Want to snorkel with sea lions in the GalÃ¡pagos? Photograph penguins in Antarctica? Fish for piranhas along the Amazon? You don't need to strap on a hiking pack and hire a local guide to penetrate these remote regions. In fact, getting to some of the most far-flung destinations can be as easy, and comfortable, as taking a cruise.
Despite several newsmaking disasters -- including Carnival's capsized Costa Concordia and overflowing "Poop Cruise" -- booking a cruise can still be attractive, at least as far as price is concerned. "I have never seen the market as lively and buoyant as it is today," says Carolyn Spencer Brown, of CruiseCritic.com. And keep in mind that such disasters are rare.
When it comes to adventure cruises (also called expedition cruises), expect a vessel completely unlike the megaships you've seen stranded on the news. These ships typically carry no more than a few hundred passengers, letting you glide along waterways that can't handle larger ships. Water slides and all-you-can-eat ice cream are scrapped for kayaking trips and local food and wine. Expect to spend more time in your hiking boots than your swimsuit.
Adventure cruises are not budget vacations. Most cost thousands of dollars and last for a week or more. You may have to pay your own airfare to reach Lima or Juneau before getting under way. However, you won't be tempted by gift shops, specialty restaurants or gambling nights.
Recently, an eight-day Un-Cruise tour of Alaska started at about $2,000, with opportunities to spot whales and kayak around glaciers. The 10-day Lindblad-National Geographic Amazon cruise aboard the Delfin II recently started at $5,990. The ship takes you through Peru's Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, where you can see dolphins and three-toed sloths plus take out kayaks and skiffs to explore on your own.
One strategy to snag deals on an adventure cruise is to book early. For travelers booking select 2014 cruises on Lindblad before July 31, airfare is included. Hurtigruten, which has ships that sail to Europe, Greenland and Antarctica, was recently offering up to 25 percent off on select 2015 cruises booked before June 30.
Want to see exotic locales without forgoing the luxury of a classic cruise? Check out Silversea Cruises. The line combines some aspects of inclusive luxury cruising, such as alcoholic drinks, a butler and 24-hour room service, with the freedom of an adventure cruise. A seven-day GalÃ¡pagos cruise recently started at $5,450.
(Susannah Snider is a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
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