|Hurtigruten takes guests into polar bear territory on Norway’s Moffen Island.|
Cruising has always been about relaxation, fine dining, pampering spa treatments and seeing the world’s great cities. Today, it’s also about discovering “Wild Things.”
“There has always been a mass appeal for cruising,” says Margie Jordan, travel agent and CEO, Jordan Executive Travel Service in Jacksonville, FL. “The thought of paying one price to experience many destinations is an amazing deal. Add the opportunity to experience wildlife [to that equation] and you’ve just created the itinerary of a lifetime.”
Agents say that the logistics of getting from one destination to another, particularly traveling to remote destinations to watch wild animals or exotic marine life can be daunting for some clients. “By using a ship as your means of transportation, you’ve just alleviated the concerns of many travelers who are worried about their safety particularly while traveling in [wild places],” says Jordan. “Cruising to the exotic destinations like Madagascar is something that clients need to be introduced to.”
Here’s a sample of “Wild Things” voyages that give clients chances for natural encounters.
Polar Bears and Gulls: Clients might venture into the Arctic on either the Aug. 23 or Aug. 30 “In the Realm of the Polar Bear” sailings of Hurtigruten. These soft adventure cruises on MS Fram circumnavigate Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Spitsbergen is about as close to the North Pole as one can get; it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea.
Nature views are voyage highlights. On Moffen Island, a small atoll off Spitsbergen’s north coast, your clients will go in search of massive tusked walruses. Here clients might also, at the right time of the year, spot polar bear or colonies of Sabine’s Gulls.
Plenty of other nature activities are on tap, including views of the Brasvell Glacier, an off-shoot of the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. Fares for this cruise range from $5,483 to $8,377 per person, double occupancy.
Dolphins and Tamarins: A new small-ship line, Sea Voyager Expeditions operates the 60-passenger Sea Voyager to Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador. “We have chosen to specialize in this region and share its spectacular diversity as exploration from the sea floor to the rainforest canopy is possible,” says Denise Landau, the line’s CEO and president. “Our itineraries are as varied as the noisy monkeys, the myriad of colorful butterflies, and the thousands of species of birds unique and endemic to this region.”
Expeditions venture into such pristine areas as the wetlands of
Humedal de San San Pond Sak
, with a wide variety of flora and fauna, including dolphins and manatees. Travelers also might witness humpback whale migrations, explore the rainforests of Costa Rica’s
, and visit the
region, which is home to 8,000 plant species, 400 species of trees, four species of mangroves, 600 bird species, and mammals such as jaguars, ocelots, giant anteaters, tapirs, and tamarins.
The line’s North American sales agent is Global Voyages Group; fares range from $2,930 to $5,365 per person double. Pre- or post-cruise hotels, shore tours, museum and park admissions, taxes and port fees, and transfers (when the line’s air is purchased) are included.
Lemurs and Elephants: Lemurs are found nowhere else in the world but Madagascar. So a “bucket list” opportunity for clients to possibly spot them in the wild is offered on the Dec. 3 voyage of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Hanseatic. This 15-night itinerary covers the Indian Ocean’s exotic destinations of Mauritius, Madagascar and Mozambique, and the animal kingdom of South Africa.
Six new ports for the ship include Maroantsetra, Nosy Hara, Morondava, Nosy Ve, and Toliara, all in Madagascar, and Ilha dos Portugueses in Mozambique. Most excursions to Madagascar’s islands are included in the cruise price, since they are zodiac landings.
Optional excursions that carry an additional price include a pirogue tour to the village of Betania through the mangroves; Arboretum d’Antsokay in Toliara; canoeing in Lokobe Nature Reserve; a boat tour to Nosy Komba, an island famed for its lemurs; a safari outing and visit to the Addo Elephant National Park, both in South Africa. Shore trip pricing is not yet available, but last year’s Nosy Komba boat tour to view lemurs cost $77 per person. Cruise fares start at $7,750 per person, double occupancy, for an outside cabin.
Sloths and Anteaters: Exotic flora and fauna await clients who sail on SeaDream Yacht Club’s seven-day luxury voyage on SeaDream II roundtrip from Iquitos, Peru, on March 16, 2013. River ports of call include Leticia, Colombia; Panelas, Brazil; Jutai, Brazil; Santo Antonio do Ica, Brazil; Amatura, Brazil; Monkey Island, Colombia; and Pebas, Peru.
To create a jungle-intensive experience, SeaDream will bring onboard an expedition team that includes naturalists, a botanist, a historian and an expedition leader. The team will handle commentary on complimentary zodiac safaris, village walks and jungle treks.
While in Panelas, for example, guests traveling waterways in zodiacs will peer up at towering Ceiba trees as they are taken to an area noted for sightings of sloths, monkeys and Tamandua anteaters. One Colombia excursion is a “Monkey Island” shore outing to a sanctuary where guests watch and may hand feed squirrel monkeys.
And, at the end of each day’s jungle adventures, guests will relax onboard their 112-passenger ship, a comfortable expedition base. All staterooms are outside/ocean view. The week-long voyage is particularly appealing for those who just can’t book a voyage of more than one week plus the travel time. However, guests who want to stay longer may book a pre- or post-cruise tour to Machu Picchu.
At press time, fares for a Deck 2 Yacht Club stateroom started at $6,499 per person, plus port fees and taxes.
Puffins and Bald Eagles: Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony sails an “Icelandic Adventure” on Sept. 5 from London/Dover to New York; it’s definitely not your typical transatlantic cruise as it features a maiden call in Akureyri, Iceland, and an overnight in Reykjavik.
In Iceland, guests might choose to raft on the glacial Hvita river or go riding on the backs of Icelandic horses whose lineage can be traced to the Viking Age. Another option for Crystal guests is to head out for a full-day whale watching adventure or to fly over Eyjafjordur fjord for “flightseeing” and then head to the isle of Grimsey for bird-watching of kittiwakes, puffins, fulmars, guillemots and Arctic terns.
Other natural adventures include the chance to soak in a natural geothermic/volcanic lagoon at the Myvatn Nature Baths en route to the Godafoss waterfall, or take a helicopter ride over a volcano. The ship also calls at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where clients might choose a rafting trip down the Shubenacadie, considered one of the top five rivers of Canada for rafting.
Along the way, clients should scan the skies and trees for bald eagles. At press time, fares for this 14-day cruise started at $4,105 per person double.