Unleash your inner explorer on these exhilarating cruise excursions. By Deborah Stone
Ice ice baby
Paddle between icebergs and glacial caves as you glide over icy waters looking up at the spectacular mountains surrounding the Valdez Glacier in Alaska. Then follow your expert guide on foot near the face of the glacier itself, passing deep ravines in the ice and pools of water on the glacier’s surface. You’ll find out how the glacier was formed over time, how it is changing and how it affected the 1889 American Gold Rush, before paddling back to the comfort of your luxurious Viking ship.
Viking’s 11-day Alaska & the Inside Passage cruise, from £6,115pp, based on two people sharing, including flights, makes seven calls during the trip from Seward, USA, to Vancouver, Canada, including a day at Valdez where the glacier excursion is available, departing on 25 June, 2019 (0800 298 9700; vikingcruises.co.uk).
Take a helicopter ride over the deadly Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and see what’s left of the former capital, Plymouth, and surrounding villages after its most recent eruption in 1997. The still-active volcano sometimes emits a plume of gas, but although there has been volcanic stirring below the island there’s been no movement from Soufrière recently. Only the roofs of buildings in Plymouth and nearby villages can be seen under the 40ft of ash, a stark contrast to the lush tree-lined mountains that surround it.
Seabourn’s 14-day Exotic Caribbean In-Depth cruise, from £3,999pp, two sharing, cruise only, is a round-trip from Barbados calling at more than a dozen islands including Antigua and Barbuda, where this trip is available. Seabourn Odyssey departs on 1 December 2018
(0843 373 2000; seabourn.com)
Saga’s Northern Lights cruises have some exhilarating excursions on offer including the magical experience of sledding through a snow-covered forest pulled by a team of excited husky dogs. The tree-filled valleys around Alta – right up in the Arctic Circle – are among the best places to see the aurora borealis in Norway. After dashing through the snow in sub-zero temperatures, you can spend the night in a comfortable tepee cabin fitted with full-length glass windows for a view of the night sky – keep an eye open for those elusive lights.
Saga’s 15-night Arctic Norway and the Northern Lights cruise, from £3,088pp, two sharing, is a round-trip from Dover calling at seven Norwegian ports including Alta, where the excursion is available. Saga Sapphire departs on 13 February, 2019 (0808 278 5773; saga.co.uk/cruiseint).
The Alaska coastal brown bear is among the amazing wildlife that roam freely in the American state’s Spasski River Valley, which includes the Sitka black-tail deer, as well as otters, minks and martens. You’re also sure to see bald eagles circling the valley looking for prey as you take the boardwalk to a raised viewing platform. This included excursion for some Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Alaska itineraries is in the heart of Tlingit Indian territory around Hoonah, a notably untouristy settlement, and the guide also gives a good overview of life in the area.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 10-night Frontier Adventure cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage, from £5,379pp, two sharing, including return flights and transfers, calls at eight ports including Icy Strait, where the excursion starts. Seven Seas Mariner departs 26 May, 2019 (02380 682280; www.rssc.com).
White water on the Nile
Take a motorboat ride to the upper reaches of the Nile River from Aswan, passing the Nubian villages on the river’s West Bank and up to Soheil Island near the Aswan Dam. Look out for white water rapids among rocky islets where the river flows from Lake Nasser. It’s a Freechoice included trip on Scenic’s Treasures of Egypt itinerary and a refreshing change from the leisurely pace of this stately river cruise. From the Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo to the mysterious tombs of the Valley of the Kings and majestic temples, the Nile offers a river cruise itinerary that should feature in everyone’s dream list.
Scenic’s 11-day The Treasures of Egypt cruise, from £4,645pp, two sharing, including return flights and internal transfers plus Cairo hotels, takes you to all the most important sights in Cairo and along the River Nile, including Aswan, where this excursion is available. Sanctuary Sun Boat III departs on 10 May, 2019 (0808 231 9738; scenic.co.uk).
