7 cruise destinations perfect for the history buff who wants to travel back in time

Fontana di Trevi is an 18th-century fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy. Picture: Supplied

Fontana di Trevi is an 18th-century fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 30, 2023


There are plenty of activities to do on a cruise vacation and one of those is leaning about the culture and history of a place.

Today’s cruise holidays offer more than relaxation, a fabulous floating resort, or a hassle-free holiday. They are gateways to discovering the world’s most fascinating historic sites and natural wonders.

For travellers eager to delve into the past while enjoying laid-back luxury, cruises visiting the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia top the list. These regions are steeped in the legacy of great civilisations, legendary conquerors, artists, and philosophers that shaped these regions.

Travellers can also marvel at architectural and artistic masterpieces built centuries ago as well as experience modern cultures rooted in ancient traditions.

According to Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson Kevin Bubolz, Vice President & Managing Director Continental Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA), immersing yourself in these globally renowned historic ports and UNESCO sites inspires awe for humanity’s diverse cultural achievements.

“A cruise holiday allows you to conveniently re-live history, whether wandering Ephesus’ ancient streets or beholding imperial palaces in Bangkok, whilst only having to unpack once during your holiday,” he said.

If history makes your heart skip a beat, then you’ll love these history-soaked ports from around the world.

Syracuse, Sicily

A city founded over 2,000 years ago, Bubolz said that Syracuse still exudes Greek heritage through UNESCO sites like the prehistoric Ear of Dionysius cave, famed for its amazing acoustics, amplifying even the softest whispers.

“Magnificent temples honouring mythic gods dot the Neapolis Archaeological Park, while the colossal Altar of Hieron II, the largest of its kind, reflects the city’s splendour under Roman rule,” he said.

Bubolz said that visitors can ascend the steps of the ancient Greek theatre still used for performances today and that the city’s ancient legacy continues through Mt. Etna’s fertile volcanic soil, yielding praised wines, olives, cheeses, and more.

Ephesus, Turkey

According to Bubolz, one of the Mediterranean’s best-preserved Greco-Roman cities dazzles with sites like the towering Library of Celsus, a two-millennia-old tribute to wisdom, and the mammoth Great Theatre, which once accommodated over 20,000 spectators.

“The Temple of Hadrian and Terrace Houses provide additional glimpses into Roman life.

“Nearby, the impressive Temple of Artemis, once among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, paid homage to an iconic goddess. Its towering columns and elaborate reliefs recall Ephesus’ early Greek roots,” he said.

Alexandria, Egypt

Bubolz said that Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, fuses ancient wonders with modern vibrancy.

“The Bibliotheca Alexandrina modern library nods to its ancient predecessor and is one of the ancient world’s greatest storehouses of texts and knowledge. Pompey’s Pillar, Roman-era catacombs, and the 15th-century Qaitbay Citadel reference varied rulers throughout the centuries,” he said.

Bubolz also said that scenic Eastern and Western harbours, yacht clubs, and the modern Alexandria National Museum along the scenic cornice conjure the city’s storied past.

Dubai and Oman

“Beyond Dubai’s futuristic skyline, moored wooden dhow boats recall emirate ancestors who fished and dove for pearls along the Gulf’s blue waters. Oman is a true, lesser-known Middle Eastern treasure,” said Bubolz.

He revealed that Oman’s imposing 16th-century Nakhal Fort and labyrinthine souks of Mutrah offer windows into medieval Omani life and advised guests to not miss a visit to the ornately adorned Al Alam Palace and the lavish Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, as they represent more modern interpretations of Islamic artistry. Additionally, Oman boasts hilltop castle ruins scattered across the country.


Bubolz said that this former colonial Straits Settlement trading post beautifully fuses Chinese, Malay, Indian, and European influences.

“Must-see sites include the stately Colonial District, Gardens by the Bay’s Supertree Grove, vibrant multi-faith Chinatown dotted with Chinese, Hindu, and Muslim houses of worship, and Marina Bay, where you can catch the world’s only nighttime Formula One racing circuit against glittering skyscrapers,” said Bubolz.

He also said that the country’s many Michelin- starred hawker food stalls reflect the culinary blending that makes Singaporean cuisine unique and offers a wonderful opportunity to experience world-class cuisine in a more affordable way.

Bangkok, Thailand

According to Bubolz, Bangkok, once known as the “Venice of the East,” boasts the bustling Chao Phraya River, threading past the resplendent Grand Palace, Wat Pho temple with its giant reclining Buddha, and floating markets teeming with colourful produce, boats and vendors.

“Luxury malls and hotels around Siam Square impart Bangkok’s modern vibrancy. But you can still get a glimpse of old Bangkok through the Jim Thompson House museum and Mahanakhon skyscraper’s exhibition of ancient village life,” he said.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

And lastly, cruising through limestone islets and islands rising from emerald waters, richly forested in bright green plants and trees, imparts the mystical beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, said Bubolz.

“Watching traditional Vietnamese junk boats and floating villages go about daily life provides a snapshot of a timeless scene little changed over the centuries.

“Caves and grottos throughout the bay contain ancient rock paintings and enigmatic sculptures while kayaking into secluded lagoons reveals additional gems,” he said.