Adventure travellers are generally accustomed to a degree of discomfort: camping on a mountain top, trekking through suffocating jungle, jumping off something very, very high. For even the most hardened traveller, however, there are some adventures that are just plain impossible to do alone. This is where cruise holidays come in. With the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, cruise ships offer a chance to go places and see things most of the population never get to do. Here we list the top adventure cruises for your bucket list (and by ‘bucket list’, we of course mean ‘when you win the lottery list’).
Note: Prices are per person based on two people sharing a cabin.
1. North Pole
If ice-breaking your way to the North Pole is your idea of fun, then add this extreme adventure to your priority list. Day 1 starts in Helsinki, Finland, where you will catch a charter flight to Murmansk in Russia. On Day 2, your adventure begins aboard 50 Years of Victory, a nuclear-powered ice-breaker, followed by four days of crushing through the Arctic ice pack. Passengers can take an optional helicopter flight for a breathtaking aerial view of the expansive Arctic Ocean. On Day 7, you will reach the North Pole where every direction is south. There, you can take a polar plunge into the icy waters or opt for a more sensible hot air balloon ride instead.
14 days, $26,995, Quark Expeditions
If you’re not quite ready for a mission to the North Pole, test the waters with an Alaskan cruise instead. Your voyage starts in the Alaskan capital of Juneau where you’ll meet your crew and settle in as you sail to Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the US. From there, you’ll have an action-packed couple of weeks with trekking, glacier hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding and snorkelling along with opportunities to see humpback whales, orca, bears, moose and mink.
15 days, from $6,845, Un-Cruise Adventures
There are numerous cruises offering a skip across to the Antarctic Peninsula. Opt instead for something grander by following in the footsteps of the great explorers Scott and Amundsen. Venturing deep into the Antarctic wilderness, the Akademik Shokalskiy will sail past the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest body of floating ice and, if weather permits, take you to Ross Island where you can visit Mount Erebus (the most active volcano in Antarctica) and the historic sites of Shackleton’s Hut, Scott’s Hut(s) and the Scott and McMurdo stations.
35 days, from $22,300, Heritage Expeditions
With some of the world’s best displays of the Northern Lights, the pure wilderness of Greenland should be on any adventurer’s bucket list. This cruise from Quark Expeditions sails through fjords littered with icebergs and offers passengers the opportunity to climb atop mountains and watch herds of grazing musk ox on the horizon. You will encounter arctic wildlife in Greenland National Park and visit Ittoqqortoormiit, one of the most remote communities in the world, where residents live off the land just as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.
13 days, from $7,995, Quark Expeditions
5. Northwest Passage
For centuries, people died trying to traverse this passage in the hope of establishing a shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was the great explorer Amundsen that finally managed it in 1903 to 1906 – 60 years after the ill-fated 1845 expedition of Sir John Franklin, one of the focal points of the expedition. Franklin ventured into the Arctic with two ships and 129 men never to be heard from again. Passangers can visit the last-known wintering site of his ships, Erebus and Terror, and several other sites that were part of his expedition. Wildlife watching is also on the agenda as you journey through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, home to the polar bear, the barren-ground grizzly bear, muskox, caribou and walrus.
13 days, from $11,995, OneOcean Expeditions
Famous for its role in The Mutiny on the Bounty (as well as some questionable actions in 2004), Pitcairn island is also one of the world’s most remote communities. The MV Claymore II makes a round trip from French Polynesia to Pitcairn eight times a year. The current schedule allows for a 3-night or 10-night stay during which visitors must source their own accommodation.
There are several Pacific cruise ships that include Pitcairn on their itinerary but landing is dependent on sea conditions and they only stay for hours. The MS Caledonian Sky from Zegrahm Expeditions has visited three times in the past on its Tahiti to Easter Island cruise and at a capacity of 114, promises a more intimate experience than its larger counterparts.
MV Claymore II: 2 days sailing from French Polynesia each way, $5,000 NZD ($3,287 USD) for transport only, book via the tourism board
MS Caledonian Sky: 21 days, from $18,480 and includes Tahiti, Marquesas, Tuamotus and Easter Island, Zegrahm Expeditions
7. West Africa
Africa has long suffered an image problem. From war and famine to child soldiers and modern-day pirates, this continent has been blighted by a history of horrors, but it is recovering with more and more of its countries opening up to tourists. Wildlife sanctuaries, lively port towns and charming local villages offer much for the foreigner as you’ll see on this cruise from Adventure Associates. Starting in Cape Town, you will have a chance to visit Table Mountain and several other land-based sights before boarding MS Expedition for a day at sea. From there, you will visit a number of fascinating locations including Angola, Congo and Sierra Leone – worthy of Livingstone himself.
32 days, from $16,999, Adventure Associates