8 Cruise Destinations for Exploration and Relaxation

There is a lot to consider when you're choosing a cruise, but the first and most important decision should be where you want to go. Do you want to have fun in the sun? Maybe you want to see a place that you've never seen before. These destinations have all that and more.

1. Caribbean

The Caribbean islands have some of the most iconic and most reliable cruise destinations. If you include Mexico, it becomes what most people think of when they hear the word "cruise". It might not be the most thrilling cruise, but sometimes you just want to relax. The white-sand beaches and bright sunshine should help you with that. Plus, since this is one of the biggest cruise markets in the world, you're sure to find plenty of deals and a wide variety of options.

2. Greek Islands

Few sights are as picturesque as a Greek fishing village from the vantage of a boat deck out on the Aegean Sea. Whether you are a fan of classic literature, art, or just great food, you are sure to find what you're looking for during your own personal Odyssey in the Grecian islands.

3. Israel

If you're thinking Greece, you're right in the neighborhood for spectacular cruises to Isreal. There are two major ports in the country: Ashdod and Haifa. Both have their unique charms, with history, culture and plenty more to explore.

4. Australia

It's time to talk about the land down under. Australia is a lovely place to experience a unique but familiar culture in an exotic natural setting. It also has another thing going for it: It is in the southern hemisphere. That means, for most of us, the Australian summertime is our winter — the timing might just work out.

5. Mekong River

One of the most important waterways in the world and the center of a thriving, ancient culture, the Mekong river is as stunning as any ocean or sea. Picture misty hills carpeted with verdant jungle, bustling floating markets and interesting new customs. In fact, if you are on the fence about being out in open water, there are plenty of beautiful inland waterway tours around the world, from Norway's fjords to the good old Mississippi River.

6. Arctic

Ready for something off the beaten path? Arctic cruises might be just the thing. If you were like many people, you have never seen planet earth, the way it is in the Arctic. Unrestrained, shockingly beautiful nature, animals you have only seen in the zoo and much more. There is no better way to see this part of the world than by sea — especially since many parts of the Arctic are not even accessible by trains or roadways.

7. South Japan

With its own regional dialogue, cuisine and culture, the south of Japan is an interesting counterpoint to the bustling cities like Tokyo or the stately, reserved beauty of the Kansai region. Also, although you might not necessarily associate beaches with Japan, the Okinawa area has some of the most beautiful in the world. Add to that the connection to the American military, and there's a lot to like about South Japan as a cruise destination.

8. Transatlantic Liner

Although it is not necessarily a cruise, there are still transatlantic ocean liners operating with passenger service from New York to France, England or Germany. This isn't always the all-inclusive experience that you might think of for a cruise, but there are usually tons of amenities. Think of it more as a hybrid vacation — you can either spend the entire time on the cruise or make your own itinerary once you get to your destination country.

Make Your Own Dream Vacation

If you're feeling adventurous, look into getting multiple cruise tickets. That way you can travel in style and get off the boat to spend some extended time in a place that interests you. Then, hop on the next cruise back home — or even around the world.