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Photo by Haukur Sigurdsson
Greenland is easier than ever to get to by cruise.
Some of the world’s most remote and enchanting places are better and easier visited by boat. Whether you’re a cruise enthusiast or a blue-water beginner, these are the sailing destinations worth putting on your travel short list for the coming year.
Thanks to a new generation of small expedition and luxury ships, travelers with an adventuresome spirit can now cruise way beyond the tried-and-true ports of call and get there in style. New and creative itineraries are embracing remote destinations that aren’t easy to access by air or land. From tropical islands to those above the Arctic Circle, here are five remote destinations that can be reached by ship.
A handful of cruises that depart from Japan or Alaska take travelers to the little-known but wildly beautiful landscapes of Russia’s Kuril Islands and Kamchatka Peninsula and to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, where the Pacific meets the Bering Sea. Wildlife watchers may spot puffins, brown bears, fur seals, Steller’s sea eagles, sea lions, and several types of whales against a backdrop of forests, soaring mountains still being shaped by active volcanoes, and meadows brimming with wildflowers. Aleutian cruises often stop at Dutch Harbor, a fishing port featured in Discovery TV’s Deadliest Catch. Other itineraries, such as Crystal Cruises’ Russian Far East Maiden Expedition on the Crystal Endeavor, delve deeper into Russian territory. Other cruise lines that sail in the area include Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, and Silversea.
A cruise lets passengers explore more of the 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean than they would by staying at one of the African nation’s posh resorts. Ships visit remote communities as well as uninhabited areas for bird-watching, lounging on pristine white sand, and snorkeling among coral reefs. Travelers may also go to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, which protects a 48-acre palm forest that dates to prehistoric times, and the Aldabra Atoll, home to the world’s largest colony of wild giant tortoises. Cruise lines that sail the Seychelles include Azamara and Crystal Cruises.
Ice melt caused by global warming has made Arctic Greenland more accessible to cruise ships and also alerted travelers to the need to visit while they can. Ships take travelers to see whales, giant icebergs, and the remote coastal communities of the Ilulissat Icefjord region. Longer cruises extend to the Canadian Arctic, where passengers might glimpse polar bears and learn about Inuit culture in the Nunavut territory. An even longer journey takes passengers from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the 900-mile Northwest Passage, which is now frequently ice free. Most major cruise lines and many smaller lines offer itineraries that include Greenland.
Expedition ships are taking passengers far beyond Indonesia’s popular stops in Bali and Komodo National Park. In the Maluku chain, travelers can explore ruins from the early days of the spice trade, and in the Raja Ampat Islands, they can snorkel and scuba dive with whale sharks near some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs. Trips combine cultural experiences, such as being greeted by the residents of West Papua in their dugout canoes, with time in the water and on secluded stretches of sand. Cruise lines that sail the area include Aqua Expeditions and Coral Expeditions.
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There are dozens of islands on the way from New Zealand or Australia to Antarctica that are accessible only by water and uninhabited save for a few researchers. The Australian and New Zealand governments operate the islands as nature reserves and allow a limited number of visitors, who typically visit aboard small expedition ships. Penguins, other seabirds, fur seals, and sea lions rule. During spring and summer, the Snares Islands of New Zealand become breeding grounds for a hundred colonies of crested Snares penguins as well as 2 million shearwater birds. Australia’s Macquarie Island, home to sizable royal and king penguin populations, is one of the few places where rocks from the Earth’s mantle are viewable above sea level. Cruise ships also visit New Zealand’s Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. Cruise lines that sail the islands include Ponant and Silversea.
This old Prussian port city has been popping up on Baltic Sea itineraries, many of which also include stops in Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Russia. The big attraction is across a narrow channel from Klaipėda: On the Curonian Spit, a 61-mile-long barrier peninsula shared by Lithuania and Russia, enormous shifting sand dunes stand more than 150 feet high, and elk and wild boar stalk dense pine forests. Culture buffs will be titillated by the creepy Hill of Witches, a path through the forest lined with dozens of wooden sculptures based on Lithuanian folklore and pagan traditions. Back in Klaipėda, the Švyturys Brewery serves award-winning lager. Cruise lines that stop at Klaipėda include Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, and Windstar Cruises.
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