Sailing to Adventure in 2021 and Beyond

(Getty Images) Antarctica has always enticed cruisers seeking ice adventure. Quark Expeditions is offering an eight-day “Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake” itinerary, which has many such departures in 2021 and 2022.

To some luxury travelers, adventure means walking on a glacier or taking an ATV ride, while for others it’s trekking, sea kayaking, scuba diving or snorkeling. Travelers also find adventure by diving deep into fantastic tales of past civilizations, pirates and movie settings, or heading out for such modern-day adventures as shipboard virtual reality or laser tag. Here are new luxury cruise options for 2021 and beyond.   

Hiking and Waterfalls 

Located on a stunningly gorgeous fjord, Eskifjordur, Iceland, is a maiden call for Oceania Cruises in 2021 and a notable call for Seabourn, too, while across the globe, Silversea Cruises has a maiden call at Makassar, Indonesia. What do the two ports have in common? It’s the ability for guests to hike to waterfalls and see local flora and fauna.  

With a strong fishing heritage, Iceland’s Eskifjordur is a charming coastal village that’s a bit off-the-beaten path. Hiking is highly popular with both locals and visitors alike who trek through green meadows and valleys to view waterfalls and craggy mountains and spot sea birds, wading birds, ducks and geese. 

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Oceania’s 684-passenger Sirena calls at Eskifjordur on its 12-day “Kilts and Fjords” itinerary from Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K., to Reykjavik, Iceland. The voyage begins with an overnight in Edinburgh, then calls at Dundee, Invergordon, Ullapool, and Kirkwall (Orkney Islands), U.K., prior to an overnight at Torshavn in Denmark’s Faroe Islands, and then calls at Eskifjordur, Akureyri, Isafjordur and finally Reykjavik, all in Iceland. 

Luxury Travel Advisor would head out on Oceania’s five-hour “Hike to Hengifoss Waterfall” shore excursion. Cruisers will see a lake where local legend says a “Loch Ness monster-type creature” lives and then hike a winding trail to Hengifoss, Iceland’s third-highest waterfall tumbling over a red-and-black-striped cliff face. They’ll also see Litlanesfoss, a waterfall surrounded by columns of basalt.

Another hike takes a different thematic twist. The half-day “Wartime Reydarfjordur & Waterfall” excursion will provide scenic views of the wild Holmanes Peninsula; museum time at the Icelandic Wartime Museum to view World War II artifacts; and a ravine hike to the Buoara waterfall.

Also sailing into Eskifjordur is Seabourn’s 15-day “Northern Isles Quest” itinerary, which departs Reykjavik, Iceland for Dover (London), U.K. on July 7, 2021. Guests on the 458-passenger Seabourn Quest who want to see rugged scenic beauty ashore can opt for Seabourn’s “Skalanes Nature Reserve” excursion to one of Iceland’s most remote places. Guests head from the pier in a motorcoach, but then move to a 4x4 truck to traverse more rugged terrain.  

At Thorarinsstadir, guests will see an archaeological site and artifacts from the earliest years of Iceland’s settlement, plus transit a peaceful green valley (with abandoned farms) surrounded by high mountains. Cruisers will visit the heritage center within the Skalanes Nature Reserve; the reserve draws dozens of bird species each summer and eider ducks usually nest in great numbers around a pond. 

Then tour goers will set out on a guided hike to the soaring Skalanes’ coastal cliffs, which will provide good proximity to nesting sea birds. It’s also possible to spot seals, reindeer and even an occasional whale on this hike. 

Providing a different waterfall and eco-experience is Makassar, formerly known as Ujung Pandang and part of the Dutch East India Company for more than a century. For the first time, Silversea calls here in late 2021 and early 2022. On one Silversea shore excursion, guests take a 50-minute scenic drive into the countryside for a visit to the Balla Lompoa Museum, a former small wooden palace which displays weapons and royal costumes. 

