The adventure of sailing around the world often brings to mind images of the pirates of yore, especially since films and TV series have romanticised this historic way of life. There’s something thrilling about docking at ports where in years gone by pirates were swash-buckling, looting, and trading their wares. As well as in the Caribbean islands, pirates were once rife all over the world – from Asia to Ireland. Read on to learn more about cruise destinations which have a pirate history.

 

 

Tortuga (Haiti)

Made famous by the popular Disney films, in actuality, Tortuga acted as a refuge for English, Dutch and French thieves and escaped slaves back in the 17th century. These characters became what was known as the ‘Brethren of the Coast’, and they would attack Spanish ships in the Caribbean for treasure. Today, visitors to the island can see what’s left of Fort de Rocher – a 24-gun stronghold that was used by pirates to protect against Spanish invasion.

 

Nassau (Bahamas)

Nassau became a great pirate hang out in part due to its location in shallow waters. This meant that large warships could not approach the island, but pirate tall ships could. In the mid-18th century, there were around 100 natives compared to 1,000 pirates living on the island, and it was one of the latter – Benjamin Hornigold – who declared the place to be a Pirate’s Republic. Hornigold’s success as a pirate-inspired many other young adventurers, including one Edward Teach – who came to the island to join his posse. Other notorious characters including ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Charles Vane were all frequent visitors here. Today there are a number of pirate tours available on the island, on which guests can see various historical attractions.

 

 

Macau (China)

For centuries the South China Sea was a major setting for pirate activity, with Japanese pirates sailing south to raid and loot from the early 16th century. Activity went on for many years, and infamous Chinese pirate couple Zheng Yi and Ching Shih dominated the seas by the late 18th century with a fleet of more than 1,500 ships known as the Red Flag Fleet. After Zheng’s death, Ching continued with new husband Cheung Po Tsai, until they were defeated by the Portuguese Navy at the Battle of the Tiger’s Mouth in 1809. Madame Ching kept her pirate loot, however, and set up a gambling establishment in Macau, where many pirates had settled. Macau is accessible during a cruise to Hong Kong.

 

Port Royal (Jamaica)

Possibly the most well-known pirate haven is Port Royal in Jamaica – once referred to as ‘The Wickedest City on Earth’. Located close to modern-day Kingston, Port Royal was able to become such a place because the Jamaican governors offered it to pirates in return for help protecting against Spanish invaders. This led to the opening of many taverns and brothels, thereby attracting more pirates. Eventually, authorities began to intervene and by the mid-18th century, Port Royal had become a common location for pirate hangings – including those of Charles Vane and ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham. Visitors can see historic pirate and Jamaican Royal Navy paraphernalia at the archaeological museum here today.

 

 

Ile Saint-Marie (Madagascar)

Also known as St Mary’s Island, this small piece of land off the coast of Madagascar was once a popular spot among pirates. It is thought that a kind of utopia called Libertalia was developed among the pirate community here, although there is no real evidence of this. It is known, however, the pirates such as William Kidd and Edward Teach once walked here, and today there still stands an eerie pirate graveyard.

 

Charlotte Amelie (St Thomas)

Famous English pirate Edward Teach – better known as Blackbeard – lends his name to an important site in St Thomas’ capital; Blackbeard’s Castle. Built in the late 17th century by Danish colonists, the castle was originally known as Skytsborg. It is not known when or why the name was changed, but local tales say that Blackbeard regularly used the castle as a lookout point during his years of piracy in the Caribbean.

 

 

These destinations can be explored with a number of different cruise lines, on some fantastic modern cruise ships. Alternatively, if you’d prefer an experience more akin to those of a pirate, consider cruising with one of the more traditional tall ship style lines such as Windstar Cruises and Star Clippers. The beautiful ships in these fleets have been designed in an authentic, traditional way using plush, dark wood furnishings and rich colours.