Eco-focused cruisers are often photographed walking across icy Antarctica landscapes, donning parkas to commune with cold-weather-loving penguins, or boarding Zodiacs to view glaciers or search for Arctic wildlife.
Now, pivot 180 degrees. It’s also appealing that many expedition or eco-focused cruises explore such “warm-weather” destinations as the Amazon River, Galapagos Islands, Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean.
Exploring the Amazon
To kayak within seasonally flooded forests — brimming with howler monkeys, sloths and exotic birds, Luxury Travel Advisor suggests travelers check out Seabourn’s Amazon River voyages on the new, 264-passenger Seabourn Venture. Among the eco-options are two 10-day “Heart of the Amazon” expeditions sailing between Manaus, Brazil and Iquitos, Peru, departing March 29 and April 8, 2023, and a 12-day “Colonial Coast and Amazon” voyage from Rio de Janeiro to Manaus on March 17, 2023.
Seeking a longer voyage? Seabourn Venture sails a 22-day expedition from Rio de Janeiro to Iquitos, departing March 17, 2023. Within the Amazon, luxury travelers can head out on Seabourn Venture’s fleet of kayaks or Zodiacs, go ashore with eco-experts, see a caboclo buffalo ranch and meet local villagers.
At Boca dos Botos, cruisers can look for “botos” or pink river dolphins, which sport an extra-long beak and a large domed head. Young botos are born gray, fade into a pinkish hue as adults, and, interestingly, the largest and “pinkest” are males.
After a day of eco-exploring ashore, guests seeking a pampering massage should head for Seabourn Venture’s 3,700-square-foot Spa & Wellness area on Deck 7. Designed by Adam Tihany, this spa will offer everything from facial and body massages to detox, cleansing and wrap services. As for spacious accommodations, Seabourn Venture’s Veranda Suites on Decks 6, 7 and 8, are approximately 355 square feet, including a private veranda of 75 square feet, and the space goes up from there for higher suite categories.
South Pacific Isles
Certainly, French Polynesia, Fiji and other South Pacific isles draw many luxury travelers seeking not only eco-adventure but also views of idyllic destinations, beach relaxation, watersports or cultural activities.
For several years, Seabourn has operated the optional “Ventures by Seabourn” program on some sailings of its classic fleet. Guests can choose such expedition-style shore excursions as kayaking, hiking and Zodiac mountings; they are accompanied ashore by expedition team members, who also lecture onboard in the Seabourn Conversations program.
Ventures by Seabourn will be available on the newly announced 65-day “Grand Pacific Voyage 2022” of the 450-passenger Seabourn Odyssey, departing Vancouver, B.C., September 30, 2022 or Seattle on October 1, 2022. Visiting 41 ports in 12 countries, the ship will sail the Pacific Ocean to many tropical destinations, including 30 islands before the cruise ends in Sydney, Australia.
Notable for “port collectors” is that Seabourn hasn’t visited many of these destinations in more than five years, including Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii; Alofi, Niue; Dravuni Island, Fiji; and Ghizo Island, Solomon Islands, plus multiple French Polynesian isles, including Avatoru on Rangiroa, Mataiva, Maupiti Island, Maroe Bay at Huahine Iti and Cook’s Bay at Moorea.
The Maupiti Island in French Polynesia will be a port of call for Seabourn Odyssey in 2022. // Photo: Getty Images
Guests can choose from 25 optional, guided Ventures by Seabourn excursions at such destinations as Maupiti Island, Ureparapara on Vanuatu, Ghizo Island in the Solomon Islands and Savusavu, Vanua Levu in Fiji, to name a few. There will also be two days of Ventures by Seabourn offerings (such as kayaking, snorkeling or paddleboarding) at the Conflict Islands (Panawal Group), Papua New Guinea, and Cairns, Australia.
In the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin Cruises plans a diverse range of 2022 sailings on its newly renovated, 330-passenger Paul Gauguin. Exuding an elegant, yet casual onboard ambiance, this ship offers luxurious accommodations — 70 percent with private balconies — as well as butler service in Category B and above staterooms, multiple dining venues, all-inclusive value and access to private beach retreats.
For 2022, the line plans to offer its popular, seven-night “Tahiti & the Society Islands,” 10-night “Society Islands & Tuamotus,” 11-night “Cook Islands & Society Islands” and 14-night “Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands” itineraries. In addition, Paul Gauguin will return to Fiji in 2022, offering 12-night and 13-night Fiji, Tonga, Cook & Society Islands itineraries.
