What Are Some Popular Cruise Destinations?The Caribbean, Bermuda, and The Bahamas, Mexico, Panama, Central America, Europe, West and North Mediterranean, Alaska, Western Canada, New England, Canada, South America, Antarctica, Hawaii, South Pacific, Southeast Asia and the Orient, Indian Ocean, East AfricaRegion by region, the Earth unfolds with fabulous sights, romance and adventure for today’s voyagers. From CLIA by Georgia Hesse As a deep purple twilight drapes the Mediterranean hills, a sleek cruise ship slips out to sea while a band on board sends a familiar tune into a soft breeze. Cocktail glasses clink and passengers on deck hum along; then the ship’s whistle blows its melancholy farewell. That lump in your throat is predictable. The excitements of cruising are as deep as the oceans: faraway places with strange-sounding names (Hiva Oa in French Polynesia or Moroni off the east coast of Africa); young cultures and ancient civilizations (Egyptians and Phoenicians in the Mediterranean); scenery that stuns the senses; antique arts and new music (new to you, that is); the romance of history (Cleopatra barged along right over there).Where do ships sail? On all the waters of the Earth, to more than 1,800 ports of call from Alaska to Zanzibar. How long are their voyages?Three days, a week, three months or more. The choice is YOURS.The Caribbean, Bermuda, and The BahamasMany travelers elect to get their feet wet on cruises in the Caribbean, Bermuda and The Bahamas. In waters so limpid that fish seem to swim in air, you’ll find vessels of all varieties: small, stylish craft as pampering as a palace hotel; sailing ships and liners that laze among islands, and “floating cities” that bustle smartly from town to town like moving resorts. The Mediterranean of the New World, some have called the Caribbean-a small, sea-circled United Nations. The Union Jack still blows over outcrops of England (Anguilla and the British Virgins). Citizens of France amble or bike home to lunch bearing fresh baguettes under their arms in the French West Indies (Guadeloupe, St. Barts, Martinique). In the Netherlands Antilles, pastel Dutch-style houses parade along the streets of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. The Stars and Stripes waves above the sands of the U.S. Virgins (St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas). The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the isle of Hispaniola, and one small gem sparkles under two names: St. Martin (France) and Saint Maarten (Holland). Other landfalls, most formerly British, fly their own flags: Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia of the lofty peaks, Trinidad. What unites these diverse dots is beauty, the kind that makes you giddy: mountains buried in lush jungle, feathery forests where hummingbirds and parrots play, waters in a kaleidoscope of blues, greens and violets. So who cruises the Caribbean, you may wonder? Young lovers and senior citizens, adventurers and families with children, those who shop till they drop or search for ghosts long gone: pirates, spice merchants, rumrunners, revolutionaries, Columbus or Blackbeard or Alexander Hamilton (born on Nevis). Mexico, Panama, Central AmericaMexico is a myth you can’t really explain. The spirit of the place wafts in the air, turning otherwise serious travelers into party animals. It takes only two Mexicans to create a fiesta, and they do it from Cabo San Lucas to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco on the west coast; from Cozumel to Cancun to Isla del Carmen in the east. All is not madness, however. Puerto Vallarta, setting for Hollywood’s The Night of the Iguana, is so civilized with its bougainvillea-draped villas and cobbled courtyards, it’s becoming known as the San Francisco of the South. And in a slender strip of Central America, the still- modern marvel of the Panama Canal invites you to travel with history, lock-by-lock, from one ocean to another. Europe, West and NorthNot all sea lanes lead to the sun, sand and coral strands. Some take you back in time, to cities sheltered within ancient walls, into the drama of castles and cathedrals, to lands where the ghosts of King Arthur and Macbeth and the Celts still walk.Many long passages from Portugal and Spain, up the coast to France, around Great Britain, then across the North Sea to the Baltic and north to the great Norwegian fjords are sold in cruise segments, starting in Lisbon or London, say, or Rouen or Copenhagen. Some ships round the British Isles or prowl the fjord-fringed Norwegian coast or cruise the Baltic from Scandinavia to St. Petersburg in Russia. Go back centuries to mysterious Stonehenge. Laugh at comic puffins in the uninhabited Orkney Islands. Remember, on Iona in the Hebrides, Saint Columba and the Irish saints who preserved civilization in Europe’s Dark Ages. The lands you explore speak to you in a bewildering number of tones and voices. You may need a cultural translator and there will likely be one: a scientist, a naturalist, a geographer, a historian. Your outward odyssey may result in an inner one. MediterraneanFrom Patmos to the Pillars of Hercules, the Mediterranean is the Helen of seas. Desired by all who eye her, she has sung a siren song to sailors from Odysseus to Onassis.The grandeur that was Greece, the glory that was Rome, and myriad visions of Arabian Nights linger around the sinuous shores. Like bells of the watch, the ports of call toll in our imaginations: Santorini, Venice and Elba, Rhodes and Naples, Monaco and M?laga.In Wedgwood twilight when the French Riviera shimmers in a scrim of blues-sea, sky, and the horizon hills-you will stand on deck intoxicated by a perfumed breeze and know you’re living the good life on the eve of the 21st century.Today’s traveler will be awed by the richness of it all. There is so much to know and see: from Istanbul on the Bosporus to Spain and Morocco and the Rock of Gibraltar. In a lifetime, in a thousand, no one will completely know the Latins’ Mare Nostrum (Our Sea). Sigh with acceptance and settle into a sidewalk caf? from time to time when the mind whirls with images and the legs feel weary. After all, you’re coming back.Alaska, Western CanadaChances are you can name more Greek gods than Native American tribes along the Canadian and Alaskan Pacific coasts. Perhaps it's time to learn their lore and legends: the Tlingit, Tsimshian, Haida, Kwakiutl and Athabaskan. In