Top 13 Cruise Destinations for History Buffs

Cruisers visiting the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt
Let your next cruise take you on a journey to the past | Author: Spencer Davis

There is a plethora of rich history and new cultures around the world just waiting for you to explore. The range is so wide that unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to get around to them all. Thankfully, there are many great cruise lines which sail to renowned cruise destinations for history that can help fill that gap.

Being on a cruise allows you to see many great places on the same vacation. There are also many destinations that only need a day for a visit, therefore a cruise is the perfect answer. Here we have a look at the 13 top cruise destinations that will allow you to take a step back in time.

13. Lisbon, Portugal

Not content with just having one UNESCO site, Lisbon actually has two to boast about. One of them is a monastery that was built in the 16th century and the other is a turreted tower that was built in the 17th century, both are remarkable historic sites that are a wonder to behold.

The city itself is beautiful which makes it one of the best cruise destinations you can visit. The city was once ruled by Julius Caesar and is built on a hillside that overlooks a beautiful bay. It’s colorful buildings and old world charm makes it an incredible place to visit. 

There are many different cruise companies that travel to the area, with MSC Cruises having a lot of great European destinations. It will allow you take in the history of Lisbon as well as many other destinations.

The Belem Tower in Lisbon with cruisers standing in front of it during their shore excursion
With two UNESCO sites being located in Lisbon, it offers every cruisers great history experiences. | Author: Alex Paganelli

12. Hiroshima, Japan

Japan is a country that is filled with a vibrant culture and history, but it also has places that show a much more somber side of the country. In 1945 the United States launched the first and, to date, only nuclear bomb in the history of conflict. 

It caused the death of nearly a quarter of a million people and there are three sites where that is honored. There is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and also the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace. 

The city gives you a chance to reflect on the brutal history of WWII and the more positive relationship that has blossomed between the two countries. Setting sail with Holland America Line gives you a chance to reflect on and learn from the past while exploring the rest of the beautiful country.

11. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia is a magnificent coastal city that has many beautiful cities, but none more so than Dubrovnik. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and there are many great activities to do in the city. It also has a fascinating history too. 

The city has a one and a half mile wall that used to protect the city from attack. It was made in the 13th century and protects the Old Town, which is a romantic step into the past. The turrets and towers of the city are a great historical treat. 

If you want to get there in style on a luxury cruise then there is no better cruise line to use than SeaDream Yacht Club. Their small ships give you the best experience possible to explore the history of this amazing historic destination. 

10. Stockholm, Sweden

One look at Stockholm on a map and you will see just how unique it is, as the city is built over many different islands. The old town section of the city was formed in the 13th century and possesses a huge amount of charm, history and romance.

There are many historical sites to see in and around Stockholm such as grand churches, great museums as well as royal palaces to visit too. It will give you a greater depth of knowledge about Scandinavian culture and history. 

Many lines have it as a port of call, but Costa Cruise Lines especially has many itineraries that are able to explore the areas that have a great amount of history. Stockholm is a wonderful destination and one that you would surely love.

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9. Kusadasi, Turkey

Kusadasi is a perfect cruise destination in itself as it has a beautiful port with picturesque scenes and great beaches. Just away from the city though is one of the most fascinating historical sites that you can see in the world. 

That’s because close by there is the ancient Roman city of Ephesus and in its time, was the second largest city in the world. Amazingly it was built right by the sea but after a few thousand years of silt build up, it’s now three miles away from the shore.

It is the home of a 25,000 seater amphitheater as well as fascinating streets of ruins for you to marvel at. It allows you to step back nearly 2,000 years in history and see how the Romans lived. Windstar Cruises is the perfect way to get you to this once ancient cruise destination. 

8. Quebec City, Canada

While there are still many walled cities around the world, there is only one in North America, and that is Quebec City in Canada. It goes back to the time that the British took the city from the French and decided to fortify their position in the country.

The district of Quebec is a UNESCO world heritage site and still remains very French in its nature, not only with its culture but also with the language too. It’s a great place to visit and is extremely unique when compared to any other city that is north of Mexico. 

With its clifftop position, it is also a very beautiful city. Having a tour of Canada and New England will give you a great insight into the culture and history of both countries. Princess Cruises can offer you that amazing experience, with many itineraries that you can choose from.

7. Beijing, China

As you can imagine there is a huge amount of history in Beijing. In order to get there you need to stop off in the port of Tianjin but it’s only a short journey to the nation’s capital. There are many great palaces that you will be able to visit.

One of the most interesting historical sites to see is the Forbidden City which was inaccessible to the public for 500 years. If you have more time on your journey, then you could also see the Great Wall of China.

