Taking a cruise can be the experience of a lifetime. But with so many potential destinations across the globe, choosing just one of the many commercial cruise packages on offer can be a potentially confusing exercise. Luckily, there are many guides both online and offline to help prospective tourists determine just where to set sail for. Here are some of the most appealing suggestions as reported by CruiseCritic.com, each with a different theme.

• Asia for culture: Sure, tourists could follow the masses and hit the museums of Paris, Rome and Florence. But why not look farther afield and explore older civilizations? Cruises in Asia boast UNESCO World Heritage Sites in almost every port; Kyoto alone has 17 of them. Beyond the temples, visitors will also find gorgeous national parks, manicured gardens, local markets and busy cities with neon skyscrapers. What better way to get immersed not only in what came before, but in what will come next?

Evening descends upon the River Seine in Paris, France. In the middle distance we see the elegant Pont au Change.

• European River Cruise for food & wine: From Bordeaux to Porto to Vienna, the locales to be explored on a European River Cruise are sure to encompass at least one wine region and a gastronomic capital (or two). Many river cruises have excursions centered on local specialties and vineyards. What’s even better is that finds can be brought back on the ship; feel free to uncap that Burgundy and drink it on the balcony.

• Eastern Caribbean for beach lovers: There’s a reason nearly every single cruise line runs cruises to these sun-drenched islands, including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten/St. Marten, Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas. It’s there tourists find that glorious turquoise-blue water and adjacent white-sand beaches—like a postcard come to life. This itinerary might well define the beaten path, but for those seeking a suntan, this is exactly where they belong.

• Western Caribbean for families: The ports in the Western Caribbean, including Belize, Roatan and Honduras, are full of action-packed activities like cave tubing, zip-lining and snorkeling that are sure to entice adventure-seekers. Or add a dash of education to any vacation with a friendly visit to Stingray City in Grand Cayman.

Egyptian Steamboat on the Nile in the warm evening sun.

• Nile River for history: No question: There’s no cruise out there that packs more history into a tourist’s days than a Nile River sailing. The route from Luxor to Aswan contains so many ancient sites that guests might end up with temple fatigue. Expert guides make the experience worthwhile, and there’s usually a refreshing glass of mint tea waiting upon return.

• Baltic Sea for overnights: With plenty of cultural performances and outstanding architecture, the Baltic Sea ports are perfect when someone can linger into the long summer night. Of particular note is St. Petersburg, where ships often stay at least three days. Plan a trip around the White Nights in June, when Russians enjoy almost continuous daylight.

Sea lion on Española island in the Galapagos, Ecuador.

• Galapagos Islands for wildlife: Even Darwin was transfixed by the unusual birds and critters that make this South American archipelago their home. Get up close and personal with sea lions, iguanas, tropical penguins, blue-footed boobies and monster tortoises.

Yes, when it comes to choosing a cruise, there are as many considerations as there are ships to take visitors to the four corners of the map. That’s why studying what each type of destination is known for can be a key preliminary step. Bon voyage!

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