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10 great cruise ports you've never heard of

edisabecolli's picture
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 10:15

There will always be cruises that visit ports that are the tried and true. But the tides are changing for those who want to go somewhere different, somewhere unique. As cruise lines move their ships around the world, new and fascinating cruise destinations are emerging.

Some of these new ports fall into the category of places you probably never heard of — but that doesn't mean they won't end up being some of your favorite ports of call. Bonus: Chances are when you brag about visiting these places your friends will probably respond, "Cool, but where is that?"

Here are 10 cruise ports you've probably never heard of.

Apia: The capital of Independent Samoa, this city is on the island of Upolu, in the same South Pacific grouping as American Samoa. "Treasure Island" author Robert Louis Stevenson lived and was buried on the island. His home is now a popular museum. Shore excursions get you there. Among lines visiting are Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line and Regent Seven Seas.

Muara: This tiny port is the gateway to Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of and largest city in the Sultanate of Brunei. The sovereign state on the coast of Borneo is one of the smallest and richest countries in the world. Sights include elegant golden-domed Islamic mosques and palaces, not the least of which is the residence of the Sultan of Brunei — the largest residential palace in the world. Lines visiting include Celebrity, Silversea, Oceania and Azamara Club Cruises.

Cotonou: The capital of the West African Republic of Benin, this city on the Atlantic coast is known for its past and current voodoo practices, and its history as home to one of the largest slave trade operations in Africa. Attractions include Abomey Palace, the Dan-Homey kingdom's seat of power in the 1800s and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get here on Oceania, Princess, Silversea or Regent Seven Seas.

Bandol: This little gem on France's Cote d'Azur has been discovered by Seabourn, which has ships visiting on several Mediterranean itineraries in 2015. Close to Marseilles but with a much quieter scene, Bandol is a place where cruise passengers will want to lounge on the beach, explore markets and sample the local rosé wine.

Aitutaki: Located in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, this town of just 2,000 residents is on the cruise calendars of lines including Silversea, Hapag-Lloyd and Crystal. The town's calling card is a beautiful lagoon with clear turquoise water and white sand. Located in the lagoon, One Foot Island claims status as the only uninhabited island in the world with a registered post office.

Thorshavn: The capital of the Danish Faroe Islands, this small city is located not near Denmark but rather halfway between Norway and Iceland. Founded by Vikings and named for Thor, the city is more than 1,000 years old. It's also one of the smallest capitals in the world, with a population of only about 17,000. Attractions include brightly colored homes (some with grass roofs), rugged coastline and pristine fjords. More than a dozen cruise lines visit Thorshavn, including Norwegian Cruise Line and Voyages of Discovery.

Sibenik: In the center of Croatia's Adriatic coast, where the Krka River meets the sea, this picturesque city's historic area is surrounded by a high wall and towers. The key attraction is the Renaissance-style Cathedral of St. James, built in stone beginning in 1431. The cathedral is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cruise lines that visit include SeaDream, Seabourn and Silversea.

Sarande: Get to this Albanian beach town on the Mediterranean, near Corfu, on Windstar and SeaDream. Also known as Saranda, the town is near Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on a picturesque lagoon. Archeological ruins in the park reflect the fact that Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans ruled the area at various times.

Nuku'Alofa: Saying you are going to Tonga will no doubt be an attention-grabber. Nuku'Alofa is the largest of the 171 islands that make up the tiny kingdom in the South Pacific. Tonga was never colonized — there's a ruling monarchy. Culture and tradition remain intact, including in storytelling dances. Crystal comes calling as does Cunard and Holland America.

Korsakov: Princess Cruises visits this Russian Far East town regularly on Japan itineraries, and Crystal has it on its calendar too. The former penal colony was ruled by Japan for most of the first half of the 20th century before being reclaimed by the Soviet Union. Both countries left their mark. In the nearby city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, you can see pagodas but also visit the gold onion-domed Church of St. Nicholas and statues of Lenin.

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