Travel insights from Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass
Cruises have been introducing travelers to exciting pockets of the world since the industry was born in 1844. And while destinations like the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska remain wildly popular among those hitting the seas, there are still lots of lesser-traveled cruise destinations waiting to be explored.
From Cape Town to Madagascar, a South African cruise brings plenty to the exploration table. Tribal culture, bustling cities, sprawling wineries and so much more, travelers will have a difficult time deciding which exciting activities to add to their itineraries. With an abundance of ports along the country’s southern and eastern coastlines, many South African cruises depart from Cape Town or Durban and make their way through destinations like Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and the Indian Ocean isles. For an up-close-and-personal view of some of Africa’s most awe-inspiring wildlife, don’t miss a visit to Port Elizabeth’s Addo Elephant National Park where elephants, buffalo, rhinos, lions and leopards congregate.
Looking to book? MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises both have a solid offering of South Africa cruises.
Vietnam and Cambodia
A place where nature, history and culture collide, river cruise enthusiasts may want to consider adding a voyage along the magnificent Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia to their travel wish list. Referred to as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, cruisers of the Mekong Delta can partake in local workshops that showcase traditional candy and rice wine production. In addition to tasty wine samples, other exciting Mekong stops include colorful local markets, French-influenced Phnom Penh and the iconic Silver Pagoda. Beyond the river banks, cruisers can explore the impressive treasures of Angkor Wat and enjoy UNESCO World Heritage sites like Luang Prabang and Hoi An Ancient town.
Want to explore Vietnam and Cambodia? Avalon Waterways has some exciting itineraries to choose from.
The Amazon River
The world’s second largest river, the Amazon forges a path from the continent of South America to Brazil, Colombia and Peru. While this massive river covers a great distance, one of the most popular river cruise routes is a segment of Peru’s Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Located southwest of Iquitos, this segment of the Amazon is famous for its “Mirrored Forest” and impressive range of flora and fauna. In fact, the Amazon houses over a third of the world’s animal species including exotic friends such as electric eels, Amazon River dolphins, three-toed sloths, giant otters, bull sharks, anacondas, scarlet macaws and many, many more.
Adventurous travelers can look into guided trips with National Geographic, G Adventures and Smithsonian Journeys to make their Amazon River cruising dreams come true.
Urban hustle and desert wilderness, Australia offers travelers the best of both worlds. Conquer the island nation’s exciting cities like glamorous Sydney, exciting Melbourne and beautiful Queensland or set sail for the Outback for an authentic Aussie adventure at popular stops like Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. There are a few iconic tourist stops you won’t want to miss like the chance to explore the Great Barrier Reef, a visit to architectural superstar the Sydney Opera House and an afternoon at hoppin’ vacation spot Bondi Beach. Those looking to learn more about Australia’s Aboriginal culture can book a two-hour boat ride on Sydney’s Tribal Warrior where you’ll learn about the island’s history before the arrival of Europeans in 1778.
Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line all offer exciting trips to the Land Down Under.
For the ultimate in romance, book a cruise to Tahiti, French Polynesia’s largest and arguably most heavenly island getaway. With exotic destinations like Bora Bora, Moorea and Fakarava, Tahiti has plenty to offer travelers in the form of sunny coastlines, vibrant lagoons and colorful sunsets. Many area attractions showcase the island’s natural beauty with popular outdoor tours such as snorkeling, ATV adventures, Jeep safaris and boat rides. Be sure not to miss the Fautana Waterfall and the Maraa Grotto for a shot that will make the perfect backdrop for your scrapbook.
Check out Windstar Cruises and Oceania Cruises for the best in Tahiti itineraries.