Expedition style cruises - where a lot of WOW happens. Extraordinary opportunities for curious and adventurous learners and explorers, whether you are well traveled or new to travel onboard a ship.
What is an expedition cruise? A small ship experience (generally under 200 guests on purpose built ships) focused on the nature, wildlife, history and culture of the areas they visit. Ships are very comfortable with plenty of amenities to suit all tastes - premium to ultra-luxury (long gone are the days of roughing it on an old ice breaker).
Photo courtesy of Quark Expeditions
Without a doubt, the Galapagos Islands are one of the most amazing places I have ever been. I have often said that certain trips are life changing - this was one of them.
That said, there are a number of places around the world to venture to for amazing wildlife experiences. Two in particular are often compared to the Galapagos in terms of unique and abundant wildlife – one in North America and one Down Under.
Norway is a beautiful Scandinavian country known for its historical landmarks, Viking heritage, and abundance of natural beauty. There is so much to discover, from large metropolitan cities to charming fishing villages and picturesque fjords.
Whether you are coming for the culture or to spend time outdoors, here are six must-see cities in the country.
Argentina - a fascinating country.
Distinctly South American style and culture with a strong European influence. Not a surprise given the number of people who immigrated here in the 1800 and 1900's - many from Spain and Italy but also France, Germany and Great Britain.
A mountainous and landlocked country south of Uganda and east of Tanzania, Rwanda, one of Africa’s smallest countries, is a gem waiting to be fully discovered. While the star attractions are the silverback mountain gorillas, Rwanda has so much more to experience beyond these magnificent animals.
Incredible wildlife, montane rainforests, sweeping plains, history, culture and welcoming people can all be discovered on a journey to Rwanda.
Without a doubt, the biggest draw of the Galapagos Islands is the wildlife.
The islands are home to the highest percentage of endemic species anywhere in the world. According to the Galapagos Conservancy, about 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and mammals, 30%+ of the plants and 20% of the marine species are only found in these islands. Favorites include the Galapagos tortoises, land and marine iguanas, the flightless cormorant and the Galapagos penguins, the only penguin found in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course there are also other non-endemic favorites, like the blue footed boobie, fur and sea lions.
My Southern Loop cruise itinerary in early June took me to the islands of North Seymour, South Plaza, Santa Fe, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela and Española Islands. Seeing wildlife is never a guarantee, but this is not a problem in the Galapagos. I spotted just about every favorite on the list somewhere along this itinerary. The naturalists told me no matter which itinerary you take you'll see most of the favorites. (If there is a specific species you want to see check with your travel agent to see which itinerary best meets your wants.)
Bottom line, a cruise through the Galapagos Islands is an incredible. My photo story follows.
Seeing wildlife in their natural habitats can be a life changing, soul stirring experience, especially for lovers of "wild things" but equally so for travelers who are simply curious and seeking a bit of adventure.
Wildlife themed itineraries should be experienced in small group settings – whether they be on small expedition and adventure ship cruises or private and small group land tours. Small groups and ships lend themselves perfectly to a better learning and observing environment and offer access to areas that bigger groups and ships just can't. Smaller groups also contribute to the conservation and protection of species. Sustainable tourism - the best way.
Following are 9 top itinerary picks – one (or two) on every continent. Photo credit above: Lindblad Expeditions
I was first "introduced" to the Marquesas Islands back in 2002 during one of the first seasons of Survivor. I use introduced lightly as it was on TV, and on a reality show to boot. It is highly unlikely that I will ever experience these islands the same way as on the show, but the beautiful scenes left a lasting impression on me.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism (Lake-Wakatipu Queenstown)
I know if you were to ask a Kiwi or anyone who has experienced the wonderfulness of New Zealand, they would give way more reasons why you'll fall in love with the country. Wonderful, proud, friendly people, stunning scenery, unique flora, fauna and wildlife, the land of Bilbo Baggins and the Shire, caves lit up by glow worms, delicious food and wine - these just a few.
Top reasons why you'll love a visit to Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud:
Alaska is one of my most asked about destinations when it comes to travel. I'm not surprised - it is such a beautiful place to explore and visit. Wide open spaces, majestic mountains, glorious glaciers, abundant wildlife - what's not to love?
How best to see Alaska? The answer is "it depends" - on you! There are a number of ways to explore this great state, and the best way truly depends on what you want to experience, the time you have and your budget. Options abound to explore Alaska: by sea, by land and by air.
Just like big ship cruising, small ship cruising isn't a one size fits all category.
You've got river cruises, adventure, expedition, and today I'm sharing information about a fourth category - Yacht style.
What are your first thoughts when you hear "yacht style"? For me, I always had this image of beautiful yachts anchored off the Amalfi Coast (like above) . This is a real image. However, yacht style is quite varied, and includes so much more (and destinations).
Yacht style cruises are very much like sailing your own super yacht, and can be like your own personal getaway with friends than a traditional cruise. Read on to see why this type of cruising is so special.
You want more access, more intimate environments, fewer crowds, a quieter experience, a higher level of service and personalization. Private or small group land tours, river and small ship cruises provide all of these things for you.
River, luxury and expedition cruises are ones I share with you regularly, but these are just three of a number of different small ship styles. This week I'm sharing a few of the Adventure style experiences you can have on the water.
