Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The Best Cruises for Seeing Nature, Meeting Locals, and Staying Active

Brook Wilkinson | January 9, 2017

At WendyPerrin.com we hear from a lot of travelers who would like to plan a cruise but have run up against a big challenge: They want to be physically active, see nature, and interact with locals—three things that cruise lines often do not make easy to accomplish—and they aren’t sure which locations and ships are optimal. So we’ve pulled together a list of the very best upcoming cruises for achieving these goals: staying active, meeting locals, and seeing nature. We’ve even shared who to book through to get the best experience for your dollar. Bon voyage!

Wild Alaska Escape, aboard the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird

When: Departing from Sitka or Juneau most weeks from June through August 2017; June is Alaska’s driest month of the year

The Details: A compact itinerary designed to fit within a single work week, this cruise is packed full of options to explore southeast Alaska as few ever will—from hiking lush rainforests to kayaking in remote bays to cycling around a glacial lake. Enjoy the local flavor in the tiny community of Haines, walk the Totem Trail in the picturesque oceanfront town of Sitka, and enjoy a traditional dance demonstration in an ancient Chilkat Tlingit village. There’s abundant wildlife to be found in this region, including coastal bears, migrating whales, and the iconic bald eagle.

Pro Tip: Category 2 cabins on the Upper Deck have doors that open to the outer deck, allowing for the best wildlife viewing.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ashton Palmer through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

7-Day Roundtrip out of Vancouver, aboard the 2,106-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam

When: Departs from Vancouver every Saturday between late April and late September 2017

The Details: Cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage, visiting Tlingit Indian villages and the best fishing ports in southeast Alaska along the way. Those wishing to be active can go zip lining, kayaking, glacier hiking, and the like; wildlife lovers can spot whales and birds. You’ll spend a day in Glacier Bay National Park, then come back to a large ship with lots of entertainment and dining options to choose from.

Pro Tip: While plenty of large cruise ships visit Alaska, Holland America has been doing so for almost 60 years; they have more highly coveted Glacier Bay permits than any other cruise line, they bring national park rangers and members of the Tlingit culture onboard to enrich the experience, and they have larger cabins than their competitors.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Tom Baker through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Gentoo Penguin Chicks

Gentoo penguin chicks in Port Lockeroy, Antarctica. Photo Courtesy Expedition Trips

Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake, aboard the 110-passenger Island Sky

When: 2017 departures from Punta Arenas (via Santiago) on December 11, 16, and 21; mid-December offers the best weather and the opportunity to see penguin chicks.

The Details: If you want to mingle with Antarctica’s penguin population, hike on the White Continent, and paddle around icy bays, but you don’t have several weeks to spare, this is the itinerary for you: By flying both ways across the Drake Passage, you can see Antarctica in just eight days—and you’ll avoid potential seasickness.

Pro Tip: The mid-ship superior suites are the best value, with the most stable location and a large picture window.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ashton Palmer through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Bicycling in Burgundy, aboard the six-passenger Rendez-Vous barge

When: Weekly private departures from Dijon, France, available from May through October 2017

The Details: When you charter the Rendez-Vous for a private cycling adventure, your onboard biking guide will plan daily 10- to 20-mile routes through Burgundy’s rolling greenery and famed Grand Cru vineyards via manicured towpaths and fantastic biking trails; bikes and a backup vehicle are provided. The Rendez-Vous feels like a boutique hotel, with chic décor, an open kitchen, and a shaded sundeck.

Pro Tip: Ellen can arrange a special extension of your trip at My Home in Dijon, a private apartment where the owner, Coco, personally introduces guests to the city’s culture and cuisine.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ellen Sack through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

truffle hunter and his dog in France

Go truffle hunting with the family-run L’Or des Valois mushroom farm in France. Photo: Barge Lady Cruise

France barge cruise out of Dijon aboard the six-passenger Magnolia

When: Limited weekly private departures available for May through October 2017; wide availability from May through October 2018

The Details: When you charter the new Magnolia, owner/operators Nicolas and Magali Rancelot welcome you as one of the family: You’ll go truffle hunting at a family-owned mushroom farm, accompany your chef to the Dijon market to shop for the day’s ingredients, and dine at the country home of Magali’s parents. Three other meals are taken on shore at small bistros and artisan kitchens, so you’re sure to soak up plenty of local color.

