Can’t-Miss Adventure Cruises

See our list of the best, fun-filled adventure cruises.
By: Stefanie Payne
For many cruise lovers, setting sail is half the fun. The other half is packing as much full-scale adventure into a cruise as possible. Top cruise companies are ready to oblige, with adventure-cruise options that run the gamut: Board a small, privately-owned ship for a week-long coastal sailing expedition through the Bahamas. Or set sail on a super ship with the capacity to carry you and your friends around the world, from sea to shining sea. Whether you’re seeking long voyages or short excursions, there are cruise outfits in every major port ready to help you explore new and exciting locations. So spin the globe, select activities that inspire you and set sail for your next great adventure.
Cruises for Multi-Sport Activities
Multi-Sport Cruises

Multi-Sport Cruises

Photo by: Thinkstock


Who knows how to foot land-based adventure better than REI? As it turns out, REI knows a thing or 2 about cruises as well. Ride along with REI Adventures on an 8-day Alaskan journey on the Juneau-to-Ketchikan route -- Alaska’s marine highway that runs alongside the Alaskan coast, starting in the capital city in the north down to the city of Sitka in the south. Remarkable hiking, kayaking and wildlife viewing abound in and around Glacier Bay National Park and through the dramatic fjords of British Columbia’s Inside Passage.

Drawn to warmer waters? Sail with Audley Travel, named by Condé Nast as a “Favorite Specialist Tour Operator” in 2010. The June Bahtra, a traditional junk-rigged schooner, takes travelers along Thailand’s mighty Mekong River to protected areas such as Ao Phang Nga National Park. This area in the Andaman Sea is known for its towering geometric rock formations and crystal-clear water, making it a perfect stop for diving enthusiasts.
Cruises to Emerging Destinations
Cruises with Learning Adventures

Cruises with Learning Adventures

Photo by: William Warby, flickr

William Warby, flickr

Seeking special gems off the beaten path? Orion Expeditions has unique offerings to some of the hottest places to travel to in 2013 -- including emerging destinations like Micronesia and Melanesia. The 5-star Orion cruise vessel is based off Australia, providing a good jumping-off point for travel northward. An Orion voyage includes expeditions to the world’s third largest island, Borneo, where undisturbed rainforests and orangutan conservation thrive.

Travelers can also swim and snorkel in the clear ocean waters off the island nation of Papua New Guinea -- land of 800 languages, as well as home to rare and endangered birds of paradise. For a trip back in time, travel along the remote and exotic trade route of the Spice Islands in the Arafura Sea, including the Indonesian island of Komodo, home to the infamous, pre-historic komodo dragon.
Cruises for a Learning Adventure

Photo by: Ekaterina Krasnikova

Ekaterina Krasnikova

For a learning adventure, journey to Darwin’s old playground. Lindblad Expeditions, the company that brought nonscientific explorers to the Galapagos archipelago for the first time in 1967, offers cruise expeditions with more naturalists per guest than any other Galapagos cruise -- maximizing travelers’ experience of one of the most prized, heavily researched and biodiverse ecosystems on Earth.

For those on the hunt for hidden glaciers, travel with Patagonia and Cape Horn Cruises to the communities of Punta Arenas, Ushuaia and Cape Horn in southern Chile and Argentina. The trip also includes hikes throughout Patagonia. And to see majestic Antarctica, hop aboard the Clipper Adventurer with Travcoa. You’ll sail through the wild seas of the Drake Passage, where the southwestern corner of the Atlantic Ocean meets the northeastern tip of the Pacific.

Once you’ve landed on the White Continent, watch penguins slide off the ice on their bellies into the icy water as elephant seals swim by to watch. Plus, enjoy a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to plunge into thermally heated springs in the Antarctic Ocean -- now that’s an adventure!
Small-Scale Excursions
Small Scale Excursions

Small Scale Excursions

Photo by: Thinkstock


To some, the greatest adventures come in small packages -- small-scale cruise packages. Tui Tai Expeditions, named by National Geographic as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” provides affordable 7-day excursions through Fiji on its Tui Tai luxury-adventure class ships, which can accommodate up to 24 guests. With fewer people on board, you can concentrate on exploring a different sandbank or surf’s edge each day, plus enjoy snorkeling, diving, kayaking, hiking, surfing, visiting rainforests and hiking under waterfalls.

Another great small ship option is Windstar Cruises. Say bon voyage from the Dutch side of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. The trans-Atlantic passage ahead provides a rare opportunity to power off and relax. Best part: The small-cruise atmosphere includes big-ship amenities such as spa services, while offering plenty of time for relaxing meals and laid-back conversation on deck. Once you disembark, enjoy a glass of Portuguese tawny port in the land where it was created.

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