On a recent Caribbean cruise, I joined a guided rain-forest hike in Nevis, went horseback riding across the beaches and hillsides of St. Barts and climbed a mountain in St. Kitts. For my next cruise, I am vacillating between a barge trip in France with cycling at every stop, and an African adventure that combines sailing the Indian Ocean's pristine Seychelle Islands with a wildlife safari in Kenya. Or maybe I'll choose the golf cruise along the Atlantic Seaboard's Intracoastal Waterway that provides games at five courses between Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.
Welcome to surf and turf, cruising style.
What began in the 1970s as a feisty fringe of the cruise industry -- adventure expeditions that sent hearty types tracking giant turtles on foot in the Galapagos Islands -- has gone mainstream. These days every major cruise line offers active shore excursions for passengers who want port activities more vigorous than a city tour or beach barbecue.
Hiking trips, horseback riding, kayaking, diving and snorkeling are now standard fare on many cruises, while more exotic programs offer wildlife safaris, archaeological treks and visits to tribal villages or scientific research stations. Some adventure programs run simultaneously with the cruise -- such as cycling during French barge trips and Zodiac excursions in Sweden and the Galapagos. Others are pre- or post-cruise programs, such as safaris in East Africa. Your trusty vehicle could be an ocean liner, a sailing cruise ship, river barge, classic tall ship, small expedition vessel or icebreaker with its own shipboard helicopter for aerial excursions. Passenger numbers range from an intimate group of 12 to hundreds.
Before you sign on for this new wave of active cruises, make sure you know what you're getting into. While luxury liners provide ample cabin space with private baths and other amenities, smaller ships may entail cramped quarters with shared facilities and healthful but basic fare.
On most ships not specifically built for tourist groups, all cabins are not created equal. On a recent cruise aboard a 112-foot motor-sailor in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, for example, my husband and I got the so-called captain's cabin, a huge suite with king-size bed, large bathroom, dozens of drawers and a refrigerator. Our shipboard neighbors had a room that resembled an envelope -- they kind of slid into their bunk beds from the doorway, had only a few small shelves for clothing and a tiny bathroom.
Following are some of the best of the new surf and turf adventures.
Sweden and Australia
Two pioneers in the adventure cruise business, Zegrahm Expeditions and Special Expeditions, have expanded their horizons to new destinations using small luxury ships.
Special Expeditions, founded by Sven-Olaf Lindblad, son of the late adventure-travel pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad, ventures into stunning Scandinavian surf and turf this year. Its one-week Impressions of a Swedish Summer cruise uses the 129-foot Swedish Islander, a yacht-like 49-passenger boat, to explore Sweden's Stockholm Archipelago. The necklace of 24,000 islands and islets is concentrated within an area of fewer than 4,000 square miles, forming two dramatically different landscapes -- a wooded, protected inner part and a wild, barren outer realm which is home to sea birds, seals and a few hearty fishermen. By day the Swedish Islander transports guests from islet to island, where participants can stroll centuries-old towns, bicycle through farmlands or join nature walks. Evening accommodations are at small inns and hotels.
Zegrahm Expeditions heads to the top of Australia for a voyage to the river valleys, gorges and offshore islands of the Kimberly region aboard the 114-foot, 42-passenger luxury catamaran Coral Princess.
Cruising between Darwin, capital of Australia's Northern Territory, and Broome, pearling capital of the world, participants have a chance to hike up soaring waterfalls and through caves adorned with ancient Aboriginal paintings and participate in a corroboree, an Aboriginal spiritual ritual.
The hottest adventure angle for mainstream ships is the Safari Cruisetour, which pairs cruises to or from Mombasa, Kenya, with wildlife safaris in Kenya or Tanzania. About a dozen lines offer this delicious mix in conjunction with cruises between Mombassa and the Seychelles, Israel or South Africa, with safaris before or after the cruise. Participants stay in lodges or tented camps, with game drives, village visits and sometimes camel rides.
For an even more adventurous cruise/safari program, consider the new joint venture of Galileo Cruises and African Travel, a much-respected safari operator. The two offer one-week exploration cruises between Mombassa and the Seychelles aboard the 36-passenger motor-sailor Galileo Sun, combined with a nine-day Kenya safari that includes walking excursions.
Polynesia and the Caribbean
This year the stunning four-masted sailing ship Wind Song makes its swan song in Polynesia, where the 148-passenger schooner has operated for 10 years. Come December, it will reposition to Costa Rica to begin Pacific Coast rain-forest adventure cruises. The Wind Song has weekly Polynesia sailings into November, with opportunities for sea kayaking, horseback riding, hiking and parasailing at islands along the route. Especially recommended are the private May and October Polynesia Under Sail cruises chartered by Zegrahm Expeditions, well-respected for its expert lecturers and guides.
