Sometimes an adventure cruise can be more than just a bit adventurous. On Christmas Day last year, 26 tourists, along with four journalists, 19 scientists, 22 crew members and the expedition leader’s wife and two children, found themselves stuck in a solid field of ice aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy off Antarctica. The passengers had booked an adventure cruise retracing the route undertaken by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson to the South Pole 100 years earlier, but they did not anticipate making headlines worldwide when their ship was immobilized. Freed nine days later and evacuated by helicopter, everyone fared quite well, indulging themselves in the ship’s amenities, as cruise passengers worldwide will. “We’re in the ice like explorers of old!” tweeted one professor. “All are well and spirits are high. Happy Christmas.”
Most adventure cruises, also called expedition cruises, do not meet up with such a harrowing turn of events, although our own experience on an adventure cruise in Mexico’s Sea of Cortés was not without its surprises. No icebergs confronted us in these warmer waters south of the border, in what Jacques Cousteau called “The Aquarium of the World,” but some severe winds came into play, pouring in from North America during an unusually stormy February. Island-hopping aboard an Un-Cruise Adventures’ 22-passenger yacht, we enjoyed hiking the rims of cactus-clad red rock cliffs, snorkeling with the sea lions and sailing alongside blue whales, the largest living creatures on Earth. But as we pushed north, we ran into headwinds too strong to continue and sought shelter in secluded bays with white-sand beaches. The winds were so fierce that on our way back we were called upon to rescue a handful of tourists stranded on a deserted island, their frail kayaks abandoned.
Un-Cruise Adventures offers a variety of luxury adventure cruises on its yachts and very small ships plying the waters not only of Mexico but also of Hawaii, Alaska, the Columbia and Snake rivers and the coasts of Washington State and British Columbia. Carrying 22 to 84 guests, the vessels each live up to the Un-Cruise motto — “luxury in the pursuit of adventure” — by offering launch platforms, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and skiffs, hot tubs and saunas, fitness equipment and massage tables and even a hydrophone for listening to underwater sounds. Missing are theaters, casinos and buffet lines. Adventure cruising is about the adventure, and Un-Cruise provides a fine example of how an expedition cruise differs from the resort-at-sea Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise, seeking out-of-the-way harbors and enabling guests to stay active on land and water. One nice feature on our Un-Cruise adventure was the open bridge, where we joined the captain when we wished as he piloted the challenging waters of the Sea of Cortés, a destination Un-Cruise will explore once again on a weekly basis January through March 2015 and 2016.
Adventure cruising received its impetus in 1964 when Lindblad Expeditions came on the scene, outfitting its small, shallow-draft vessels with an armada of inflatable Zodiac landing craft and expedition teams that drew upon naturalists, scientists and guest lecturers in culture, history, geography, ecology and politics. The educational component was given the upper hand by Lindblad, which is still a pacesetter in adventure cruising. Recently joining forces with the National Geographic Society, Lindblad operates a fleet of small vessels, notably the 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour and the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer (which always sails with a National Geographic photographer aboard). Cabins on all craft are compact but serviceable. There are no Broadway shows, swimming pools or full-service spas; and meals are not lavish. The destinations, however, most certainly are. In 2015, Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic will visit off-the-beaten-track locations in Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, Patagonia, the Galapagos, Alaska, the Greek Isles, the British Isles and Northwest Australia, with new itineraries touching the more remote shores of West Africa and Borneo.
Some adventure cruise lines operate just one or two vessels and limit their scope to one or two exotic regions. Quark Expeditions, for example, focuses on two earthly extremes, the north and south polar regions, their chartered ships employing ice-strengthened hulls. Quark operated the first passenger ship ever to circumnavigate Antarctica, and every summer Quark charters an icebreaker to the North Pole, a destination only 250 passengers reached last year. Their most impressive vessel, the 132-passenger 50 Years of Victory, is the world’s largest icebreaker, powered by two nuclear reactors. Cabins are comfortable, meals hearty. The crew outnumbers passengers and entertainment is nonexistent, although the ship does boast basketball and volleyball courts.
