côte d’Azur” and the second-largest city in France, Nice offers beautiful views of hilltop villages, Art Deco façades, and a beautiful coastline along the blue-green Mediterranean Sea. Inhabited for 400,000 years, Nice has been a travel destination since the Roman empire. The ruins of ancient Roman baths are among the city’s top attractions, as are the Cours Saleya Flower Market, the Matisse Museum, and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Or perhaps you’ll simply stroll the lovely Promenade des Anglais, enjoy the world-class dining and shopping, or relax on one of the city’s many beautiful beaches.

Tiaohae (Nuku Hiva), Marquesas

Taiohae is a pleasant village bordering the sea. It is the administrative, economic, educational and health center of the Marquesas Islands. Here are the French and Territorial administrators, the government buildings, gendarmerie, post office, general hospital, town hall, Air Tahiti office, banks, schools, well-stocked stores and shops. It lies on the south coast at the head of the Bay of Taiohae whose entrance is guarded by two rocks called "Les Sentinelles."

Noumea, New Caledonia

First inhabited around 4,000 years ago, New Caledonia was discovered by Europeans in 1766. Located about 750 miles east of Australia, New Caledonia, like its South Pacific neighbor, was once a penal colony. There could surely be no more idyllic place to be incarcerated than these sleepy islands with white-sand beaches, entirely surrounded by a pristine lagoon. 

Discovered for Europe by Captain James Cook, the archipelago was settled by Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, eventually becoming a French possession in 1853. Today, while New Caledonia is becoming increasingly independent, it retains its French sophistication, blended with influences of its Melanesian heritage. 

This heritage adds a delightful dimension to the cosmopolitan capital city of Noumea, the most European-influenced capital city in the Pacific islands. Enjoy the decidedly French ambiance that earned the city the nickname “Paris of the Pacific,” as well as the multicultural mix of its citizenry that includes French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and more. 

Located on a peninsula on the southwestern coast of New Caledonia’s main island, Grand Terre, Noumea served as an important Pacific military base during World War II. Just off the coast, the longest barrier reef in the world shelters 350 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish. One place to admire the dazzling creatures of the deep is at the Aquarium of the Lagoons, where you can discover marine life from a variety of ecosystems, including fresh water, mangroves, the lagoon, and the open sea.

Perhaps you’d rather take in the sights of the city. Stroll through Coconut Square in the heart of downtown, explore Chinatown, or browse the boutiques along rue de Sébastopol. You might visit one of the city’s fine museums, such as the Museum of New Caledonia, boasting one of the world’s finest collections of Kanak art, and the Musée de l’Histoire Maritime (Museum of Maritime History). And mingle with the locals at the Marché de la Moselle (Port Moselle Market). 

Another popular attraction is the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre. Designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, this structure is celebrated for its skillful modern rendering of traditional Kanak architecture and is often compared to Sydney’s Opera House. Inside, you’ll find exhibitions dedicated to the preservation of Kanak culture. 

Or simply enjoy the beach here at New Caledonia’s “French Riviera,” in the city that boasts the most sunshine of any Pacific island capital. 

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Home to about 35% of Tonga's population, Nuku'Alofa is the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga. Here, the King of Tonga resides in the Royal Palace, built in 1867. Tonga is the oldest Polynesian monarchy and the only Pacific nation never brought under foreign rule.

Odessa, Ukraine

A major seaport set on terraced hillsides on the Black Sea, Odessa was once the fourth-largest city of 19th-century Imperial Russia and the most important trading port of the Soviet Union. Today, it is the third-largest city of modern Ukraine. Founded by decree in 1794 by Catherine the Great, Odessa has long been a major artistic, intellectual, and cultural center, beloved by the great Russian poet Pushkin, and a freewheeling city with a multicultural ambiance, with influences of Jewish, Greek, Russian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian cultures. The Potemkin Stairs, an inviting walkway leading to the city from the sea, are a symbol of the city. Other “must-see” sites include the Opera and Ballet House, ranked with the Vienna Opera House as one of the finest in the world; Deribasovskaya Street, the city’s pedestrian-only main street; and a dazzling mix of architectural styles, from Italian and French to Art Nouveau and Renaissance. You’ll also find wonderful museums, restaurants, and shops in Odessa.

Colón, Panama

A seaport on Panama’s Caribbean coast, about 50 miles northwest of Panama City, Colón is the second-largest city in the country and the northern gateway to the Panama Canal. In fact, many of the residents are descendants of the laborers who built the Canal at the turn of the 20th century. While there are numerous parks and monuments to view, the city’s main attraction is its Free Zone. The largest duty-free zone in the Americas, it consists of 1,600 showrooms for wholesalers and retailers, offering goods from around the world, including liquor, cigarettes, clothing, jewelry, furniture, electrical appliances, and more. Perhaps you’ll also sample some of the local specialties, such as ceviche (fish marinated in citrus) and empanadas (cheese- or meat-filled turnovers).

Oranjestad, Aruba

Come discover why Aruba’s slogan is “Where Happiness Lives”! In its glittering, multicultural capital, Oranjestad, you’ll find an ideal walking city brimming with shops, Dutch Colonial architecture, a waterfront market, and a 17th-century fort. Aruba is also world-renowned for its international cuisine, and restaurants are plentiful. Windsurfing is especially popular here, and shallow coral formations make this a great destination for diving and snorkeling. Or simply relax on a beach of soft, ivory-colored sands.

Palamós, Spain

Set north of Barcelona on the Costa Brava (literally, “Wild Coast”), a rocky coastline dotted with wide beaches and clear-water coves in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia, Palamós was established in the 13th century as a fishing village. Today, it is a resort town revered for its fine-sand beaches lined with restaurants and promenades, clear-water coves ideal for diving, and medieval Old Town. In the historic center of town, visit the Santa María del Mar church and the fishing port, where you’ll also find the Fish Market and Fishing Museum. And enjoy views over the bay from the Plaza Murada and the Plaza de El Pedró.

Portobelo, Panama

Originally called Puerto Bello—literally, “Beautiful Port,” the name it was given by Christopher Columbus in 1502—Portobelo today is a quiet fishing village on the northern part of the Isthmus of Panama. But its sleepy nature today belies its storied history. During the Spanish colonial era, it was the greatest port in Central America, when mules carried gold and silver from Peru and goods from Asia overland from Panama City to be traded. These riches also attracted pirates, and Portobelo was often the focus of attacks, including a famous raid by Captain Henry Morgan in 1668. Captured by the British fleet in 1739 and rebuilt in 1751, Portobelo has never been restored to its former glory, and only remnants remain of the 17th- and 18-century fortifications built to protect transatlantic trade. Some were even stripped away to provide materials to build the Panama Canal. Nevertheless, these fortifications have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as outstanding examples of Spanish colonial military architecture.

