Manila, Philippines

The Philippines’ sprawling capital city is a bustling hub of diverse cultures and heritage. Manila’s heady assortment of historical influences combine to give the city its unique identity.

A long and varied history stretches back as far as 5,000 years, with human life occupying the area from around 3000 BC. The city first flourished during the Ming Dynasty due to trade relations with China, before experiencing invasions by Indian, Bruneian and further Chinese empires and then becoming the seat of the colonial government of Spain.

The Spanish first arrived in 1571, assigning Manila as a territory of New Spain, later being named the capital of the Philippines. Things remained the same for the next three centuries, excluding a minor interruption by the British, before the Americans took control in 1901. After difficult times during WWII, the USA left Manila and the city gradually began to form its own identity, earning the status as the “Pearl of the Orient.”

With a population of around 22 million and 16 individual territories, it is right to expect your Manila cruise to become exposed to a long list of attractions, locations and activities. Each district is home to its own collection of points of interest so you will be spoiled with things to see and do.

There are some unmissable landmarks to visit throughout the city, as well as several churches, parks and museums. Exploring Intramuros, once the old walled Spanish settlement of Manila, will introduce a number of attractions. Here you will discover Fort Santiago, a major landmark of the city, the imposing Manila Cathedral, the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Agustin Church, and wide and picturesque plazas.

From a colonial taste of Spain to a strong flavor of Asia, Manila is home to one of the largest Chinatowns on the planet. The area is home to Binondo Church, one of the oldest places of Christian worship, joined by Chinese temples such as Seng Guan Temple and the Buddhist temple of Kuang Kong. A stroll down Ongpin Street will present a distinct Chinese flavor, lined by herbal stores and eateries.

One of the best ways to absorb the culture and color is with one of the city’s incredible festivals. Vibrant and chaotic celebrations are typical of several festivities, particularly in Chinatown during Chinese New Year and during the Semana Santa celebrations in the week preceding Easter Sunday. Do not worry if a festival is not scheduled during your cruise to Manila, there is still plenty going on. Market life in Manila is another great way to experience the day to day function of the city, with several public markets ready to be explored.

The food in the Philippines is fresh, flavorsome and delicious and Manila’s street food markets are a great place to sample the local specialties. Try lumpia, a tasty snack somewhere between a spring roll and a burrito. It is filled with meat, vegetables and a sweet, tangy sauce.