Another veteran South Pacific cruise operator is Windstar Cruises, offering both week-long and many longer voyages too. For example, the 148-passenger Wind Spirit offers a 15-day “Polynesia: Pearls of Paradise” itinerary between Papeete, Tahiti and Lautoka, Fiji, departing November 11, 2021 and March 23, 2022. Cruisers will explore Papeete, Moorea and Bora Bora, French Polynesia, plus Suva, Fiji.
With four wide-open teak decks, Wind Spirit is a sleek, four-masted sailing ship that’s also motorized. Onboard, guests will discover two dining venues, a spa, watersports platform, lounge, library, pool and hot tub. All accommodations have an ocean view, queen bed, flat-screen TV with DVD player, mini-refrigerator, Bose SoundDock speakers for Apple iPods and more. The Owner’s Suite includes a sitting area.
For those with the luxury of time, Luxury Travel Advisor particularly likes Wind Spirit’s 28-day “Tales from the Timor Sea: Australia to Indonesia” itinerary that departs from Singapore to Cairns, Australia on February 7, 2022. Cruising between Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, calls will include Pantara Island, Semarang, Pulau Menyawakan, Probolinggo, Celukan Bawang, Lembar, Benoa (Bali), Loh Liang, Ende and Kupang (Timor), all in Indonesia, plus Darwin, Thursday Island, the Great Barrier Reef (two days), Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, all in Australia.
Out of Africa
Several expeditionary voyages will sail from Africa in 2022, among them Crystal Expedition Cruises’ 11-night “Africa and the Ivory Coast” voyage from Tema, Ghana (overnight) to Dakar, Senegal (overnight), departing April 5, 2022. Luxury travelers sailing on the new 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, the ultra-luxury line’s first expedition ship, will view wilderness areas of the continent’s lesser-known West African shores — everything from beaches to rainforests, from wildlife sanctuaries to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
At Takoradi, Ghana, Crystal Endeavor’s guests will head to the treetops of Kakum National Park, a rainforest that’s home to hundreds of species of birds, butterflies and mammals. They’ll traverse suspension bridges strung from treetops nearly 100 feet high and look out to the wild kingdom. Other port calls are at Monrovia, Liberia; Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire; Freetown and Tokeh, Sierra Leone; and Banjul, Gambia.
Crystal recently inked a new partnership with California Ocean Alliance (COA), an organization dedicated to marine research and protecting oceans and marine mammals. COA wildlife experts will join Crystal Endeavor on select voyages, including a 13-night “Expedition Africa” voyage to the isles and coastal cities of Africa, Spain and Portugal, departing April 16, 2022.
Sailing from Dakar, Senegal (overnight) to Malaga, Spain (overnight), this itinerary includes time at both Safi and Casablanca, Morocco, plus Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Portugal’s Savage Islands and such sun-drenched destinations as Marbella, Spain. One gorgeous — but at times noisy — eco-highlight is traveling by Zodiac to see 40,000-plus Cory’s shearwater seabirds at Selvagem Grande in the Savage Islands.
Inside, the new expedition ship’s luxurious design will offer casual, expansive spaces, while guests in all suites will have butler service. Loyal past guests will discover such signature spaces as Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar, Prego and the Vintage Room experience. Crystal Endeavor’s expedition-specific onboard spaces will include enrichment areas, designated mud rooms and an Expedition Lounge.
Zanzibar will be visited by guests on Silversea Expeditions’ 144-passenger Silver Explorer. // Photo: Getty Images
Another African option is Silversea Expeditions’ 18-day voyage on the 144-passenger Silver Explorer from Cape Town, South Africa to Zanzibar, Tanzania, departing March 29, 2022. We like this voyage for its African game drives to spot the “Big Five,” beach time, lemur-spotting in Madagascar and three days in Aldabra, a UNESCO Marine World Heritage Site in the Seychelles.
Other calls include Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Richards Bay, all in South Africa; Mozambique, Inhaca Island, Bazaruto Island and Santa Carolina, all in Mozambique; Nosy Koma, Nosy Tanikely, Nosy Be and Nosy Hara in Madagascar; and Assumption in the Seychelles.
Small-ship Ponant’s Explorer-class vessels such as the 184-passenger Le Champlain are home to the amazing “Blue Eye,” an underwater, multi-sensory lounge for viewing sea life. That ship will operate a seven-night “Panama and Costa Rica by Sea: The Natural Wonders of Central America” voyage from Colon, Panama to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, departing January 24, 2022.