 

Piran, Slovenia

Add Slovenia to your discoveries as The Moana calls today on Piran, a historic gem on the northwest coast of the Istrian Peninsula, near the Croatian border. Settled initially by Illyrian tribes of farmers, hunters, and fishermen, Piran soon attracted pirates who preyed on Roman trade ships in the north Adriatic Sea. The region was absorbed into the Roman Empire during the 2nd century BC, where it remained until the decline of the empire in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The city’s atmospheric fortifications date to the 7th century AD, when it was under Byzantine rule—but they proved no defense against the Franks, who conquered Istria in 788, spurring an influx of Slavic immigrants. Increasingly dominant in the region, the Venetian Empire assumed control in 1282 and ruled for 500 years. 

Although the city fell to Napoleon’s forces in 1812, in the only naval battle ever fought in the waters now belonging to Slovenia, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded the following year and launched a period of prosperity. Italy claimed Istria after World War I, only to be ousted by the Yugoslav military administration after World War II. The Republic of Slovenia gained its independence in 1991.

Today, Piran is the most popular destination in the country, and no wonder. The city is a member of the European Walled Cities Association, a national monument—and stunningly picturesque. 

The centerpiece of the city is Tartini Square, the finest public square in Slovenia. Named for Piran’s most famous native son, violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini, Tartini Square served as the hub for the first trolleybus line in the Balkans, which launched in 1909 and was replaced by a tram that ran from 1912 to 1953. In another first, Piran was the first city behind the former Iron Curtain to elect a black mayor: Peter Bossman, who took office in 2010. 

While here, be sure to admire the city’s architecture, a marvel of the Venetian Gothic style. For a panoramic view of the city, climb the tower of the Church of St. George. Delve into Piran’s close ties to the sea at the Sergej Mašera Maritime Museum. Or simply enjoy the bustle of Tartini Square.

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The Balearic Islands, an archipelago in the Mediterranean off the east coast of Spain, are one of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities. The four main islands of the chain are Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera, and the chain is renowned for its superb weather, beautiful scenery, exceptional beaches, and warm hospitality. The largest of the Balearics is Mallorca, and its capital, Palma de Mallorca, is also the capital of the archipelago. Built atop the Roman city of Palmaria, whose ruins continue to be unearthed, Palma de Mallorca offers a multicultural history that has resulted in a mix of architectural styles. The highlight is the city’s Gothic cathedral—one of the finest in Spain—built on the site where a Roman temple and then a mosque once stood. The Arab quarter—a warren of narrow alleyways housing museums, palaces, and courtyards—rewards exploration. Yet, Palma de Mallorca also has a sophisticated side and offers the island’s best shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.

Patmos, Greece

One of the Dodecanese Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, Patmos is important in both mythology and Christianity. It was named a Sacred Island by the Greek government in 1981 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, and has long been a popular pilgrimage site. Boasting an enchantingly beautiful landscape, Patmos was the place of exile for St. John the Divine, one of Jesus’ disciples, who is believed to have written the Book of Revelations here. A monastery dedicated to him is visible almost everywhere throughout the island. 

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, Port Moresby is the most populous city in Papua New Guinea—and the South Pacific. Historically made up of tribal peoples making their living from the sea, Port Moresby did not begin to develop as a Westernized city until the late 19th century. Captain John Moresby, the British Naval Officer who in 1873 became the first European to explore the harbor, named the city his father. He was quickly followed by missionaries and traders, so that, by 1888, Port Moresby was declared the capital of British New Guinea. During World War II, the city was an important Allied base targeted by the Japanese for its strategic potential for isolating Australia from Southeast Asia and its Western Allies. 

As the administrative capital of the Australian external territory of Papua and of the Australian-administered UN Trust Territory of New Guinea, Port Moresby underwent a period of urban planning after 1945, during which many new buildings and amenities were constructed. As a result, the city today boasts an infrastructure that is sophisticated in comparison to the rest of the country. In 1975, Britain’s Prince Charles was present for the official ceremonies marking Papua New Guinea’s independence, with Port Moresby becoming its capital city. Nine years later, Prince Charles attended the ribbon-cutting of the new National Parliament Building.

Today, the city hosts a population whose native people are predominantly Polynesian rather than Melanesian, as well as a sizeable Chinese community. While here, perhaps you’ll admire the mosaic façade of the National Parliament House, inhale the fragrance of tropical blooms at the Port Moresby Nature Park, or marvel at the depth and diversity of the local culture at the National Museum and Art Gallery.

You are advised to use caution while ashore in Port Moresby. However, if you use common sense, don’t venture into unsafe areas, and don’t flash jewelry or money, you will find this a fascinating city with a friendly, courteous people. 

Ponza, Italy

A tiny island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ponza is the largest of Italy’s Pontine Islands—and one of the gems of the region. Inhabited since Neolithic times, it was a favorite summer getaway for the ancient Romans, including Pontius Pilate, the Roman judge who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus and whose family owned a grotto here. Originally called Tyrrhenia, the island is believed to have been renamed in his honor. As the ship approaches the island, view a terraced landscape set on dramatic white and brown cliffs that tumble down to inviting coves and beaches. The Moana anchors at the port town of Porto, where you can wander amid pastel-colored homes interspersed with cafés, bakeries, and food stalls. Or stroll down pathways leading to the Piscine Naturali, saltwater pools created by long-ago volcanic eruptions.

Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands

The islands of Polynesia are a gorgeous collection of volcanic islands and atolls strewn lazily across the grand Pacific Ocean. The island of Tahiti proper is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that comprise French Polynesia. Papeete, the modern capital of Tahiti and her islands, contains government offices, hospitals, banks and many other services dedicated to serving the islands as well as tourists who come to these islands for a life-enriching experience.

Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

This small port town on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast serves as an embarkation/disembarkation point for many Caribbean itineraries of The Moana. From here, you might want to explore nearby Puntarenas, a lively city set on a peninsula in the Gulf of Nicoya. Or venture about two hours away, to the capital city, San José.

Capri, Italy

A four-mile-by-two-mile gem of an island off the Amalfi coast, Capri was once the vacation retreat of the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius and is listed today among the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Boasting an idyllic climate, lush gardens, and magnificent views, it features scenic hiking, Roman ruins, a 14th-century Carthusian monastery, and the famed Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), renowned for the intense blue of its waters.

Portimão, Portugal

Located on the sun-splashed southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve region boasts an average of more than 300 sunny days a year and more than 100 of the finest golden beaches in Europe. Amid this charming landscape of whitewashed villages and almond groves lies Portimão, the largest town in the western Algarve. Set on the banks of the Arade River, Portimão features colorful architecture, in shades of blue, pink, coral, ochre, and terracotta, as well as excellent shopping and an abundance of restaurants and cafés. Perhaps you’ll also relax on one of the many beaches here, which include the Praia da Rocha, just around the corner from the marina.  

