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Coastline of Kauai

From white sandy beaches and palm trees to sophisticated boutique wine bars and hip urban restaurants, here are some of the best islands in the world you can visit on a cruise ship.

1. Hvar, Croatia

Hvar, a small island two-thirds of the way down Croatia’s west coast, is packed with secluded coves and inlets and has a medieval town square filled with old stone buildings and plenty of charm. Small cafés, with umbrellas shading rickety tables, overlooking the blue sea, look like they’ve jumped straight from a tourist brochure. Wander the town on a walking tour or perhaps join a boat trip to a small bay for a swim. You might also like to explore the emerging wine scene up into the nearby hills.

2. Singapore, Singapore

The island state of Singapore is a great cruise arrival and departure port; clean, easy to get around and perfect for a pre-or post-cruise stay. Many travellers come here to eat, and you should do the same, with choices ranging from lively hawker markets to dining in Michelin-star high-end restaurants. Traditional districts like Little India, Chinatown and Tiong Bahru combine Singapore’s historical and modern life and are a pleasure to explore. Don’t miss the famous chilli crab!

Temple in Singapore
Singapore has a rich and mixed cultural heritage

3. Tasmania, Australia

The largest island of Australia has two cruise ports, the capital Hobart and Burnie, on the island’s north coast. The Hobart port has not only a stunning location and mountain backdrop thanks to Mount Wellington but exceptional dining, cafes, markets and the outstanding MONA art gallery. It’s also in the heart of town. The small town of Burnie has Art Deco buildings, gardens and art galleries and entertainment on a smaller scale but it’s just as charming. As you will find, there are hidden delights everywhere.

Mt Wellington Hobart
Mt Wellington in Hobart

4. Hiva Oa, French Polynesia

Towering green mountains, stunning blue water and white sand beaches with palm trees provide the backdrop on this amazing island. Hiva Oa is also famous for the art of Paul Gauguin, who spent the final years of his life here and captured Polynesia’s culture in his work. Travelling the island, you can discover the Oipona me’ae temple and see the largest stone tiki statue in Tahiti or relax and enjoy the splendour of Polynesia with a swim off one of its many stunning beaches.

Having fun in Oahu
Having fun in Tahiti

5. Kaua’i, Hawaii

After you’ve cruised past the stunning cliffs, lush valleys, and dramatic scenery of the mountainous Napali Coast, you’ll dock to explore the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. There’s a fantastic collection of white sandy beaches but if you’re after something a little different, you could go tubing through an old cane plantation or strap on your seat belt for a helicopter ride through valleys and past waterfalls. One thing is for sure: you’ll fall in love with Kaua’i if you do NCL’s popular Hawaiian islands cruise.

Coastline of Kauai
See the Napali Coast in Kauai

7. Kiriwina, Papua New Guinea

There are no formal shore excursions at Kiriwina in Papua New Guinea. Instead, you get to explore by yourself and interact with the locals who come from outer islands and villages to greet the ships. Craft markets, fruit stalls and traditional dances entertain you as you travel back in time to this traditional village filled with lots of smiling locals and children who get the day off school when a ship arrives. Snorkelling the coral reefs off the beach or taking a canoe to a nearby island for some beach time are popular activities. Many passengers come and go from the ship all day to take in this island paradise.

Kiriwina in Papua New Guinea
Kiriwina in Papua New Guinea

6. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is an island worth exploring, especially its old town filled with restored mansions that were once home to Chinese tin miners and now house cafes, art galleries and restaurants. You can also take a day tour to Pha Nga Bay, where the James Bond movie, The Man With the Golden Gun, was filmed and sail past towering limestone cliffs at Phang Nga Bay National Park, where you can kayak into sea caves. Or you could head to the beach or check out the party town of Patong, a well-known and lively night spot on the island.

Phuket beach bar
Check out Phuket’s beach scene

8. Mallorca, Spain

The dramatic landscapes, beaches, and rich cultural heritage of Mallorca are a real treat in this compact Spanish destination that’s easy to explore. Take to a wine bar for the local vino and taste a selection of traditional tapas at a café or squire or stroll around the atmospheric old town. Stone fortifications, laneways and streets are there to explore and discover at the ancient port. Most ships dock at Palma de Mallorca which is a lovely place to spend a leisurely day.

Want more great cruise advice? Check out our tips for choosing the perfect cruise, cruising with grandchildren, cruising with tweens and cruising with kids of all ages, solo cruising, the best activities on Ovation of the Seas, doing a Transatlantic cruise with kids, cruising in Australia or Papua New Guinea, Iceland cruise tips, cruising on a megaship, scoring a bargain cruise fare, cruising the Mediterranean, making the most of a cruise ship kids club, luxury cruising with kids, and the Byron Beach Club onboard P&O Cruises. We have also reviewed Disney Wonder, Pacific Adventure, Celebrity Edge, Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, Pacific Encounter, Carnival Splendor, Voyager of the Seas, Nieuw Statendam, Viking Helgrim, Pride of America, Coral Expeditions in Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef, Celebrity Solstice, and Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.