Unique Cruise Destinations You Don’t Want to Miss Out On

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When you think of cruising, you probably think of the main destinations that appear in all the cruising ads and that most of the big cruise lines travel to. 

Think the Bahamas and other island destinations in the Caribbean. If you’re on the West Coast, you probably think of Mexico or Alaska. If you’re thinking of cruises around Europe, you’re going to think of the Mediterranean or Fjords cruises through Scandinavia. And, If you’re traveling a little further afield, you might think of a cruise to Hawaii or around Australia.

However, there are so many other amazing destinations that you can visit via cruise ship — often destinations that are remote and might not be accessible otherwise. Here are a few of our favorites, that you need to add to your bucket list, stat.

A Quick Note on Unique Cruise Destinations and How to Get There

It’s worth noting that, for many unique cruise destinations, you can’t get there on your average, budget-friendly mega-ship. (You know the ones we’re talking about.) 

You’re going to need to cruise on a smaller ship, as many of these destinations don’t even have the facilities necessary to welcome a mega-ship, and likely with a smaller cruise line. In some cases, these destinations can only be reached via a river cruise ship.

Also, keep in mind that, for some of the more remote unique cruise destinations, where the focus is on wildlife and nature excursions, visiting cruises are often referred to as “expedition cruises.” For expedition cruises, the itinerary is all about exploration and adventure. In other words, if you’re looking for a cruise where you’ll sit in the luxury spa all day, drink by the pool, and then pop out to look at some unique wildlife, these might not be the cruises for you.

You’ll also likely need to pay a little bit more than you might for a quick, three-day trip between Florida and the Bahamas. However, the extra cost is going to be worth it.

 1. Antarctica

Interest in Antarctica cruises is booming! In fact, according to one NPR article, in 2023, it was expected that more than 100,000 travelers would visit Antarctica via cruise ship! That’s a 40% increase over past seasons. 

There are many reasons why this is the case. Some say that, after the COVID-19 pandemic’s travel restrictions, more travelers than ever were inspired to live life to the fullest, and they wanted to finally cross this destination off their bucket list. Plus, the fact that more cruise lines are offering cruises to Antarctica makes getting there even easier!

Antarctica Cruise
Photo Credit: Robert Mcgillivray / Shutterstock

So, if you want to go to Antarctica, see the penguins, whales and other wildlife, and otherwise step foot on a continent that likely none of your friends will ever visit, you’ve got options. Celebrity Cruises offers itineraries to Antarctica that depart from Argentina.

Silversea actually offers a variety of Antarctica cruises, on various ships and with a range of itinerary options. Some cruise lines, like Viking, offer longer cruises that include stops in Antarctica, as you explore the rest of South America.

 2. The Galápagos Islands

Located off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapágos Islands is another destination that’s gaining quick interest and, now, about 170,000 tourists visit the islands per year, according to CNN.

Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island, Galapagos
Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island, Galapagos (Photo Credit: Emma Jones)

Because the Galapágos are known for their biodiversity, you can expect most cruises here to focus on the wildlife and responsible, sustainable tourism that allows you to experience this unique habitat to its fullest, while also remaining respectful. A mix of small cruise providers and large cruise lines offer routes to the Galapágos, including Silversea, Celebrity Cruises and G Adventures. 

3. Greenland 

Situated about half-way between Canada and Iceland, Greenland is a severely underrated travel destination. Like Antarctica, it offers vast, dramatic arctic landscapes with glaciers and similar, but like Iceland, it also offers quaint villages and, during the right season, hiking, kayaking among the fjords, culture, cuisine and more.

Cruise Ship Visiting Greenland
Cruise Ship Visiting Greenland

Plus, Greenland is so close to the U.S. and Canadian mainlands that getting there from a cruise ship that departs from the East Coast doesn’t take that long at all. Similarly, some cruise lines offer quick Greenland cruises that depart from European ports, such as Amsterdam or Southampton.

Cruise lines that offer Greenland cruises include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Silversea, Carnival and MSC Cruises. 

 4. The Nile River 

We mentioned river cruises, though, and what river cruise could be more interesting and unique than a cruise along the Nile River in Egypt? 

