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.
Aranui: Marquesas and Tuamotu
One of the most spectacular places in the world, French Polynesia extends well beyond the well-known destinations of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora to the less-visited Marquesas in the Tuamotu Archipelago. The best way to see these remote reaches – and the only way to manage it in less than a year – is aboard the passenger-cargo ship Aranui 3, which accommodates 200 passengers but usually carries far less. The freighter cruises the islands on 14-day itineraries that depart from Pape'ete on Tahiti and deliver groceries to the remote islands. Snorkeling, picnics, and village visits are included in the cruise price, but you’ll have to pay extra if you want a tattoo.
Credit: Alain Marcouli