by Jimmy Im
In 2009, I took my first cruise with Holland America, embarking on a 14-day voyage that sailed from Melbourne, Australia, the departure port, to New Zealand. My friend Margaret and I extended our trip two full days to explore this colorful, progressive, and compelling cosmopolitan city. There were secret alleyways with massive street murals, off-the-beaten-path and quirky underground bars, engaging modern design, and a distinct, self-contained Melbourne “lifestyle.” The dining scene was outstanding, the shops were unique and, despite Sydney’s claim to fame, there were wonderful beaches. We shacked up at the Park Hyatt, made Aussie friends who were excited to engage with young Americans, sipped local wines, visited galleries, got lit at bars, and experienced the joy of getting lost in the laneways.
After two days our ship was scheduled to depart, but Margaret and I were reluctant to leave. We grew fond of Melbourne. While the cruise would take us to amazing places like Christchurch, Tasmania, and Napier, we felt our farewell was premature. Melbourne was a mini-NYC on the other side of the world, only everyone had darling accents. It resonated in a way we hadn’t felt before. Melbourne seduces visitors, and that is what makes for an exceptional port of call.
A distinguished port charms, inspires, and fascinates, providing a wealth of amenities, good hotels, excellent attractions, and unforgettable memories pre- and post-cruise. It’s a seaside getaway you never want to leave, despite knowing there’s plenty more stops to experience on your cruise. Ultimately, it’s an alluring place that warrants more than the day excursion generally offered on most cruise ships. And while the cruise industry continues to grow in record numbers (22.1 million passengers in 2014 compared to 21.3 million the prior year), and cruise lines bang out sparkly new ships now more than ever, major port destinations are enhancing their presence with renovated terminal facilities, stronger marketing campaigns, and new businesses. But what makes a cruise port truly special is when it’s a dynamic destination that just happens to have a port.