Porto Venere, Italy

Overlooking the Gulf of Poets in the northwestern Italian province of Liguria, Porto Venere (also spelled Portovenere) was built by the Romans as a trade route between Gaul and Spain. In 1997, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with the nearby Cinque Terre villages, for its combination of scenic beauty and a traditional way of life that dates back 1,000 years. Admire the pastel-colored homes that line the picturesque waterfront, and narrow stairways and cobbled lanes lined with shops that radiate out from the waterfront. Visit the 12th-century Chiesa di San Lorenzo church and the 16th-century Castello Dorio, a fortified Genoese castle with manicured gardens and stunning views. Venture to Byron’s Grotto, where Lord Byron swam across the gulf to Lerici to visit his friend and fellow poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in 1822. Or follow one of several hiking trails that lead out from the town.

Portofino, Italy

Located on a peninsula in the Italian Riviera, this pretty, pastel resort and fishing village in the northern Italian region of Liguria is dominated by a 16th-century castle overlooking crystalline green waters filled with marine life.

Panama City, Panama

The capital and largest city of the Republic of Panama, Panama City is a glamorous city of skyscrapers surrounded by dense tropical rainforests, located at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila, it became an important stop on the trade route that brought Peruvian gold and silver to Portobelo. The site of the original city, however, was destroyed in 1671 by the pirate Captain Henry Morgan and was never rebuilt. Today, Panama Viejo is a popular attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city’s historic district, Casco Viejo, was built in 1671 and surrounded by fortifications to protect against future pirate attacks. Today, it offers an interesting mix of architectural styles and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site of the modern city was settled in 1673 on a peninsula five miles from Panama Viejo. Central America’s capital of international finance, it is somewhat jokingly referred to as the “Dubai of the Americas” by the locals. During your time here, perhaps you’ll view the Canal from the Miraflores Visitors Center and browse the museum … venture out to the scenic Amador Causeway, site of the "Panama Bridge of Life" biodiversity museum designed by Frank Gehry … or shop for handicrafts from one of Panama’s seven living Indian tribes. 

Porto-Vecchio (Corsica), France

A fashionable resort town near the Corsican port city of Bonifacio, Porto-Vecchio delights the eye with its dramatic scenery, as majestic mountains tumble down to some of the best beaches on the island. Enjoy time to stroll among charming, historic buildings housing chic bars, restaurants, and shops.  

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world (after Greenland). Divided between Germany and the U.K. in 1885, it was transferred to Australia in 1902 and gained independence in 1975. Some 80% of the population lives in rural areas without modern amenities, and with more than 700 native languages, it is the world’s most linguistically diverse nation.

Rabaul was the headquarters of German New Guinea until World War I, when it became a provincial capital under the British Empire. During World War II, this port city became an important military base for Japanese forces. It remained a provincial capital until 1994, when it was buried in ash from volcanic eruptions from Mt. Tavurvur and Mt. Vulcan. Today, it presents a surreal, almost deserted landscape, with Mt. Tavurvur looming in the background, still spewing plumes of smoke into the sky. You’ll have a full day to marvel at this fantastical setting and enjoy SCUBA diving and snorkeling in the beautiful harbor.

Raiatea, Society Islands

Raiatea and Taha'a are two separate islands sharing the same lagoon. Located 120 miles northwest of Tahiti, between Huahine and Bora Bora among the leeward Society Islands, Raiatea is the second- largest island of French Polynesia after Tahiti. Here, you'll find lush green valleys, numerous waterfalls, and pineapple and vanilla plantations. Or discover fascinating under-water scenery within Raiatea's deep lagoon, rich with fish and surrounded by mountains.

Rangiroa, Tuamotus

Rangiroa is the largest atoll of the Tuamotu Archipelago, which comprises 78 coral atolls scattered over several hundred miles of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Life on these remote atolls is simple, quiet, and peaceful. In the small villages, the visitor can discover the true flavor of the Tuamotu, often participating in the daily activities of the Paumotu people. The interior lagoons are a haven for black pearl farms, fish breeding farms, snorkeling and SCUBA diving.

Rhodes, Greece

The largest of the Dodecanese islands, located in the Aegean between Crete and the near East, Rhodes boasts more sunny days than other cities in Europe and is known as the “Sun Island” for its subtropical climate. Its location on the crossroads of East and West explains the rich, 3,000-year, multicultural history that is yours to explore here. Or focus on the island’s ample shopping, dining, and glittering nightlife.

Rovinj, Croatia

Set on a peninsula and protected by ancient fortified walls, this romantic Istrian town is a modern seaside resort with a host of attractions and activities. Admire its pastel-colored houses as you stroll narrow winding streets that lead to a Venetian bell tower.

 

Sorrento, Italy

This magical town in the Campania region of southern Italy overlooks the Bay of Naples and offers easy access to Naples and Pompeii. Famous for the production of limoncello, a lemon liqueur, Sorrento features excellent dining, shopping, and nightlife, as well as beaches and hiking trails.  

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Rarotonga, the capital of the scattered nation of the Cook Islands, is a relaxing place of beauty and style. Its small population lives on the coast of the circular island, while the interior is lush, rugged, and jungle-clad, offering the opportunity for challenging walks and sensational views. A former New Zealand colony, it has the distinct feel of a New Zealand Polynesian outpost, including New Zealand newspapers and television -- as well as the distinctive accent.

St. Barts, F.W.I.

Upon discovering this most unusual of the French West Indies in 1493, Christopher Columbus named it for his brother Bartolomeo, later changed to Saint Barthélemy by the French, who settled here in 1763. The island was subsequently settled by the Knights of Malta, Carib Indians, the British, the Swedish, and finally the French again. It was while it was a possession of Sweden that St. Barts became a duty-free port, a distinction it still holds. Chic shopping is a hallmark of this “Manhattan-sur-Mer” (“Manhattan on the Sea”), as are a balmy climate and brilliant blue skies, iguanas, and night-blooming cactus. Distinctly French in language, culture, and cuisine, St. Barts remains thoroughly independent in spirit. Enjoy excellent snorkeling and diving from the island’s fabulous cove-style beaches. 

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

The seven Canary Islands are a paradise off the northwest coast of Africa. One of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities, the islands boast a unique culture that blends Spanish, African, Latin American, and European influences. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is located on Tenerife, the largest and most populous of the Canaries, and served as the islands’ sole capital until 1927, an honor it now shares with Las Palmas.

