“Adventure” is a relative word. Some people can only get their adventure fix through extreme sports and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. For others, adventure may be as simple as exploring a new place on their own or stumbling upon an unexpected delight. Either way, adventure travel has taken hold in the travel industry, and operators are doing everything possible to accommodate the entire spectrum of adventure travel.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The boom of travelers seeking more adventurous experiences began about 20 years ago and has been a “slow-moving snowball” ever since, said Eric Benedict, director of destination services for Norwegian Cruise Line. Before then, the cruise line offered shore excursions that fell into a few basic categories: beach tours, booze cruises and sightseeing trips. But with the cruising age falling and more multigenerational families traveling, Norwegian and its onshore partners today offer a wide range of adventure opportunities during shore excursions.
Some destinations, such as the Caribbean, Alaska and South America, where Norwegian will resume cruising this fall after a few years away, are “all about the outdoors,” Benedict said, and naturally lend themselves to adventures.
Norwegian’s South American trips will resume in November with 14-day itineraries between Chile and Argentina. Shore excursions will include flying into Torres del Paine National Park “at the end of the world,” trekking in Alerce Andino National Park and kayaking on the Strait of Magellan, which is a “huge bragging point,” Benedict said.
To experience Alaska, “you have to go outside and feel the cold on your face and smell the ocean,” he said. There, Norwegian offers hikes, whale-watching and downhill biking but has worked with onshore operators to grow its offerings. For example, what began as helicopter tours of a glacier morphed into landing on a glacier and outfitting travelers in parkas, boots and crampons to do a glacier trek and learn the basics of ice climbing.
Norwegian has also started to offer more of what Benedict calls “new-generation sightseeing.” During these outings, travelers are still in a vehicle, but not a bus or a van. Instead, they tour on hovercraft, ride airboats and soar over the Hawaiian islands in a helicopter without doors.
“I think adventure is ‘to each his own,’” said Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, vice president of product development for Collette. “It really depends on the person.”
And that’s why Collette works to offer a variety of product types to appeal to travelers’ wide range of tastes. For each of Collette’s tour types, guests have the ability to “expand on what adventure looks like; it gives people that flexibility to say, ‘I chose this, I customized my trip, I created my adventure this way,’” she said.
For its 2016 itineraries, Collette is rolling out smaller-group, off-the-beaten-path tours as alternatives to the standard city sightseeing tour. Travelers who have been to a destination before or who simply want something different can opt for specialty tours aimed at food connoisseurs and history buffs or, for example, take a bike tour around Reykjavik, Iceland, rather than seeing it from a motorcoach.
“It’s exploring areas of cities and destinations through a different lens,” Leibl-Cote said.
Collette isn’t coming out with any adventure-specific tours, but it is offering more adventure experiences in all its tour styles. In Costa Rica, there’s ziplining in the rain forest canopy. In Peru, travelers can choose to hike rather than bus up to Machu Picchu. Guests can hop on the back of an elephant during the Three Kingdoms of Indochina trip in Southeast Asia or ride camels during the From the Outback to the Glaciers itinerary in Australia and New Zealand.
“You’re definitely seeing that mix, and we’re trying to adjust the product accordingly,” Leibl-Cote said. “For those that want adventure, they want to have that choice.”