Many Nile River cruises specialize in the luxurious, and small ships are necessary. As such, you won’t find all the big-name cruise lines operating here. Provider options include Abercrombie & Kent, National Geographic Expeditions, Viking and Uniworld.

Nile River Cruise
Nile River Cruise

During a Nile River cruise, you’ll float past the pyramids and disembark to explore ancient ruins, temples and world-class museums. Many itineraries depart from, and return to, Cairo.

5. The Seychelles

You could say that the Seychelles are the new Maldives. Everyone was keen to go to the Maldives a decade ago, but now everyone knows about the Maldives. That’s not yet the case with the Seychelles.

These Indian Ocean islands sit off the coast of Africa, near Madagascar, and, as you island hop your way around the archipelago, you’ll find opportunities for beach-bumming, scuba diving, hiking in rainforests, exploring the local culture and checking out the local wildlife (like the giant tortoises!).

Le Jacques-Cartier Cruise Ship in the Seychelles
Le Jacques-Cartier Cruise Ship in the Seychelles (Photo Credit: Nancy Pauwels)

Several cruise lines travel to the Seychelles, but many bundle a visit to the Seychelles with a broader tour of the region. 

Holland America Line and Oceania both visit the Seychelles as part of broader cruises, such as Oceania’s month-long Indian Ocean exploration cruise, and Holland America’s cruises between Australia and South Africa. However, Ponant does offer shorter tours that focus on the Seychelles, with itineraries that travel between the Seychelles and Zanzibar.

6. South Africa

When you think of luxurious adventure trips to Africa, you probably think of a safari trip. However, you can bundle your love of cruising with a safari adventure, and with a pretty expansive number of cruise lines.

South Africa Cruise
South Africa Cruise (Photo Credit: LouieLea)

Norwegian Cruise Line offers African cruises that take you to destinations such South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, Angola, Madagascar and Mauritius. Oceania similarly visits ports in Senegal, Tanzania, Madagascar and Gambia. Azamara does as well, with regional cruises that focus on Western or South Africa.

Read Also: Scenic Cruises – Everything You Need to Know

Depending on your chosen cruise, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to disembark and explore, whether you want that classic safari experience, or you’d rather explore the cultural and historic spots in cities like Cape Town. 

7. Sir Bani Yas Island

Been to Africa before and done the whole safari thing? If you did really enjoy it, but just want something a unique destination to explore, consider Sir Bani Yas, a wildlife reserve, bird sanctuary and all-around outdoor adventure hub where you can enjoy not just safaris, but also biking, kayaking and exploring ancient ruins.

MSC Virtuosa Cruise Ship at Sir Bani Yas Island
MSC Virtuosa Cruise Ship at Sir Bani Yas Island (Photo Credit: Sergey_Bogomyako)

Visiting Sir Bani Yas, which is located a very short distance off the United Arab Emirates coast, in the Persian Gulf, is typically bundled into a broader cruise throughout the Middle East or to at least the UAE. For example, MSC Cruises visits the island during cruises that also visit Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

8. The Kamchatka Peninsula 

This very remote Russian peninsula, which juts off Russia’s east coast and into the Bering Sea, is an incredibly unique destination and not for the faint of heart. The destination is home to more than 150 volcanoes (some active) and boasts the highest density of brown bears on the planet.

Cruise Ship in Kamchatka
Cruise Ship in Kamchatka (Photo Credit: Alexander Piragis)

Reaching it often requires crossing the Bering Sea from Alaska, and not a whole lot of cruise lines and their passengers are going to go here. Currently, you’ll have to travel with National Geographic Expeditions to get there, or private tour providers like Adventure Life (though, in the past, other, more mainstream cruise lines have visited, so keep your eyes peeled for new options). 

If you’re an intrepid adventure and do manage to make to this peninsula, you’ll be rewarded with ample wildlife watching opportunities and opportunities to delve into the unique cultures of remote Russian villages. 

9. Papua New Guinea

For a tropical oasis cruise and plenty of opportunities for hiking, diving and exploring traditional tribal villages — and all in a bucket list-worthy destination that not many of your friends have visited before — Papua New Guinea, located just north of Queensland, Australia, is the place to go.

