If luxury travelers are seeking adventure, both traditional cruise ships of all sizes and expedition vessels can take them to it — in the form of remote ports or enticing adventures ashore. Here are our top picks for those journeys to adventure.
Aldabra, Praslin, the Seychelles: Nestled within the Seychelles’ Outer Islands, Aldabra, a gigantic coral atoll, is closer to the African coastline than to Victoria, Mahe, the nation’s capital. The big adventure draw? Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Aldabra is home to 150,000 giant tortoises, the world’s largest land turtle colony, plus the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve with thousands of rare coco-de-mer palms. Ponant’s new 184-passenger Le Lapérouse, one of the four new Explorer ice-class vessels launching in 2018 and 2019, will have a maiden call at Aldabra during its 13-day “Treasures of the Seychelles” cruise roundtrip from Mahe, departing November 29, 2018.
Scuba divers and snorkelers can head into the water at Aldabra, Poivre, Astove and a coral reef within the Alphonse lagoon. Within Ponant’s dive collection, this voyage will carry both an experienced dive instructor and a local guide. With 92 accommodations, Le Lapérouse is expected to combine an expedition-style experience with upscale service and such luxury amenities as 24-hour room service.
One public space “wow factor” is likely to be the vessel’s new multi-sensorial underwater lounge, being designed in partnership with architect Jacques Rougerie, an Institut de France member, although specifics aren’t yet available. The top accommodation onboard is the Owner’s Suite with a private balcony, king-sized bed or twin beds, minibar, flat-screen TV, desk with stationery, iPod player, video on demand and much more.
Banjul, the Gambia: Delivering a robust snapshot of life within the African continent’s western coastline and offshore islands is Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new 750-passenger, all-suite Seven Seas Explorer. An exotic 24-day Lisbon, Portugal to Cape Town, South Africa voyage, departing November 28, 2018, includes port calls that are not on the radar of many lines. Plus, cruisers can add on the subsequent 15-night, New Year’s cruise roundtrip from Cape Town on December 22, 2018, to visit southern Africa ports between Walvis Bay, Namibia on the west to Maputo, Mozambique on the east. Combined, it’s a 39-day, in-depth African experience.
Banjul, the Gambia provides Regent guests a snapshot of life within the African continent’s western coastline.
Regent includes many shore excursions, notably a five-hour “Off the Beaten Track: Four-Wheel Adventure” shore excursion at Banjul, the Gambia. After stops within the bustling Greater Banjul Area, the off-road vehicle explores the bush in search of monkeys, birds and baboons in the treetops. It also will take cruisers to rural villages and the Tanji nature trail.
The all-suite Seven Seas Explorer has an amazing 3,026-square-foot, two-bedroom Regent Suite with 1,417 square feet of space on two balconies. Guests can luxuriate in two-and-one-half bathrooms with marble and stone details; a private in-suite spa with sauna, steam room and whirlpool; and private solarium.
Oban, Stewart Island, New Zealand: Stewart Island is rugged, laid-back and mostly covered by Rakiura National Park. Did you know that more than 20,000 kiwis, New Zealand’s elusive national bird, roam freely here? They’re shy, but given the numbers, cruisers have a decent chance of spotting one. In Maori, Rakiura means “land of glowing skies,” referring to the area’s sunsets and Aurora Australis (southern lights).
A hint of civilization is found at Oban, also called Halfmoon Bay, a maiden call for Azamara Club Cruises’ 690-passenger Azamara Quest during the 16-night “New Zealand Intensive” voyage from Auckland to Sydney, sailing on January 22, 2019. This itinerary is also designated as a PerryGolf voyage; an optional golf package includes play at spectacular courses at other ports, but there are no courses in Oban. Here top visitor activities are “tramping” (the local word for “hiking”), kayaking and birding. For botany and birding fans, Azamara’s “Ulva Island Guided Walk” shore excursion will take cruisers from Oban to Ulva to spot rare and endangered birds and plants.
Alternatively, Azamara’s “Paterson Inlet Cruise” shore excursion showcases the island’s clear and crystalline waters, jagged rocks, beaches, bays, salmon farms at Big Glory Bay and the ruins of a Norwegian whaling-boat repair station. For lunch, we’d head for Oban’s South Sea Hotel’s restaurant or pub to order Stewart Island Blue Cod and chips (fries) or oysters (natural or deep fried), plus a beer brewed in the town’s sister city, Oban, Scotland.
Parikia, Paros, Greece: Cruisers who’ve previously traveled to the Greek islands may still want to visit Mykonos and Santorini again. Yet, they are also likely to desire to see other Greek isles not frequented by other ships. Covering both bases is SeaDream Yacht Club with its 10-day roundtrip Athens (Piraeus) Greek Isles itinerary on SeaDream I, departing September 13, 2017. Yes, it calls at Mykonos (overnight stay) and Santorini, but we particularly like the rest of the itinerary for calls at Paros, Patmos, Sifnos, Agia Anna (Naxos), Spetses and “car-less” Hydra.
