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Cruises really have the wind in their sails these days. Most cruise lines offer traditional routes – the Caribbean and the Mediterranean being some of the favorites. But there are plenty of other options for sea travel lovers looking for something different.
Specialized cruises explore parts of the planet that are off the mainstream tourist path, such as the Polar Regions and the South Pacific islands. They feature smaller ships more suited to exploring hard-to-reach shores. Nature guides are part of these expeditions. Some expeditions can also include well known lecturers. And some ships even have an on-board photographer who advises passengers on how to bring home great souvenirs of their trip. Below are two examples of this type of cruise:
Lying right on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, this remote archipelago is an amazing biodiversity hotspot – and possibly the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution. A number of the species that populate these islands exist nowhere else on earth, including the marine iguana and the giant tortoise, which can weigh up to 300 kilos and live up to 200 years! Galapagos National Park (galapagospark.org) covers most of the archipelago, and tours are carefully controlled to protect the ecosystem, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A cruise is the most practical way to explore these islands and discover their unique wildlife. The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination, but certain seasons are better for observing some of the animal species.
When you set sail for Antarctica, you literally set out on a journey to the end of the earth. A cruise is the only way to visit this uninhabited continent devoid of hotels, where tourism is strictly regulated. To get there, you first need to travel to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world and the departure point for 10- to 22-day cruises. After crossing the Drake Passage, your ship will navigate between icebergs, sail along soaring ice cliffs, and wind its way through magnificent fjords. Stopovers allow you to visit scientific stations and, aboard zodiac boats, get close to colonies of penguins, seals, and elephant seals that make their home in this harsh polar landscape. Travellers who visit Antarctica unanimously agree that it is a remarkable experience. Cruises run only during the austral summer season (when there is 24 hours of daylight), from December through March.
Traveling by cargo ship
One of crusing’s best kept secrets: many cargo ships take passengers – usually ten or so – and offer them the opportunity to sail the world’s oceans and live like a seafarer. Cabins are generally as comfortable as those on cruise ships. However, before you climb aboard, you should know that a cargo ship may be diverted or delayed at any time, because the cargo has priority over passengers. You must also follow very strict meal schedules and be aware that the cuisine will be the same as the nationality of the ship, which shouldn’t pose a problem on cargo vessels sailing under the French or Italian flag! Simply enter “passenger cargo” in your search engine to find all the details on this very unique type of travel.
A cruise on a luxurious sail cruise ship is an experience in itself. They say it’s ten times as fun because of the simple fact that the noise of engines is replaced by the whistling of the wind in the sails. But rest assured that you won’t have to help with sailing the ship yourself – these ships are equipped with computers responsible for trimming the sails.
These elegant vessels stay off the traditional routes of big cruise ships and generally head to destinations more suited to their personality: the Marquesas Islands, the Grenadines, the Seychelles, the Maldives – names that sound like an invitation to travel and stopovers you can only dream of, just like the ships that take you there.
If you’re more of a freshwater sailor, it’s good to know that cruise lines offer excursions on Europe’s rivers and canals, particularly the Rhine and Danube rivers. In Egypt, Nile cruises have been well known for quite some time, as they enable travellers to discover the land of the pharaohs from the water in exceptional comfort.
River cruises are also available in North America. One company offers a 14-day voyage from New York to Montreal, for example. After sailing up the Hudson River, the ship continues through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, then sails down the St. Lawrence to Montreal and all the way to the Saguenay. It’s a way to see the country as the great explorers did. It just goes to show that you can get off the beaten track and do things differently without going too far from home.
Whatever type of cruise you choose, remember to contact Blue Cross before you leave. One of our agents will provide information on the insurance product most suitable for the trip you’re planning so that you can sail the seven seas in complete peace of mind.