Then, they’ll visit Benteng Somba Opu to gaze at a fascinating array of houses with different architectural styles, representing such local tribes as the Mamasa, Bujis and Toraja. Finally, the tour stops at the enormous 16th-century Fort Rotterdam, also called Benteng Makassar and once the center for the Gowa Kingdom and trading by the Dutch. 

If guests feel the call of the wild, though, Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park is just 30 miles away from the port and private transport can be arranged pre-cruise with Silversea or with the ship’s concierge or shore office onboard. With a Bujis name meaning “water” and “roaring,” it’s not surprising that the park’s top draw is the immense Bantimurung Waterfall, aptly described as a “work of art,” as water rushes through its multi-level rock streams with a colorful natural backdrop. 

We’d also suggest checking out the park’s Goa Mimpi (Dream Cave) with millennia-old cave art and Goa Batu (Stone Cave). Another natural attraction at Bantimurung are butterflies, who like the park’s limestone hills, steep walls and tropical heat. It’s the perfect butterfly breeding ground. Cruisers can also tour a butterfly museum.

Silversea offers several voyages that call at Makassar including Silver Explorer’s 38-night voyage from Apra, Guam to Singapore, departing April 9, 2021. That 144-passenger expedition ship also calls on a 19-day sailing from Cairns to Singapore on April 28, 2021. In addition, the line’s 388-passenger Silver Shadow calls at the port on its January 4 voyage from Singapore to Cairns, and its April 20 departure from Cairns to Singapore. 

Other adventures can be found across the globe on other Silversea maiden calls between October 2021 and April 2022 including Manama, Bahrain; Miyako, Japan; Puerto Bolivar, Ecuador and more. 

The Simos Beach in Elafonisos

The Simos Beach is a major attraction in Elafonisos. Guests on Atlas Ocean Voyages will visit this Greek coast in 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Underwater Adventure 

For scuba diving enthusiasts, exploring shipwrecks or glimpsing part of an ancient underwater city can deliver a rush of adrenaline. Several lines have maiden calls at ports — Elafonisos, Greece and Port Royal, Jamaica —  that offer scuba possibilities. 

More than a hundred years ago, geologist Fokion Negri reported finding an ancient city in the seabed near Elafonisos, off the coast of Greece’s southern Laconia region. In the last half of the 20th century, oceanographers and others also found sizable evidence of a submerged city. But the real “reveal” happened in 2011, when the BBC used a special laser scanning technique to accurately recreate 3-D models of the city’s structures and artifacts. 

Presto, Pavlopetri, thought to be the world’s oldest submerged Bronze Age city, was “rediscovered.” Many ruins are just 10 to 14 feet beneath the water’s surface. But Elafonisos is rarely visited on cruise itineraries, so how does one get there? 

A new small-ship luxury adventure line, Atlas Ocean Voyages, will call at Elafonisos during its 11-night “Navigating Greek Wonders” itinerary, operated by the 196-passenger World Navigator from Valletta, Malta to Piraeus (Athens), Greece on July 17, 2021. While scuba enthusiasts will likely want to head out for a day of diving, Elafonisos has another strong eco-appeal — pristine Simos Beach with miles of empty sands, patches of grass and few tourists. 

In addition, this itinerary also calls at other Greek destinations including Syracuse (Noto), Zakynthos, Olympia (Katakolon), Chania and Sitia on Crete, Lindos (Rhodes) and Mykonos (Delos), plus Kusadasi (Ephesus) in Turkey. 

On the other side of the world, Port Royal along Jamaica’s southeastern coastline was once the Caribbean’s largest port and a notorious 18th-century hangout for pirates and privateers.  Infamous pirate Henry Morgan even served as lieutenant governor back in the day and pirate John Rackham (aka “Calico Jack”) was among the dozens of marauders hanged here. Certainly, fans of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies (in which Port Royal was a plot element) will enjoy visiting. 

