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My world cruise top 10 picks

30/08/2016

Following two full world cruises, self-confessed cruise addict David George picks his top 10 favourite global ports and urges everyone to try them out

P&O Cruises guest David George and a view of Sydney Opera House

Sydney is top of the list for P&O Cruises guest David George

Guest David George reveals his top 10 ports of call following his two world cruises. If his memories, top tips and descriptions leave you wanting more, why not jump on board and visit the destinations yourself?

 

On our world cruises you can. Marking 180 years since the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company was formed, Aurora’s 2017 World Circumnavigation features a special heritage-themed itinerary. Sailing east on 9 January 2017 for 104 nights, the cruise takes in 35 destinations in 21 countries. Or head west on Arcadia’s 2017 Polynesian & Asian Adventure, a 114-night cruise departing 2 January 2017 and taking in 37 destinations in 21 countries, from sun-soaked beaches and breathtaking natural wonders to ancient cultures and buzzing city life.

 

David’s pick of the best world ports:

 

1. Sydney

Sydney captures all the anticipation and excitement of world cruising. Definitely my favourite port! The city’s iconic images are right in front of you when you berth: Sydney Harbour Bridge (the ant-like figures you might spot trudging to the top are tourists), Sydney Opera House dazzling in the morning sunshine, and Circular Quay alive with café bars, galleries and street artists.

 

Look up at mighty skyscrapers and beneath your feet at bronze plaques with insights into famous Australians past and present. To capture a photo of the Bridge and Opera House within a single frame, explore the park behind the Opera House for the perfect view. If shopping is your thing, walk up George Street from Circular Quay for a range of international boutiques and department stores.

 

After an hour, we returned to the quayside to catch a bus to Bondi Beach, a 25-minute ride away. The waves thundering down on to the sandy beach were enormous, but it didn’t put off the surfers and I can think of no nicer way of spending a winter’s day (back in Britain) than walking along the water’s edge on Bondi with the sun overhead and temperatures in the high 70s… pure bliss. No wonder I’m addicted to cruising!

 

 

2. San Francisco

If you go to San Francisco, rest assured that you can still wear flowers in your hair. The city is every bit as relaxed as I expected, and along Fisherman’s Wharf young and old mingle in the sunshine. Street musicians relive the sounds of the 60s and a Penny Arcade museum of games machines adds to the sense of going back in time. The games brought back fond memories, and of course I couldn’t resist the 1950s fortune-telling machines.

 

The former prison of Alcatraz still stands proud in the bay and it makes for a great excursion. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be locked in the barest of cells, ice cold in the winter, yet able to listen to families enjoying themselves on the mainland.

 

A bite to eat on the hoof was followed by a cable car ride up and down the switchbacks and a bus across the Golden Gate Bridge to the exclusive backwater of Sausalito. Here’s a tip: stop off at North Point Street and visit the chocolate shop in Ghirardelli Square. Walls and counters are stacked high with chocolate and the taste of those dark chocolate raspberry squares is enough to guarantee my early return to this city on the Bay.

 

 

3. Singapore

There is something for everyone in this colourful city. If the excitement of the new is your thing, marvel at the improbable sight of a hotel comprising three tower blocks connected by a ship-like structure anchored across the top of them! 

 

For a sense of the old order, focus on Clarke Quay, where past and present combine. Multi-coloured warehouses by the water’s edge have been converted into bars and shops, and further inland on Beach Road you’ll find Raffles, its grandeur a reminder of Singapore’s colonial past. With its quiet courtyard, manicured gardens and shaded verandas, it is easy to see why Raffles became a second home for the wealthy. Standing at the head of the driveway, a forbidding white-turbaned Sikh commissionaire protects residents from lesser mortals. But we’d travelled many miles to see Raffles and thankfully the Long Bar is open to tourists and locals. After the heat of the noonday sun, our iced Singapore Sling cocktails were perfect. 

 

4. Aqaba, Jordan 

Aqaba is the starting point for the lost city of Petra, without doubt my favourite shore excursion I’ve been on – book early to guarantee your space. 