German-based Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises dedicates two of its four ships to adventure travel: the 175-passenger MS Hanseatic and the 155-guest MS Bremen. Both small ships offer facilities on par with fine 4-star hotels; and all documents, announcements and lectures are in English as well as German. Renowned for its high service levels and fine cuisine, Hapag-Lloyd scheduled 2015 expeditions to Iceland, Greenland and the Northwest Passage as well as Brazil, Chile and Antarctica.
Small local companies around the world offer scores of adventure cruises, and several adventure cruise operators charter these vessels to conduct their own expeditions. Zegrahm Expeditions charters eight vessels worldwide for one- to two-week sailings with its own directors and naturalists aboard. In 2015, Zegrahm will mount expeditions to Indonesia, the Philippines, the Galapagos, the Amazon, Western Australia, Antarctica, the Black Sea, the Adriatic, the Azores and the British Isles, as well as a circumnavigation of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
AdventureSmith Explorations books and charters adventure cruises worldwide as well. Owner Todd Smith, based in Tahoe City, Calif., reports that interest in adventure cruises in the Amazon is particularly on the rise, with bookings doubling over the last two years. Amazon adventure cruises often travel remote tributaries devoid of lodges and signs of human life, immersed in the flora and fauna of Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. Through AdventureSmith, adventurous cruisers select from a variety of Amazon cruises. In Ecuador, the 40-passenger Anakonda, the most luxurious of the riverboats in this region, features a village-hosted lunch in the wilds. In Brazil, Amazon adventurers can take the 18-passenger Tucano, a motor yacht that explores the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site. And in Peru, the 31-passenger Amatista, newly refurbished, sails into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, one of the world’s least accessible tropical rainforests. But for adventure cruisers, the more far-flung and deserted a destination, the better.
Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts invites travelers to celebrate the holidays at any of its properties in Riviera Maya, Mexico. There is no time like the present for you to experience a stay at one of these luxury resorts.
ISN’T IT TIME? It's time to treat yourself to the vacation you deserve, and Celebrity Cruises® offers the perfect escapes. With an award-winning fleet of ships that sail to more than 300 destinations around the world, Celebrity will take you almost anywhere you want to go in style. Enjoy stunning staterooms and suites, culinary experiences imagined by Michelin-starred chefs and intuitive service. Celebrity makes sure your vacation is effortless from the start, which is why drinks, WiFi and tips are Always IncludedSM on every sailing.
After a two-year hiatus from in-person sporting and outdoor recreation events, the seaside, car-free town of Las Catalinas in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, recently announced the return of the annual Tri Las Catalinas, an off-road, multisport triathlon, Feb. 15–18.
There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*
Plan a célébration spéciale this holiday season with a stay at a historic French chateau in the Loire Valley. If pipers piping and dancers dancing are part of your dream holiday experience, set your compass for Château de Chambord, where 100 twinkling Christmas trees set a festive tone for Renaissance music and dancing, storytelling, performances, workshops, themed activities and more. Guests can sip mulled wine and nibble on sweet indulgences, or peruse the shops for authentic, artisanal Chambord products crafted from the estate’s own natural resources.
For the 12th consecutive year, Global Traveler recognizes the best of the best in the industry, naming 2022’s Airline of the Year and Hotel of the Year.
At nearly 30,000 square feet, United Airlines’ newest United ClubSM now welcomes Newark Liberty International Airport travelers with its modern design, enhanced amenities, culinary offerings, locally sourced art and furniture and Manhattan skyline views. Seek airport solace at the new location in Terminal C3, near Gate C123.
What a year 2022 has been for travel! It’s not an understatement to say travel rebounded and surged following the pandemic, and airlines, hotels, travel providers and more are ready and waiting to serve the masses returning to the beautiful art of traveling. As such, we celebrate and award those who do it best as we announce the 2022 winners of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, our 19th year honoring the best of the best in the world of travel. Our countdown to year No. 20 begins now.