Once upon a time it was all about the Antarctic, fleecy jackets, wellingtons and the lingering aroma of penguin poo. But adventure and expedition cruising is growing up fast and the secret locations of the “in crowd” are now out there for the world to see.
Tiny tropical outposts, mysterious jungle rivers and islands with endangered wildlife and vanishing cultures rise up on the horizon for the growing number of repeat adventurers. But beware. Adventure cruising can be life changing. It puts you in touch with the planet like no other experience.
So just where are these tantalising new destinations? Small ships are opening up a wide range of fascinating destinations to those in search of adventure. Cruise Passenger brings you the new frontiers in adventure cruising.
Papua New Guinea
Even though small ship cruising has been busy in our northern Commonwealth neighbour for the last decade, there is still plenty of scope for new cruise activity. With so many tiny islands and a mind-goggling array of cultures and customs, Papua New Guinea is the perfect location for small ship exploration. While large ships are coming back to the larger ports such as Alotau, Rabaul and Madang, it’s the tiny communities in little-heard-of locations such as the Louisiade Archipelago that deliver ideal expedition experiences.
This renegade Caribbean nation is coming in from the cold and you can bet things will change very quickly when the curtain finally comes down. Ships of all shapes and sizes will be heading there soon, but the most rewarding experiences will certainly be aboard the smaller vessels. Ports such as Cayo Lago where baby turtles breed in captivity for release or the architectural delights of Cienfuegos. Itineraries may include other smaller Caribbean ports free from the megaship crush, such as the British Virgin Islands and the French West Indies.
Well known to US expedition cruisers, this aquatic wonderland also called the Gulf of California remains a mystery to most Australians despite its notoriety in oceanographic circles. It’s home to a huge variety of marine animals including whales, dolphins and sea lions. Much of the credit for its popularity is due to the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author John Steinbeck, as well as famous French scuba hero Jacques Cousteau who described the region as “the world’s aquarium”. While big ships visit the resort town of Cabo San Lucas, the rest of the peninsula and the enclosed sea belong to the small ships.
Known the world over as the site of the ferocious WWII Guadalcanal campaign, the Solomon Islands are delightfully untouched and free of gaudy commercial overdevelopment, especially in the more remote parts around Gizo, Munda and Santa Isabel. The Solomon Islands belong to the Melanesian ethnic region and contain some of the best, most accessible scuba diving in the Pacific as well as raw, authentic cultural encounters. Some people have compared the “Sollies” to Fiji 50 years ago.
The fabulous cruising around New Zealand is a no-brainer, but those with a leaning to more adventurous exploits can extend their exploration to include the isolated sub-Antarctic islands far to the south of the South Island. A bonanza for nature lovers, hikers and bird watchers, the Snares, the Auckland Islands, Macquarie and Campbell are big ticks for expedition cruisers seeking a taste of extreme adventure in comfort and safety.
While geographically part of North America, Greenland has long been ethnically, politically and culturally connected to Europe mainly thanks to the exploits of Vikings about 1,000 years ago. This ice-encrusted mini continent has some of the most spectacular Arctic scenery anywhere above the Arctic Circle, especially the UNESCO World Heritage ice fields around Ilulissat. Hikes, kayaking and Zodiac excursions are like nothing anywhere else on the plant. With our climate changing, it’s better to go sooner than later.