Don’t want to spend your vacation circling the Caribbean in a gigantic floating hotel? Find out how to get more adventure—and a brag-worthy itinerary!—on your next cruise ship getaway.
Ready to plan your next cruise getaway? Huge ocean liners may serve up endlessly long buffets and upper decks the size of Texas, but oftentimes, they’re too large to visit some of the world’s more adventurous destinations. That’s why we love smaller cruise liners.
Rather than using bells and whistles to distract you, simplified on-board offerings allow you to tune into the natural world beyond the starboard and port side rails. And thanks to their streamlined frames, smaller ships can also navigate through tight spots, offering extreme close-ups of whales, dolphins, birds and other wildlife. On the smallest vessels, you may even get the sensation that you’re being escorted by a private yacht—one more benefit to downsizing on your next cruise getaway.
1. Destination: Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Line: Un-Cruise Adventures
Aboard the 86-passenger Safari Endeavour you are encouraged to get personal with nature as the ship slips through the wildlife-rich Sea of Cortez. Home to over 900 islands and thousands of species of marine, air and land animals, this waterway snuggled between Mexico’s Baja penninsula and its mainland provides the ideal location for spotting dolpins, whales, sea lions, butterfly rays and schools of sergaent majors. But rather than simply catching a glimpse of the animals from one of the ships three decks, you can view them from a kayak, inflatable skiff or stand up paddleboard (the ship’s “EZ Dock” launch makes these excursions a snap). Daily visits to private beaches and uninhabited islands provide even greater opportunity to spot unique species not found anywhere else in the world. (un-cruise.com)
2. Destination: Borneo
Line: Orion Cruises
Always been intrigued by the mysterious jungles of Borneo—or the dream-like landscapes of Bali? The 106-passenger Orion cruise ship will allow you to experience both as it winds its way through the Java Sea on a truly exotic 10-day itinerary. Midway through your trip to isolated tropical islands and diverse national parks, you’ll be joined by conservationist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, who will guide you through a famed orangutan rehabilitation sanctuary. During your cruise, you’ll also visit Bako National Park to examine the complexity of ecosystems that once covered the entire Island. These protected areas now provide a refuge for Borneo's 15,000 species of plants, 222 species of mammals, 420 resident birds, and numerous other reptile, amphibian and fish species. (orioncruises.com.au)
3. Destination: Greek Isles
Line: Windstar Cruises
Designated a “four masted sailing yacht,” the Wind Star’s computerized white sails can unfurl in two minutes, creating the effect that the ship is being propelled through the blue Aegean on nothing more than a brisk sea breeze. After exploring the Acropolis, Parthenon and other historical sites of ancient Athens, you will hopscotch to the islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes, taking in the whitewashed villages, stretches of black volcanic sand and harbors bobbing with tiny fishing boats. At the final destination—Istanbul, Turkey—passengers alight into an exotic world of Byzantine palaces filled with frescos and mosaics, aromatic spices and minarets outlined against the setting sun. (windstarcruises.com)
4. Destination: Fiji
Line: Blue Lagoon Cruises
Thanks to a long-standing relationship with the local islanders and boutique vessels designed specifically to navigate the South Pacific seas, this small cruise line offers you a true insider’s perspective on Fiji’s Yasawa Islands. Cruising through coral cayes, inlets and skirting past pristine beaches, the 35-suite vessel MV Mystique Princess can explore the farthest reaches of the chain, including the Blue Lagoon’s private island of Nanuya Lai Lai. Once on land, guests can browse the shell markets, take part in a traditional “yagona” ceremony at a traditional Fijian village or spend the afternoon doing nothing more taxing than soaking up the sun.
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