Explore More Ashore: 8 Immersive Cruise Excursions

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Explore More Ashore: 8 Immersive Cruise Excursions
Seasoned cruisers will excitedly recite the many pluses of cruise travel, with the ability to cover vast swaths of terrain with near-effortless logistics often ranking tops on their lists. However, with all of that frenzied pulling in and out of port, visits can sometimes feel rushed and superficial. Happily, cruise lines have recognized that many of today’s cruisers crave on-the-ground experiences that get beyond the well-trodden tourist circuit, with more companies now featuring special premium “boutique” tour products, each aimed at exclusivity, intimacy, and behind-the-scenes and off-the-path encounters with local places, faces, culture, and cuisine. Here are eight of the very best of them.
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
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    1. Hosted Home Visits in Tibet, Russia, Greece & More
    A signature of the Viking experience, spanning both its river and ocean cruise brands, is the hosted home visit, part of the line’s “Local Life” excursion offerings. Small groups are welcomed into private dwellings to experience the hospitality and lifestyle of local families, learning about the culture with their hosts (typically via a translator) and sampling local treats. Viking’s home visits are featured in Uglich, Russia, (yes, vodka is involved!) or Lhasa, Tibet (see if your palate takes to yak butter tea), as well as in Santorini, Greece; Stavanger, Norway; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Alborg, Denmark. More elaborate home-hosted dinners are available, too, at a village estate in Dubrovnik, Croatia; or via a home cooking demo in Vidin, Bulgaria (some excursions are included, others start at $49/person).
    Courtesy of Viking Cruises
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    2. Alaskan Crabbing Outing & Seafood Feast with Ship Captain & Crew
    Disney Cruise Line’s premium “Signature Collection” tours strive to offer guests one-of-a-kind excursions with a cultural immersion slant. Case in point: In Ketchikan, Alaska, fans of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch can sail the Inside Passage aboard the TV show–featured Aleutian Ballad for an authentic crabbing expedition. Observe the crew of professional fishermen hauling in massive king crab pots and fishing for shrimp, halibut, and other catches of the day—followed by a fresh crab feast on deck with the captain and crew ($289/adults; $188/kids). En route, keep your eyes open for whales, seals and sea lions, and bald eagles, too.
    Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line
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    3. New Wellness Tours Featuring Roman Baths in Italy
    Debuted in May, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ “Seven Seas Wellness” excursions (available on the Seven Seas Voyager) embrace the philosophy that the R&R experience afforded to guests via the line’s top-rated Canyon Ranch SpaClub shouldn’t stop on the ship. Now guests can experience integrated wellness ashore, with 11 new excursions in select Mediterranean ports. In Sorrento, Italy, for instance, small-group outings combine soaks in the mineral hydrothermal pools of Stufe di Nerone, built on the site of ancient Roman baths, with a tour of the largely underwater volcanic caldera at Phlegraean Fields ($299/guest). Back on board, the excursion comes paired with one of five included signature spa services (such as a Dead Sea salt scrub or algae body wrap), too.
    Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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    4. Truffle-Hunting & Wine-Tasting Outing on Slovenian Vineyard Estate
    Luxe Silversea Cruises runs a series of “Silver Shore Collection” tours, history-and-culture-themed outings aimed at getting guests exclusive (or after-hours) access to select locations in worldwide ports. One prime example is the line’s unique Slovenian truffle-hunting excursion, followed by an intimate lunch on a hilltop vineyard estate. Leaving from Koper, Slovenia, and incorporating stops at a traditional Dragonja Valley village and travel through the Istrian countryside, participants will tag along on a hunt for this rare delicacy with trained truffle-hunting dogs, followed by a private chef–prepared truffle-infused lunch, paired with a selection of estate wines ($249/person).
    Courtesy of Silversea Cruises
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    5. MiG Fighter Jet Flight or Cosmonaut Training Center Visit in Russia
    Upscale Crystal Cruises boasts industry-exclusive “Boutique Adventures,” a portfolio of intimate, local expert-led tours focused on getting participants behind-the-scenes access for in-depth destination immersion in spots like private estates and castles, art studios and museums, and more. Notably, for guests with high-adrenaline thresholds (and even deeper pockets), the line runs two once-in-a-lifetime, mid-voyage, overnight outings to Moscow (requiring an included flight from the scheduled St. Petersburg port). Experience an exhilarating flight on a MiG fighter jet, traveling over Russian landscapes at twice the speed of sound ($49,259/person), or tour the once top-secret and still closed-to-the-public “Star City,” the country’s only cosmonaut training school ($6,519/person).
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    6. Chef-Led Casablanca Tour & Moroccan Cooking Class
    Foodie-favorite cruise line Oceania Cruises doesn’t confine its epicurean-minded ethos to the ship, thanks to its chef-accompanied “Culinary Discovery Tours,” focused on highlighting the culinary scene in select ports in the Mediterranean, Baltic, Caribbean, and South Pacific. With a small-group format, the chef-led outings hone in on authentic local cuisine via visits to markets, eateries, specialty food shops, and vineyards. One standout option brings guests on a chef-escorted foraging outing through the exotic produce, spice, fish, and olive markets of Casablanca, followed up by a private Moroccan-themed cooking class—and resultant lunch—in the Culinary Center back on board (available exclusively on the Riviera and Marina; $209/person).
    Courtesy of Oceania Cruises
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    7. “Culinary Naturalist” Foodie Excursions on Select Nordic Sailings
    Lindblad Expeditions—in partnership with National Geographic—pairs active, destination-immersive itineraries with expert expedition teams (naturalists, marine biologists, historians, photographers). The newest pro to join the mix? A “culinary naturalist,” who will lead included-in-the-rates excursions on two National Geographic Orion Nordic Passage sailings this summer. Cruising to the Shetlands and Faroe Islands, on voyages between Norway and Iceland, guests can tap into the culinary expertise of noted radio and print food journalist Francis Lam, who will helm epicurean-themed excursions (visit a turnip farm or forage with a local chef) and onboard food lectures and tastings (freshly caught langoustine, anyone?). If it’s as delicious as it sounds, look for more “cuisine-as-culture” itineraries with Lam and other culinary naturalists aboard future Lindblad sailings.
    Courtesy of Bennett Goldberg (Lindblad Expeditions)
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    8. Pearl Harvesting Outing in Tahiti
    Windstar Cruises offers a premium “Concierge Collection” of intimate excursions throughout Europe, Tahiti, and Costa Rica, emphasizing customized, off-the-path experiences. In Tahiti, for instance, guests can set out on a skiff to access a pearl farm, where they’re received at an over-water reef house with fresh coconut and local beer, while learning more about how the unique pearls are farmed and monetized. Perched atop a pristine lagoon and coral barrier reef, guests can then snorkel atop the farm’s oyster beds and dive down in search of their own take-home treasure: a Tahitian black pearl ($299/person).
    Courtesy of Windstar Cruises
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