Cruising today is anything but sedate and while “R & R” and reading a book poolside are always options, more and more travellers are opting for one-of-a-kind experiences when they hit the seas or the rivers of the world.
In response, cruise lines are offering more ports of call in exotic locations, ships that feature an extraordinary range of action activities, and shore excursions that are original, exclusive and often impossible to organize on one’s own.
The following, from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), is a sampling of unconventional experiences that can be found on a cruise:
- Alaskan Wilderness Family Expedition
An extreme five- to seven-mile glacier hike may not be for every family, but for adventure seekers who want an up-close view of Alaska’s wilderness, waterfalls and wildlife, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Laughton Glacier Hike does just that. Adults and children (ages nine and up) are led by an expert guide on an Alaskan wilderness trek, complete with a scenic train ride and a traditional Alaskan meal.
- Exploring One of the World’s Most Remote and Coldest Islands in the World
Going to another cool destination, Hurtigruten, specialists in Arctic and Antarctic cruises, is the only cruise line that visits Jan Mayen, one of the most isolated islands in the world and home to a large population of polar bears. Excursion activities include learning Arctic winter survival skills or bush craft, including how to make a fire, fish, and throw a lasso in the harsh climate.
- Traditional Junk Overnight in Vietnam
AmaWaterways’ cruise-and-land guests on the “Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong” itinerary spend the night aboard a contemporary junk sailing UNESCO World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. The most distinctive feature of junks, which were developed during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) and used throughout Asia for extensive ocean voyages, is their broad, fully battened sails. Guests enjoy dinner and breakfast onboard taking in the bay’s scenery including dramatic limestone cliffs and rock formations during this exclusive offering.
- SCUBA Training and Certification in French Polynesia
For treasures underneath the sea, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ m/s Paul Gauguin is the only luxury ship in the French Polynesian islands offering PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certification onboard. Programs that are offered include the Discover SCUBA Diving class, or resort certification, and PADI Open-Water Diver certification. Children 10 years and older can apply for Junior Open-Water Diver Certification.
- Saving the Coral Reefs of Bonaire
To help save and protect precious coral reefs that delight divers and snorkelers, Cunard has a new volunteer-excursion for 2014-2015 the Coral Restoration Dive Experience. The program (only for PADI certified divers) connects passengers with the Coral Restoration Foundation in Bonaire where they receive hands-on instruction on basic coral reef preservation.
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dracula
Oceania Cruises’ itinerary in the Greek Islands and Eastern Mediterranean includes a stop in Constanta, Romania, featuring a day trip to “Dracula’s Haunts and Best of Bucharest” in Transylvania, with a drive through the bucolic Prahova Valley and then on to Bran Castle, where the legend of Dracula was born.
- Russian Cosmonaut Training
Guests looking to set their sights on space can do so sailing on a Crystal Cruises Baltic cruise to St. Petersburg, with a flight to Moscow and an overnight in Star City, the Russian equivalent of NASA headquarters during the 20th century “Space Race” — home to the largest centrifuge in the world. The excursion includes experiencing one of three actual Russian Cosmonaut Training courses on advanced space equipment: the centrifuge, zero-gravity flight, or hydro-space program.