The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, the Guanches, are believed to have settled here around 1000 BC and named the city Añazo. The name by which it became known after the arrival of the Spanish during the 14th and 15th centuries, Puerto de Santiago Santa Cruz de Tenerife, has since been shortened to its current Santa Cruz de Tenerife—literally, “Holy Cross in Tenerife.” Although little remains of its native Guanche culture, Santa Cruz (as it is called locally) has become a diverse melting pot, with a uniquely cosmopolitan character.

A beautiful port city with golden beaches, wide avenues, and lush parks, Santa Cruz is home to San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the first non-fortified Spanish colonial town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other city highlights to explore include the Plaza de España in the oldest district of the city and the largest square in the Canary Islands; the Our Lady of Africa city market; Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, the city’s oldest church; the avant-garde Tenerife Auditorium; the Museum of Fine Arts; the Parque García Sanabria, an urban oasis renowned for its flower clock; and Playa de las Teresitas, a golden beach with stunning mountain views.

 

Sète, France

A beautiful fishing village, whose port is lined with colorful buildings, Sète is ideal for watersports, including sailing, swimming, and SCUBA diving. The town is also renowned for its fabulous fresh seafood.

Šibenik, Croatia

This lively city’s modern ambiance belies its historic roots, reflected in its architecture and pretty town squares. Be sure to take in the Cathedral Sveti Jakov (St. Jacob), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city’s beautiful setting on one of the most naturally protected harbors on the Adriatic Sea. 

Sinop, Turkey

According to legend, Sinop was founded by Amazons and named for their Queen, Sinova. Certainly, it is one of the oldest cities in Anatolia, dating to the Early Bronze Age, and its strategic location on the Black Sea coast of northern Turkey has made it the target of numerous civilizations, including the Hittites, Phrygia, the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and the Ottoman Empire. It is also the birthplace of the philosopher Diogenes. See artifacts from this storied past at the Sinop Museum, one of the oldest active museums in Turkey, or in the Alaaddin Mosque and Alaiye  Madrasah. Or perhaps you’ll view the ruins of its ancient castle, and visit the Sinop Fortress Prison, once a state prison located inside the fortress.

Singapore

Settled since the second century AD, this archipelago of 63 islands in southeast Asia, off the coast of the Malay Peninsula, became a British colony during the 19th century, due to its strategic location on a major trade route between China and India and its excellent harbor. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, it became a self-governing state in 1959 and broke from the British Empire completely in 1963, joining with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia. The federation was a contentious one, and Singapore left the union to become an independent country in 1965.

Officially the Republic of Singapore, this city-state today is one of the smallest countries in the world, at 273 square miles. Nevertheless, it is a remarkably successful one. It is the world’s fourth-largest financial center (after London, New York City, and Hong Kong) and one of the five busiest ports. Its multinational culture is reflected in the fact that it has four official languages (English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil), and though urbanization has stripped Singapore of most of its primary rainforest, efforts are underway to reforest this tropical land. Enjoy superior shopping and dining during your stay here. Perhaps you’ll also experience the rides at the Universal Studios Singapore® theme park … visit Marine Life Park™, the world’s largest oceanarium … delve into Asian culture at the Asian Civilisations Museum … or have a Singapore Sling at the legendary Raffles Hotel, where the drink was invented.

 

 

 

St. John, Antigua

The sister island of the flat coral island of Barbuda, Antigua is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands of the eastern Caribbean. Said to have 365 beaches—one for each day of the year—it boasts hospitable trade winds and a nearly perfect climate, with pleasant temperatures that range from the mid-70s in winter to the mid-80s during the summer months.  It is also one of the sunniest islands in the eastern Caribbean. 

An island of graceful hills and contours of protected coves surrounded by coral reef prompted Christopher Columbus to name it Santa Maria de la Antigua—the name of a statue of the Virgin he admired in the cathedral in Seville, Spain. Columbus himself, however, never made landfall here. Originally settled by Arawak Indians around 200 BC and subsequently by the fierce Caribs, the island saw its first European settlement in the late 17th century, when Sir Christopher Codrington arrived seeking to cultivate sugar. Within a century, more than 100 windmills used to power sugar production had sprouted up over the island—many of which have since been converted into homes, shops, and restaurants. 

Hospitable trade winds, protected coves, and a strategic location also made the island an important port during the 18th century. Great Britain established the island as a colony when Admiral Horatio Nelson landed on these shores in 1784. It was during this period that one of the island’s greatest attractions, Nelson’s Dockyard, was built. Closed in 1889, this 15-square-mile site has since been completely restored and is now a national park and the only Georgian dockyard in the world. 

St. John has been the capital of Antigua and Barbuda since the nation achieved independence in 1981, and as The Moana sails into port, you can recognize the city immediately by the towers of its magnificent, baroque St. John’s Cathedral, built in 1845. While here, you may choose from a wealth of activities, ranging from diving or snorkeling to hiking, biking, and more. Or delve into the island’s history at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda.

Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

In the South Pacific, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia, lies the island nation of Vanuatu. Consisting of 82 volcanic islands, Vanuatu was originally inhabited by the Melanesian people but saw an influx of immigrants from Polynesia and Europe over the centuries—including the French and British, who jointly ruled the land (then called New Hebrides, a name coined by Captain James Cook) around the turn of the 20th century.

Spanish for “the holy spirit,” Espiritu Santo is the largest island in the Vanuatu archipelago and boasts miraculous scenery, from its palm-lined, white-sand beaches and spring-fed swimming holes to lush rainforests and lofty mountains, including Vanuatu’s four highest peaks. Its first European settlement was established in 1606 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, who was working for Spain and thought he had discovered the fabled land of Australia.

Once populated by a scattering of villages with little or no outside contact, the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo was dramatically changed forever during World War II, when it became an Allied military supply and support base. A lieutenant commander for the U.S. Navy named James A. Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific based on his experiences while stationed here. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book was later turned into the musical South Pacific by Rodgers & Hammerstein. While here, perhaps you’ll venture to the two protected areas that have been established to preserve local biodiversity, which includes the Santo Mountain Starling, a bird that is exclusive to the island. Coral reefs and shipwrecks—including the SS President Coolidge, renowned as one of the most accessible shipwrecks in the world—make it a popular destination for divers. You can also enjoy exceptional swimming and snorkeling. Or simply relax on the beach.