This cruise will include a Panama Canal transit and an included, hosted visit to the Punta Culebra Nature Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City. Another eco-highlight is a chance for guests to explore Carara National Park, home to more than 10,000 plant species, 300 bird species and 200 butterfly species.
In addition, guests on this voyage (and 18 other expeditions globally) will benefit from the line’s new partnership with Smithsonian Journeys. Look for Smithsonian experts, including archaeologists, historians, anthropologists and scientists to sail, mingle with guests, lecture and create new experiences.
If families desire an expeditionary voyage with “bonding” eco-adventures, Luxury Travel Advisor would suggest Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 13-day “Voyage for Young Explorers” from Colon, Panama to Puntarenas, Costa Rica on April 1, 2023. Operated by the 230-passenger Inspiration, this cruise is designed for those with 10- to 17-year-olds. Calls include ports in Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and the ship transits the Panama Canal.
During shore time, families can hike through the wilderness, learn about Mayan mysteries, take Zodiac rides, see volcanic landscapes, spot exotic animals and enjoy age-appropriate workshops. Inspiration is one of Hapag-Lloyd’s “international” ships, so both English and German are languages spoken onboard.
Ponant’s Le Champlain has an underwater, multi-sensory lounge for viewing sea life. Shown here is the sauna on the ship. // Photo: François Lef/Ponant
Having sailed on Inspiration, we like its luxurious, well-appointed staterooms (237 to 291 square feet) and suites (452 to 764 square feet); many accommodations have private balconies. On deck, guests can head outside through a forward door on Deck 6 to Inspiration Walk, a lower-level bow observation area for close-up wildlife/marine life viewing.
Inspiration’s multifunctional HanseAtrium lounge has “wow-factor” LED and presentation technology. Multiple humongous screens show stunningly gorgeous photos of eco-scenes or videos. Kids will love HanseAtrium’s central overhead panel of light that shows moving imagery of a bird flying overhead or a ray swimming by.
The Wild Galapagos
Nothing really compares with spotting blue-footed boobies — sea birds with bright, blue feet. They’re one of the many unusual species of wildlife, birds or marine life that cruisers love spotting in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, located 600 or so miles northwest of South America’s mainland. Those sailing on an expeditionary voyage could see everything from Galapagos penguins to green sea turtles, from land and marine iguanas to whitetip reef sharks, Galapagos sea lions and many bird species.
Silversea Expeditions will return to Galapagos Islands cruising this month with the new 100-passenger Silver Origin. Operating year-round in the Galapagos, this all-suite, all-balcony expedition ship will offer newly enhanced itineraries with new experiences. The ultra-luxury vessel will operate two alternating itineraries that incorporate five maiden calls, including the island of Santa Fe. Each itinerary also will visit the popular islands of Fernandina and Isabela, and also have new shoreside options.
On the western itinerary from San Cristobal to Baltra, Silver Origin will visit Kicker Rock; Isla Bartolome; Buccaneer Cove on Santiago; Punta Vicente Roca, Tagus Cove and Elizabeth Bay on Isabela; Punta Espinoza on Fernandina; Post Office Bay, Champion Islet and Punta Cormorant on Floreana and the Santa Cruz Highlands, Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre in Puerto Ayora, Cerro Dragon, Isla Guy Fawkes and Bahía Borrero on Santa Cruz.
A separate North-Central itinerary from Baltra to San Cristobal will introduce guests to more bird and nature experiences. Guests will snorkel with sea turtles in Fernandina and meet Galapagos Penguins in Isabela, visit the ‘bird islands’ of Genovesa and Espanola, and look for an endemic iguana found nowhere else in the world but on Santa Fe.
Silversea Expeditions’ inclusive Galapagos fares include international roundtrip flights, a roundtrip flight between mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos, two pre-cruise hotel nights in Quito, Ecuador, one post-cruise day-use hotel in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a “Quito by Night” tour, transfers, shoreside activities, unlimited Wi-Fi, onboard gratuities, specialty dining, beverages (in suite and throughout the ship, including alcoholic beverages) and much more.
Galapagos sea lions are one of the many unusual species of wildlife, birds or marine life that cruisers love spotting in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. // Photo: Getty Images
In addition, Silversea’s expedition team will accompany guests on outings and lecture onboard. Butler service comes with every category suite, and travelers will receive a complimentary backpack, water bottle, snorkeling mask and snorkel, plus have complimentary use of wetsuits and snorkeling fins.
