No matter where you decide to visit in the world, one thing is for sure - there are countless, spellbinding experiences to be had that will stay with you forever. From sampling local delicacies and visiting sentimental landmarks to going on exhilarating adventures and learning about key historical events, we’ve identified the top 100 cruise holiday experiences that we think should be on every avid cruiser or explorer's travel bucketlist.
The ultimate cruise holiday bucket list
- Top 100 cruise holiday bucket list experiences
- Foodie bucket list experiences
- Adventure bucket list experiences
- Sentimental bucket list experiences
- Cultural bucket list experiences
- Historical bucket list experiences
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Foodie bucket list experiences
Image credit: @george_ou, Instagram
Eat a Michelin-star meal from a Hawker stall in Singapore
Eating a Michelin-star meal should be on everyone’s Asian holiday bucketlist, and where better to do it than in Singapore, where you can find the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant in the world?
Known as Hawker Chan, this hawker stall might not look like much, but it certainly delivers on flavour. When here, make sure to try the soya sauce chicken and rice, the dish that secured Hawker Chan’s spot on the guide. And, at only £2 a portion, it’ll put you back less than a cup of coffee! A must-visit for any foodie on an Asia and the Far East cruise.
We spoke to the team at Hello Singapore Tours who offer food tours and teach hawker centre etiquette. They told us: “Eating in a hawker centre should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list. Trust us, the food is so good you will be eating it by the bucket load! Serving up grub from all corners of Singapore's ethnically diverse population, a hawker centre is a place where you can try everything from laksa, chilli crab and mee goreng to wonton and dosa; in one sitting!
"They truly are the melting pot of the world. Many stalls have been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand seal of approval meaning they serve up exceptional food at a wallet-friendly price.”
Eat Neapolitan pizza in Naples
Image Credit: Ben Holbrook / Driftwood Travels
Pizza is beloved the world over and for good reason, it’s highly versatile and downright delicious. But what better way to appreciate a dish than to try it in its hometown? With rich Mediterranean flavours from fresh ingredients and hundreds of years of heritage, a Neapolitan pizza in Naples is a must for a foodie’s bucket list.
Charlotte, travel blogger at Charlotte Plans A Trip agrees. She told us: “I will never forget my first authentic Napoli Pizza, it made me fall in love with Naples right away! Pizza is originally from Naples, designed for the visiting Queen Margarita. Since the people from Naples wanted to welcome her, they designed a delicacy in the colours of the Italian flag. The ingredients were simple but so delicious: fresh, red tomatoes, nutty green basil and juicy mozzarella.
"You cannot visit Naples without trying this delicious meal. This is true food perfection; it melts on your tongue and expresses exactly what Naples is all about: good food without any fuss.”
We also spoke to Ben Holbrook from Driftwood Journals, who told us why everyone should eat a pizza in Naples: “Naples is easily one of the most thrilling cities in Italy, if not Europe. It's wild and chaotic, a brash and often brazen ballet of bravado. It's also an excellent place to eat like a true Italian and the birthplace of the world's favourite food: pizza!
"Dating back to the late 18th century, it's said that the dish was first invented at Pizzeria Brandi, the walls of which are plastered with photos of its rich, royal and renowned customers. Pavarotti was a regular punter, and if it was good enough for him...
“Another famous pizzeria in Naples is Da Michele, which you may well recognise from that famous foodie scene with Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. But truth be told, you’ll struggle to find a bad pizza in Naples, so be sure to get stuck in wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. And don’t forget to wash your pizza down with a frosty bottle of Nastro Azzurro beer for a true taste of ‘la dolce vita’.”
Eat jerk food in Jamaica
From fresh lobster in St Lucia to tostones in Puerto Rico, we think that jerk food in Jamaica is the crown in Caribbean food’s crown. The epitome of Caribbean cuisine, with fresh flavours, fragrant grilling and a nice kick, jerk food offers a taste sensation.
It’s as much about the experience as the meal itself and sitting down to a plate of fragrantly spiced chicken with rice and peas will be a memory you won’t forget. Whether it’s served with freshly picked and roasted plantain or a glass of punchy Caribbean rum, it’s a unique foodie experience that we believe everyone should try.
The ultimate foodie bucket list:
- Pull a pint of Guinness in Dublin
- Enjoy a scoop of traditional gelato in Rome
- Eat a Belgian waffle in Belgium
- Eat a Michelin-star meal from a Hawker stall in Singapore
- Eat paper-wrapped fish 'n' chips in England
- Share tapas in Spain
- Eat Neapolitan pizza in Naples
- Sip on ice-chilled ouzo in Greece
- Get a fresh bagel in New York
- Eat sushi at a kaiten-zushi restaurant in Japan
- Drink Port in its birthplace of Porto
- Eat a traditional key lime pie in Florida
- Eat haggis in Scotland
- Try escargot in France
- People-watch with coffee and a croissant in Paris
- Try a punchy rum cocktail in Cuba
- Eat an authentic taco in Mexico
- Eat time-honoured Peking duck in Beijing
- Eat jerk food in Jamaica
- Have a BBQ on the beach in Australia
Adventure bucket list experiences
Spot the Big Five on an African Safari
If you’re a lover of wildlife and animals, an undeniable bucket list cruise experience has to be heading out into the plains of Africa on a one-of-a-kind safari to spot the Big Five. The ‘Big Five’ was coined by early big-game hunters and refers to the biggest and most dangerous animals to hunt on foot: lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo.
These days, the term is used by tour operators trying to catch a glimpse of the Big Five game being a tradition amongst safari-goers. Blogger Marielena from Epic 7 Travel told us what it was like seeing these fantastic animals on an African safari.
“Witnessing tender African wildlife interactions within lion prides and elephant herds tops most people’s travel wish lists. Oblivious to your presence, the animals chase, hunt and frolic, providing unforgettable memories to cherish for a lifetime.
“For me, watching elephants drinking at a watering hole from a camouflaged underground bunker in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, satisfied a lifelong dream to see elephants up close and personal. I relished examining their wrinkled trunks, captivating eyelashes and massive ears from a ground-level perspective while observing the hierarchical interactions. Embrace the unexpected and savour the myriad exciting African safari encounters that await!”
Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
If underwater adventures float your boat, then snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world, in Australia is certainly a bucket-list-worthy experience. The Great Barrier Reef attracts ocean explorers from all over the world with its warm, clear waters and outstanding aquatic flora and fauna. Seeing this world-class coral reef for yourself is not something you’ll want to pass up, and with 1,400 miles of natural coral to explore, there is plenty to go around.
Go husky sledding in Norway
Exploring Norway’s snow-blanketed wilderness is one thing, but marvelling at the ice-white scenery at speed while being pulled along by a pack of huskies is an irreplaceable adventure.
Full Suitcase travel blogger Jurga told us why husky sledding in Tromso is such a thrilling and unforgettable experience.
“Husky sledding in Norway is one of the most memorable winter experiences ever. I find it difficult to put into words how it feels to musher a dog sled through an amazing Arctic landscape for the first time. Fresh snow, white trees and stunning landscapes around you, and beautiful dogs that seem to be even more excited about the journey than you are… It’s exhilarating, it takes your breath away, and it’s one of those unique experiences that you’ll never forget. An absolute must-do.”