 

Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain

The seven Canary Islands are a paradise off the northwest coast of Africa. One of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities, the islands boast a unique culture that blends Spanish, African, Latin American, and European influences. The northwesternmost of these islands is Isla de la Palma, an unspoiled paradise renowned for its tranquility, excellent walking and hiking, and comfortable year-round climate. Vestiges of the island’s Spanish colonial history may be seen in the cobbled streets and elegant 17th- and 18th-century buildings of its capital city, Santa Cruz de La Palma. Located on the island’s east coast and set against a mountainous backdrop, the city is centered on a traffic-free main street lined with shops and cafés. At the north end of the promenade, visit a local market, a fortress, and a replica of Columbus’ famous ship, the Santa Maria. Or mingle with the hospitable people of the Canaries and enjoy such local delicacies as sancocho (a fish stew), papas arrugadas (literally, “wrinkled potatoes”), and cheese—perhaps accompanied by a quality, handmade cigar produced from locally grown tobacco.

Split, Croatia

A major cultural center and the largest city in the region, Split is best known as the site of Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another highlight of this bustling urban center is Marjan Park, an urban oasis with promenades, nature paths, playgrounds, and a zoo.

 

Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world (after Greenland). Divided between Germany and the U.K. in 1885, it was transferred to Australia in 1902 and gained independence in 1975. Some 80% of the population lives in rural areas without modern amenities, and with more than 700 native languages, it is the world’s most linguistically diverse nation.

Just 54 acres in size, Samarai Island was once an important trading center, due to its location on the southeast coast of Papua New Guinea, on the China Strait between Australia and East Asia. It was discovered in 1873 by British navigator Captain John Moresby, who initially called it Dinner Island. Five years later, the establishment of a mission station here led to its development as a bustling port town and headquarters of an administrative district of British New Guinea.

In 1942, it was evacuated and its buildings were destroyed to prevent the island from falling into Japanese control during World War II. Rebuilt since—though not to the same scale as its glory days—the island was declared a National Historical Heritage Island by the government of Papua New Guinea in 2006. Take a stroll along the pleasant pathway that encircles its pretty town, view spectacular marine life on a SCUBA diving expedition, or simply relax on the beach.

San Remo, Italy

The nickname of this resort town is, appropriately, la Cittá dei Fiori (literally, “City of Flowers”), as it has served as the capital of Italy’s flower-growing industry since the end of the 19th century. It is located on the Riviera dei Fiori (literally “Riviera of Flowers”) on Italy’s west coast, between Genoa and France, and is renowned as the home of one of the most famous casinos in the world. San Remo was founded in Roman times and expanded during the Middle Ages, when La Pigna, a fortified castle, was built for protection from invaders. In the mid-1700s, its comfortable year-round climate began attracting visitors from all over Europe, particularly Britain and Russia. While here, you might view the onion-dome Russian Orthodox Church, finished in 1913 and modeled after Moscow’s San Basilio. Be sure to pay a visit to La Pigna (literally, “Pinecone”), the oldest part of town, a tight cluster of pedestrian-only, narrow winding streets and historic buildings leading to beautiful Gardens of Queen Elena and the stunning, 17th-century Madonna della Costa sanctuary at the top of the hill. You might also inhale the fragrance of roses, carnations, buttercups, and more in greenhouses around the city. And enjoy the white-sand beaches that front a crystalline sea. 

Semarang, Indonesia

Inhabited since the ninth century, Semarang offers a multi-faceted history. It became an Islamic center at the end of the 15th century and was officially founded as a city in 1547. At the turn of the 18th century, its strategic location made it an important Dutch colonial trading center, and during the 1920s, it earned the nickname “Red City” as the site of the founding of the Communist Party of Indonesia. With its location on the north coast of the island of Java, Semarang remains a major port city today and also serves as the capital of the Indonesian province of Eastern Java. Predominantly Javanese in culture, though also with a significant Chinese population, it is a center for the production of herbal medicines used widely throughout the country. Perhaps you’ll visit the city’s many religious attractions, which include Sam Poo Kong, the oldest Chinese temple in the city; Blenduk Church, a Protestant church dating to the Dutch colonial era and the oldest church in Central Java; the Great Mosque of Central Java; and Semarang Cathedral. Visit Simpang Lima, a vast city square or Taman Budaya Raden Saleh, a beautiful public garden. Or enjoy a relaxing ride in a becak (trishaw), or browse Jalan Pemuda, the city’s main shopping district.

 

St. Tropez, France

This historic town on the French Riviera has long been an inspiration for artists, writers, and filmmakers. Renowned for its nude beaches, it also offers beaches that specialize in watersports such as waterskiing, sailing, canoeing, and SCUBA diving. Gourmet dining and a lively nightlife are also features of this glamorous resort.  

Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji

In Fiji, virtually everyone you’ll meet will be smiling—and when you view the high mountains, lush vegetation, shimmering waters, and pristine white-sand beaches of this island nation, you’ll understand why. A British colony for nearly a century before gaining its independence in 1970, Fiji remains English speaking and today boasts a multinational population, among whom the majority are of Melanesian descent. As you mingle with the locals, you’ll see why Melanesians are reputed to be among the friendliest people in the world.

The capital of Fiji since 1883, Suva is located on rugged Viti Levu, the largest of the island chain and home to 75% of the country’s population. Suva itself is the largest urban area in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand. It is also Fiji’s main port city and the commercial and political center of the nation. Perched on a hilly peninsula between two harbors, Suva boasts a fascinating mix of modern and colonial architectural, as well as an easygoing yet sophisticated ambiance. Perhaps you’ll inhale the fragrance of tropical blooms at Thurston Gardens and visit the Fiji Museum, built within its grounds to preserve Fijian culture. Stroll the Victoria Parade, the city’s main street, and visit the Municipal Market. See weavers demonstrating their skills at the Handicraft Centre. Or join a shore excursion for a walk through the rain forest, a round a golf, a diving expedition, and more.

Seville, Spain

The capital of Andalucia, one of the 17 Autonomous Communities of Spain, Seville was founded by Hercules, according to legend, and the ambiance of the city is steeped in its 2,000 years of history. The old quarter is influenced by medieval, Renaissance, and baroque styles, as well as the Arab culture, and magnificent monuments may be found around every corner. The city’s Golden Age occurred during the golden age of exploration, between 1492 and the late 16th century, when it was only port with a royal monopoly for trade. Christopher Columbus, who launched the age of exploration, was laid to rest in the cathedral here, which is also the largest Gothic building in Europe. Together with the Alcázar royal palace and the Archivo de Indias (General Archive of the Indies), it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immerse yourself in the city’s treasure trove of museums, most especially the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts). And be sure to sample the popular tapas, or appetizers, in the city that is credited with their invention.

Savusavu, Fiji

In Fiji, virtually everyone you’ll meet will be smiling—and when you view the high mountains, lush vegetation, shimmering waters, and pristine white-sand beaches of this island nation, you’ll understand why. A British colony for nearly a century before gaining its independence in 1970, Fiji remains English speaking and today boasts a multinational population, among whom the majority are of Melanesian descent. As you mingle with the locals, you’ll see why Melanesians are reputed to be among the friendliest people in the world.

The island of Vanua Levu in northern Fiji remains largely undeveloped, making it a charming, unspoiled haven. It is the second-largest of Fiji’s 300 islands, and, because of its remoteness, it is reminiscent of the South Seas before its discovery by Europeans. Nestled among lush green hills and surrounded by coral reefs, Savusavu was once a bustling trading port for center for sandalwood, beche-de-mer (sea cucumber), and copra (coconut oil). Today, its major industry is sugar cultivation.

Largely unchanged over the past 30 years, the village is sometimes called the “Hidden Paradise of Fiji,” with its single, half-mile-long main street facing a fantastically beautiful bay. The 19th-century Copra Shed Marina, the centerpiece of the town, now houses the Savusavu Yacht Club, as well as handicrafts and more. Hot springs bubble up throughout the town; in the afternoon, you can see pots on top of steaming fissures as women prepare the evening meal. Explore at your leisure, or join one of many available shore excursions, such as a visit to a black-pearl farm, a Fijian village, or a plantation.

St. Maarten, F.W.I.

Offering a warm and sunny climate, averaging 82°F year-round, thanks to cooling trade winds, this 37-square-mile island located about 150 miles east of Puerto Rico was originally inhabited by the Arawak Indians, who called it the “Land of Salt.” Conquered by the Caribs, it was later discovered for Europe by Christopher Columbus, in 1493. When the Dutch began exporting salt from its ponds during the 1620s, the Spanish returned. They soon departed, however, and France and the Netherlands negotiated its partition in 1648. The smallest island in the world to have been partitioned between two nations, St. Martin/St. Maarten has prospered in peaceful coexistence ever since.

The capital of St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, is Philipsburg, whose harbor, the Great Bay, is too shallow for larger ships. The city is recognizable for its pastel-colored buildings, flower-filled courtyards, and historic buildings, including the Courthouse, built in 1793. History buffs might also visit Fort Amsterdam, the first Dutch fort built in the Caribbean, and the 17th-century Fort Willem, offering splendid panoramic views. Or visit the Sinmartin Museum, featuring artifacts that include Arawak pottery and salvage from shipwrecks.

Other highlights of St. Maarten include many fine beaches and a wealth of activities, including snorkeling, SCUBA diving, sailing, windsurfing, horseback riding, tennis, boating, and deep-sea fishing. Perhaps you’ll visit the Zoological Botanical Garden, take in a round of golf at Mullet Bay, or try haggling at the duty-free shops. St. Maarten is also a dining paradise, whose restaurants represent nearly 100 nationalities, including Italian, French, Indian, American, South American, Middle Eastern and, of course, Caribbean. And don’t miss the lively nightlife in its many casinos, nightclubs, and cafés.

Taha'a, Society Islands

Enclosed in a common lagoon with Raiatea and accessible only by boat, Taha'a produces about 80% of all vanilla in French Polynesia. Taha'a is the only island in the Society Islands that can be completely circled by ship inside the protected lagoon. With its many deep bays and deserted motu, Taha'a is an ideal island to escape. With only a handful of guest houses and small hotels, Taha'a is slowly awakening to tourism and yet maintains an authentic flavor of Polynesia.

Enjoy a beachside barbeque on our own private island of Motu Mahana - which means it's your private island for the day. The motu is uninhabited except for fellow guests, and those wonderful Gauguines who will welcome you in song.

Taormina, (Giardini Naxos) Italy

Located on Monte Tauro, a steep cliff on Sicily’s east coast, Taormina has inspired such writers as Goethe and D.H. Lawrence with its splendid views of Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea. Dating to the 4th century BC, Taormina has been coveted by civilizations from the Greeks, Romans, and Saracens to the French and Spanish. As a stop on the European Grand Tour of the 19th century, it became Sicily’s first resort and remains its greatest one to this day. Attractions include a charming medieval quarter and castle ruins, as well fine shopping and dining. And excellent beaches are just a cable-car ride down the hill away.

Tanna Island, Vanuatu

Consisting of 82 volcanic islands, the island nation of Vanuatu is situated in the South Pacific, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia. Vanuatu was originally inhabited by the Melanesian people but saw an influx of immigrants from Polynesia and Europe over the centuries—including the French and British, who jointly ruled the land (then called New Hebrides) around the turn of the 20th century. The archipelago achieved independence—and its current name—in 1980.

In 1774, Captain James Cook became the first European to visit Tanna Island, which was settled by Melanesians around 400 BC. Although merchants and missionaries followed in his wake during the 19th century, the island retains a traditional culture largely untouched by the West. 

One way that islanders have maintained their culture is by creatively adapting it to Western influences. One of the interesting examples of this cultural adaptation is a phenomenon anthropologists call “cargo cults,” in which local cults worship Western figures through tribal rituals in hopes of receiving material rewards.

One of these cults, the John Frum movement, originated during in World War II. As often occurred throughout the South Pacific during the war, locals were astonished by foreigners arriving with supplies that were replenished seemingly by magic. Tanna Islanders locals adopted rituals to try to lure the Americans back, hoping they would bring with them vehicles, radios, canned meat, washing machines, refrigerators, watches, Coca Cola, and other goods. The movement is believed to have been named for an American serviceman who visited the island during the war. There is also a cult on Tanna Island that worships Prince Philip, consort of Queen Elizabeth II, as a god.

Perhaps you’ll visit a local village during your day-long stay here. Or take advantage of the island’s natural wonders. Visit Mount Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible volcanoes, or snorkel amid some of the best coral in the South Pacific. Go swimming in stunning underwater caves … hike the Whitefrass Plains, where horses run wild … or view spectacular waterfalls. And return to the ship thrilled that you’ve had a chance to explore one of the great undiscovered gems of the South Seas.

Tahuata, Marquesas

The smallest of the Marquesas archipelago, at only 19 square miles, Tahuata is a leaf-shaped volcanic island with sheer cliffs, white-sand beaches, lush vegetation, and twin bays (Iva Iva Nui and Iva Iva Iti). Literally “sunrise” in Marquesan, it is accessible only from Hiva Oa, from which it is separated by a mile-wide channel. The island was discovered in 1595 by the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña de Neira, and in 1842 it became the first French settlement in the Marquesas, after centuries of tumultuous encounters with European explorers. The m/s Paul Gauguin will call on Hapatoni, a charming, seafront village with an ancient paved royal walkway shaded by tamanu trees and whose air is redolent of tiare and frangipani. Visit the huge Catholic church, built by the Vatican and decorated with stunning stained-glass windows and beautiful local carvings. Admire traditional carvings at the crafts center. And enjoy fine swimming and snorkeling in the only Marquesas island edged by coral reef.