Papua New Guinea Cruise
Papua New Guinea Cruise (Photo Credit: Annalucia)

Despite Papua New Guinea being a relatively uncommon travel destination for many (especially if you live in the western hemisphere), you can find a nice selection of cruise lines that travel there. You can take a Carnival cruise or P&O Cruises cruise from Australia to Papua New Guinea.

Oceania Cruises stops by Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, during a range of itineraries, including those that go from Asia to Australia or New Zealand, and those that cross the Pacific Ocean.  

10. The Amazon River

Another great river cruise, beyond the Nile? How about an Amazon River cruise? Dive deep into the jungle and see what awaits in this pristine natural habitat that still holds its fair share of secrets. It’s even easier to do, when you consider that some cruise lines actually offer Amazon cruises that depart from Florida, so you don’t even need to hop a plane to South America!

Amazon River Cruise
Amazon River Cruise (Photo Credit: Nestor Morales Moreno)

That said, those cruise lines aren’t going to actually take you down the Amazon, for a truly immersive experience. For that, you will need to head on down to the Southern Hemisphere and board a small river ship, with small ship cruise providers like AdventureSmith Explorations, National Geographic Expeditions or Avalon Waterways. 

11. The Faroe Islands

If your idea of an island getaway includes more rainy days, cozy sweaters, cottages and roaming sheep than palm trees, sunshine and sand, you’ll want to go on a Faroe Islands cruise. These Scandinavian islands sit between Norway and Iceland, and offer all the Scandinavian charm you’d expect. Think small villages, puffins and European history for days.

Faroe Islands Cruise
Faroe Islands Cruise (Photo Credit: Chris Christophersen)

Often, trips to the Faroe Islands are bundled into larger regional trips. For example, Oceania Cruises visits the islands during cruises between the European mainland and Iceland, as do Viking and Norwegian Cruise Line.

12. The Mekong River

Another river cruise option, the Mekong River, is the 12th-longest river in the world and stretches through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and China. Many Mekong River cruises focus on Vietnam and Cambodia, and allow you to explore the cities, small villages, cultural attractions and outdoor wonders along the way.

Mekong River Cruise
Mekong River Cruise (Photo Credit: Madee)

You can find Mekong River cruises offered by Viking, Uniworld and Avalon Waterways, among others.

13. Easter Island

Like the Galapágos, another unique cruise destination is Easter Island situated off the South American coast, in the Pacific, but further South, off Chile. The main reason anyone goes to Easter Island is to, of course, see all of the ancient moai, but there’s plenty else to do beyond seeing the archaeological sites, including trekking tours, cycling tours and even snorkeling.

Cruise Ship at Easter Island
Cruise Ship at Easter Island (Photo Credit: Peto Laszlo)

Many cruise lines bundle a trip to Easter Island into larger, extensive ocean voyages, as is the case for Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas and MSC Cruises. However, you can also find Polynesian cruises that visit Easter Island, such as itineraries from both National Geographic Expeditions and Ponant that travel from Tahiti to Easter Island.

Worth Reading: What Is a Transpacific Cruise?

14. Juan Fernández Archipelago 

Not too terribly far away, you can find the Juan Fernández archipelago, also off the coast of Chile. Here, the islands make up a national park and include Robinson Crusoe Island, a notable island where a Scottish sailor was marooned in the early 1700s, inspiring the fictional tale of Robinson Crusoe. Today, you can explore the very mountainous and beautiful terrain, with all its endemic species that attract nature lovers of all types.

Juan Fernández, Chile
Juan Fernández, Chile (Photo Credit: Sarah Spiess)

It won’t be easy getting there, but you can find some cruises that put a stop at Robinson Crusoe Island on itineraries that also explore Oceania and the Chilean coast, such as itineraries from Seabourn. 

Holly Riddle
Holly Riddle
Holly Riddle is a travel and food freelance writer whose work can be found in print and digital publications all around the world. She is additionally an entrepreneur specializing in content and marketing services. Beyond frequent travel, Riddle enjoys cooking, reading, camping and spending time with her husband and two dogs. Her favorite travel destinations include Chicago, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and just about anywhere in the Caribbean. Find out more about us here.

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