The ultimate adventure bucket list:
- Spot the Big Five on an African safari
- See the salt flats in Bolivia
- See a wild tiger in one of India's National Parks
- Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
- Go husky sledding in Norway
- Hike Table Mountain in Cape Town
- Go bungee jumping in Auckland, New Zealand
- Swim in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
- Catch some waves in Australia
- Have a mud bath at Hell's Gate in New Zealand
- Go whale watching in Iceland
- Go on a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, USA
- Walk on Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska
- Go bear watching in Canada
- Trek to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail
- Explore nature in the Amazon rainforest
- Swim with sharks in South Africa
- Visit the Galapagos Islands
- Go skiing in the Alps
- Go volcano boarding in Nicaragua
Sentimental bucket list experiences
Chase the Northern Lights
Witnessing the mesmerising northern lights is something that is on a lot of people’s cruise bucket lists. This natural wonder is spectacular, and something that cannot truly be explained until it’s been witnessed. The lights can be seen in the Arctic Circle with the closest destinations to see the northern lights being in Northern Europe.
There are also plenty of cruise holidays that can help you tick this off your bucket list. The team at Hurtigruten have crafted a range of Northern Light Experience cruises that mean you can enjoy this natural phenomenon in style.
We spoke to Roshni from The Wanderlust Within, who spoke fondly about the experience of seeing the northern lights: “I’ll forever remember being bundled up in layers, staring up at the dark Arctic sky, waiting for Mother Nature to put on her elusive light show. I needed to be patient, but once the sky started to fill with vivid blasts of green leaping from side to side, it was easy to see how sharing this experience could bring strangers together. I looked around and saw the faces of my group light up, their eyes grew wider, and they couldn’t help but smile and share their excitement with each other.
"We were blessed with a 45-minute shimmering aurora display but for days after it was all the ship could talk about. One of those bucket list moments that you almost don’t want to tick off your list, as you’ll want to experience it over and over again.”
Browse a Christmas Market in Germany
The holidays are a special time of year for many, and for some, getting into the spirit when the nights start drawing in is something they look forward to all year round. If this sounds like you, then taking the festivities to the next level is a must. There are different Christmas traditions all over the world but one of the most sacred is Germany’s Christmas markets.
Lining the paths are wooden-slatted huts all filled with treasures and treats ready to be consumed and bought. Glitzy Christmas trees stand tall and proud while market goers browse the stalls’ offerings, mulled wine in hand. Why not make it a Christmas to remember and wander these charming German Christmas markets for yourself on a Christmas cruise?
See the cherry blossom in Japan
There are few things in the world more naturally beautiful than pink blossoms on a picture-perfect tree. And, in Japan during cherry blossom season, that’s exactly what can be seen. As the city transforms into a pastel paradise, passion fills the air. So, grab the one you love and visit during this magical time of year to experience this pinnacle of romance.
Laura, known online as The Creative Adventurer, told us: “Walking through Japan's zen gardens, waterfronts or street corners during cherry blossoms season is like being transported into a dream. Watching those perfect, pastel pink leaves fall and blow around you in the wind is something that seems like a scene from a movie but a real thing you can experience if you come to Japan!
"Don't miss having a Hanami (‘flower viewing’) picnic under the trees. Dine on sakura (cherry blossom-flavoured) pastries, drinks and more - only available during this magical season. If you're a photographer, photoshoots don't get any better than during cherry blossoms season in Japan!”
The ultimate sentimental bucket list:
- Watch the hot air balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey
- Chase the Northern Lights
- Take a romantic gondola ride in Venice
- See the sunrise over the Buddhist temples at Angkor Wat
- See the cherry blossom in Japan
- Watch a show on Broadway in New York
- Share a kiss under the Eiffel Tower
- Watch Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks
- Learn to tango in Argentina
- Go ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre
- Watch the sunset over Santorini
- See the glow of the Sea of Stars in the Maldives
- Go on a reindeer sleigh ride in Lapland
- Send a postcard from the world's southernmost post box in Port Lockroy
- Go on a reindeer sleigh ride in Lapland
- Take a picture in front of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles
- Make a wish in the Trevi Fountain, Rome
- Browse a Christmas Market in Germany
- Watch baby turtles hatch in Sri Lanka
- Cruise around Havana, Cuba in a vintage car
- Experience the midnight sun in Norway
Cultural bucket list experiences
Visit the floating markets of Bangkok
Visiting a food market in South East Asia is a must for any traveller, but the premise of visiting a floating market itself is a bucket list experience, and that’s before you’ve even tried the food!
