Would-be cruisers more interested in wildlife encounters and exploring abandoned islands than joining Lido deck conga lines or getting dressed for formal nights would do well to look beyond the usual ports of call. Small-boat cruises offer truly luxurious expeditions to far-flung frontiers, providing travelers with perhaps their only chance to explore remote islands and frozen shores. And they don't skimp on luxury either. Here are the most exciting itineraries on Earth – because ocean-going should be about adventure – not drifting.
Andean Discovery: The Galapagos Islands
Hikes through red-footed booby colonies and the chance to see hammerhead sharks swirling under the hull make cruising the Galapagos Islands the perfect adventure for amateur naturalists. Given the option, even Darwin probably would have booked himself in one of the 48 cabins on the luxurious Santa Cruz rather than weathering storms on the Beagle. Luxury touches onboard include a spacious sun deck with a bar and a Jacuzzi, but most of the action takes place elsewhere. Cruisers on board the ship, which works these waters year-round, can kayak along volcanic coasts, snorkel with turtles and penguins, and ride a panga (a small zodiac boat) into coves thick with friendly sea lions.
Credit: Damon Corkin / Andean Discovery,