Closer to home, the Wind Song's identical sister ship, the Wind Spirit, makes weeklong adventure cruises to the Eastern Caribbean.
Bali and the Aegean
International Expedition's Bali and Beyond adventure uses the 124-foot, 14-passenger tall ship Adelaar for 13-day explorations of the Indonesian islands, from Bali east to the little-cruised waters of Lombok, Sumbawa, Rinca and Komodo -- home to the Komodo Dragon, world's largest lizard. Participants trek the huge Bali Bird Park, snorkel around remote islets, hike through volcanic wilderness and join a Balinese cooking class and folklore celebrations in small villages along the route.
Abercrombie & Kent, which specializes in offbeat journeys for the well-heeled, has chartered the elegant 1931 sailing yacht Sea Cloud for three weeklong adventures in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. The ship, at 316 feet, the largest private sailing ship ever built, originally was owned by heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband financier E. F. Hutton. Lecturers include experts in classical history, archaeology, art and culture. On the Greek Islands and Turkish Treasures Cruise, participants explore an underwater archaeological museum in Bodrum, Turkey; ancient Rhodes; a monastery on Patmos; and Ephesus. The Classical World Cruise includes walks through Olympia, through caves on the Ionian Islands, and in Taormina, Sicily's cliff-side city overlooking Mount Aetna.
France, England and Florida
Barging is booming as a popular way to see Europe. These small riverboats provide the tranquillity of water travel with the opportunity to shape your own day on the boat or the shore. For active travelers, that means cycling or walking along towpaths and country lanes, past vineyards and stately chateaux, then catching up with your vessel along its slow-moving route. Abercrombie & Kent operates 10 hotel barges in Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Champagne and Provence. Each carries bikes and stocks maps and suggested itineraries for independent cycling along the route. A&K;'s family cruises in the Upper Loire Valley aboard the 22-passenger Chanterelle pass through a fairy-tale landscape of castles, chateaux, and riverside villages, with supervised children's activities.
Butterfield & Robinson, a Toronto-based outfitter, runs weeklong French barge and bike programs along Provence's Rhone River, with guided cycling on high-tech 21-speed bikes. Participants cycle through the vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape, the medieval town of Les Baux and the Roman Arena at Arles. The company also runs weeklong cycling/barge trips in Burgundy.
If golf is more to your fancy, Abercrombie & Kent can set you up for barging and golfing along England's Upper Thames River, navigating the many locks between London and Oxford. The cruise, which winds through the rolling Chiltern Hills, provides golfing (at an extra charge) at courses along the route, while nongolfers go sightseeing or relax on board the 11-passenger Actief.
On American turf, Clipper Cruise Line offers one-week golf cruises along the Intracoastal Waterway's "Golden Strand," between Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.. Traveling aboard the 100-passenger Nantucket Clipper, golfers play at Wild Dunes, in Charleston; Palmetto Dunes or Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head, S.C., and St. Simons Island Club in St. Simons, Ga.
Abercrombie & Kent's Amazon Adventure along the River Sea travels clear across South America, through 2,000 miles of riverine rain forest from the Atlantic Ocean at Belem, Brazil, to Iquitos, Peru.
Traveling in A&K;'s 100-passenger expeditionary vessel, Explorer, which is small enough to maneuver narrow channels and backwaters but large enough to provide comfortable accommodations and a large staff of lecturer-guides, participants Zodiac ashore for guided hikes amid the monkeys and parrots of the rain-forest canopy, village visits with Yagua and Huitoto Indians, fishing from Zodiacs for piranhas and catfish, and nocturnal walking safaris by flashlight.
The Galapagos Islands remain among the most zealously protected wildlife zones in the world, offering hiking amid giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies swimming with playful sea lions, and ecology walks across expanses of lava.
While motorized vessels can cross from island to island quickly, I favor the slower motor-sailors, which offer a delicious mix of land excursions via Zodiac and breezy hours at sea. One of my favorite vessels is the 112-foot, 12-passenger Diamante, a brigantine schooner that can be booked through Dallas-based Adventure Associates.
If you go...
Booking a surf and turf adventure:
Abercrombie & Kent: (800) 323-7308
Adventure Associates: (800) 527-2500
African Travel/Galileo Cruises: (800) 421-8907
Butterfield & Robinson: (800) 678-1147
Clipper Cruises: (800) 325-0010
Crystal Cruises: (800) 446-6620
Cunard Sea Goddess: (800) 528-6273
International Expeditions: (800) 633-4734
Princess Cruises: (800) 421-0522
Quark Expeditions: (800) 356-5699
Seabourn Cruises: (800) 929-9595
Silverseas Cruises: (800) 722-9955
Special Expeditions: (800) 762-0003
Windstar Cruises: (800) 258-7245
Zegrahm Expeditions: (800) 628-8747
Pub Date: 2/02/97