Pro Tip: At about $3,000 per person for a six-night, seven-day cruise—including all but four meals—the Magnolia is an excellent value among canal barge cruises.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ellen Sack through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Epic 80°N: Exploring Greenland, Baffin & Ellesmere aboard the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer

When: Departs from Reykjavik, Iceland, on August 3, 2017

The Details: Join a team of National Geographic experts for an epic journey, tracing the rarely visited coastlines of northwest Greenland and Ellesmere Island, far north of the Arctic Circle. You’ll be traveling in the home of polar bears, muskox, and the extremely rare narwhal, as well as to remote Inuit villages. If you don’t get your fill of activity between the hiking, kayaking, and Zodiac cruising, this comfortable expedition ship has a fitness center with a panoramic view.

Pro Tip: Cabins 219 and 230 have the most spectacular views off both the side and back of the ship, as well as private balconies.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ashton Palmer through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Northwest Passage Explorer, aboard the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity

When: Departs August 15, 2017, from Anchorage, Alaska

The Details: In the golden age of exploration, many an adventurer sought a northerly route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, most to no avail; today, you can successfully sail that same journey—from Alaska past Canada and all the way to New York City—on one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships, the Crystal Serenity. The itinerary takes in stunning scenery, rare wildlife, and fascinating Arctic culture. The enrichment doesn’t stop during your days at sea, when you can attend classes on topics ranging from Pilates to Photoshop.

Pro Tip: Summer days are very long this far north, so splurge on a balcony cabin so that you can fully enjoy the uninterrupted views.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Mary Jean Tully through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Galapagos Classic: Northwestern Islands, aboard the 16-passenger Xploration

When: In 2017, monthly departures (excluding October) from Quito, Ecuador

The Details: Pair an exploration of Ecuadorian culture on the mainland with extraordinary wildlife experiences and active options in the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy the natural beauty and warm hospitality of the Andean Highlands before boarding a comfortable catamaran to explore the Galapagos, filling your days with hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking in this world-renowned national park and marine reserve.

Pro Tip: Since the Galapagos are close to the equator and warm year-round, plan your cruise to get a bit of sun whenever the weather is coldest at home.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ashton Palmer through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

a local man in traditional dress in Papua New Guinea

Meet locals in Papua New Guinea and learn about their traditions. Photo: Silversea Cruises

Islands of the Coral Sea, aboard the 120-passenger Silver Discoverer

When: Departs from Port Vila, Vanuatu, on October 25, 2017

The Details: Board a luxurious expedition vessel to explore Melanesia and the Coral Sea, a wildlife paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers. From Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, you’ll be greeted with open arms (and a mob of wide-eyed children) for traditional performances and a peek into a completely different way of life.

Pro Tip: The Veranda Suites, on Deck 6, are a good value for their private balconies and increased size.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ashton Palmer through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Indonesia: Bali, Borneo & Orangutans of Camp Leakey, aboard the 120-passenger Silver Discoverer

When: Departs from Bali on November 23, 2017

The Details: Board one of the finest expedition vessels afloat to explore the exotic worlds of Bali and Borneo—both above and below water. Go swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving in some of the least-visited parts of the China Sea; walk into small Indonesian villages to see traditional performances; and tour parts of Camp Leakey (an orangutan research facility) that are normally closed to the public with its founder, one of the world’s foremost orangutan experts.

Pro Tip: The Veranda Suites, on Deck 6, are a good value for their private balconies and increased size.

Book Your Cabin: Contact Ashton Palmer through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

 

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