Parikia in Paros, Greece will give fit travelers a chance to take SeaDream’s “Paros Trekking Exploration,” described by the line as “strenuous.”
At Paros, fit travelers can take SeaDream’s “Paros Trekking Exploration,” described by the line as “strenuous.” Cruisers will explore Lefkes’ medieval section before walking up a dirt track and old walled footpath to the top of Pigados hamlet. The trek will continue to the uninhabited 16th-century Monastery of Saint Mina, nestled on a hillside above Marathi. Cruisers then will hike downhill to that village to view the Ancient Marble Quarries. Donning headlamps, they’ll explore the corridor between the quarry’s two interconnecting entrances. Factoid? The quarries’ white Parian marble was used to sculpt the famed Venus de Milo.
The 112-passenger SeaDream I provides a “yachting not cruising” approach with elegant informality and personalized service onboard, a focus on cuisine and a Thai-certified spa. At press time, the 447-square-foot Owner’s Suite was still available; it features a living room / dining room area, guest bathroom, and a master bedroom and bathroom with a soaking tub.
Port Antonio, Jamaica: Luxury cruisers who’ve already explored Jamaica from Montego Bay, Ocho Rios or Falmouth have a new option in Port Antonio, which government tourism officials describe as an emerging “boutique” port on Jamaica’s northeastern shore. Helping speed interest in Port Antonio is its proximity to Cuba. Oceania Cruises’ 684-passenger Sirena will call at Port Antonio for the first time on its nine-day “Breezes, Bays & Beaches” itinerary roundtrip from Miami on October 18, 2018. Cruisers will also visit the Cuban ports of Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, in addition to Nassau, the Bahamas.
While Oceania’s shore trips aren’t yet final, Port Antonio is a gateway to eco-adventure. At Reach Falls, travelers can relax in the water, climb the falls or head for the Mandingo underwater cave with a guide. Another eco-option is a guided Rio Grande River rafting trip on a bamboo raft. Or, why not do as famed marine biologist Jacques Cousteau once did and hit the water at the Blue Lagoon (formerly Blue Hole)? This gorgeous lagoon mixes warm sea water with cool freshwater from local springs.
Surfers, snorkelers or wind surfers can play at Boston Bay (or Boston Beach), a small cove nestled between Long Bay and Port Antonio. But the top draw is “jerk,” as the bay’s jerk pits serve up authentic Jamaican jerk chicken, pork, shrimp, fish and, at times, lobster. We’d pair the spicy dishes with “festival,” a fried, slightly sweet dumpling that resembles a break stick and a Jamaican brew.
Gough Island, UK: Part of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, the volcanic Gough Island is uninhabited except for the people living at a South African weather station. So, if luxury travelers desire “off-the-beaten-path,” this is clearly it. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected wildlife reserve and bird estuary, Gough is one of the world’s most remote places. Pending UK government approval, Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Cloud will call at Gough during its 21-day Antarctica expedition cruise from Ushuaia to Cape Town, South Africa, departing on February 28, 2018.
Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Cloud will sail to Antarctica on a 21-day expedition cruise after a refurbishment later this year.
Later this year, Silver Cloud will emerge from drydock as a refurbished, reconfigured, ice-class ship, serving a maximum of 200 guests on Antarctica cruises and carrying a full expedition team and many Zodiacs. Conditions permitting, Silversea Expeditions plans a Zodiac adventure at Gough so cruisers can look for such birds as Tristan albatross, Atlantic petrel, Gough moorhen, Gough bunting and northern rockhopper penguins.
Onboard, the ship will combine an expedition focus with a luxury lifestyle. Guests can expect a new Observation Lounge; new gym with Technogym equipment; new teak flooring, upholstery and lighting in La Terrazza; and new carpet and upholstery in The Restaurant. For the ultimate in space and comfort, cruisers can spread out in a Grand Suite with 1,019 square feet as a one-bedroom or 1,314 square feet with two bedrooms.
Heimaey, Iceland: Seabourn Cruise Line’s new 15-day “British Isles & Iceland” voyage on the 450-passenger Seabourn Quest departs May 17, 2018. The line hasn’t called at many of the ports in five-plus years, and we particularly like the in-depth approach to both the UK and Iceland. Departing from Dover, UK, the ship will call at Bristol (Bath), England; Milford Haven, Wales; Douglas, Isle of Man; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Greenock (Glasgow), Oban, Fort William and Portree, Isle of Skye, all in Scotland. In Iceland, calls are planned for Seydisfjordur, Djupivogur, Heimaey in the Westman Islands, Grundarfjordur and Reykjavik, where the journey ends.
Heimaey, Iceland will be visited by Seabourn’s “British Isles & Iceland” voyage on the Seabourn Quest.
