The experience of going on a cruise is truly a unique one. Drifting around in the ocean on a multi-thousand ton ship is one of the best ways to escape the stresses of routine life. The on board entertainment, the delicious cuisine and high standard of service will satisfy even the most difficult to please. But what of the ports of call? Getting off the ship and looking around the port towns is a major highlight of a cruise, so we’ve compiled a list of 5 of our favorite destinations below.

1. Split, Croatia

At the center of the Dalmatian coast, Split is one of the most beautiful jewels in Croatia’s crown. The Krka national park is something you shouldn’t miss; the stunning waterfalls set in the heart of one of Europe’s most prized natural settings will make you want to stay longer than most excursions allow. Alternatively you can take a tour of the small and intimate streets in Trogir – a small island town with unmatched charm and home to the cathedral of St. Lawrence. Thomson Cruises actually service all of the ports in this post, so they’d be a good option should you be interested.

roman ruins in Croatia

2. Valletta, Malta

The journey into the port of Valletta is one that you won’t experience anywhere else in the world. The towering steeples that emerge as you enter the narrow mouth of the port will certainly stay in your long-term memory. When you disembark there are many different options regarding things to do. Take a boat trip to Malta’s famous Blue Grotto – A hidden cove where the waters are an impossible cobalt blue. The trip takes roughly half a day and swimming in the cove’s waters will leave you enchanted. If you’re more hands-on, there are daily bicycle tours of the city that lead you down roads you might never have found otherwise.

3. Agadir, Morocco

This north African cultural melting pot is one that leaves a definite imprint on the mind. The first recommendation is Marrakech – a bustling maze of bazaars or ‘souks’ as they’re known locally. Barter with the locals for the best price on mint tea and fine brassware, or simply spend some time relaxing in a local bathhouse or ‘Hammam‘ where the locals will give you their first class relaxation treatments in traditional fashion. More action oriented? Take a 4×4 trip into the desert and hop between the rare oases and visit a traditional Berber village where you’ll be welcomed with traditional Moroccan foods that more than adequately satisfy the palette.

coast of Morocco

4. Alicante, Spain

Spain is a broad country with broad cultures. Alicante truly represents the Spanish people’s relaxed approach to life and they’re more than willing to show you how to relax just as they do. The waterfront cafes will beckon you in for a coffee (or something a little stronger), while you watch the world go by. Going further afield, allows you to visit some of Spain’s hidden gems such as Guadalest – a beautiful Costa Blancan village that is situated at the foot of the Sierra de Aitana Mountains. Here you can visit castles, dungeons and, if you like, meander through the charming streets and alleys before heading back to the boat to share stories with the other travelers.

What are your favorite European cruise destinations? Think we should replace one of these locations with something better? Let us know in the comments!