Five Exotic Cruises to Put on Your Wish List

Certain destinations around the world are so fascinatingly different or strikingly unique that they deserve special recognition among travelers. The lands conjure images of romance and adventure because they are so far away and geologically distinctive or the people living in the regions offer inspiring histories and cultural traditions that we can explore by visiting there. 

Many of these thrilling places are best reached by cruise ships, too. Here are the five top exotic cruises you should put on your wish list.


Cruises to the bottom of the earth let you see the White Continent in safety and style. Expedition cruises to Antarctica include a definite sense of adventure as you spend time amid an interesting array of creatures who make their homes in this harsh yet beautiful environment.  

Most Antarctica cruise itineraries offer pre- or post-cruise time in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will embark from Ushuaia, Argentina. These expeditions feature photography workshops and Zodiac tours to get ashore to see the wildlife up close. You also might get the chance for hiking and sea kayaking.  

Wildlife is most active during the summer months on the continent (our winter in North America), and animals on display include whales, seals, penguins and a broad variety of seabirds. 

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Paul Gauguin Cruises is the industry leader for journeys throughout French Polynesia.

French Polynesia 

The islands in French Polynesia, which include popular cruise destinations of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and Taha’a, are a lush and balmy paradise. The region features more than 115 volcanic islands and atolls spread out in the South Pacific Ocean. It’s quite the plane ride to reach this magical place, but so worth it. 

Paul Gauguin Cruises, Windstar Cruises and Star Clippers offer great small-ship cruises to Tahiti and the rest of the islands and are a great choice because these vessels can get into the picturesque lagoons where the larger ships can’t reach. 

Your cruise can be about relaxation, adventure or a mix of both. Itineraries feature a mix of cultural enrichment — learning about the region’s history and food — and activities that let you embrace the year-round perfect tropical conditions. 

You can spend your days on white-sand beaches, hiking forest trails and snorkeling and paddleboarding in turquoise waters that are home to pristine reefs teeming with marine creatures. Five Exotic Cruises to Put on Your Wish List | 25

Mekong River 

A Mekong River cruise is an amazing way to explore the countryside villages and the vibrant cities that are located in both Cambodia and Vietnam. The countries feature lush landscapes and fascinating histories, and cruise programs from lines such as Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways and AmaWaterways feature plenty of cultural interaction, visiting museums, temples, battlefields and farming and fishing villages along the Lower Mekong, which serves as the crucial artery of Southeast Asia. 

A Mekong River cruise requires a bit of extra preparation in order to get visas and ensure you have any vaccinations needed to protect against maladies like hepatitis and malaria. Cruises take place year-round, and temperatures are warm all year, but there is a high-water season (mid-August to November) and low-water period (December to mid-August).  

The high-water season gives cruisers access to Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake and the floating villages that are in place at this time when cruise ships can navigate the waterway. If you cruise during the low-water season, it requires much more land travel to include the must-see city of Siem Reap, which is home to Angkor Wat, the nation’s iconic Buddhist temple complex. Mekong River cruises also will visit Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital) and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, as well as numerous small villages in each country. 

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A rendering of the Viking Ra on the Nile River near the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris in Kom Ombo, Egypt.

Nile River 

Egypt river cruises traverse the Nile, taking curious travelers on an unforgettable voyage through the home of one of the oldest civilizations. Nile River cruises include pre- and post-cruise land portions that may include visits to museums and bazaars in Cairo, as well as plenty of time to explore the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.  

We took a Viking River Cruises journey on the Nile that included an extension to Jordan to see the “Rose City” of Petra. While cruising the Nile, you get to view life in the villages and cities along the banks of this vital waterway while visiting such destinations as Luxor, Aswan, the Valley of the Kings — with the ornate tombs of the pharaohs – and Abu Simbel.  Five Exotic Cruises to Put on Your Wish List | 25


You have a couple of great options for African cruises that offer the chance to combine a bit of sailing with time at the famed wilderness parks. The big draw is the chance to explore the history and wildlife of this fascinatingly diverse continent. Cruisers head to Africa for a chance to enjoy a safari in hopes of spotting the Big Five: African elephants, rhinos, Cape buffalo, lions and leopards. 

AmaWaterways offers cruise safaris that feature time sailing on the Zambezi River on its Zambezi Queen ship, as well as a rail portion that takes you on a journey between Victoria Falls in Zambia and Cape Town and Pretoria in South Africa.  

Coastal cruises on bigger ships also allow you to enjoy safari time while visiting beaches, historic sites and inviting indigenous communities eager to show you their way of life. Top destinations on Africa cruises include Morocco, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar, The Seychelles and Ghana.

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John Roberts
John Roberts
John Roberts is a freelance travel writer and operator of His writing aims to help travelers find the best ways to explore destinations in a fun, fit and adventurous way.

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