On the outskirts of Kingston, today’s Port Royal is a sleepy fishing village, a sizable change from the teeming city visitors encountered centuries ago. Calling at Port Royal for the first time in 2022, Crystal Cruises tells potential cruisers that the city’s moniker of the past was “the wickedest city on Earth.” But over the past few centuries, Port Royal has seemingly faded into the past. More accurately, it’s slipped beneath the ocean. 

Originally built largely over sand, Port Royal was destroyed in a 1692 earthquake and tsunami, and further damaged by subsequent earthquakes, fires and hurricanes. Today, the 17th-century city is found at depths of up to 40 feet of water. While scuba divers need an academic permit for diving, dive operators can often make the arrangements, plus there are also intriguing shipwreck dive sites open to all divers. 

That said, Crystal’s guests who prefer to experience Port Royal’s swashbuckling history on solid land can head for the 1656-era Fort Charles, one of six forts and only a few structures from Port Royal’s heyday to survive to the present era. As guides tell tales of pirates and privateers, it’s easy for cruisers to pretend Captain Jack Sparrow is just around the corner.  

Ice Adventures

While many ships sail to areas that are close to the North Pole, Ponant’s new, 270-passenger Le Commandant Charcot — slated to begin cruising in spring 2021 — will sail the first voyage to the precise geographic spot that’s the North Pole, thanks to its construction as a Polar ice breaker, in layman’s terms. The North Pole is covered with ice floes year-round. The new ship will depart for the 15-night “True Geographic North Pole” from Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Norway to Reykjavik, Iceland on July 24, 2021 and, in reverse, on August 23, 2021.

Certainly, cruisers will have amazing bragging rights — with “selfies” to prove their achievement — about traveling to a destination few people on Earth have ever visited. Plus, this itinerary brims with nature-based outings such as hiking or Zodiac journeys with commentary by expert naturalists. For those who love wildlife, there’s the potential for spotting polar bears, Arctic foxes, Svalbard reindeer, Arctic terns, walruses, seals and whales. 

Scheduled to set sail in 2021 is the 264-passenger, all-suite, all-veranda Seabourn Venture, Seabourn’s first expedition-style vessel, which has many itineraries to Arctic or Antarctic landscapes. A sister polar class, PC6, vessel will launch in spring 2022. In addition, the ship will carry two submarines for showcasing the underwater world, as well as mountain bikes, e-bikes and Zodiacs. 

Many expeditions to Antarctica are two weeks or longer, allowing for sailing to/from Ushuaia, Argentina, via the Drake Passage. But for time-starved travelers, Quark Expeditions is among those offering an eight-day “Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake” itinerary, which has many such departures by the 172-passenger World Explorer and the 128-passenger Ocean Adventurer in 2021 and 2022.

The sailings avoid the long ocean journey often with rough seas while transiting the Drake Passage. Instead, cruisers take a charter flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands, saving time by eliminating many sea days. Guests then begin exploring by ship from a much closer location. The World Explorer has both a glass-domed observation lounge and accommodations with private walk-out or French balconies. 

Kayaking and Birding 

A 2021-2022 maiden call for Regent Seven Seas Cruises is Naze on Amami Oshima, a Japanese island of lush hills ringed with white beaches; it lies several hundred miles south of Kyushu and is known for coral reefs, mangroves and forests. Here, cruisers will discover an incredible range of flora and fauna including the Amani rabbit, a rare black hare, as well as giant clumps of the sub-tropical cycad plant, one of the world’s oldest surviving species. Yes, think “dinosaur food.” 

The 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer calls at Naze on a number of voyages including “Tokyo to Tokyo” cruises departing October 11, 2021 and March 8, 2022. For those who love outdoor adventure, we’d suggest a snorkeling adventure in Amami Oshima’s turquoise waters or a kayak or canoe tour of Kuroshio no Mori Mangrove Park, Japan’s second-largest mangrove forest. 