Thursday Island, Australia

Roughly 2,000 years ago, Melanesian and Polynesian settlers arrived on the shores of the Torres Strait Islands, in the far north of the Australian state of Queensland. Today, the unofficial capital of this archipelago is Thursday Island, originally called “Waiben” (believed to mean “no water”) by the Melanesians but today known locally as “TI.” Immerse yourself in the island’s cultural mix of Asian, European, and Pacific Island influences at the Gab Titui Cultural Centre. At Green Hill Fort, built as a defense against Russian invasion and later a World War II military base, admire military artifacts and splendid views, as well as exhibits that pay homage to the island’s history as a major pearling center. Or join a deep-sea fishing expedition.

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

The largest and by far the most populous of the British Virgin Islands, Tortola attracts visitors for its white-sand beaches framed by lush mountains and an azure sea. One of these mountains, Mount Sage, boasts the highest elevation in the British Virgin Islands, rising 1,716 feet from the sea. Settled by Dutch buccaneers in during the mid-1600s, Tortola (literally, “turtle dove”)  was a center for cotton and sugar plantations before becoming a pirate’s nest during the 18th century. The ruins of an ancient fort and a restored sugar plantation are among the island’s main attractions. Or simply enjoy the laidback ambiance of the capital city, Road Town, and take advantage the excellent diving and snorkeling here.

Panama Canal, Panama

The desire to build a canal through the isthmus of Panama dates to the days of Christopher Columbus, but it took the vision and resolve of one man to turn it into a reality: Teddy Roosevelt. Though the canal measures just 51 miles long, building it entailed crossing the Continental Divide and battling the effects of heat, malaria, and a forbidding jungle. Completed in 1914—a full year ahead of schedule and nearly $23 million under budget—the “path between the seas” remains one of humankind’s most astounding engineering marvels. A series of locks raises ships about 16 miles above sea level, then lowers them back down again at the other side of the isthmus—all by force of gravity, without the use of any pumps. At the center of the divide lies the 166-square-mile Gatun Lake, once the largest manmade lake in the world. An average of 32 vessels pass through the canal each day—among them, ships carrying lucky cruise enthusiasts for whom a transit of the canal is high on the list of “must-see” travel experiences.

Trogir, Croatia

A small resort town located on an island off the Croatian mainland, Trogir has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 2,300 years of urban continuity. The town’s history dates to 2000 BC, when the Greeks founded a colony here, and its urban design has built on those Hellenistic origins. Today, you’ll find an amazing architectural mix that blends the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, as well as stunning natural beauty of capes, bays, and coves.

Isla Tortuga/Curú Wildlife Reserve, Costa Rica

A privately owned wildlife reserve on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, Curú Wildlife Reserve combines a protected wildlife reserve with sustainable, low-impact agriculture. Among its five ecosystems (mangrove swamps, tropical dry and moist forests, farmland, and coral reefs), you are almost guaranteed to see animals in the wild, which might include white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, scarlet macaws, collared peccary, coati, coyotes, iguanas, and hundreds of species of tropical and migratory birds. It also boasts one of the most beautiful beaches on Nicoya Peninsula.

Just off the southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula is another highlight, the Caribbean island of Isla Tortuga (literally “tortoise”), home to wildlife reserves and refuges, with plenty of walking trails. As you cruise here, you might spot manta rays, pilot whales, or whale sharks. Then, come ashore to enjoy white-sand beaches shaded by coconut palms and perhaps go swimming or embark on a glass-bottom boat ride on emerald waters. Snorkelers can search for stingrays, angel fish, spinner dolphins, octopus, and sharks, while divers can explore the shipwrecks that have become havens for a variety of marine life.

 

Vaipaee (Ua Huka), Marquesas

On Ua Huka, hundreds of stallions and wild goats run free through the island's uneven terrain. Known for its fine wood carvings, it's also home to the oldest ruins in the Marquesas, dating to 300 A.D. The island also features French Polynesia's only arboretum, filled with unique indigenous flora and fauna.

Vava'u, Tonga

 One of the easternmost countries in the world, nudging the International Date Line, the Kingdom of Tonga was never colonized by Europeans, a distinction it shares with no other South Pacific nation. As a result, today it is the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy, and its culture remains strong, even in the face of modernization. We’ll drop anchor at Vava’u, one of the Kingdom of Tonga’s three main island groups. The waters off Vava’u are renowned for their colorful coral reefs, white-sand beaches, and lagoon so clear, you can see to a depth of 130 feet. Swimming, snorkeling, diving, and sailing available year-round here, offering an opportunity to view abundant marine life, including giant clams, manta rays, sea turtles, spinner dolphins, more than 100 species of colorful tropical fish, and, between July and October, humpback whales. Energetic guests may want to climb to the top of Mt. Talau, the highest point on Vava’u, to survey the surrounding Tongan islands. Perhaps you’ll join a shore excursion to Swallows Cave, a famous bird sanctuary. Or discover the calm waterways by sea kayak.

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

The origins of civilization on this tiny island—at just three square miles, the smallest of the British Virgin Islands—remain shrouded in mystery. But history is not what attracts visitors here. Sometimes called the “Barefoot Island,” Jost Van Dyke offers picture-postcard scenery and a relaxing, casual ambiance. The beach is its main street, and its beaches are considered among the loveliest in the Caribbean. Ships wrecked on the coral reefs in days of old provide fascinating diving and snorkeling today. Or simply sit on the coral sands and admire a spectacular sunset.

Venice, Italy

The romantic “City of Canals” and capital of the Veneto region of northeast Italy, Venice was also once the capital of the Republic of Venice, a major power during the medieval and Renaissance eras. Its history dates back even further than that—as far as the 10th century BC. Boasting the most artistic masterpieces per square kilometer in the world, Venice is a treasure trove of museums, churches, and beautiful buildings. The best place to start is the famed Piazza San Marco at the heart of the city.

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

A mix of African, Indian, and Spanish cultures distinguishes Virgin Gorda. At just eight and a half miles long, it is the third-largest of the British Virgin Islands, whose jagged landscape rises sharply from a turquoise sea. Among the nature trails and nature reserves that showcase the island’s spectacular beauty are the ruins of an abandoned 19th-century copper mine on Handsome Bay, now a national park. Or visit The Baths, where giant boulders strewn about by nature have created a patchwork of pools, beaches, and trails. 
 

Vis, Croatia

First settled in 3000 BC, the island of Vis lies across a narrow channel from the island of Hvar and just 30 miles off the coast of mainland Croatia. The Illyrians took control of the island in 2000 BC, only to be conquered by the Romans in 219 BC. But its turbulent history didn’t end then. Over the centuries, the island also endured conquest by the Goths, Byzantines, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians, French, British, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians.

