I cruise for the destination. I choose ships that do the same. Azamara and I make a perfect destination focused couple. I am now looking at what cruise I will take with Azamara this summer. I have sailed around the world, many times on many ships, so my choice is usually where to return? I always look for an itinerary that includes at least one of my top cruise ports of all time. Here in Part One of my choices, I look at Greece, Aqaba, Jordan and St. Petersburg, Russia. Eclectic choices, but so are my travel passions.
Crete and Patmos, Greece
Almost all ancient Greek cities were port-centric. This is good news for today’s cruisers. You can arrive as they did in ancient times, sailing into port. Almost every significant site can be easily visited from a port, without long bus rides. And then there is the food, wine and the calming, striking blues of the Greek isles.
Crete, which I often call “The New Tuscany” is the island with it all. Slow food, wines with ancient roots and sites that celebrate a peace loving, female deity civilization of the Minoans at the Palace of Knossos make Crete ideal.
A view of vineyards in Crete.
Lunch in Crete.
Whenever I see Patmos on a cruise itinerary, I know a cruise line understands travelers who are looking for more than checking boxes on bucket lists. The island is known historically for the cave where the prophet John wrote the biblical story of Revelations has history, and so much more. Despite being a refuge of choice for many ultra high net worth glitterati, Patmos retains a local feel. A medieval patina coupled with a quiet pace of life offers me the chance to explore very significant sites on my own, but sit back savor the Greek Isles of the early 20th century.
Jean in Patmos.
The ancient port of Aqaba is like no other in the world. From this port in Jordan, you can see Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. You are at the center of the Middle East and the shipping lanes of the ancient and modern worlds. Just visiting Aqaba alone puts it on my top list, but adding Petra makes it a must see for everyone.
A short drive from the port brings you to one of the wonders of the Ancient World, the ancient trading city of Petra. An ancient crossroads with layers of civilization from Nabateans to Romans to Byzantine sites, one day is barely enough to explore it all. The Treasury is iconic, thanks to Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones, but the Roman mosaics in Temple of Jupiter are my favorites.
And if you are lucky, you might see some "Junior Rangers" at the site. This program, established by the Petra National Trust, is leading the world in building a new generation of leaders among the youth of the region who respect and protect our shared human heritage. Full Disclosure: I serve on the Board of the Petra Foundation and work to help support and protect this wonderful site.
St. Petersburg, Russia
The way to arrive in St. Petersburg is by sea. Sailing the Gulf of Finland while reading about Peter the Great’s grand plan to build a city on the sea transports you to the 17th century - until you see the large sign welcoming you to the port. It reads “Welcome to Leningrad”, a vestige from the Soviet era.
Arriving in St. Petersburg
But it is the Romanovs that bring travelers to St. Petersburg. The legacy of the wealthiest dynasty the world has ever known is alive and shining in St. Petersburg of today. Palaces, museums, royal collections and historic homes are opening their doors with new exciting exhibits. I have written before about St. Petersburg's top sites to visit and that can be found here. And remember, Azamara parks right in the center of the city, giving you so much extra time to see the sites.
Fountains of Peterhof in St. Petersburg
Jean Newman Glock in St. Petersburg
The view of St. Petersburg from an Azamara Quest balcony
What are your favorite ports? You might influence my next choices!