Adventure cruises are not your typical cruise experience. No, not crazy and wild, but perfect experiences for those who are seeking something a little different. I know travelers who really enjoy these experiences, especially with their families, then also take time to be spoiled on the luxury ships too.
When thinking of South America, Peru, Brazil and Argentina often get the most attention. But don't overlook Chile, a country with a diverse landscape north to south and ample things to see and experience.
It's no secret. I fell in love with this country over 10 years ago when I visited via a cruise from Valparaiso to Rio de Janeiro. Warm and friendly people, great food, wine, interesting history. The absolute best for me was the amazing scenic beauty and wildlife. There is no doubt I'll be returning.
My top 9 reasons to visit:
Off the south eastern coast of Greece lie some of the most stunning islands of the Aegean Sea – the Cyclades Islands. Meaning “encircling”, the archipelago is named such because they form a rough circle around the island of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Zeus’ children, twins Artemis and her brother Apollo. As stated on the Visit Greece tourism site, Delos is the head priest of the Cyclades, the birthplace of immortals. Delos is not a museum. It is not there to tell a story. It is history itself.
Tucked in a quiet corner of the Indian Ocean is an idyllic chain of islands known as the Maldives. Known for its abundance of luxurious resorts and stunning natural beauty, the Maldives have earned their spot on most traveler’s bucket lists.
What do you do when you get to the Maldives? Aside from soaking up the sun, here are five must-have experiences while in this tropical paradise.
Sometimes a rail trip is just what is needed to thoroughly enjoy the scenic surrounds. No driving, no constant stopping to get that photo, travel through areas where roads don't or can't go. Sit back in luxury, relax and enjoy the ever changing scenery and wildlife (instead of watching the road).
10 epic train adventures to inspire you:
For nature and wildlife enthusiasts, Costa Rica is a perfect destination. The landscapes are ecologically diverse, filled with rainforests, lakes, volcanoes, cloud forests and a wide array of plant, bird and wildlife, from chattering howler monkeys and slow-moving sloths to scarlet macaws, toucans and blue morpho butterflies, one of the largest butterfly in the world. With some luck you may even spot an elusive jaguar or rare tapir.
Stunning, tropical, an amazing experience for sure. And popular.
To get away from the crowds (and additional reasons), I recommend visiting on a small ship cruise: luxury yacht, clipper ship, adventure or expedition style, you have a number of great choices.
River cruising continues to be very, very popular. Plenty of new ships are being launched, along with new itineraries, new ports of call, ships dedicated to younger travelers and excursions dedicated to wellness and being more active.
River cruising is truly amazing. And the good news is that one doesn't have to leave North America to take advantage of this exceptional experience. One region relatively under the radar is the Columbia River (and her tributaries).
A trip to Antarctica is one of the most grand, exhilarating and amazing adventures. Stunning scenery, peaceful landscapes, icebergs, snow, seals, a wide variety whales and of course, penguins! Sites and sounds you will not find anywhere else. Quite the powerful combination.
Before you go, though, you really need to do your research. A trip to Antarctica is a big investment, in yourself and your budget, so you really want to make sure to pick the right trip and ship for your personality, travel style and interests.
The options are many (and growing) and can be overwhelming. Following are 7 things you should consider when choosing your cruise.
Photo credit: Quark Expeditions - David Merron
On flights from Europe back to the US I have had the opportunity to see Greenland numerous times from above. It’s amazing to see this massive landscape, especially on very clear days. The largest island in the world, bigger than France, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined.
Imagine what you’ll experience being there in person. Here are my top 9 reasons to visit.
Photo courtesy of Quark Expeditions
The city of Auckland is full of diversity and personality. It is also New Zealand's largest city with a population of nearly 1.5 million. If you're looking for somewhere exciting to go to on your next vacation, Auckland is the place to be.
Why do you ask? Below are some of the top reasons why you shouldn't miss the opportunity to visit this magnificent city.
Welcome to Tassie! Australia’s smallest state, it is often overlooked as a destination. It shouldn’t be, with so much to see, do, experience. It also boasts having the cleanest air on earth. That in of itself sounds especially inviting.
Here are my other top reasons why you should visit (not listed in any order of importance).
Over 10,000 waterfalls, 130 volcanoes (30 active), 800 hot springs, 269 named glaciers and a population of 334,00 fun and friendly residents, all in an area smaller than the state of Kentucky. This is Iceland.
If you love open spaces and nature mixed with a little adventure (or a lot), then a visit here might just be for you, because Iceland can be simply described in one word -
To really experience all that Iceland has to offer, you need 7-10 days to explore the country. But if you only have a few days (maybe you are on a stopover to/from Europe or you are on a cruise), day trips in and from Reykjavik will have you leaving with WOW memories.
My top suggestions include the following:
Anchorage Visitor Center (JodyO. Photos)
Alaska is a top bucket list destination for many. The stunning beauty, nature and wildlife is just amazing. People are friendly, indigenous experiences are exceptional and the regional foods outstanding.
When discussing Alaska trips with clients, it almost always includes sailing through the Inside Passage. And it should. With all the experiences available, what an amazing region!
But I’m here to tell you a land only vacation is equally amazing.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways - AmaMagna
Ocean cruises have been a popular way to vacation for decades, and for good reason. They’re affordable, convenient and offer travelers peace of mind knowing that everything they need for a fantastic getaway is all in one place. What could be better than that? Well, consider a river cruise.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder