Go off the beaten track on your next trip. Nick Dalton selects 7 of the best adventure cruises to put on your travel wish list.

Adventure cruises are the perfect way to escape the crowds and explore the less visited, more unusual places on the planet. Whether you want to seek out epic wildlife, fascinating historical sites or awe-inspiring landscapes, check out this round up of the best adventure cruises – there’s bound to be one to suit your travel interests.

G Adventures: Realm of the Polar Bear

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A place that always has you on the lookout for wildlife amid the glaciers and icefloes – and the eight-day Realm of the Polar Bear cruise promises much. The round-trip from Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen cruises the Svalbard archipelago, with plenty of hopping off to explore thanks to Zodiac inflatables. In a remote place 134-passenger G Expedition searches out even remoter spots, coming up close to sea ice, nipping through fjords to spectacular glaciers and icebergs, and finding huge seabird colonies – not to mention seeing wildlife such as seals, walrus, Arctic fox, reindeer… and polar bear. 

Various summer departures, from £2,799pp (12 June), cruise only (gadventures.co.uk).

Sanctuary Retreats: Nile Cruise Luxor to Luxor

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Sanctuary Retreats runs a collection of super-luxury small ships in exotic places. Sanctuary Nile Adventurer, with only 32 cabins, was re-launched in September after extensive refurbishment, combining contemporary chic with Egyptian touches. The sundeck has a pool, bar and shaded loungers with curtains and every cabin has a fantastic river view. This eight-day return trip from Luxor gets as far as Aswan and is an exploration that harks back to a century ago, combining daily Egyptologist-led tours of temples and tombs (including Valley of the Kings) with local cuisine, drinks parties, a felucca sailboat outing and onboard folklore and dervish shows and lectures.

Departs regularly year round, from £2,100pp, including excursions but not flights (sanctuaryretreats.com).

Shearings: China’s Great Wall, Warriors and Yangtze and Li Rivers

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Cruising the Yangtze is to see China from the inside out – the pagodas on hazy clifftops, paddy fields and, of course, the monumental Three Gorges and its mighty dam. Yet there’s so much more to see while you’re here. This cruise/tour spends four nights on the river, from Yichang to Chongqing, the most breathtaking stretch, and includes a tour of the dam and boat trip along the tiny Goddess Stream canyon. Later there’s also a cruise along the Li river, tranquil and backed by jagged peaks. The 16-day tour, with 12 included excursions, also features three nights in Beijing, the Great Wall, Xian and its terracotta warriors, two nights in Shanghai and two bullet train journeys.

Departs 8 June, from £3781.50pp, B&B plus six lunches and five dinners, including flights (shearings.com).

Coral Expeditions: 35th Anniversary Circumnavigation of Australia

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Now here’s one with a difference – a 60-day small ship circumnavigation of Australia. The voyage celebrates the 35th anniversary of Coral Expeditions, which normally sails the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania and such. The cruise leaves Darwin and goes anti-clockwise with longer stops in places such as Sydney but the real beauty is in the wild discoveries, the reefs and deserted beaches, and the tiny towns. Also celebrating the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s landing, the trip visits iconic spots such as Botany Bay and the wildlife preserve of Kangaroo Island. Coral Adventurer is a new 120-passenger ship which arrived in April, with two Xplorer tenders for getting about and six Zodiac inflatables for getting up closer. 

Departs 7 November, from £23,316pp, cruise only (coralexpeditions.com).

Hurtigruten Cruises: Rhythms of the Tropics

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Take an unforgettable expedition up the captivating coast of South America. The Rhythms of the Tropics cruise sails from Buenos Aires in Argentina, spends a day in Montevideo, the vibrant capital of Uruguay, and then hugs the coast of Brazil, making nine calls before reaching the Amazon and halting in pretty Belem. The trip is on board 230-passenger Hanseatic Inspiration, a cutting edge exploration ship launching this October, and while there are the big destinations – Rio as well as the ancient capital, Salvador de Bahia – there are inflatables on board for reaching the wilderness, such as Ilha Grande where you can wander deserted jungle-backed beaches. The 18-day trip is a wonderland of pale sands, wildlife-pack rainforest and whitewashed buildings.

Departs 7 March 2020, from £8,870pp, cruise only (hl-cruises.com).

Scenic: Antarctica In Depth

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The final frontier, the end of the earth where icebergs fill the sea and penguins fill the icebergs. If you’re going to do it, then do it well. Scenic Eclipse, a ‘discovery yacht’, combining the ice-negotiating properties of a gutsy expedition ship with the style of a billionaire’s motor yacht, arrived this summer and heads for the South Pole this winter. There are three 16-day Antarctica In Depth cruises that start and finish with a night in Buenos Aires before flying down to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. The trip then involves two days heading ever south before a mesmerising six-day stretch around the Antarctic Peninsula. Making the most of 18 to 20 hours of daylight, team leaders arrange Zodiac tours around ice formations, from where the intrepid can step onto islands to view vast penguin rookeries and seals. It’s also possible to kayak around icebergs, and hear the ice cracking and feeding whales blow. And there’s a mini-submarine and a helicopter for even wilder exploring.

Departures on 1 and 23 February, and 5 March 2020 from £11,485pp, all-inclusive
(scenic.co.uk).

Silversea: Easter Island to Tahiti

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The South Seas are a place for a laid-back lifestyle – but delve deeper. The 14-day Easter Island to Tahiti cruise on Silver Explorer, an expedition ship for 144 guests and with a dozen inflatables, gets you right up to the white sands and lush vegetation. Plus this is a Silversea cruise so it’s luxury all the way. There are two restaurants, one all white tablecloths and silver, the other, The Grill, where you can cook your own food on superheated volcanic rock. Drinks are included, and that means in-room Champagne. From Easter Island (book a pre-cruise stay so you can visit the huge, mysterious human statues) you get to three of the Pitcairn Islands, including Pitcairn itself, the only inhabited island and then by only 50 people, descendants of HMS Bounty mutineers. Then four French Polynesia Islands, all coral atolls, volcanoes, jungle and idyllic beaches, particularly the desert island dream of Bora Bora. An add-on in Tahiti, with its black-sand beaches and reef-fringed blue lagoons, is also recommended. 

Departs 17 November 2020, from £12,600pp, including flights (silversea.com).

For more inspiration and help planning an adventure cruise, read our guide to expedition cruises and top tips for an expedition cruise.