the awesome near-wilderness of the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay, Misty Fjords and Prince William Sound, ancient totems, longhouses and canoes stand witness to centuries of creativity. In small towns, inheritors of old cultures perform ancestral dances and work in traditional arts and crafts.Mountains climb from fjords with the majesty of their cousins in Norway. In Tracy Arm, glaciered peaks soar above a snow-melt creek, mountain goats pose on dizzying cliffs, and harbor seals snore lazily atop ice floes.In Misty Fjords, orcas and humpback whales blow and sound; off the Sawyer Glacier, ice blocks the size of a building "calve" and splash into the sea. Geologists on board teach you to scan the granite mountains.Spare settlements out of an Old West tale or a miner's romance sit, cramped, at seaside, their names seductive as the call of the Yukon: Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Seward.New England, CanadaWhen was the last time you considered Montreal and Quebec City as cruise ports competing with Ft. Lauderdale or Miami or St. Thomas? Something doesn't suit: no sun-drenched beaches, few bikinis, a noticeable absence of palm trees.Instead, in the midst of autumn, with sugar maples turning crimson all around, you embark in one of the earth's largest French-speaking cities, sail to another that suggests 17th-century Europe and debark, often in New York, a wonderful town. In between, you descend the gangway to places you never considered going: Baddeck, Nova Scotia, for instance, home to one of the most intriguing museums anywhere, the summer retreat of Alexander Graham Bell. In Bar Harbor, Maine, in bygone days, industrial magnates built stylish "camps" for summer holidays to keep their children off the streets. In Newport, Rhode Island, they erected opulent "cottages" where high society could hide out with itself. Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Boston: At the end, you'll look at the U. S. of A. with new eyes.South America, AntarcticaSouth America stirs the soul: vastness, mountains unclimbed, jungles unpenetrated, peoples of a wonderful strangeness and animals nobody knows.From the mouth of Belém, Brazil, the Amazon transports you on a 2,000-mile journey into the unfamiliar. Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore.Brazilians say God made most of the world in six days and devoted the seventh to Rio de Janeiro. Buenos Aires, Argentina, greets you with European sophistication, while Salvador (Bahia), Brazil, is brightest Africa.South of Buenos Aires, along the route of ancient mariners, Mother Nature goes wild: the thundering magnificence of Iguaçú Falls, the empty high deserts of Patagonia, Cape Horn. From Ushuaia, southernmost town on Earth, all sea roads lead to the Antarctic via the Falkland Islands, perhaps South Georgia and the South Orkneys. And you haven't even tackled the Pacific coast yet: Puerto Montt and Valparaiso, Chile; Callao (for Lima), Peru; Guayaquil, Ecuador, and the fabled Galapágos.Hawaii, South PacificIs Bora Bora the most gorgeous island on earth? Possibly. But you can't tell till you've checked out Kauai and Tahiti, Pitcairn and Upolu and Bali. The Pacific islands call up all the clichés: palm-fringed, soft-sand beaches; crystal-clear waters in pristine bays. And they're all true.New Zealand occupies two major islands and Australia is an island continent, surely the world's most unusual. All this watery expanse asks for action. Snorkel or scuba; go sport-fishing or mountain climbing; ride a horse or a motorbike; sail a yacht, parasail, water-ski or windsurf.Perhaps you prefer less strenuous pastimes such as watching basket-making and other crafts; sitting in a café as pretty girls in pareos go by; studying flower arranging; touring historic mansions; admiring botanical gardens, cuddling a koala. Go for it.While the isles just below the equator almost always enjoy weather that suggests an Earthly paradise (as do those of Hawaii in the North Pacific), seasons in New Zealand and Australia are the reverse of those in North America. Keep that in mind and pack accordingly.Southeast Asia and the Orient"Somewhere east of Eden/Where the best is like the worst..." Rudyard Kipling made it his mission to reveal to westerners the enigmas of the Orient. "Mad dogs and Englishmen/Go out in the midday sun," sang Noel Coward, ridiculing the follies of his compatriots. So much we think we know of Southeast Asia, the Orient, the Lands Below the Wind, is seen only in translation, coming from footloose writers and painters who fell in love with the inscrutable East.Travel is the best translator. Western eyes and words sail with you-those of Robert Louis Stevenson, of Captain James Cook, of Nordhoff and Hall, of James Michener-but you begin to look with new eyes.From Thailand to Vietnam and the countries of the South China Sea (an inexplicably romantic name), north to China and Japan, a cruise is a continental surprise. New cuisines to taste, new architecture to behold, new plants that startle with their sensuousness, new theater and new dances and new music, new animals, new smells, new faces. Yet all of these are ancient.One day, it's time to step ashore on Penang and breathe in the earthy perfumes of southeast Asia. Another day, the ship sails into Singapore, a city of the 21st century.Indian Ocean, East AfricaIn the wondrous world of East Africa and the Indian Ocean lie the Comoro Islands, Madagascar and fanciful, remote landfalls-the Republic of Seychelles, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.Elephants and rhinos, giraffes and zebra: The game parks of Kenya and Tanzania astound both the eye and the imagination with their bevies of beasts. Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Nosy Be, Tananarive: Deep in the shadows, Noel Coward and Alec Waugh, Ian Fleming and Sydney Greenstreet still stroll.A passage to India is a puzzler. What you see is spectacular, but skewed. A fantasy of flowering trees gives the port of Bombay a jaunty air belied by the swarm of the streets. From there, excursions lead inland to peerless temple cities, Ajanta and Elora, to pink Jaipur and on to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Goa, once the capital of Portuguese Asia, is now a tropical seaside resort. There is a lot to discover.What could be a better use of a cruise than to celebrate the diversity we wanderers share? It's a very large world.