Inside Passage cruises are well known for showcasing Alaska's beautiful scenery, glaciers and wildlife. Big ship cruises provide a wonderful experience bringing passengers as close as possible to glaciers and wildlife, but they are limited to visiting the bigger ports that can accommodate their size. And it is not uncommon to have 3-5 ships in port on the same day. Small ship cruises, including Alaskan Dream Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions and UnCruise Adventures, explore smaller ports, bays and inlets that big ships can't reach. Spend the day hiking in pristine rainforest, kayaking close (but a safe distance) to glaciers, and watch whales as they pass next to your boat. Since small ships are not on a set schedule, they are far more flexible and are known to "change course" in order to provide optimum wildlife viewing. opportunities. Not quite your style? Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Ponant have Alaska itineraries that will have you cruising in luxury, yet also visiting some of the smaller ports, away from the big ship crowds.
Australia and New Zealand are growing in popularity, and rightly so. Both offer exceptional nature and wildlife viewing options. In Australia, it goes without saying that the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, is a snorkeling and diving paradise. Most cruises stop in Cairns, the gateway to the reef. The Daintree Rainforest, the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, is home to a wide variety of unique plants and animals and is easily accessible from Cairns.
All of the premium and luxury lines have Australia/New Zealand itineraries, including Azamara Club, Crystal, Oceania, Seabourn and Silversea.
Sometimes described as "Alaska of the South", the Chilean fjords and Patagonia region are just simply spectacular with natural scenery, glaciers and plenty of wildlife. Retrace much of Darwin's route through Tierra del Fuega, explore Cape Horn and marvel at the beauty found in Glacier Alley and Wulaia Bay. The Stella Australis is currently servicing this region, and she will be joined by the new Ventus Australis in January 2018.
Costa Rica might be a small country but it is big in wildlife and nature. National parks and wildlife preserves are teeming with species only found in this region. Sloths, monkeys, macaws. Take a jungle hike, walk through botanical reserves, snorkel or kayak along the beautiful coast. Lindblad Expeditions, Tauck, UnCruise and Windstar have fantastic itineraries.
The Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador, are extremely rich in wildlife. Exotic birds like the blue footed booby, 100 year old tortoises and marine iguanas fascinate all who visit. Take a hike on volcanic islands, swim with lively seal pups or enjoy observing the large variety of birds, including the Galapagos penguin, the only penguin that lives in the northern hemisphere.
The islands of Hawaii offer so much, from fabulous beaches, snorkeling, hiking, whale watching, relaxation and so much more. Now you can explore 4 islands without having to pack/unpack or fly. An authentic, small ship (36 passenger) Hawaiian experience, UnCruise offers itineraries that include Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii. Whale watch, snorkel with turtles, night snorkel with giant manta rays, hike into the Halawa Valley and enjoy a walk through Kaunakakai, Molokai's main town.
Polar bears and penguins, oh my! Well, you'll have to take separate cruises to see them. The Arctic region, including Spitsbergen and Greenland, has the polar bears. But not just polar bears. Plenty of dramatic scenery and the possibility of northern lights. G Adventures, Hurtigruten, Quark, Silversea and Zegrahm offer a number of voyages which may also include Iceland as part of the itinerary. Read more about Spitsbergen.
Trips to the Antarctic will get you up close to a variety of penguins, including the Emperor, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Adelie and chinstrap varieties. How can you go wrong? Of course if you are like me and have a fascination of mountains and ice, Antarctica will not disappoint. Awe inspiring scenery - all included! G Adventures, Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Ponant, Quark, Silversea, Tauck and Zegrahm are a few of the cruise lines with trips to the Great White Continent.
The Sea of Cortez can be described as the Galapagos of the North, given all of the wildlife in the area. Spend your days kayaking, swimming and snorkeling, searching for whales, dolphins, blue footed boobies, pelicans and more. Imagine swimming next to whale sharks that migrate to this area November through January, playing with the sea lions, or seeing the Pacific manta rays leap out of the water. How fun would that be! Or simply enjoy a hike through the beautiful desert landscape. You can do all of this with Lindblad Expeditions and UnCruise.