Go off the beaten track with these extraordinary itineraries guaranteed to give you a cruise experience to remember, says Sara Macefield

Australia, Queensland, Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Aerial view of ^Heart Reef^, a heart-shaped coral formation at Hardys ReefDown Under discovery

Take the plunge to get a fish’s view of one of the world’s ultimate natural marvels, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The waters around this coral wonder teem with shoals of colourful fish, along with turtles, barracudas and reef sharks. Dotted like tropical jewels around the edge of the reef are the beautiful Whitsunday Islands, including Hamilton Island, known for its golf and fine dining.
HIGHS: Snorkel or dive along the Great Barrier Reef at Hardy Island; soak up the beautiful sand beaches around Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast; and sail into Sydney for an overnight stay.
GETTING THERE: Azamara
Club Cruises offers a 10-night Great Barrier Reef voyage from £2,347pp, cruise only (azamaraclubcruises.com).

iStock_000012540478_XXXLargePacific paradise

What could be more surreal than cruising around the dreamy islands of the South Pacific? This intoxicating collection of exotic outposts in French Polynesia famously captivated the impressionist painter Paul Gauguin and has cast its spell over those who have followed in his footsteps ever since. Visit the island idylls of Bora Bora and Tahiti, famous for their lush surroundings and shimmering azure waters full of colourful marine life.
HIGHS: Spot dolphins in their natural habitat in Moorea; swim with manta rays
in Bora Bora; and visit Cascade Tevaipo, one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, which plunges a heart-stopping 1,100ft.
GETTING THERE: Oceania Cruises offers a 10-night Papeete to Papeete voyage from £3,709pp, including flights (oceaniacruises.com).

Mrauk U Pagodas, Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma)Magical Myanmar

Sail into a world of ancient tribes and unexplored lands along the remote Chindwin River in Myanmar (Burma). In a country only just opening up to tourism and where most visitors
opt for cruises on the better known Irrawaddy River, go one better and opt for the Chindwin. The tributary is only navigable by a few select larger craft
in summer and this has preserved the unexplored feel of the tribal lands and villages along its 87-mile route towards Homalin, near the Indian border.
HIGHS: Visit the evocative town of Bagan, famous for thousands of temples and shrines; watch monks being ordained at a monastery in Mokhtaw; and visit a working elephant camp near the colonial town of Mawlaik.
GETTING THERE: Sanctuary Retreats offers a 10-night Chindwin Mandalay- Homalin-Bagan cruise from £2,729pp, excluding flights (sanctuaryretreats.com).

iStock_000018541934_MediumIsland delights

Spanish colonial history and
lush island hideaways give
the Philippines a combination
of cultural riches and scenic beauty that have made them an intoxicating cruising stop. This Asian archipelago is a place where modern metropolises contrast with sleepy backwaters and deserted islands with some of the most beautiful vistas.
HIGHS: Step out to explore the colonial charms of Old Manila on a walking tour; take an outrigger boat ride through the Hundred Islands archipelago; and go underground to discover Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
GETTING THERE: Seabourn offers
a 35-night Lands of Silk &
 Spice sailing from £13,499pp, excluding flights (seabourn.com).

Baby Elephant next to Cow (Artistic processing) Addo National Park - South AfricaAfrican odyssey

Enjoy an intoxicating taste of animal magic on a voyage that showcases the best of South Africa’s wildlife with game drives to spot safari’s ‘Big Five’ of lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard and elephant, along with zebra and giraffe. Combine this with a few days in Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, where you can jump on a cable car for awe-inspiring views from the top of Table Mountain.
HIGHS: Take a fascinating tour to Robben Island, famous as the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated; visit three of the country’s best game parks; and explore the country’s famously picturesque Garden Route.
GETTING THERE: Voyages to Antiquity offers a 13-night Game Parks of South Africa package that comprises 
a 12-night round-trip sailing from Cape Town from £2,995pp, including flights (voyagestoantiquity.com).