While Seabourn was still finalizing shore excursions at press time, it plans “Ventures by Seabourn” options, typically kayaking or guided Zodiac excursions accompanied by a member of the ship’s expedition team. These appeal to guests seeking more adventure than a typical cruise shore trip. In Heimaey, don’t be surprised to see a puffin-shaped street sign that says “Pompei” (the Italian spelling) with an arrow pointing to an area of the island destroyed by a devastating 1973 volcanic eruption. To learn more, tour the Eldheimar museum (translated, “worlds of fire”), a modern archaeological dig, which is starting to unearth buried structures; photographs also tell the story. Alternatively, those taking a boat ride will see a lava coastline.
Cruisers can also hike, play golf or take a day cruise to spot birds, dolphins or whales. For lunch or dinner ashore, those who’ve booked a table in advance can dine at Slippurinn, a highly rated (by the White Guide) family-run, Icelandic restaurant in a former industrial workshop. We’d order the lobster soup as a starter and for the main course, a leg of lamb and rhubarb with celeriac, horseradish, hazelnuts and jus. Or, alternatively, head for Seabourn’s onboard signature restaurant, The Grill by Thomas Keller for dinner, perhaps ordering a succulent steak or lobster.
Kangaroo Island, Australia: Minutes from mainland Australia, but seemingly a different world, the wild Kangaroo Island is a port of call for Crystal Cruises’ 84-day “Ocean Realms and World Discoveries” World Cruise on Crystal Serenity, sailing on January 14, 2019 from Los Angeles to Monte Carlo. Wildlife buffs will love the chance to spot kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, penguins and birds. We’d recommend luxury cruisers an eco-bent stroll along the boardwalk and trails of Flinders Chase National Park to look for platypus and kangaroo, as well as indigenous flora. The geological formations, Rocks and Admirals Arch, create dramatic “selfie” opportunities.
Stewart Island, Australia is known for “tramping” (the local word for “hiking”), kayaking and birding opportunities.
On the marine side, Seal Bay Conservation Park is a good place to spot Australian sea lions, while Vivonne Bay Beach is significant for its white sands, good surfing and clear waters and, at times, seals. The full World Cruise encompasses Hawaii; Australia and New Zealand; South Africa; and the Mediterranean by way of the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. Those seeking soft adventure will enjoy “Big Five” safaris in Africa, treks throughout the Australian Outback and Madagascar, and scuba dive, snorkel, mountain bike and hike in Hawaii.
Crystal Serenity will be fresh from a major drydock update with guest capacity reduced from 1,070 to 980 and the debut of open seating in the main dining room. Among many changes, several staterooms on Deck 10 will be converted to Penthouse (PH) and Penthouse Suite (PS) category accommodations.
For those who prefer a bigger ship experience, Cunard Line’s 2,092-passenger Queen Elizabeth also makes a maiden call at Kangaroo Island in 2019. Whichever ship travelers prefer, though, cruise industry vessels provide incredible “access” to remote spots and allow luxury travelers to journey to adventure in style.
Far and Away
Luxury Travel Advisor also likes these oceangoing voyages for their “high adventure” quotient.
Southern Line Islands, Kiribati: During Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic’s 2018 and 2019 “Isles, Atolls, and Pristine Corals” itinerary, roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti, the 102-passenger National Geographic Orion (on multiple dates) sails to the Republic of Kiribati’s Southern Line Islands. Guests can snorkel over giant clams, ride Zodiacs through reef passes, see nesting boobies or dive to Kiribati’s reefs.
Svalbard Archipelago, Norway: For 2019, Scenic Cruises’ new oceangoing Scenic Eclipse will operate a 23-day “Ultimate Arctic and Fjords” itinerary from Bergen to Longyearbyen. Just 200 guests will experience the Svalbard Archipelago with its frozen tundra, Arctic wildlife and glaciers. Guests will head out via Zodiacs, kayaks, snow shoes and even a submarine.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: During Star Legend’s 14-day “Icons of Southeast Asia” cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong on March 3, 2018, Windstar Cruises’ guests on a Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam port call can opt for a shore excursion to the Vietnam-era tunnels and head underground. After a chat with the guide about difficulty levels, the most adventurous can even go deeper.
Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde islands will be a port of call for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 500-passenger Europa 2.
Komodo Island, Indonesia: Departing January 5, 2018, Viking Ocean Cruises’ first 120-day World Cruise from Los Angeles to London on the 930-passenger Viking Sun covers five continents. Among dozens of maiden calls is Komodo Island, Indonesia, which is home to the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon. Viking includes a guided visit to the island’s national park.
Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde Islands: During 2018-2019, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 500-passenger Europa 2 will sail to 17 new ports, including Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde islands on a 17-day cruise from Grand Canaria to Cape Town, South Africa, departing October 19, 2018. Opt for the line’s off-road Jeep tour for stunning views of mountain massif and volcanic craters.
Vairao, Tahiti: During multiple dates in 2018, Paul Gauguin Cruises will visit Vairao in Tahiti Iti, the smaller of two landmasses making up the island of Tahiti, on seven-night “Society Islands & Tahiti Iti” voyages plus a special 10-night sailing. Top draws are a wild coastline, petroglyphs, marae (temples), Polynesian culture and surfing.