Is exploring nature and watching wildlife one of your favorite ways to vacation? Do you like to hike, paddleboard, snorkel, kayak? How about snapping pictures of whales, bears or flying manta rays? Maybe sitting back and watching beautiful scenery go by is more your style? If you said yes to any of these, you are in luck! Fantastic destinations on small ship cruises await you all around the world.
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.
Photos courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions (1), UnCruise ( intro, 2-3), Alaskan Dream Cruises (4) and Travel Juneau (5)
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
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.
Great Barrier Reef; Daintree Rainforest
In Western Australia, the remote Kimberley region is known for its rugged coast, vast wilderness and dramatic landscapes. With very few roads in the region, most of the rivers and beautiful waterfalls are only accessible by boat. APT, Lindblad Expeditions, Northstar and Zegrahm offer spectacular itineraries.
Photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
New Zealand is nature's paradise, with stunning landscapes, beautiful fjords and plenty of wildlife viewing. Foodies and culture seeking will love Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch, but a main draw to New Zealand is most definitely the scenic cruising through Fiordland National Park and the Marlborough Sounds.
All of the premium and luxury lines have Australia/New Zealand itineraries, including Azamara Club, Crystal, Oceania, Seabourn and Silversea.
Marlbourough Sounds; Milford Sound (photo by Nathan Secker)
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.
Photos courtesy of Australis
COSTA RICA AND PANAMA CANAL
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.
Photos courtesy of UnCruise (1-4) and Lindblad Expeditions (5-6).
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.
Photos courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions (1-2), Uncruise (3) and Celebrity (4).
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.
Photos courtesy of UnCruise.
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.
Pictures courtesy of (in order) Lindblad Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Ponant, Quark Expeditions.
SEA OF CORTEZ
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.
Photos courtesy of UnCruise (1-4) and Lindblad Expeditions (5-6),
I'm an expert travel planner and know the cruise industry quite well, especially small ship cruises. If you would like help on finding the perfect cruise for you, please call (602.540.7338) or use this convenient form and I'll be in touch as quickly as possible.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder