Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sun October 25 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | October 25, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    6 of the Best Culturally Immersive, Far-Flung Specialty Cruises

    6 of the Best Culturally Immersive, Far-Flung Specialty Cruises

    One draw of specialty cruising is the opportunity to experience local cultures in far-flung destinations. Smaller ships allow passengers to access authentic villages, towns and coastal areas that cruise liners pass by, and excursions include a chance to witness traditional dance performances, local artisans creating their products and culinary rituals. These six cruises are ideal for experiencing exotic cultures.

    Blue Lagoon Cruises in Fiji

    Blue Lagoon Cruises, an under-the-radar line, offers trips around Fiji’s Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands. The boutique, 68-passenger ship visits local communities on gorgeous isles where the focus is not only about appreciating the beauty of the region but also absorbing the culture. Passengers will get to watch a “meke” musical performance, take part in a traditional kava ceremony and attend a lovo — a feast prepared in an earth oven. 

    Brazilian Amazon River Cruise

    Go deeper in to the Amazon with Rainforest Cruises’ 10-night itinerary that explores the Brazilian Amazon. The Amazon Dream embarks from Santarem, a town known for handicraft markets and herbalists.

    Following an overnight on the river, it arrives at Pacoval on the Curua-Una River, where passengers meet the locals and get their first glimpse of the Amazonia lifestyle. After a four-wheel drive excursion to Serra Irere, guests explore the caverns and the 12,000-year-old cave paintings.

    In addition to several other small indigenous communities, the ship will drop anchor near Vista Alegre where villagers will present their traditional dancing. Departures dates are available nearly year round.

    Ponant’s Voyage to Mysterious Melanesia

    Ponant’s 10-night voyage through the Coral Sea explores the fascinating island nations of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

    Embarking December 9 from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Le Soleal will call on a different island nearly every day of the cruise. In addition to soaking in the allure of places like Ouvea — frequently referred to as the “island closest to paradise,” — there will be opportunities to meet the inhabitants of the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia, the tribes of Santa Ana to observe their traditional dances, and the members of the John Frum Cargo cult — a truly unique and puzzling organization.

    Australia and Indonesia on Silversea

    Silversea’s expedition series includes a two-week voyage from Cairns, Australia to Balikpapan, Indonesia on the Silver Discoverer. After visiting islands and coral reefs in and around the Great Barrier Reef, during days at sea guests learn about the Aboriginal people and the natural history of Northern Australia.

    The cruise embarks in October 2016 and although ticket prices are steep, the company is one of the few to offer this type of experience. In Elcho Island, Australia, visitors will have a chance to view indigenous artwork, and on Bathurst Island they can watch the Tiwi ladies weave pandanus baskets before joining in a tea and totem dance. In Alor Island, Indonesia, passengers explore the hilltop village of Takpala where they are welcomed by the chief and can enjoy traditional performances.

    Hurtigruten Greenland Cruise

    Known for its coastal cruises in Norway, Hurtigruten also offers voyages to Greenland, including the “Arctic Wilderness Adventure: Land of the Inuit” itinerary. The MS Fram embarks from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. In several towns and villages along Northwest Greenland, locals await the ship’s arrival with song and dance; and at traditional fishing and hunting communities, dried whale meat is often seen hanging in front of homes.

    Shore excursions include nature hikes, kayaking trips and walking tours of the towns. The ship embarks on the 12-day cruise in June 2016.   

    Learn the Ways of Artisans in Vietnam and Cambodia

    Tour provider Adventure Life is offering an eight-day cruise on the Mekong River aboard the MS Amalotus. The ship embarks from Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia, and kicks things off with a leisurely stop at Koh Chen village where guests can visit silversmith and coppersmith workshops.

    Next, they’ll tour a monastery and take an oxcart ride past the rice paddies. Upon reaching Tan Chau, Vietnam, travelers will experience a silk-making lesson as well as workshops in producing rattan mats, slippers, candy and rice paper. The cruise concludes in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with sailing dates ranging from fall through spring. 


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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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