One of the most underrated but amazing aspects of cruising is the views. A plane will take you too high to appreciate the journey, but on a cruise ship you will have plenty of time to take it in. From the comfort of your own cabin or one of the public spaces you can see approaching coastlines, watch an island sink over the horizon and appreciate the beauty of your current port from an entirely new perspective: on the water.
It has to be said. Some ports are a little utilitarian - a place where civilisation meets the sea, and where it's easy to transfer passengers ashore. If you know where to go once you've left the dock, you can see some amazing things, but you might have to travel a little way.
Other ports, however, are simply stunning from the moment you sail in. Whether it's a particularly inspiring cityscape or an idyllic tropical island, there are many spots around the South Pacific which will take your breath away. Here's our list of the top ten local gems.
1 . Sydney, Australia
We started big. Australia's most sizeable city is a lovely looking metropolis, and most of the reason for that is its iconic harbour. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Darling Harbour and the craggy suburb-laden coastlines are best viewed from the deck of a ship. Cruises docking at White Bay Cruise Terminal will pass under the bridge, a novel experience, while those docking at the Overseas Passenger Terminal will have great views of the Opera House while in port.
It's common knowledge amongst Aussie cruisers that there's nothing quite like a sailaway party from Sydney Harbour! Sipping a cocktail while the sun sinks behind the western suburbs is nothing short of amazing. Also, it's the busiest cruise port in the region, meaning here are plenty of cruises departing Sydney - so start your planning.
2 . Bora Bora, Tahiti
We're not breaking new ground here - Bora Bora is recognised globally as one of the most beautiful places on earth. The thing is, that many people can't be wrong, and they aren't. The Tahitian island lives up to the hype. Imagine looking out of your cabin window in the morning to see the jagged green central peaks of this amazing isle, the white sand surrounding it and the turquoise waters of the natural lagoon. It's a paradise which has to be seen to be believed.
Paul Gauguin Cruises is a Tahiti-based line and a great way to see Bora Bora in complete luxury. Many of their itineraries stay at the island overnight - and if you're going to make the trip, you'll want time to enjoy it.
3 . Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Modern cruise ships are huge, but they are all dwarfed by the soaring peaks and plunging cliffs of Fiordland, in the south of New Zealand. Thickly forested walls rise almost straight up out of the calm waters of Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, waterfalls plunge into the sea, and glacier-carved mountains rise high into the air. It's an amazing sight, and one of the most incredible scenic regions you'll find in the country (and that's saying something!). Of course, there's no better way to observe the fiords than from the deck of a ship.
Most mainstream lines offer scenic cruising only in Fiordland, meaning passengers can take in the grandeur from onboard as the ship sails slowly through the fiords. It's an amazing experience, so make sure you're on deck, and bring a jacket as it can be a little cool even in summer.
4 . Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
Cruising the South Pacific will afford you many views of gorgeous islands. While they are not all quite as spectacular as Bora Bora, they are far from eyesores. The Isle of Pines is particularly memorable, thanks to the tall, thin trees which give the isle its moniker. From the docked ship, you can see not only these lovely and unique pines but the blinding sands of Kuto and Kutema beaches, the tiny Ile Bayonnaise and much more tropical goodness.
You'll find that a large proportion of cruises to the South Pacific visit the Isle of Pines, so you'll be spoilt for choice. We recommend getting underwater with a snorkel or dive gear to enjoy some slightly different views!
5 . Wellington, New Zealand
It's no tropical paradise, but a bit of urbanity can be just as scenic as all-natural assets. Wellington Harbour, in fact, has the best of both: a charming and picturesque city nestled amongst green hills and forests. Sailing in and out between the narrow harbour heads is a highlight, with the outer beachy suburbs of the city on one side and the wooded peaks of the Rimutaka Range on the other.
Many cruises to New Zealand will call in to Wellington, so it's easy to find an itinerary which includes the 'coolest little capital in the world' (title bestowed by Lonely Planet, but we agree). If you get there, don't miss seeing Te Papa, the interactive and fascinating national museum of New Zealand.
6 . Champagne Bay, Vanuatu
This sweet curve of pale sand can only be described as picture-perfect. Ships drop anchor offshore, where you can get a lovely overview of the bay and the crystal-clear waters. There's a small tender dock hidden around the corner, but apart from that and a few basic shelters behind the sand it's very untouched - an amazing view to wake up to.
Champagne Bay is consistently voted one of the top destinations by South Pacific cruisers, so you know you're in for a treat if it's on one of your itineraries. It features on many cruises departing Sydney and Brisbane on a range of lines, and Carnival offers shore tours there when they stop nearby on the same island of Espiritu Santo.
7. Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Admittedly this entry isn't one specific port, but we wouldn't kick any of the Yasawa chain of islands out of bed for snoring. These volcanic isles are not low-lying atolls - they rise sharply from the turquoise sea, green-covered and craggy in places, providing something spectacular to look at out of any cabin window. The wild look of them will appeal to any adventure-seeker, and at the bottom of the slopes are the picturesque white beaches that you come to the South Pacific for.
These are no typical cruise destination, and you won't find the Yasawas on the schedule of any big ship. Captain Cook Cruises Fiji and Blue Lagoon Cruises both offer unforgettable island-hopping itineraries on their boutique ships. Not only are they more intimate and friendly, they can get you up close and personal with the islands in a way you won't experience on a large vessel.
8. Lifou, New Caledonia
Cruise ships arriving in Lifou moor within the wide sweeping expanse of Santal Bay, tendering passengers to the shore at the village of Easo. This means you will get a great view of the gorgeous island out of your window, with its palm trees, white sand, gentle hills and charming churches. The best part, however, comes when you look down. The Loyalty Islands are known for their stunning underwater vistas, and Lifou is no exception. Gaze from the ship down into the depths and get excited for a snorkeling excursion when you reach the shore.
9 . The Whitsundays, Australia
This part of the Queensland coast, far north of Brisbane, is a tropical beach resort and one of Australia's most beautiful spots. In recent years it has appeared on more cruise itineraries, with P&O Australia now offering short break cruises to the Whitsundays and Princess, Holland America and several more lines sailing there too.
Big ships dock at the Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach, while smaller ones drop anchor off Hamilton Island. Wherever you are are, you will have lovely views of the Whitsundays from the ship - islands, beaches, greenery and Queensland sunshine. As an added bonus, you'll sail in and out through the Great Barrier Reef, an amazing spectacle.
10 . Picton, New Zealand
Although a little less untouched than their southerly counterparts, the Marlborough Sounds are almost as majestic. Located at the top of the South Island, they are a maze of craggy coastlines and tranquil inlets, green-covered hills rising from the waters. Cruise ships sail down the narrow Queen Charlotte Sound, allowing passengers beautiful glimpses of the surrounding nature, before docking at the charming small town of Picton at the head.
Marlborough is also a famous wine region, so as much as you might want to stay onboard and gaze at the lovely vistas, it's worth getting off the ship! There are many lines which stop in Picton - take a look at cruises to New Zealand to find one you like the look of.