 

The journey there across vast desert landscapes, once home to Lawrence of Arabia, is fascinating in itself. But just wait until you walk through the narrow mile-long chasm and first glimpse the wonderfully carved façade of the Treasury…

 

Walking between soaring cliffs, the full beauty of the 130ft-high tomb is slowly revealed, and its dramatic impact stopped me in my tracks. No wonder Petra was chosen as a location for filming Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

 

 

5. Phu My, Vietnam

A single television image of a Communist tank in 1975 crashing through the wrought-iron gates of the Norodom Palace in Saigon (later renamed Reunification Palace) sums up for me the slow-motion horror of Vietnam’s costly war.

 

In peace, Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City (tours from Phu My) and parts remain just as they were – most residents even continue to use the city’s former name. To understand the reasons for the rise of Communism, take a tour of the palace and then walk across to the War Museum for insights into America’s role.

 

Crossing roads is an adventure here, with mopeds and lorries bearing down from every direction, but be brave and find time to visit the historic Saigon Central Post Office near the Notre-Dame Basilica. It’s a palatial and ornate building where you can buy stamps for postcards far more cheaply than at home, with the added bonus that you will be served with exquisite courtesy.

 

This is one port where a shore excursion is essential.

Hong Kong harbour

Hong Kong is an exotic wonderland

6. Hong Kong

Top prize for the fastest disembarkation here. We stepped off the ship directly into an air-conditioned mall of luxury stores and boutiques, but – ignoring all temptation – headed down to the quayside to take the historic Star Ferry across from Kowloon to Hong Kong island.

 

The views across Victoria Harbour are spectacular, and once ashore you feel dwarfed by the skyscrapers and the rush of humanity. But head into the side streets and discover something of the history of this former British colony. I loved it and, yes, it really is a shoppers’ paradise.

 

7. Auckland

It may have been my first visit here, but in the space of a day the city impressed me so much that Auckland goes straight in at number seven. I expected New Zealand’s towns and cities to be small and sleepy ­­– I’d been told to expect a throwback to Britain in the 50s. Not so! Against clear blue skies, skyscrapers survey the buzzing waterfront and Auckland soon shows itself to be a city that prides itself on catering for young people.

 

So how about some bungee jumping? Walk to the Sky Tower, the tallest man-made tower in the southern hemisphere, and plummet from one of its platforms at 85mph. Some of the ship’s crew took up the challenge, relishing the rush of adrenaline. But time was precious and we decided to miss out on the treat, instead enjoying a cup of coffee in the peace and beauty of Albert Park with its statue of Queen Victoria. 

 

8. Shanghai

Nothing prepares you better for appreciating the wealth of China than being on deck as you sail into Shanghai. The sheer volume of sea traffic underlines the country’s transformation, and everything about Shanghai is on a grand scale. The city, home to 24 million people, is bravely futuristic but with corners that proudly reflect the past.

 

My shore excursion to the Jin Mao Tower and up to its 55th floor for fabulous views was followed by a ride on the Shanghai Transrapid, a magnetic levitation train that links the city to its airport at speeds of up to 267mph.

 

After a taste of the new, the tranquillity of old Shanghai provides a welcome break. Explore the waterfront from Huangpu Park to the Old Town and you’ll find narrow cobbled alleys leading to ornate pagoda temples and the gloriously vibrant colours of Yu Gardens, a wonderfully oriental spectacle for western eyes.

 

9. Dubai

Visiting Dubai is like a journey into the future, to a city designed to impress and dazzle. Huge skyscrapers soar into the sky, and at street level people use moving walkways cocooned in air-conditioned luxury to get from one point to the next.

 

In a city that is 30 miles in length, it’s no surprise that Dubai Mall should be the world’s largest, or that the Burj Khalifa tower is the highest you’ll currently find, at 2717ft.

 

I used the modern, driverless, fast and cheap monorail trains for cutting Dubai down to size, but there’s also a more traditional side to the city. In the Deira district, hundreds of ancient wooden abras (water taxis) ferry passengers across the creek to the spice and gold souks, and a ticket costs no more than a few pence. From the rush of modern life back to a more gentle era – magical!

 

 

10. Barbados

This was the first port I visited in the Caribbean. Sailing in with the sun beating down is a sure way of lifting the spirits. From the neo-Gothic public buildings around Parliament Square in Bridgetown, the capital, to the white sandy beach of Carlisle Bay, Barbados sums up the very best of the Caribbean.

 

The city centre and beach are both walkable from the ship (about 40 minutes) and the weather’s hot even when there’s an occasional shower, or ‘liquid sunshine’ as the locals like to call it! 

 

 

 

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