Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Wed March 25 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | March 25, 2015 5:00 AM ET

    10 of the Coolest Cruise Ship Excursions

    10 of the Coolest Cruise Ship Excursions

    Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

    Cruise ship excursions go far beyond the typical walking tours of the port city, and a number of cruise lines are offering exclusive adventures, special educational side trips, and thrilling once-in-lifetime activities. From elephant riding to extreme snorkeling, here are 10 incredible shore excursions.

    Riding Icelandic Horses Under the Midnight Sun

    Hurtigruten offers an opportunity to saddle up on an Icelandic horse in the Lofoten Islands, one of Norway’s most scenic archipelagos. The trot brings passengers through powdery white sand, over hillsides, and past curious relics from the Viking age.

    Experience the Art of Falconry

    First created around A.D. 800, falconry is an ancient activity used by nobility and involves training hawks to hunt and return when they’re called. On Crystal Cruises’ itineraries to Scotland, passengers have the opportunity to try this unique sport firsthand.

    Ride Elephants in Thailand

    On cruises in Thailand, Oceania has an option to tour the historic center of Ayutthaya (near Bangkok) on the back of an elephant. The excursion also includes a visit to the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, and exploration of the historic ruins of Ayutthaya.

    Go Snorkeling in Antarctica

    Expert diving guides lead passengers through the waters of Antarctica on snorkeling excursions with Aurora Expeditions. Gear up with waterproof dry suits and experience the icebergs from a different perspective. The crystal-clear waters make it easy to spot shipwrecks, penguins, crustaceans, isopods, starfish, and nudibranchs.

    Spent the Night in a Gorilla Forest Camp

    Silversea passengers can explore deep into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and spend the night in a gorilla sanctuary. Guided safaris through this area in Uganda – which is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas – embark the following morning.

    Snowmobile to a Glacier

    On voyages to Iceland, Crystal Cruises passengers can travel by snowmobile over the Langjökull Glacier, the island’s largest glacier. The excursion also includes a visit to Hraunfossar falls and Deildartunguhver hot springs.

    Take an After-Hours Palace Tour

    Azamara Club Cruises often overnights in ports, allowing the company to offer special evening excursions like the “Doge's Palace After-Hours Tour” in Venice. A private evening tour explores the gothic architecture, courtyard, and Bridge of Sighs that connects the palace to a former prison. After, visitors can explore the Piazza San Marco, a popular historic square before being transported by pontoon back to the ship.  

    Visit a Black Pearl Farm

    On Paul Gauguin’s French Polynesia cruises, guests can tour a black pearl farm in Raiatea and Taha’a and learn about the island’s precious jewel. Tours also include snorkeling in a coral reef outside of a motu (tiny island), followed by a beach barbecue lunch on a private island.

    Get Grandstand Seats in Monaco

    Crystal Cruises offers prime seats to the Formula One qualifying sessions for the 73rd Grand Prix of Monaco near the start/finish line. This excursion is exclusively available on the May 17 cruise on Crystal Serenity.

    A Concert in a Cave

    Azamara’s “AzAmazing Evenings” include unusual musical performances such as the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band, which plays a set inside a massive limestone cave that serves as an all-natural auditorium. Passengers also have a chance to spot Barbary macaque, an ape colony that is unique to Europe and Gibraltar.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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