Cruising is often thought of as an easy way to sample a smorgasbord of destinations and cultures in a single trip. Cruise often enough, though, and you'll discover there are ports you long to visit over and over. We put together a list of these "super ports" across the globe that are easy to reach because they are serviced by multiple cruise lines and have more to see and do than you can squeeze into a single cruise.
1. Key West
Key West might surprise you with all it has to offer -- most of it only a short walk from the cruise pier. Besides the obvious water sports fun (which you can certainly enjoy over and over), there are historical attractions like the Ernest Hemingway Home, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Key West Lighthouse and the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Shopping, eating and drinking on Duval Street top most cruise visitor's lists, but if you wander a bit off the tourist track, you'll find an even more eclectic array of choices. Another option for a repeat visit to Key West is to rent a car, pack a picnic and leave the crowds behind with a scenic drive into the Lower Keys.
At first glance, Cozumel can feel much like other Caribbean cruise ports with plenty of shopping and water sports. Dig a little deeper though, and you'll see that one visit is barely enough to scratch the surface. Activities worth going back for include world-class scuba diving, Mayan ruins, chocolate factories, tequila tasting, cooking classes and dune buggy adventures to the far side of the island. And when you've checked all of those off your list, a day at one of the beach parks is a winner every time.
3. St. Lucia
The mountains of St. Lucia jut straight up from the sea. That vertical beauty means that getting from one point to another on the island can involve lengthy drives, making it hard to see everything in one visit. The long list of fun that will bring you back includes volcanic mud baths, rainforest ziplining, an aerial tram, hiking, kayaking and hidden beaches.
By river or by sea, cruises that include Amsterdam are a winner for multiple visits. The lineup of things to see and do includes boat rides on the Canal Ring, art appreciation at the Van Gogh Museum and beer drinking at the Heineken Experience. The Anne Frank House also tops many visitor's lists. Foods to try include deep-fried sweet dumplings called oliebollen, cheeses, chocolates, pancakes, and herring dishes of all varieties. And, who could resist returning again and again each spring to enjoy the masses of blooming tulips?
5. Puerto Vallarta
There's no way you can see everything in Puerto Vallarta in one day's cruise stop. The city offers a diverse range of international cuisines to sample, a spectacular botanical garden, miles of beaches, golf, horseback riding, boat rentals of all sizes, cooking classes, foodie tours and cultural exhibits. And did we mention the tequila?
There's not a bad cruise port in Alaska. And if you love the scenery and wildlife offered on an Alaskan cruise, going again and again is a no-brainer. From the port in Juneau, you can get up close and personal with sled dogs, whales and halibut. See the Mendenhall Glacier by helicopter, canoe or even on a hike. Whether you choose to spend the day ziplining or sampling local beer, the one thing you can't do is visit here only once.
Hawaiian cruise ports fall into the same category as Alaskan ports -- it's hard to tire of the beauty of these islands. Obviously, there are water sports like scuba, snorkelling, snuba, kayaking and paddling at all Hawaiian ports, but the ports of Maui kick things up a notch in this category. Snorkelling and scuba diving at the Molokini Crater guarantees encounters with huge schools of fish, sea turtles, possibly manta rays and, during whale season, the rare chance to hear the call of humpbacks from beneath the waves. Tours to get you in or on the water to enjoy the spectacle are available from either Lahaina or Kahului. Land-based fun on the island includes hiking, biking and the famous scenic Road to Hana.
Obviously, the sheer beauty of Santorini's volcanic cliffs can be enjoyed on repeat cruises, but there are also plenty of attractions to keep you coming back. For instance, did you know that you can catch a ferry to the neighbouring island of Therasia? Once there, you can hike or explore the uncrowded town of Manolas or visit the stunning churches and a monastery, all with views across the caldera. On the main island, there are enough wineries, cafes, beaches, art galleries and museums to make this a port you may never tire of.
On your first cruise that includes Athens, calling on the cruise port of Piraeus, the obvious thing to do is see the Acropolis. Whether you walk to the top or take a tour around the base of the mountain, it's the not-to-be-missed reason for spending time in the city. Beyond that, the choices are almost endless. The museums alone would take several cruise visits to accomplish. Top choices are the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. There are pop-up markets to enjoy, art galleries to wander and delicacies to be sampled around every bend.
Like fine Italian wine, Venice is designed to be savoured. No matter how many times you walk these narrow passageways, you are likely to find a new delight each time. If you attempt to rush from one famous site to another during a short cruise stopover, you will miss the true beauty of the city. Things to explore on repeat cruise visits are the glass factories on Murano, the multitude of chocolate shops and the linens and lace of Burano. It’s also pretty much impossible to tire of pizza, pasta, pastries and gelato. Plus, the city's art is extensive, beginning with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.