If you thought cruising was mere island-hopping in the lap of luxury, then you need to rethink. In recent times, cruising has emerged as the most innovative R&R travel with unique itineraries, far-flung destinations and high-end cruise ships with the most avant-garde features. And there are plenty of unusual cruise destinations far from the popular tourist picks. Not convinced? Here are some more reasons to persuade you why cruising is one-of-its-kind getaway travel.
Cruising is the best way to pack-in several destinations in a single holiday. Destination immersion is the cruising mantra with on-ship briefings to get you involved. With options of overnight port stays, expeditions and activities, a cruise is a one-in-all package for the world traveller. What’s more, you get hassle-free sight-seeing at exotic locations without worries of visa and language barriers. Rather, what you get is seamless sight-seeing with ship to port / destination transfers and all the nitty-gritties taken care of. The unique blend of land and sea excursions takes care of travel ennui. Not to forget my favourite reason, unpacking only once!
Scores of cruise lines and ships offer wow amenities, pioneering itineraries, activities and destinations. What more could you ask? A thumb rule for selecting your cruise – the smaller the ship, the more diverse is your itinerary.
Here is our line-up of some unusual cruise destinations around the world.
The Alaskan region offers the ultimate in cruising adventures, sailing through the blue-white pristine environments of Alaska and beyond.
1. Alaska Inland Passage
- Features – small ship, 7-12 days, kayaking, hiking, whaling, varied wild life, photography
- Cruising route – Seattle / Washington to Juneau in Alaska
- Best time – summer
- Highlights – Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier
This is an unforgettable cruise through the protected waterways of the Inside Passage. It is one of the most scenic journeys, with frequent docking to explore the natural scenery, and local communities. Get up-close with steep mountain walls and massive glaciers, ice carved fjords and islands teeming with wildlife.
A must-do cruise, this is a voyage of discovery in the company of expert naturalists who take you ashore to places less visited.The long summer makes it possible for wildlife viewing well into the late hours.
2. Alaska and Russia Far-East Cruise
- Features – ice strengthened small ships, 14-18 days, photography
- Cruising route – Alaska and/or Russian Far East (Provideniya / Chukotka / Tymlat-Karaginskiy-Komander-Kuril islands / Kamchatka)
- Best time – summer
- Highlights – spectacular wild life, travelling across 10 time zones
This is the cream of all cruises with the best of stunning landscapes, volcanic islands and spectacular wild life. The Russian region of the north is for the intrepid traveller seeking a unique travel experience as much as for the nature lover, photographer and history buff. The untamed beautiful wilderness of these regions untouched by civilisation, is soul feed. The sailing route is home to some magnificent wild life like seals and sea lions of Alaskan to brown bears, grey whales and countless birds of Russia. The cruise offers the opportunity for close encounters with indigenous cultures, the Canadian Inuit, and the Russian Yupik or Chukchi communities.
3. North-West Passage – a Polar Voyage
- Features – ice-breaker vessel, approximately 14 – 18 days, birding, culture, hiking, kayaking, photography
- Cruising route – from western Greenland / Ottawa through Bering Strait, north of the Arctic Circle and finishing at the Arctic post of Cambridge Bay
- Best time – summer
- Highlights – polar bear country, barren ice lands, arctic wildlife
The cruise is for the hardened and extreme adventurers, for it passes through the once impassable passage following the path of early Arctic explorers. The voyage takes you through barren lands that house the polar bear, musk ox, caribou, walrus and sea birds. Sail through waterways with wild breathtaking landscapes, spectacular glaciers and towering fjords. Visit remote villages and have close encounters with the Inuit communities. You may like to book a vessel that offers aerial sight-seeing and landings.
What better way to experience the exotic far-east than a cruise down an ancient river, the Yangtze?
4. The Yangtze River Cruise
- Features – medium to small ships, ancient China, rafting through rapids, photography
- Cruising route – from Chongqing downstream through The Three Gorges, ending at Shanghai
- Best time – early spring, fall to November
- Highlights – sailing past a slice of history that is soon expected to vanish, as the Three Gorges Dam is expected to flood the cities on the Yangtze river banks
Book a Yangtze River cruise and sail down the mighty river, past some of the most rugged and scenic terrains of China. Visit ancient villages, see historical sites and have a glimpse of the controversial majestic hydro project of Three Gorges Dam. A 300-feet long indoor mural at Chingqing sets the tone with the story of the Three Gorges Dam. At Fuling, visit the UNESCO site of ‘Underwater Stele Forest’ with remarkable cliff-side calligraphic inscriptions. Sail downstream past the Fengdu Ghost City. Shore excursions include a steep climb to the Temple of the Emperor of Hell and the beautiful 11- storey Pagoda, the ShiBao Zhai, both built into the cliff face on the riverside. Sail through the various gorges, with majestic mountains towering over deep, narrow passageways and fast-flowing waters, ancient coffins hanging from the cliff-sides, for once-in-a-lifetime encounters.
Signboards in red throughout the journey indicate water levels with date-lines – as the rising water fast submerges the river banks – reminding you that what you see may soon become a part of history.
The idyllic islands of the vast South Pacific are ideal for exploring on a cruise, where you can savour the best of land and sea travel.
5. Cruising the French Polynesia
- Features – large to medium vessels, 7 – 18 days, aquatic activities (scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming), cuisine, photography
- Cruising route – South Pacific, sailing from multiple places
- Best time –spring through fall
- Highlights – island hopping, water sports, island flavour
Volcanic islands, shimmering lagoons, rich coral reefs and shimmering sandy beaches are the key highlights of cruising the French Polynesia. Visit the stunning islands of Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, Pago Pago and more. Sail the seas in the far end of the world, and visit islands steeped in history and rich coral life.
Cruising in the Antarctica cannot compare with any other destination travel. This is the coldest, windiest and driest continent with white wilderness wherever you look; packed with snow, ice, water and rock.
6. South Pole Artic Cruises
- Features – luxury expedition ships with ice strengthened hulls (75-200 passenger capacity) to smaller expeditions style ice hardened vessels, approximately 14 – 28 days, aquatic activities, hiking, photography
- Cruising route – Antarctic Peninsula – Hope Bay, Lemaire Channel Elephant Island; Deception Island; Coronation Island; and/or South Georgia, South Shetland Islands, Falkland Islands
- Best time – December – February, when it is summer at Antarctica and you can expect up to 20 hours of daylight
- Highlights – the unexpected in weather conditions, ports of call, wild life and glacier wall sighting,
The ‘White Continent’ is considered the last frontiers of cruise travellers, largely for the intrepid travellers and polar life enthusiasts. It is definitely not for family cruising, but adventure enthusiasts who can’t have enough of cruising. It is unlike any other cruise destination in the world, with more than 12 hours flying time to the port of embarkation, and smaller boats to ferry you out to the land in full snow gear.
Although the weather conditions dictate the stopovers plans, very often non-traditional ports of call are made – inspired more by sightings of penguin colonies and herds of seals. Antarctica crusing is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so choosing the right shipping line, ship vessel and itinerary is critical to an enjoyable Antarctica experience. Immerse yourself in the magnificent expanse of snow and huge skies, untouched spaces and the profound silence in ultimate wilderness.
The Antarctica is most pristine wilderness region on earth, with no real human population. You come across icebergs in all shapes and sizes rising out of the sea and abundant polar wildlife – penguin colonies with thousands of breeding pairs, albatross with 13 foot wingspans, fur seals, humpback, and orca whales.