Friday, September 28, 2007

5 Exotic Cruises Your Friends and Family Haven't Been on

If you've taken a cruise, or know someone who has, chances are the destination was Alaska, the Caribbean, or maybe Hawaii. If you're in Europe, the Mediterranean is the number one destination.

But what if you've been those places, or you're more interested in going somewhere there are fewer crowds?

You don't have to pick another mode of travel. Cruising can get you all sorts of interesting places. Here are some less-frequently-cruised destinations that might interest you:

Cruising Tahiti and the South Pacific

While most of us have to travel a lot farther to get to Tahiti than to Hawaii, the islands down here are worth the trip. You'll find fewer (and smaller) cruise ships servicing this area, but if you're trying to avoid crowds, that may suit you just fine.

This is paradise.

You know all those images you have in your head of clean, unspoiled tropical beaches without hordes of people milling around making noise? Tahiti and the other islands in the South Pacific (AKA French Polynesia) have them.

The water is clear and crystal blue, volcanic peaks add interest to the beautiful blue skyline, and thousands of species of tropical fish await scuba divers and snorkelers beneath the waves.

When you're sunburned and need to get off the beach, you'll find plenty to see and do in ports such as Bora Bora, Moorea, and Huahine.

Australia and New Zealand Cruises

I have friends in Australia who would no doubt smirk at the idea of their homeland being called exotic, but for those of us in the northern hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand are a long ways away. That makes them rarer vacation destinations, but if you have the time and can handle a long flight, they're well worth the trip.

If you enjoyed the breathtaking, unspoiled scenery in the Lord of the Rings movies, you'll definitely appreciate New Zealand. In Australia, you can find everything from desert to glaciers, big modern cities to rustic towns. And, yes, there are crocodiles! (You shouldn't have to worry about finding one in your cabin though.)

Cruises often run two weeks down here, and are more relaxing than some of the week-long (and long-weekend) party cruises of the Caribbean. The main cruise season is from November to April, so if you're tired of the winter blues up north, head down under for the warmth of the summer sun.

Costa Rica Cruises

Central America has much to offer from tropical rainforests to beautiful beaches to towering mountains. Known for its thousands of species of butterflies, Costa Rica has a wondrous variety of wildlife to observe as well.

Thanks to its delicious climate, you can find cruises to Costa Rica year around. While many mainstream cruises offer Costa Rica as a port of call, you'll be able to examine Central America in more depth if you choose a trip that focuses on the Costa Rica area.

Week- or ten-day-long itineraries often visit Cartagena, Colombia, Panama's San Blas Islands, and Puerto Caldera, Puntarenas, and Puerto Limon in Costa Rica.

If you're wondering if Costa Rica is safe to visit, the country has actually been called the "Switzerland of Central America" (not for geography but for its emphasis on peace and education). Though some of Central America's countries are known for unrest, Costa Rica is a safe place to visit, and since 25% of its land is protected in national parks and reserves, it's a wonderful destination for hikers and nature lovers.

Antarctica Cruises

Yes, you can indeed take a cruise to Antarctica.

You can see seals, penguins, albatrosses and more amongst the icebergs as you tour the Great White Continent. Don't expect a lot of crowded ports with noisy vendors bartering their goods here. You'll see nature at its finest while you visit tiny islands and real life scientific research stations.

The cruise season in Antarctica is short (this is not a place you want to be when the weather is bad!), running from only January to February, so plan ahead. Most cruise ships depart from Argentina, with some leaving from Chile or the Falkland Islands.

Cruising the Amazon

No, we're not talking about the bookstore. You can take a cruise right up the Amazon River, gazing at the rainforest and its exotic birds and animals. The ship itself serves as the perfect viewing platform for observing wildlife, but you can also expect to make daily stops to explore the interior.

You'll learn lots about the local cultures, too, as many indigenous peoples still call the Amazon River Basin their home.

Most Amazon River cruises run from four to nine days, so you can schedule whatever you have time for.

No comments: