As a general rule, Caribbean cruises conjure up images of white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, while Europe destinations offer up iconic cathedrals, castles and assorted antiquities of the past. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with viewing the spectacular sites of the Old World or lazing away on a pristine beach, it’s just a personal preference that I seek adventure cruises in my vacation choices.
What are Adventure Cruises?
Let’s be upfront. When I say adventure, I’m not talking about the sleeping bag, outdoor woodsman, rustic mountain climbing variety. Set me up with off the wall destinations, a dose of luxury, a nice spread of delicious food and wine and that’s how I define my type of adventure. I know it might lean towards being a little soft but if I’m paying, that’s where I’m playing! If you are in my criteria club, here are my favorite five cruises of the last year that will be featured in Porthole Cruise Magazine over the next few months.
Starting off with an adventure cruise line, Hurtigruten serves up a perfect blend of cruise tradition and adventure and pulls it off perfectly with a true outdoor experience. While they feature several itineraries in Norway, Greenland and the Arctic, our cruise in Antarctica proved to be everything one would expect from the frozen continent. Think massive icebergs, glaciers, and ubiquitous penguins: essentially Alaska on steroids.
As if reading their magazine alone doesn’t stoke up dreams of adventure cruises, National Geographic Expeditions presented a perfect cruise solution to an experience of a lifetime with their Galápagos Islands itinerary. The inclusion of trained naturalist guides aboard a small but tastefully elegant ship provided opportunities for unparalleled wildlife interaction. With a wide range of exotic destinations and vessels to choose from, our next Nat Geo adventure is simply waiting to happen.
Aqua Expeditions clock in with two different and exhilarating cruises that we were fortunate to experience only four months apart. The first cruise from Cambodia onward to Vietnam created such an impression that a cruise into the Peruvian Amazon seemed like a natural progression. Their chic and stylish vessels provide a posh veneer over exotic adventures on the Mekong and Amazon rivers. To add to the excitement, you can experience the flavors and ingredients that would be unimaginable on our plates in America.
Then there’s Pandaw Cruises. While they offer a selection of adventure cruises in Southeast Asia, India, and China, our choice of their Red River itinerary in Vietnam proved to be an excellent choice. As this cruise overlapped another, we had no choice but to join the vessel underway, one day late. Rather than inconvenience other guests by waiting for us, they provided us with a private driver from the Hanoi airport to a remote bridge in the middle of nowhere. With luggage in tow, we were met on the riverbank by a small motorboat, then ferried out to the approaching ship, and tied up alongside as it continued on its way; we boarded the ship in pure James Bond fashion, all to the amazement of the other passengers. Talk about adventure!
So, with these under our belt, we’re already plotting our next journeys of adventure cruises.
This summer, we’ll experience Bali, Indonesia on a 24-passenger sailing boat with SeaTrek Sailing Adventures … followed by a tall-ship sailing experience on the majestic Star Clipper. In July, we embark on AmaWaterways in Basel, Switzerland, for a river cruise through Germany ending up in Amsterdam. To cap off the summer we head back to Hurtigruten with an expedition along the coast of Greenland. November will likely find us back in Southeast Asia, sailing in Laos on the new Pandaw vessel.
Be sure to follow these past and future travels in upcoming Porthole Cruise Magazine issues.
— Steve Leland