PHOTO: Northern Lights in Iceland. (photo via Flickr/David Phan)
Curator of adventure voyages, Expedition Cruise Specialists has compiled its list of the world’s ten best expedition sailing destinations.
The whole gamut literally stretches across polar opposites of climates and topography.
I have personally experienced some of these, with many more on my wish list:
Top of the World (North Pole)
The proverbial home of Santa Claus is the famed North Pole. In reality, it’s a bit of a haul to get there aboard a more industrial vessel like the nuclear-powered 50 Years of Victory icebreaker.
But once there, the landscape is well worth the trek.
Expedition Cruise Specialists General Manager Andrew Castles said, “Pristine landscapes, bountiful wildlife, indigenous tribes, polar bears and natural phenomena give the Arctic a unique appeal and make it the world’s best expedition destination.”
The Kimberley Coast
The Kimberley Coast is definitely a spot I have heard great things about: The colorful rock formations alone enchant.
The luxurious Silver Discoverer, (which I have sailed on twice), is deployed by Silversea Expeditions along the western coast of Australia there.
As to other vessels that visit, Castles stated, “Kimberley cruising aboard Coral Discoverer or True North takes you through the daunting canyons, waterfalls and untouched wilderness of Australia’s north-west wonderland and has to be experienced to appreciate how amazing it really is.”
Like the North Pole, Antarctica intrigues the imagination with the lure of southernmost points of interest, including Base Camp Ortelius.
The setting is almost alien, yet still very much a part of our world.
“Designed for Antarctic exploration, the Ortelius acts as a floating base camp while anchored for several days in specific locations. You can explore by kayak and zodiac on the water or go hiking in snowshoes and even mountaineering,” added Castles. “There is nothing quite like it.”
READ MORE: Polar Cruising Can Be Part of the Global Warming Solution
To this day, Alaska is my personal favorite cruise destination; There are so many great ways to take in all of its spectacular sights of wild flora and fauna.
The large cruise ships give a taste of the great land, but expedition cruises get far closer to it all.
Of course, you can take it as easy as you’d like, but Castles said, “This type of cruise is not just a sightseeing trip, it is a full-on journey for people who enjoy hiking and physical activities. You immerse yourself in a world of fjords, ancient villages and stunning forests.”
Papua New Guinea
I’ll never forget the smiling faces of the friendly local people who first greeted us in Papua New Guinea aboard the aforementioned Silver Discoverer. The minute our zodiac landed, they were there to welcome us all warmly, proudly sharing their village with song and dance.
Castles adds: “Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s last great frontiers. You will experience magical and rarely-visited islands aboard small ships such as the luxury Coral Discoverer and enjoy a voyage rich in culture, history and natural beauty.”
Another sought-after destination for its incredible diversity of wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are now visited by many cruise lines—from Celebrity Cruises to Silversea Expeditions.
Adding to the list of ships according to Castles, are, “smaller catamaran ships like Ocean Spray and Sea Star Journey through to Lindblad Expeditions’ impressive National Geographic Endeavour II.”
READ MORE: 7 of the Best Expedition Cruises
Canada’s Northwest Passage
Canada and New England are already quite special as mainstream cruise destinations. But head even farther north to experience ships traversing ice fields, accessing breathtaking waterways that include passages over to Greenland.
“On the way, explore the remote Northwest Passage and the stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline before crossing to Greenland,” highlighted Castles.
“Wildlife is a major drawcard of this 13-day expedition: Venture through the home of the polar bear, musk ox, caribou and walrus.”
Admittedly, the Indonesian Archipelago is one on the list I had not heard of before, but its islands, lagoons and wildlife now sound splendid.
Further showcased on a weeklong cruise aboard the Ombak Putih are beaches, villages, mountain ranges, volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls and, of course, Komodo Dragons.
Iceland and Northern Lights
To gaze upon the Northern Lights by sea is an astonishing activity.
Castles, for one, concurs, “There is nothing else quite like it.”
Besides the famed spectacle in the sky, though, are also chances to see fjords and settlements.
Kiribati’s Southern Line Islands
By name alone, National Geographic conjures up images of adventure, and the National Geographic Orion ship is one that can actually take you there to the Southern Line Islands.
The lesser known Polynesian locale offers some spectacular diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Also, the mountainous landscape rises dramatically towards the sky. After all, Castles says the, “wonders of this amazing paradise were both above and below the water.”