On Regent Seven Seas’ “Canoeing at Mangrove Forest Park” excursion, travelers will paddle through a network of waterways within the mangroves. It’s a quiet, natural experience, and in certain areas of the park, older and taller mangroves form an arching canopy. Be sure to look for the Lidth’s jay, a bird that’s easily recognized for its deep purplish-blue color. 

Two other local activities for a port day in Naze? Travelers can sample Amami-Keihan, a local specialty comprising chicken breast, a thin sliced omelet, shiitake mushrooms and green onions placed atop rice with a hot chicken soup poured over it. Or, it’s fun to browse for just the right Oshima Tsumugi, a locally produced silk fabric that’s light yet warm and comfortable. 

Valdez, Alaska, is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains. Windstar Cruises will make a maiden call to Valdez in 2021. Photo: Reinhard Pantke

Helicopters and ATVs

Windstar Cruises is making maiden calls to both Petersburg and Valdez, Alaska in 2021. The 312-passenger Star Breeze, fresh from a major update that is adding suites and amenities onboard, will sail an 11-day “Alaskan Glaciers and Prince William Sound itinerary” between Seward (Anchorage) and Vancouver on July 5, 2021; this and other sailings too will feature Valdez. While best known as a major port where oil tankers are loaded with crude oil from the southern terminus of the Alaska pipeline, Valdez is also a good jumping off point for travelers seeking thrilling adventures. 

Located at the mouth of the Port Valdez fjord, 11 miles inland from Prince Williams Sound, Valdez is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains and in close proximity to the Columbia, Worthington, Valdez and Meares glaciers. For optimum glacial viewing, we’d recommend booking Windstar’s “Concierge Collection: Helicopter Glacier Explorer Tour” with aerial views of multiple glaciers, plus waterfalls and possibly wildlife. 

Or, Windstar guests seeking a more grounded adventure can experience Windstar’s “Mineral Creek ATV Tour,” a 13-mile roundtrip ride to/from Mineral Creek Canyon. Guests relax and soak in the scenery as a driver handles the ATV; they’ll see waterfalls and journey into the Chugach Mountains, while learning about Valdez’s gold mining history.  

Throughout these Windstar voyages, guests can also tap into Windstar’s Signature Expeditions’ adventures as a team of expedition experts will sail for the entire cruise and lead guided Zodiac and kayak tours within Alaska’s fjords. 

Coastal Canoeing and Sailing

For travelers who love Italy but have “been there, done that” throughout the country on multiple trips, one new port call for Azamara is Ancona, nestled along the Adriatic Sea. With a seagoing heritage, the city founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BC is best-known in cruise circles as home to Fincantieri’s shipyard, at which Silversea’s new Silver Moon, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Splendor and Viking’s ocean ships, among many others, have been constructed.

Now, though, the city is coming into its own as a port of call and a new destination for repeat Italy cruisers. Sailing into Ancona, history buffs will discover a triumphal Roman arch at the port; it was built in era of Emperor Hadrian, who from his “own pocket” funded port improvements. The Ancona Cathedral soars above the city on Guasco Hill atop the former Greek Acropolis. 

In Ancona, many shore options focus on the city itself, and active, fit travelers can head out on the line’s walking tour around the downtown area. Independently minded guests can also head outside the city for coastal canoeing, a small boat sailing tour, e-bike adventures, the Natural Regional Park of Gola della Rossa and Frasassi (the so-called “green heart” of the Marche Region, of which Ancona is the capital), or hiking or water play at Portonovo Bay, within the Conero National Park. 

Other upcoming maiden calls for Azamara in 2021 are Milos and Pylos, Greece; Brest, France; and Husavik, Finland.