“Bangkok has many incredible sights, from its ornate Grand Palace and fascinating temples to a thriving Chinatown neighbourhood, and markets like Chatuchak and Patpong. But the place I loved the most was a traditional floating market.
"For centuries, waterways were a primary means of transport across Thailand, and farmers brought their goods to market by boat, meeting eager buyers in floating markets – a practice that is still common today. Bangkok has several famous ones, the best known being Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak. Whilst these are both incredible - vast, bustling and crammed – the dense crowds can be overwhelming.
“The smaller Tha Kha floating market is a more local affair, where it’s easy to browse the stalls, buy delicious treats and find a spot to sit and eat. Vendors in traditional conical hats against the sun ply their trade in narrow wooden boats piled high with produce or ingredients. Many host a floating kitchen and make hot food to order for hungry customers. Look for the stalls with a queue of hungry punters and join the line.”
Ride a bike around Amsterdam
The cycling capital of the world, doing as the Dutch do and hiring a bike in Amsterdam is a must when visiting this vibrant capital city of the Netherlands. Easy to reach on a cruise from Southampton, it’s no surprise that this capital city is one of Europe’s most popular cruise destinations.
Travel blogger Jane from My Five Acres told us why the experience is one to put on your travel bucket list.
“Amsterdam is truly a cycling city — rumour has it there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than residents! Once you see the city's intricate network of bike paths filled with locals commuting to work, bringing groceries home, or taking their kids to the park, you’ll want to be a part of it. Riding a bike in Amsterdam is an energising and exciting experience which will bring a sense of child-like joy to your wanderings. Being on two wheels gives you the freedom to see more of this wonderful city, making it easy to get between Amsterdam’s most exciting sights and to discover hidden places you’ll have all to yourself.”
Chef and travel blogger Tariq from Chef Tariq also recommends cycling around the city to see the sights and feel like a true local.
"I adore Amsterdam, and I go whenever I get a chance. One of my very favourite things to do while I am there is to live like the Dutch and cycle everywhere. Getting around on a bike is a terrific way to cover more ground, and to see all the wonderful things Amsterdam has to offer.
“The experience of whizzing through the quaint streets looking at the beauty of the unique architecture is unmatched in my opinion. Stopping for a nice glass of wine in one of the many squares, along with an order of bitterballen is crucial if you want to say you have really lived!
“I love to cycle along the banks of the Amstel River, a path rumoured to be the one that Rembrandt used to take as he walked to paint landscapes. The Amstel path takes me past several beauty spots along the way, ending up in Amstelpark where I enjoy walking around the botanical gardens."
Explore a souk in Morocco
For a true taste of Morocco’s age-old merchant culture, exploring a souk will take you on a treasure hunt like no other. Navigate your way through narrow, lamp-lit passages as delectable spices fill your senses; colourful, shiny trinkets catch your eye and traditional Moroccan music enchants you.
Although Morocco is home to myriad souks, Marrakech has some of the largest in the country, including the biggest of all, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Although exploring a Moroccan souk can be a bit overwhelming, it is certainly a bucket list experience that will give you a deeper understanding of this country’s spellbinding culture.
