I was talking to my friend, Jen, recently about launching Huckleberry Travel, and the conversation quickly turned toward cruises. I suggested that a lot of people had a mental block about the idea of going on a cruise, and Jen immediately said that her husband was adamantly opposed to cruising until she forced him on a boat for a trip to Northern Europe. Now he's a convert, and they've already booked another cruise trip!
Maybe you love cruises, too, and you're having trouble convincing friends to get on board (pun intended) with the idea. Well, we've got a few suggestions for cruises that are anything-but cookie-cutter.
Cruise to Cuba. Now that the US and Cuba are recasting their relationship, lots of travelers are eager to explore the rich cultural heritage of Cuba. If you want to explore the architecture, museums and national parks of Cuba, while engaging first-hand with local tradespeople, artisans and historians, a cruise could be just your ticket. There are lots of options, ranging from boutique cruise lines with small ships (fewer than 100 cabins), to larger cruises with all the amenities. Cruise lines are announcing new itineraries all the time, and a cruise to Cuba doesn't have to be pricey. One cruise line just announced itineraries that include Cuba for as little as $699 for a four-night voyage!
River Cruises. You might think that river cruises are all about luxury trips down the Danube, Rhine or the Seine for baby boomers, but these days, river cruises aren't limited to inland European waterways. How about a cruise down the Nile or the Ganges? Actually, one of the most exciting itineraries I've seen recently is along the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. It includes a couple of days at Angkor Wat, which--I have to say--is one of the most incredible places I've ever been in the world. River cruises can be a great way to explore a new culture at a leisurely, comfortable place. Some trips offer a combination of cruising and cycling for active travelers; why not bike a leg or two of the itinerary to meet your boat at the next stop? Galapagos
Social Impact Cruises. Impact travel on a cruise ship is a whole new thing: travel with purpose. A unique travel experience that has the capacity to transform the lives of local communities, while giving you an opportunity to forge a connection with like-minded travelers. Along the way, you become immersed in a different culture, and work to create enduring social impact. If you sign up for a social impact cruise, you might find yourself in the Dominican Republic or Cuba. Maybe you're working side by side with local residents in existing programs that focus on improving the lives of children, families and communities. Or, you might participate in an ongoing cultural exchange program that gives you the opportunity to interact with local people, one on one. The point of a social impact cruise is that you have an opportunity to touch the lives of people who live in the places you visit, and, in turn, they enrich your life, as well.
Tall Sailing Ships. So, what if you sailed from Scandinavia to Scotland on a ship with a ship that glided majestically into port with sails billowing? Not too shabby, eh? Well, believe it or not, there are actual cruise ships that sail with actual honest-to-god sails. How about a cruise through French Polynesia, Tahiti and the Society Islands on a sleek sailing ship with four masts, and fewer than 150 passengers? Or how about sailing from Rome to Athens, with stops in Sicily and the Greek Islands? These cruises are super extra sexy, if you ask me.
The Hurtigruten. When we went to Norway, we started in Oslo, took a train over the mountains to Ålesund, and then hopped on the Hurtigruten (say it in a Swedish Chef Muppet voice and curse me, later). Our spectacular trip was only two days down the coast, but what a two days it was! If you want to really cruise out in Norway, you could book a trip on the Hurtigruten that sails nearly the entire length of the Norway coast. They have 11 ships running up and down the coast of Norway and it's widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cruises in the world. It's certainly one of the most beautiful I've ever experienced.
Antarctica. Full disclosure. Crossingthe Drake Passage between Argentina and Antarctica is super rough, and that's no joke. When we made the passage, we were on a retired Russian research vessel that had been retrofitted for passengers, and half of the passengers disappeared for two days because of serious seasickness. But once we got to the Antarctic Penninsula, WOW! You'll never travel anywhere as magical as Antarctica. It was definitely not what most people would think of as a cruise--no buffet or casino. The accommodations weren't luxe, but we were completely comfortable, made new friends-for-life, and had a blast. We recommend a smaller ship for a more boutique experience, but cruises to Antarctica come in all shapes and varieties, so let us know if you want us to start putting together an itinerary for you!
The Galapagos Islands. Did you know Ecuador's constitution recognizes the "Rights of Nature?" The country takes protecting and respecting nature, including the Galápagos Islands, very seriously. You can visit a breeding facility for giant tortoises and explore volcanic lava tubes and pit craters. You might see flamingos, frigate birds, sea lions, land iguanas and perhaps a blue footed boobie or two. And to make it the most crushingly awesome trip ever, you could swim and snorkel in search of octopus, sea horses and starfish. You could easily bundle the trip with a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru (another once-in-a lifetime experience). Oh, man. Just typing that made me want to go, like, right now!