Tree-Climbing and Virtual Adventure 

Luxury travelers with an adventure mindset who sail on Atlas Ocean Voyages in fall 2021 will love the maiden call at Paraty, Brazil on that line’s 13-night “Intense Brazil: Samba and Sun” cruise, departing October 21, 2021 from Recife, Brazil to Montevideo, Uruguay. Covering nearly 25 acres in the Atlantic Forest, Paraty Sport Aventura Park is the country’s largest natural tree-climbing park, but it also has zip-lining, kayaking, canyoning and rappelling. Guests can set out to conquer each challenge. 

Two routes have different difficulty levels, both with obstacles. The Green trail is rated easy to moderate and includes trellis and net climbing. The Red Trail is more difficult and includes a mountain climbing route with a 15-foot leap into the water at Tarzan’s Jump. Passengers may also choose to go forest zip lining or rappel over a cliff or down a waterfall.

Norwegian Encore has the largest racetrack at sea, giving motorsports fans a chance to zip around a two-level track. // Photo: Susan J. Young

Luxury travelers traveling with family often choose to reserve a pampering suite on a big ship that offers more in the way of family activity options. In one example, luxury guests with family in tow may opt for a vacation on Norwegian Cruise Line. We’d recommend accommodations within The Haven, the exclusive ship-within-a-ship complex on the new, 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore

Families can enjoy that luxurious, intimate enclave — entered via key-card and with its own pool, lounge, restaurant and concierge services — but also head out to the big ship spaces that family groups crave. For example, families can play laser tag in a top deck “set” that’s decorated with a humongous serpent look and has the aura of the “Lost City of Atlantis” or, alternatively, ride in a Jurassic Park vehicle and try to avoid a huge T-Rex. Separately, motorsports fans can climb into a race car and zip around a two-level track, the largest racetrack at sea. 

Increasingly, the big ship lines are getting more adventurous in their port calls too — calling at more than typical resort isles. On its 16-day “Panama Canal” cruise from Miami to Los Angeles on April 10, 2021, the 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore’s guests can head out to explore Colon, Panama, a maiden port call. Near the entrance to the Panama Canal, Colon is a destination with both a historic fort and outdoor activities at Portobelo National Park. Throughout this itinerary, cruisers will also have opportunities for snorkeling, beach time and hiking. 

Important note: Due to the unprecedented health crisis engulfing the globe this year, ship delivery dates, schedules, regions of operation and specific voyages may change, so please check with suppliers at the time of booking.

Into the Wild

Russian Far East: The new, 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance is Lindblad Expeditions’ first polar new-build since 1969. While the vessel has been delivered, the current “pause” in operations means it’s not yet sailing. But when it does, guests will have a smooth ride even in rough waters; the ship has a revolutionary X-Bow and a Polar Code 5 ice-class hull. 

On June 28, 2021, this new ship sails a thrilling “Franz Josef Land & The Kara Sea” itinerary from Tromso, Norway, to Murmansk, Russia and the remote Russian High Arctic archipelagos including Franz Josef Land. Guests will view pristine wilderness and search for polar bears, whales, walruses and seabird colonies. 

“The Wild Bears of Anan” excursion will offer Crystal guests an opportunity to watch bears feasting on spawning salmon. // Photo: Wrangell Convention and Visitors Bureau

Peruvian Amazon: Small-ship luxury Aqua Expeditions currently offers eco-adventures along Peru’s Amazon River with Aria Amazon, and it will soon have a second ship sailing that river too. Arriving in South America later this year, the new 40-passenger Aqua Nera will offer a rainforest-to-table dining experience by Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and three-, four- and seven-night journeys into the Peruvian Amazon region.  

Remote Alaska: When Crystal Endeavor, Crystal’s first expedition vessel sets sail in 2021, it will sail everywhere from the Russian Far East to South America and Antarctica. Next June, July and early August, though, it will sail closer to home — within Alaska — offering cruises between Anchorage and Seward or roundtrip from Vancouver, BC. During a Wrangell port call, guests can head out on “The Wild Bears of Anan” excursion to watch bears feasting on spawning salmon.

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