The ultimate cultural bucket list:
- Visit the sacred Batu Caves outside Kuala Lumpur
- Celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico
- Visit the floating markets of Bangkok
- Celebrate Chinese New Year
- See the tulips in the windmill fields of Holland
- Explore a souk in Marrakech
- Go to a traditional Hawaiian Luau
- Watch the Pope speak at the Vatican
- Watch the changing of the guards outside Buckingham Palace
- Watch the opera in Vienna
- Go ice fishing in Greenland
- Go to Brazil for Carnival season
- Go to the top of the Burj Kalifa in Dubai
- Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York
- Listen to Jazz on the streets of New Orleans
- Catch a yellow cab in New York
- Ride a bike around Amsterdam
- Take part in a tea ceremony in China
- Go to Oktoberfest in Germany
- See the Mona Lisa up close in the Louvre
Historical bucket list experiences
See the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo
Home to the only remaining Ancient Wonder of the World, the Pyramids of Giza are a must for any traveller’s bucket list, especially history lovers. As well as being one of the oldest places on Earth, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pyramids of Giza are famously known all over the world for their splendour and scale. On an Egypt cruise, you can travel to Cairo and stand before the great pyramids yourself – a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It's hard not to be awe-inspired by the Pyramids,” Laurence from Finding the Universe told us. “They've been standing on Earth for over 5,000 years, a testament to the construction technique of the ancient Egyptians - a technique that we still don't truly understand. They are humbling to behold, having withstood thousands of years of human history.
"They've also been visited by a vast cross-section of humanity, so when you stand and look at them in wonder, you know that you are sharing an experience with a panoply of your fellow humans, from Kings, Queens and Emperors to explorers, citizens and travellers.”
Visit the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City
A marvel of art and culture, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is something you could spend hours upon hours staring at. Painted by Michelangelo, the sweeping fresco has myriad individual scenes, including the most iconic – The Creation of Adam. Whilst in Rome, visiting the Vatican is a must. This impressive hub of hand-painted, Catholic illustrations forms the most well-known and stunning art pieces in the world - The Sistine Chapel.
Travel blogger Violet Glenton told us: “If you’re a fan of art and architecture, then you get to marvel at all the greats under one roof at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. Arguably Michelangelo’s finest work, you can gaze deep into each perfectly formed character created by the man himself and his workshop. The building itself is quite beautiful too, so be prepared to take it all in.”
See the ruins of Greece’s once-noble Acropolis
A symbol of Ancient Greece, the Acropolis has been standing atop a hill in Athens for thousands of years. The iconic shape is something most travellers will recognise, but whilst on a cruise in the Eastern Med, everyone should make the pilgrimage to spend a day witnessing this once grand temple up close.
Monique from Tripanthropologist told us about the beauty of the Acropolis: “Upon the Acropolis, the gods fought battles for their Greek worshippers among the ancient sites and symbols of western civilisation. Some of the world’s most iconic ancient buildings such as the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion crown the Acropolis.
“Greek myths, heroes, gods, poets and philosophers have all left their mark here. The King Aegeus threw himself off the Acropolis thinking the Minotaur had eaten his son. There are indentations from Poseidon’s trident, and a sacred olive tree marks the spot where Athena bested Poseidon. Along the slopes are the Odeon and the theatre of Dionysius, the birthplace of western theatre, used by Sophocles. Surrounding the Acropolis are ancient wonders such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus. What a lot of myth and history to see in one day!”
The ultimate historical bucket list:
- Stand in the arena of the Colosseum
- Step into a fairy tale at Neuschwanstein Castle
- Visit the ancient city of Petra, Jordan
- See the Terracotta Army in China
- See the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo
- See the Easter Island statues
- Come face to face with history at the Berlin Wall, Germany
- See the Valley of the Kings in Egypt
- Marvel at the Palace of Versailles, France
- Visit the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City
- Walk a section of the Great Wall of China
- Journey to Mont Saint-Michel, France
- Take a guided tour around Auschwitz, Poland
- Look out over the city from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland
- Step foot inside the Forbidden City in Beijing
- See the mysterious Stonehenge in the UK
- Explore the ancient Mayan Ruins in Mexico
- See the ruins of Greece's once-noble Acropolis
- Wander amidst the ruins of Pompeii in Italy
- See a grand declaration of love at the Taj Mahal, India
With so many fantastic cruise bucketlist experiences to be had around the world, the biggest challenge will be working out where you are going to start. And, once you've completed this hundred there are plenty more to be had, from seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to visiting cliff-side town Cinque Terre, many amazing opportunities didn't make the list.