Close encounters of the bird kind
Los Torunos Nature Park in Spain is renowned for its biodiversity with marshland that is home to birds including flamingos, storks and sea eagles. There’s a four-mile wooden walkway and paths that can be explored on a naturalist-guided bird watching adventure. The excursion from Cadiz is available with Titan’s Iberian Odyssey holiday that includes a hotel stay in Portugal’s Cascais near Lisbon and eight-night Azamara Club Cruises itinerary. The park is part of Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park at the mouth of the Guadalete River, with beaches and sand dunes as well as marshes and reed beds. Among other birds to be seen are great crested grebes, terns and avocets.
Titan Travel’s 12-day An Iberian Odyssey with Cascais package, from £2,549pp, two sharing, includes return flights, hotels and excursions, and calls at six ports, departing 18 September (0808 278 5121; www.titantravel.co.uk).
What’s new pussycat?
Jaguars live in tropical or subtropical forests in Central and Southern America, but the beautiful big cats of Costa Rica’s Jaguar Rescue Center are not the only injured or abandoned animals being cared for there. You’ll also see sloths, anteaters and monkeys as well as flamboyant tropical birds in a natural environment during a tour of this extraordinary rehabilitation centre where volunteers work to release the animals back into the wild. The centre is an excellent example of Costa Rica’s reputation as one of the leading eco-tourism countries in the world.
Holland America Line’s 11-night Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise, from £1,399pp, two sharing, is a round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, USA, calling at Caribbean islands as well as Costa Rica’s Puerto Limón, where this excursion is available. MV Zuiderdam departs on
30 October, 2019 (hollandamerica.com).
Snorkel with sea lions
With its red cliffs and maroon-coloured sand, the island of Rábida is full of surprises – like so many islands in the Galápagos archipelago. You can see Darwin’s finches, frigate birds, blue-footed boobies and lava lizards on a hike across the island, surrounded by turquoise seas. And while swimming in the crystal-clear water is thrilling enough, you can also take a snorkel excursion accompanied by sea lions and reef sharks. This Silversea activity, led by expert guides, will also take you to the underwater playgrounds of marine iguanas and parrotfish – and that’s just one day in this wonder-filled cruise.
Silversea’s 7-day Galápagos Islands Expedition cruise, from £5,580pp, two sharing, cruise only, makes 13 calls during the trip from Baltra to San Cristobal, including a day on Rabida where the excursion is available. Silver Galapagos departs on 15 December 2018 (0844 251 0837; silversea.com).
Watch black-browed albatross swoop down from the cliffs that overlook a colony of southern rockhopper penguins on New Island in the western Falklands. There’s also a colony of imperial shags among the cliffs, while the sandy beach is backed by wild flowers. This guided walk across beaches and moorlands is an included excursion in Ponant’s luxurious expedition cruise on the stylish French ship Le Soleal and just one of the many free wildlife excursions in Antarctica such as seeing the 50,000 king penguin couples in Fortuna Bay.
Ponant’s 16-night Christmas And New Year In Southern Lands cruise, from £14,166pp, two sharing, cruise only, is a round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina, calling at 15 islands including the Falklands, where this excursion is available. Le Soleal departs on 20 December 2018
(0800 980 4027; en.ponant.com).
Australia’s Northern Territory is crocodile country and an excursion you’ll never forget is the Jumping Crocodile Cruise. After visiting the Window on the Wetlands visitor centre to learn about the river floodplains that have created huge coastal wetlands here, you have a chance to get almost face-to-face with the river’s famous jumping crocodiles. During the boat ride, tell-tale ripples alert you to an approaching reptile before it leaps out of the water to almost its full body length. You can recover in the coach ride back to Darwin.
Oceania Cruises’s 34-day Southern Cross Seafarer cruise, from £11,169pp, two sharing, cruise only, is a round-trip from Sydney around Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and calls at Darwin where this trip is available. Regatta departs 13 December 2018 (0345 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com).