On July 4, 2021, a new upscale expedition vessel, the 100-passenger Celebrity Flora, will become the first of three Celebrity Cruises’ expedition vessels to restart service in the Galapagos this year. The new mega-yacht will sail both Inner Loop and Outer Loop itineraries.
Constructed of many natural materials, the all-suite Celebrity Flora features the latest environmental technologies to protect the Galapagos’ delicate eco-system.
Expedition ships also sail to tropical Caribbean isles, among them Viking Expeditions’ new 378-passenger Viking Octantis, setting sail in early 2022. That upscale expedition vessel will sail two 10-day “Caribbean Connections” voyages from Bridgetown, Barbados to New York City on April 9, 2022, and from New York to Bridgetown on October 13; guests will visit St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, St. Barth’s and Barbados.
An expedition team and Viking Resident Scientists will sail with guests. Eco-excursions will include kayaking, RIB cruising, submarine dives and nature hikes. Viking Octantis also will offer onboard enrichment lectures and laboratory and citizen science programs.
One “included” shore option from Gustavia, St. Barthelemy, is “Under the Waves by Semi-Submersible,” giving guests a chance to see what lies beneath the ocean’s surface in a glass-bottom submersible. Cruisers can either stay on the upper deck or climb into the hull to view the ocean life through large underwater windows. Sites include the shipwreck of the island freighter Marginan, and a coral reef off Les Gros Islets. It’s possible to spot green sea turtles, stingrays and small sharks along the route.
All accommodations on Viking Octantis and a sister expedition ship, Viking Polaris, debuting in summer 2022, will offer a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom with floor-to-ceiling glass that converts into an al fresco viewing platform. The top of the glass will lower to become a sheltered “look-out” with an observation shelf at elbow level to stabilize binoculars or a camera.
For a Caribbean/Latin American voyage, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse will sail between Cartagena, Colombia and Callao (Lima), Peru during Scenic’s 18-day “Colombia Experience with Panama & Colombia,” a combination land-sea journey that starts in Bogota, Colombia on October 8, 2021.
First, travelers will spend more than a week on land as they explore Colombia in-depth with hotel stays and tours in Bogota, Medellin, Pereira and Cartagena. Then on Day Nine in Cartagena, they’ll board Scenic Eclipse and the following day explore Panama’s San Blas Islands (think pristine coral reefs, sandy beaches and coconut palms) in the Caribbean.
Panama’s Darien National Park, a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, will be a major attraction for guests on the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse. // Photo: Getty Images
The mega-yacht will then transit the Panama Canal, before visiting Panama’s Darien National Park, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; it’s a mix of rocky coastlines, sandy beaches and mangroves and is only accessible via small boat. Scenic Eclipse will also take guests to Utria National Park in Colombia and Salaverry and Isla Guanape, Peru, before the voyage ends in Callao (Lima) Peru.
New expedition lines are on the horizon too. All-inclusive Atlas Ocean Voyages’ first vessel, the 196-passenger World Navigator, will launch later this year, with four more 200-passenger vessels to follow. Repositioning from the Mediterranean later this summer to southern South America for Antarctica cruising next winter, the ship will briefly visit the Caribbean.
World Navigator’s 10-night “Exploring the Exotic Caribbean and Amazon” voyage will sail from Bridgetown, Barbados to Recife, Brazil, on October 19, 2021. Those who choose a pre-cruise stay can choose from many eco-activities, including scuba diving to shipwrecks. Considered one of the island’s best wreck dives is the rusting, sunken S.S. Stavronikita, which rests to the north of the island in 120 feet of water.
Upon sailing from Barbados, World Navigator will call at Charlotteville, Tobago, before crossing the Caribbean to Devil’s Island, French Guiana. Then it’s on to Belem, Brazil at the mouth of the Amazon, and Brazilian coastal sailing with subsequent calls at Fortaleza and Natal, Brazil.
At press time, Atlas also had just announced several new 2022 warm-weather itineraries touching on the Caribbean and Latin America. For example, on October 18, 2022, the ship will depart Bridgetown for a nine-night sailing to Colon, Panama. Along the route, guests will go ashore at St. George’s, Grenada; Bonaire; Willemstad, Curacao; Barranquilla, Colombia; and Panama’s San Blas Islands. A subsequent voyage will sail from Colon to Balboa (Panama City).
