Cruises are an easy way to enjoy full itineraries and special excursions without dragging around all your luggage. They can also be the best way to a hard-to-reach destination, or even several of them, in a single vacation. And where else can you capture the romance and nostalgia of old-fashioned seafaring? Maybe it’s time to consider one of these out-of-the-ordinary ideas to see what special locales await in distant harbors.
Picture yourself on a sparkling fjord, floating along a crystal-blue waterway carved into a range of snowy mountains. Cruising around the Arctic Circle in Norway aboard a Hurtigruten or other cruise line is a unique way to easily reach many of its small, historic coastal cities — like Ålesund, Tromsø, and Trondheim — the Viking way: from the water. No matter the season, the views are spectacular from the top of the world, featuring whale watching and, in colder months, Northern Lights spotting.
RELATED: 19 best cruise ships for kids
Recent major evolutions in the political system helped boost the already growing tourism landscape in Myanmar (Burma). But because roads and other basic infrastructure are slow to get up to speed, cruises along the Irrawaddy River are a wise way to flow. Belmond offered one of the first luxury journeys on the river years ago. And even though there are now more travel companies to choose from, river cruises remain the most tranquil, magical way to explore ancient cities like Bagan and Mandalay.
There may be no river quite as exotic for cruising as the Amazon. Howler monkeys, pink river dolphins, toucans, sloths, macaws, and other fauna in their natural habitat — the wildlife alone will remind you why a waterborne South American vacation is worth your time. Smithsonian Journeys offers a 10-day, 500-mile tour down the Peruvian Amazon with nature and cultural excursions into villages.
RELATED: Zoos where you can spend the night
Canada's Inside Passage
Cruises up the west coast of Canada and Alaska aren’t uncommon, but there are quite a few small-scale options able reach more remote inlets and fjords — including the intricate Inside Passage waterways — that offer a sense of discovery no big ship ever could. One cool option is aboard a deluxe 12-passenger Westwind Tugboat Adventure up British Columbia, where you may spot bears, whales, and eagles, and hear howling wolf packs during the weeklong voyage.
For the rest of our list of cool cruises to unusual places, including a trip to where Christopher Columbus set off for the New World, visit Fodor's.