Cruise lines choose their ports of call because they have something that makes them attractive to visitors. Most have interesting history, fascinating architecture, educational museums, soaring churches, meandering walking tours, or wonderful shopping.
A few ports of call offer breath-taking views because of their natural settings. For these ports, it is imperative that guests gather outside on the decks to catch the view. I promise you won't be disappointed!
Let's look at the most spectacular sail away ports in the world.
Bora Bora is one of the Society Islands of French Polynesia and the South Pacific. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, and sailing towards this quintessential tropical island is a sight one doesn't forget.
Budapest is inland, so it doesn't have a harbor for cruise ships. However, the city's location on both sides of the Danube River is marvelous. Sailing into or away from Budapest at night, with the city and all its bridges lit up, is a magical event.
The Hungarian Parliament is on the Pest side of the Danube, and the Fishermen's Bastion and Matthias Church overlook the Danube from high on a cliff on the Buda side. The river has several scenic bridges that link the two parts of the city.
Geiranger is included on this list because of its location on the Geirangerfjord, one of Norway's most scenic.
I could have also picked Flam, Bergen, or Alesund, Norway since those three ports are also very scenic. Most cruises to the Norwegian fjords of western Norway will include at least one of these four ports.
Hong Kong, China
The Hong Kong harbor has the well-deserved reputation as one of the world's best. What's not to love? Small ferries are zipping around a harbor lined with magnificent skyscrapers. To top off the spectacle, the evening laser show manages to bathe the buildings in a myriad of lights.
Once ashore, visitors will love the contrast between the modern buildings and the ancient traditions. Be sure to visit the top of Victoria Peak to view the harbor from ashore.
Sailing up the Bosphorus from the Mediterranean Sea, cruise ships pass by many of Istanbul's most famous and dramatic sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace.
The waterway linking the Mediterranean and the Black Sea is bustling, with ferries constantly crossing the Bosphorus and the mysteries of Asia and Europe linked by a bridge.
Dozens of cruise ships sailaway from the port of Miami each week, and passengers are treated to magnificent views of the city's skyline, Miami Beach, South Beach, and the many privately-developed islands lined with luxurious mansions that dot Biscayne Bay.
For many cruisers, Miami was their first "Hagia" port, making the city even more special.
I think seeing the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the skyline of New York from a ship is a favorite sight for both Americans and tourists.
For many of us, seeing New York City from a ship means we are approaching home. For immigrants to the USA, it means a new start and great dreams and hopes. Visitors are always amazed at the size and numbers of skyscrapers.
Sailing into Rio de Janeiro and seeing Sugarloaf Mountain and the magnificent Statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain is a marvelous first look at the city.
Of course, when you get ashore in Rio de Janeiro, don't miss the sparkling white Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. And, if you are lucky enough to be in Rio during Carnaval, the Samba parade is a don't-miss event at the Sambodromo.
San Francisco can be one of the most scenic cities in the world and one of the foggiest. If it's a clear day when you sailaway from or into the city, it's gorgeous. If it's not; hopefully you will be staying in the city long enough to experience the many things to do and see. (And, get a chance to see the bridges and Alcatraz!)
Santorini is one of the most spectacular islands in the world, and it's all due to a volcano that erupted about 1500 BC. The island once looked like most other islands, but after the volcano erupted, the center of the volcanic island collapsed over 1000 feet, leaving a deep caldera encircled by a crescent-shaped island.
Cruise ships sail into this caldera, and visitors experience a good geology lesson just by looking at the layers of rock on the tall cliffs of the island. At first glance, many (me included) think the caldera rim is covered with snow, but it's only the white-washed buildings lining the edge of the cliff.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge and adjacent Opera House are two of the world's most recognizable icons. Sailing into Sydney is a special treat since the city and the continent of Australia are so remote from much of the rest of the world.
You can only imagine how the first explorers felt when they saw this harbor and vast island continent after sailing across the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
The views of the myriad of canals, St. Mark's Square, and the Venice skyline is a memorable sight for anyone sailing into or away from Venice on a large cruise ship.