Non-expedition cruise ships also sail the Caribbean and offer soft eco-adventure. For those seeking ultra-luxury, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 750-passenger, all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Splendor sails a seven-night Caribbean “Heritage of the Maya” itinerary roundtrip from Miami on March 21, 2023. Guests will be pampered with ultra-luxury service and amenities onboard, and can go ashore for beach/relaxation time, cultural immersion and soft eco-adventure.
Calls include Roatan, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. While at Costa Maya, guests who opt for the “Beach Power Snorkel” excursion will go to a dive/snorkel site, receive instruction on operating a Seadoo scooter and snorkel equipment and then head with a guide to see what’s lying just below the water’s surface. With the Aqua Scooter, they will skim near the surface faster than if they were swimming, and then dive down to take a closer look at sea fans, coral and other marine life.
For families who prefer an exclusive ship-within-a-ship complex on a larger ship, Norwegian Cruise Line’s first new Prima-Class vessel, the 3,215-passenger Norwegian Prima, will sail to the Caribbean in winter 2022-2023. Several late 2022 fall voyages to the Caribbean will sail from either Galveston, TX, or Miami, FL, before the ship repositions to Port Canaveral, FL, for home porting between December 11, 2022 and March 19, 2023. Varying by itinerary, calls will include such destinations as Cozumel, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and NCL’s private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay.
We’d suggest reserving a luxurious suite in The Haven, the line’s upscale ship-within-a-ship complex. Sizably enhanced on Norwegian Prima, this keycard-only accessible complex extends over eight decks and encompasses both suites and public areas. For the first time, all 107 Haven suites are being relocated aft within close proximity of private elevators exclusively reserved for Haven guests. The complex’s courtyard will become the Haven Sundeck with a new infinity pool overlooking the ship’s wake. A new outdoor spa will offer a glass-walled sauna and cold room.
Beyond the Haven, Norwegian Prima’s guests will discover more wide-open spaces, multiple infinity pools, extensive outdoor walkways, a new Indulge Food Hall, a larger Waterfront and large three-bedroom suites.
The Haven on Norwegian Prima is the line’s upscale ship-within-a-ship complex. // Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
Also, family friendly with unique, big-ship amenities, Royal Caribbean International just announced that it will home port for a second winter Caribbean season at Bridgetown, Barbados, between November 2022 and April 2023. Rhapsody of the Seas will operate seven- and 14-night southern Caribbean itineraries with calls at such destination as Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
Eco-activities include exploring the world’s first underwater sculpture park in St. George’s, Grenada, or admiring flora at the Western Hemisphere’s oldest botanical gardens in Kingstown, St. Vincent. Guests staying pre- or post-cruise in Barbados can opt to scale Mount Hillaby, the island’s highest peak at 1,120 feet, or enjoy more relaxed adventures at the island’s beaches.
On the expedition side globally, Hurtigruten, Quark Expeditions, Lindblad-National Geographic and others also transport guests into remote areas across the globe for eco-adventure; many have new expedition ships. Coral Expeditions, a small-ship Australian line, this year introduced the new, 120-passenger Coral Geographer, designed for tropical expedition cruising. So, if eco-adventure or expedition cruising beckons, the cruise industry has plenty of enticing warm-weather options.
New Cruise Developments
Now under new Sycamore Partners ownership, Azamara will restart cruises on August 28, 2021 in Greece. Azamara Quest will operate five, back-to-back “Country-Intensive” voyages and one classic Mediterranean sailing; the ship will offer many overnights in port. Cruisers can explore Medieval and ancient wonders in Rhodes, view the ruins at Heraklion, see volcanic scenery and ancient Akrotiri on Santorini, sun on Mykonos’ beaches and tour Limassol, Cyprus.
As part of the OceaniaNEXT program, Oceania Cruises will introduce new culinary perks on Marina in August; they’ll follow on other ships. Look for updated Grand Dining room menus, a more diverse Sunday Brunch (with a new Asian Noodle Bar, gourmet Taco Corner, prepared-to-order Pasta Station, healthy Smoothie Bar and a robust Salad Bar.) Also expect new Toscana dishes, expanded Terrace Cafe lunch offerings, a new fresh, prepared-to-order poke bowl station at Waves Grill and new evening canapes.
Cunard Line introduced its line-up of themed 2022 Event Voyages on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth. New are an “Art & Design Week,” and “Beatles and Beyond: Celebrating the Best of British.” Returning favorite events include the Literature Festival at Sea and Anthony Inglis and the U.K. National Symphony Orchestra. Also joining the roster is the London Theatre at Sea with the Olivier Awards.