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.
Australis: Punta Arenas to Tierra del Fuego
Just the name of the Gauchos, Penguins, and Glaciers cruise, a five- or six-night adventure aboard a cruise ship limited to between 136 and 210 passengers, gives a hint that this expedition to southern Patagonia is far from your usual float. From October to April, sail from Punta Arenas in Chile to Argentina's Ushuaia and back with zodiac ports of call in Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, the last territory before Antarctica. Sailors make landfall at the world's largest colony of king penguins and poke about among the looming – and often calving – glaciers off Cape Horn. Along with the standard open bar, a barbecue with gauchos at an estancia (a cattle ranch) is also included in the price.