Wherever you go in Beijing, you’re going to be surrounded by an epic amount of history. Celebrity Cruises has an itinerary that includes a two-night stay in Beijing, allowing you to see the Great Wall and many more amazing sights that China has to offer.

The great wall of China in Bejing surrounded by green and orange trees
With the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China, Bejing is a cruise destination paradise for history. | Author: Hanson Lu

6. Istanbul, Turkey

It’s possible that Istanbul is the most important capital city in world history as, under its former name of Constantinople, it was the capital of three different empires. The Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires all called it home. 

It is also a city in two different continents as one side is in Europe and the other is in Asia. All of that means that there is an incredible amount of history and diversity in the city, which can easily be explored once you leave the confines of your cruise ship.

There are many museums and religious buildings to marvel at, as well as a Grand Bazaar which has over 4,000 shops. It is an amazing cruise experience and one that can be served by Holland America Line which would be able to give you a top class experience. 

5. London, England

There is too much history in London to see it all in a day or two but there are many incredible sights that you could fit into a short space of time. You could see Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and many more in just one day.

It is perfect for a history cruise. In order to get there, you will need a transfer from the port but this can easily be done via an excursion. You could also decide to take a quick river cruise where you will be able to see many of its famous sites.

One of the great aspects of London is that it has history from a wide range of different time periods and eras. It’s a stunning place to visit and Norwegian Cruise Line has several itineraries that can take you there. 

4. New York, USA

The history of New York is deep and diverse with many fascinating places for you to visit such as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. In a similar way to Australia, it has a fascinating tale of immigration and the development of a metropolitan area.

There are many shore excursions that you can take and you will see famous landmarks all around you. It’s somewhere that you always see featured in films and TV shows. Seeing the real thing, however, is a completely different experience.

New York is a top destination for a huge number of people and it’s something that you have to see if you are able to. Seeing it from the water offers you a unique experience and then you can step on the ground and see it close up with Crystal Cruises

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3. Cairo, Egypt

There are certain destinations that have such an intriguing mystique and history around them that you simply just have to visit it to truly appreciate it. Stepping back in time and seeing how the ancient Egyptians lived, could be a fascinating cruise experience, where you would be able to visit many notable sights.

The pyramids are the headline act and to see them up close is incredibly breathtaking. There are many excursions available for you to see them and you might also get the opportunity to traverse the desert via camel ride, view the infamous Sphinx and a walk through the historical Egyptian markets. 

There are no large cruise ships that head into Cairo but it’s only a short trip away from Port Said. You may as well make it into an epic world cruise and Cunard offers a 99-day trip that will stay in the port overnight and allow you to visit the ancient city and fully explore it.

2. Athens, Greece

Just like being in Cairo, the chance to go to Athens should never be turned down. Greek civilization is another that helped to shape the modern world that we live in today. Athens played witness to the birth of democracy and many famous philosophers.  

It is one of the most historic ports in the world and there are plenty of historic sites to see. None more so than heading up to the Acropolis and seeing the Parthenon where you will be able to see the former temple that was made for the gods.

Seeing such a strikingly historical city on an elegant and classy cruise ship seems like a perfect cruise vacation in the making. You can make that dream comes true with Viking Cruises who can give you an incredible experience on your journey there.

1. Rome, Italy

Rome is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s no surprise as it is the most fascinating place on the planet. It is a haven for history buffs as you are going to be able to see many incredible sites in a short space of time, but you need to spend your time wisely to get the most out of it. 

The Colosseum is a must-see, even if you don’t get to go inside it. The Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon don’t require any queuing to see their beauty and there are other great sites to see such as the Spanish Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza Navona.

If you have more time then you can step into another country. In Vatican City you can see St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the Pope. A quick transfer from Civitavecchia with Seabourn will allow you to visit this amazing historically packed destination.

The historical Vatican City in Rome from above
Being full of history, Rome is the top cruise destination for history buffs. | Author: Caleb Miller

Cruise destinations for history buffs

Whether you are roaming around the South Pacific or heading through Europe, there is history in all corners of the globe. There are many cruise lines with different itineraries to choose from that are going to be able to take you there on a vacation that you’ll never forget.

You always want to make sure that you are prepared beforehand to ensure that you get the most out of your time at port. By the time you have gotten back to the ship, your mind would have been opened to the fascinating history of the world.

To make the search for the perfect vacation as easy as possible for you, you can directly check out the cruises going to the 5 best cruise destinations for history buffs here: 

1. Best Cruises to Southern Europe (Mediterranean)

2. Best Cruises to Middle East

3. Best North America Cruises

4. Best Asia Cruises

5. Best Cruises to Northern Europe (Baltics)

Check out these articles for more top destinations: