Six of the world's best cruise terminals


Singapore's newest cruise terminal was built for the world's largest ships, and handles 7000 passengers with customary  Singapore efficiency. It's also, however, , a rather dramatic building that, while large and low, has a jagged, eye-catching profile said to represent breaking waves, though perhaps looking more like a half-collapsed house of cards. The strong, cubist geometry is especially apparent in the light-flooded interior: you might feel you've strayed into a Picasso painting. The aquamarine colours and filtered light are supposed to suggest you're in an undersea world – maybe not the ideal reference for those embarking on a ship, but visually appealing. See


PORTO, PORTUGAL - March 25, 2018: Ship MSC Magnica parking at Cruise Terminal of the Port of Leixões, Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leixões tra5-CRU-SixBest
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Ship MSC Magnica parking at Cruise Terminal of the Port of Leixoes. Photo: Shutterstock

Leixoes might be a minor cruise destination (it provides access to more interesting Porto) and have a small terminal, but boy is it a beauty of textured geometry, all the more striking for sitting in blinding white amid a rusty, work-a-day harbour. Does the terminal represent a shell, a swirl of ribbon or a retro homage to the architecture of the Guggenheim Museum? You decide. Its four storeys are connected by a helical ramp that ping-pongs the glitter of the sea and an internal reflecting pool around the walls, which are covered in hexagonal tiles that recall fish scales. See


YOKOHAMA, KANAGAWA / JAPAN - MAY 19 2017 : Scenery of Yokohama Great Pier. It is a port where luxurious passenger ships enter. A wood deck and lawn are in place at the pier. tra5-CRU-SixBest
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Yokohama Great Pier is a port where luxurious passenger ships enter. Photo: Shutterstock

Osanbashi, the main cruise terminal for large ships visiting Tokyo, has won numerous architectural awards for its bold, gently curving design that suggests both wooden ships and traditional Japanese interiors. Column-free architecture provides vast spaces and a sense of lightness, while ramps instead of stairs create flow. It integrates wonderfully with its surrounding public parks, and you can even walk across the terminal's grassy roofs. Even better, it's a short stroll from the developed Minato Mirai waterfront and its many shops, restaurants and attractions, including a giant Ferris wheel and the Hikawa Maru, a 1930s cruise liner turned museum. See


KHAAGW Asia, China, Shanghai. Shanghai international cruise terminal. Dangling pods by Sparch (formerly Alsop Sparch) tra5-CRU-SixBest
Credit: Alamy

Dangling pods by Sparch (formerly Alsop Sparch) at Shanghai international cruise terminal. Photo: Alamy

Only smaller luxury cruise ships can sail up the Huangpu River and dock at the downtown, energy-efficient Shanghai International Cruise Terminal. Here a series of six buildings house offices above and retail facilities below. The wave-like structures of glass and steel have a strong visual impact, and look especially striking at night, when undulated edges, support structures and rooflines are outlined in multi-coloured lights. The central building, nicknamed the Shanghai Chandelier, features suspended pods straight from a sci-fi movie. The complex is honeycombed with sunken courtyards and flanks a public park along the river. See


Vancouver Harbour, British Columbia, Canada.
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Vancouver Harbour, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Shutterstock

Canada Place is one of North America's most passenger-friendly cruise terminals and became the prototype for many others after its 2001 opening. Alaska's short cruise season encouraged a design that incorporates a convention centre, hotels, cinema, shops and other facilities that could be used year-round, creating a space lively with visitors and locals alike. Terraces (actually cunningly disguised fire escapes) have terrific views across the harbour to the mountains, and promenades lead out along the waterfront. The terminal's tent-like Teflon roof design, which evokes five large yacht sails, has become a city landmark and is illuminated at night. See



Ocean Terminal, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong - April 30, 2017 : Ocean Terminal is a cruise terminal and shopping centre located on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
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Ocean Terminal, a cruise terminal and shopping centre, is located on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Photo: Shutterstock

For location, it's hard to beat Ocean Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui, bang in the middle of Victoria Harbour, and eyeballing The Peak and Central's skyscrapers across the water. It's one of the best cruise arrivals anywhere. The terminal itself was always unexciting, though attached to the gargantuan Harbour City shopping mall, where you'll find 50 eateries and 450 shops. Last year, however, the opening of a five-storey, stepped-down extension by famous architects Foster & Partners added a bit of cachet and great observation decks for outdoor dining and gazing over the harbour-scape. See

Brian Johnston has travelled as a guest of numerous cruise lines.