Occupied by Italian forces during World War II, the entire island was turned into a military base by Yugoslavia after the war and closed to visitors. This isolation helped to preserve the beauty and character that have made Vis a popular Mediterranean getaway since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Here, on the most remote of the inhabited Dalmatian islands, you’ll find crystal-clear seas, secluded coves, hidden beaches, and rolling vineyards and olive groves. 

In fact, the island’s population are primarily fishermen and winegrowers, and Vis has been a center for viticulture and gastronomy throughout its history. The most popular local varieties are Plavac Mali (literally, “Little Blue”), a red winegrape similar to Italy’s Primitivo and California’s Zinfandel, and Vugava (or Bugava), an aromatic white winegrape that many experts compare to Viogner. 

As you might expect, the local cuisine is dominated by fresh seafood. The island’s signature dish is viska pogaca, or salted anchovies with tomatoes, onions, capers, and olives in an olive oil-based dough. Italian culinary influences harken back to the Venetian era and include gelato and Prosek, a fortified Prosecco. 

While here, perhaps you’ll browse the antiquities at the Museum of Vis, housed in a fortress built during the Austrian era. Enjoy time to stroll the beach or the stone streets of Vis Town, called Issa in ancient days. Wander among Greeks and Roman ruins still visible on the grounds of a 15th-century Franciscan monastery. Or delve into the island’s World War II history in its labyrinth of tunnels, the cave where Emperor Tito spent part of the war, and at the World War II military cemetery, where fallen British soldiers were laid to rest.

Valencia, Spain

The capital of Valencia, one of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities, the city of Valencia is located on the Mediterranean coast, midway between Barcelona and Madrid. The city is famous as the site where El Cid, Spain’s national hero, battled the Moors. La Lonja de la Seda (“the Silk Exchange”), a cluster of late Gothic-style buildings constructed between 1482 and 1548, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and other city highlights include Valencia Cathedral, the Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart (historic city gates), and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts & Sciences), a cultural and architectural complex. The city where paella, Spain’s most iconic dish, was invented, Valencia is also a lively modern city with vibrant shopping, restaurants, beaches, and nightlife.

Port Vila, Vanuatu

In the South Pacific, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia, lies the island nation of Vanuatu. Consisting of 82 volcanic islands, Vanuatu was originally inhabited by the Melanesian people but saw an influx of immigrants from Polynesia and Europe over the centuries—including the French and British, who jointly ruled the land (then called New Hebrides, a name coined by Captain James Cook) around the turn of the 20th century.

Independent since 1980, Vanuatu today is home to roughly 221,000 people—and 113 distinct languages, a vestige of its diverse immigrant history. Tradition and culture remain strong on these islands, where 80% of the population lives in thatched-hut villages surrounded by thick jungle, depending for survival on small gardens. From your port call on the capital city, Port Vila, on the island of Efate, you can discover a rich artistic heritage of storytelling, song, dance, and art, including tattoos, masks, and carvings. Those interested in the natural world can admire large open stretches of water, dense jungle, and a mountainous terrain, as well as a wide variety of sea life.

 

Villefranche, France

Inhabited since prehistoric times, Villefranche today is a charming resort town located just six miles southwest of Monaco, adjacent to the city of Nice on France’s Côte d’Azur. In the romantic Old Town, stroll narrow cobbled streets … view the 16th-century citadel … visit the 14th-century Chapelle Saint-Pierre (Saint Peter’s Chapel) and Église Saint-Michel (Saint Michael’s Church) … or follow the ancient Rue Obscura, a covered walkway near the waterfront. Or simply relax on sandy beaches or at the city’s terrace cafés.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Independent since the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, Curaçao is sometimes called “Hollandin the Tropics” and was recently named a “Top Destination” for 2012 by Frommer’s. Much of the island’s acclaim is due to its charming capital city, Willemstad, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its distinctive urban planning dating to 1634 and mix of architectural styles. While here, admire the city’s magnificent setting on a natural harbor and quality shopping in historic buildings. Perhaps you’ll also visit Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which boasts the longest-standing Jewish congregation in theNew World, dating to 1651. 

Quepos, Costa Rica

Set on an inlet surrounded by tropical rain forest, this Costa Rican village was home to the Quepo Indians, whose ferocity as warriors staved off Spanish conquest for 40 years. After the decimation of the Quepo in the mid-1700s by disease brought by European explorers and warfare with rival tribes, the town of Quepos was developed as a banana-growing region until the 1980s, when the production of African palm oil took over the former banana plantations. Today, it is an ecotourism and sportfishing mecca. Enjoy the high-spirited, friendly locals, who celebrate life with dancing in the streets and frequent festivals and other events. Explore the village center, a charming, compact area brimming with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bakeries set on the beach. Or venture the short distance to Manuel Antonio National Park—the country’s smallest park, yet one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with beautiful rain forests, beaches, and coral reefs. Also nearby are the Butterfly Botanical Gardens and Damas Estuary, where visitors can see crocodiles, monkeys, herons, raccoons, and more by boat or kayak.

Yalta, Ukraine

A fashionable resort since 1800, renowned for the healing properties of its climate, Yalta was the favored vacation retreat of the Romanov royal family and also the site where Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin charted the future of Europe in 1945. Located in Crimea, on the coast of the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, Yalta is home to Gaspra Castle, a Gothic manor that was the meeting-place of Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, and other literary luminaries in 1901. Perhaps you’ll also visit the Chekhov House-Museum, where the famous playwright wrote his classic play The Cherry Orchard, or stroll the Nab Lenina, a palm-lined, pedestrian-only, seaside promenade.  

Sanary-sur-Mer, France

Established as a fishing village called Sant Nazari during the 16th century, this quiet coastal resort town was renamed Sanary in 1890, with “-sur-Mer” officially added in 1923. Its location on the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France drew literary luminaries escaping the rise of Nazism during the 1930s, including Bertold Brecht, Thomas Mann, Jean Cocteau, and Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World here. It was in the waters off its coast that Jacques Cousteau developed his deep-sea diving equipment, celebrated in the Diving Museum located in a 13th-century bell tower that also offers panoramic views. You can also admire views of the coast and the islands beyond at the 16th-century Chapel of Notre-Dame de Pitié, and visit Saint-Nazaire, a 19th-century Gothic Revival church. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the excellent windsurfing, thanks to the Mistral winds, or simply bask on the beach here in one of the sunniest villages in France, where the rain falls, on average, only 61 days a year.

Zadar, Croatia

The former capital f Dalmatia, Zadar showcases centuries of history in its charming city streets. An important educational and literary center, it is best known for its Romanesque churches and the pre-Romanesque Church of St. Donat