Some of the cruise industry’s most innovative companies are taking travelers off the beaten path — literally.
The nontraditional cruise market primarily consists of luxury and boutique small-ship cruise lines and expedition cruise lines, focusing on providing travelers with exclusive experiences and first-rate amenities. Rather than giving passengers access to an amusement park in the middle of the ocean or stopping at popular tropical ports, nontraditional cruises are curated to intrigue and amaze every traveler. They include stops in remote destinations, activities and attractions to check items off bucket lists and unbridled luxury onboard. These nontraditional cruises aim to provide the most authentic and individualized tourist experiences possible.
Here are some of the latest developments in this fast-growing and ever-changing sect of the cruise industry.
UnCruise Adventures’ Eclipse-Viewing Itinerary
The small-ship cruise line UnCruise Adventures is known for giving its passengers endless choices for recreation and adventure, from kayaking and snorkeling off the shores of private islands to watching majestic wildlife in its natural habitat. With fewer than 100 passengers on each of its vessels, these adventure cruises offer an intimate travel experience with a variety of excursions rich in culture and fun that’s also devoid of overly crowded ports and activities. UnCruise Adventures has released a new itinerary for 2023 that features a rare opportunity for passengers, especially those who love stargazing. Cruisers will get to see 2023’s annular solar eclipse, also known as the ring of fire eclipse, when the moon is set to cover the center of the sun, leaving only a halo of visible light.
This eclipse-viewing cruise will take place off the coast of Belize, onboard the Safari Voyager, which can accommodate up to 66 passengers. The cruise features several ports of call in Belize and Guatemala, and excursions include exploring a private island, snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef, viewing wildlife at the world’s first jaguar sanctuary and hiking through rainforests. On the cruise’s second day, passengers will be able to view the eclipse, but the fun will continue throughout the entire nine-day journey.
Ritz-Carlton Ship Debut
Ritz-Carlton, the luxury hotel chain, announced plans to introduce the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and enter the luxury small-ship cruise industry in 2017. However, due to construction delays and the pandemic, the first ship in this collection wasn’t officially finished until October 2022, when Ritz-Carlton released photos of the luxury yacht and published its first itineraries. Evrima’s maiden voyage took passengers from Barcelona, Spain, to Nice, France. In the coming years, two more yachts will be completed and added to the Ritz-Carlton fleet.
Evrima, the Greek word for “discovery,” can accommodate 298 passengers and aims to provide each with a luxury experience aligned with the Ritz-Carlton brand. Boasting nearly as many staff members as passengers, Evrima advertises its hospitality and service as one of its distinguishing features. From the chic, minimalistic décor in the lounges and dining venues to amenities like water sports, a spa and infinity pool, the guest experiences aboard this yacht are first-rate.
Guests can choose from multiple restaurants and dining areas, which offer everything from international gourmet meals to laidback, casual fare. Every suite is spacious, but passengers can opt for either a simple stateroom with a terrace or a two-story loft. Itineraries announced so far include voyages exploring northern Europe, the Caribbean and even Canada and New England.
Explora Journeys’ New Destination Experiences
In summer of 2022, the new small-ship luxury cruise line Explora Journeys announced a new collection of shore excursions. The line, which already focuses on off-the-beaten-path destinations in its itineraries, has added “Destination Experiences” to its voyages on the ship Explora I. Catering to small groups from two to 25, these experiences are one-of-a-kind excursions and activities, often set in locations that are usually off-limits to cruise ships, such as the lesser visited ports on the Greek Island Kastellorizo or in Corsica, France.
Explora Journeys puts a heavy emphasis on port activities. The cruise line promises to curate individual experiences and private tours, even in well-known areas with high tourist traffic. Explora has organized the destination experiences into categories ranging from excursions designed for active or thrill-seeking groups to peerless experiences to multi-day cultural immersions in countries. Activities include rare opportunities, such as flying an L-39 jet warbird in Latvia, taking private tours of the Sistine Chapel or whale-watching in a Finnish-style sauna. These experiences are pieced together with luxury transportation, five-star accommodations and inclusive access to each destination’s must-see attractions and activities.
Hurtigruten Adding Seven Arctic Adventures
Hurtigruten Expeditions is known for its selection of remote and interesting destinations around the world. While it may not be considered a luxury cruise line, Hurtigruten provides just enough comfort to its passengers as they explore some of the world’s most exclusive and beautiful destinations, from Europe to West Africa to Antarctica. Its summer of 2023 lineup of Arctic expedition cruises was just expanded to include seven new Arctic destinations and experiences for passengers on the MS Maud, which has a capacity of 530. Two of the Arctic expeditions include stops in Iceland, Greenland and the picturesque volcanic island Jan Mayen. Another itinerary features 20 days of exploring Greenland’s icebergs and wildlife. Another two exclusively involve stops in Iceland, where passengers will cross the Arctic Circle, and the final two expeditions involve multiple stops in Iceland, as well as several North Atlantic islands.
Because it’s an expedition cruise line, the MS Maud features onboard experts to deliver lectures on area wildlife and guide cruisers safely through excursions. A spot on the MS Maud ensures Hurtigruten passengers will glimpse the icebergs, frozen tundra, plentiful wildlife and local townships of the Arctic both onboard and during their shore excursions. Amenities on the MS Maud include hot tubs and saunas, lounges and restaurants, as well as a science center.
Windstar Culinary Cruises
Nontraditional cruises are often centered around themes. In the case of Windstar Culinary Cruises, the theme is gourmet cuisine. The small-ship luxury cruise line has been partnering with the James Beard Foundation since 2017 to bring famous chefs on board its yachts, where they provide delicious and innovative meals to passengers. The 2023 lineup will include Jerome Grant, Ayesha Nurdjaja and Tracy Chang on voyages to Central America, the Mediterranean and Japan, respectively. In addition to featuring delicious meals crafted by these chefs and paired with wines for four hosted dinners, each cruise will allow passengers to learn from the best with two cooking demonstrations. On land, cruisers are even invited to shop with the chefs for local ingredients.
Guests will enjoy their meals in style onboard three of Windstar’s yachts: the Star Breeze, Star Legend and Wind Surf, the world’s largest sailing yacht with a capacity of 342. In addition to the excellent onboard culinary experience, passengers can participate in the food-themed shore excursions featuring local delicacies and atmospheric restaurants at every turn. Each ship has comfortable and stylish suites, tastefully decorated dining venues and excursions among local cultures.