Most cruises make port in predictable places. Whether it’s Caribbean islands or Mediterranean cities, those stops can start to blend together, particularly for frequent cruisers. What’s the cure? Cruises that take you to places you’ve never been that are very different from places you have been. Some cruises that do this are no more expensive than more conventional cruises. Others are pricier either because lengthy sailings are needed to reach remote locales…or because only small specialty cruise ships can access these less built-up ports. If you have room in your travel budget, they’re worth the price—these are unforgettable destinations. Here are eight distinctive ports of call for your future cruises…

Mediterranean destination most travelers never see. Sarandë (or Saranda), Albania, lies north of Greece and east of the heel of Italy’s boot. Although Greece and Italy are very popular with American cruisers, Albania is largely overlooked, no doubt because its communist past kept it off many people’s radar for decades. That’s a shame, because the country, which has been a democracy since the early 1990s, offers thousands of years of interesting history. Unlike its neighbors, Albania’s historical sites and beaches are not overrun by tourists. In Sarandë, consider taking a shore excursion to the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Butrint (ancient name Buthrotum), an archaeological site on the waterfront. Cruise example: Ancient Empires cruise by Holland America, 12 days, begins and ends in Civitavecchia, Italy, 45 miles northwest of Rome with a stop in Sarandë in addition to Italian and Greek ports. (Starting at $1,599.* ­

African safari hub. Port Elizabeth, South Africa, is an excellent jumping-off point for cruisers to come ashore and experience a safari. Several of the continent’s highly regarded game reserves, including Pumba Private Game Reserve and Addo Elephant National Park, are within driving distance, and cruise lines that stop in Port Elizabeth offer shore excursions to them. Cruise ­example: 10-night South Africa Intensive Voyage by Azamara Club Cruises, which starts and ends at Cape Town, includes a stop in Port Elizabeth with multiple safari shore-excursion options. (Starting at $2,474.

Stunning Indian Ocean island ­beaches. The Seychelles, a chain of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, ­offer some of the world’s most beautiful unspoiled, uncrowded beaches. Temperatures are tropical, the water is clear and exotic wildlife abounds. The culture is an interesting mix of African, Indian, Asian and European. This is an upscale getaway—it’s where Prince ­William and Kate Middleton spent their honey­-moon. Cruise example: Mahé/Eden Island Marina Roundtrip by Crystal Cruises, eight days aboard the 62-passenger Crystal Esprit with stops at eight different Seychelles islands. (Starting at $5,149.

Virtually unpopulated place of stark natural beauty. The Kimberley in the northwest corner of Australia is an area few people have ever seen. It’s about the size of California, yet there are only a handful of paved roads and fewer than 40,000 year-round residents. The coastline is haunting—dramatic red sandstone cliffs drop into the blue waters of the ­Indian Ocean. Seabirds nest on thousands of small islands, and whale sightings are common. Cable Beach in the port town of Broome has miles of white sand beach. Cruise example: Round Australia cruise by Princess Cruise Lines, 29 days, begins and ends in Brisbane and includes a stop in Broome and scenic cruising along the Kimberley Coast. (Starting at $3,519.

Exotic island unspoiled by the modern world. Papua New Guinea, a ­country that makes up the eastern end of a large island north of Australia, is a place where traditional tribal cultures live on in remote rainforest villages…where pristine tropical beaches lie beneath volcanic mountains…and where coral reefs teem with sea life. It’s a destination so exotic that it’s sure to win any so-where-are-you-going-on-vacation conversations. Cruise example: New Guinea Island Encounter cruise by P&O Cruises, 11 days, begins and ends in Brisbane, Australia, with stops at five New Guinea ports. (Starting at $1,399.

Asian volcanic island. Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea is a popular beach resort among Asian vacationers, but it’s virtually unknown to Americans. Jeju Island has the sand beaches you would expect from an island resort plus hiking trails through a semitropical national park and around a dormant volcano—all adding up to spectacular views of the island and ocean. Or take a subterranean hike through the island’s “lava tubes,” long caves shaped by ancient volcanic activity. Jeju Island also is known for its centuries-old massive carved stone statues and for the haenyeo, female divers who can collect shellfish from the seafloor more than 50 feet below the surface without using scuba gear. Cruise example: China & South Korea cruise by Celebrity Cruises, 14 nights, begins in Hong Kong and ends in Shanghai with a stop at Jeju Island. (Starting at $1,449.

Remote Eastern Russia. The Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia’s Pacific coast (and the islands that stretch away from it into the North Pacific) could hardly be more different from the Russia of Moscow and St. Petersburg that travelers tend to visit. Spectacular snowcapped volcanic mountains provide the backdrop as seals, sea lions and other wildlife crowd remote beaches. Cruise example: Russian Far East Expedition cruise by Silversea Cruises, 18 days aboard the 144-passenger luxury ship Silver Explorer, begins in Otaru in northern Japan and ends in Anchorage, Alaska, with five days featuring stops in eastern Russia including the Kamchatka Peninsula and nearby islands. The ship’s fleet of Zodiac landing craft can take passengers ashore on remote islands that lack cruise ship ports. (Starting at $12,870.

Charming, arty river town on a very affordable cruise. Paducah, Kentucky, a small city on the Ohio River, might not be what you imagine when you think of unusual cruise ports—it isn’t a remote island or unique culture. But it boasts a thriving arts scene, wonderful antiques shops and the appealing ­National Quilt Museum. Many river cities have seen their old factories and mills abandoned, but Paducah’s have been reborn as craft breweries and art galleries. Cruise example: Memphis to Chattanooga cruise by American Queen Steamboat Company, nine days, includes a day in Paducah. (Starting at $2,299.

*All prices are per person based on double occupancy and are subject to change. Taxes, fees and port expenses are not included ­unless otherwise noted.

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